Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Mike Adams and the fact-free press step up to defend "legitimacy" of Drumpf reign

The bad news: Donald Trump is still the not-my-president-elect, and Leonard Cohen is still dead. The good news: For the time being, the other Leonard C who has occupied space on this blog -- the truly stupid and evil LC, Not-Doktor Leonard Coldwell -- seems to be suspended from Facebook once again, as recently celebrated on UK wag Longdog's hilarious blog. This time it appears that the suspension isn't limited to his main English Language Facebook page, "Leonard Coldwell," but also to his main German language page, "Dr. Leonard Coldwell," his totally fake-profile page "Eyn Rand," and the English-language page for his failed GIN ripoff, the IMBS-ing U Master Baiter's Society. So that is a small bright spot.

But this blog negotiates a landscape that is more often marred by bad news than brightened by good. And there's more bad news to report (granted, it's also amusing news, but bad news nevertheless): the fact-free press, led by cynical conspiracy monger, frauduct peddler and Trumpian rabble-rouser Mike "The Health Ranger" Adams, has stepped up to "defend the legitimacy" of the Trump presidency, calling upon the conspiracy-theorist-in-chief to use his presidential power to "blockade" the "lying mainstream media."

You'll notice that the link in the paragraph above leads to the aforementioned Not-Doktor Stoopid's "blog," which rarely contains original content but is mostly a curation of misinformation from other sites. In this case, LoonyC curated a post from Mike Adams' Natural "News" site. Both the re-post and the original post on Adams' site were published on December 2.

In an "open letter" to His Unholy Orangeness, Adams urges Trump to refuse to let the mainstream press corps into his (ultra)White House at all. After all, declares Adams (repeating by rote what every faithful Trumpian knows), the mainstream media are Drumpf's enemy and "they will do anything and everything to destroy you." Says he:

It's time to deprive those lying, deceptive media outlets of all the oxygen in the room. Blockade them from all White House announcements and presidential events. Bring in the real media... the independent publishers, radio hosts and bloggers who are truly the only remaining free press in America.
We all have teams of writers, video editors, bloggers and researchers ready to report the real news about the successes of your new administration. We will defend your legitimacy as President and help defend the Republic against the assaults of the Fidel Castro-worshipping lunatic fringe left.

My own network of online sites includes Trump.news, WhiteHouse.news and hundreds of others. Combined with Infowars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, DrudgeReport.com and others, we already dwarf most of the mainstream media outlets in terms of reach. We absolutely dwarf all mainstream media in terms of the public trust factor.
He forgot to mention "in terms of the utter-disrespect-for-inconvenient-facts factor." They've got it all over the "lying" mainstream media on that one.

Adams also uses his post as an opportunity to boast to Trump about his own search engine, GoodGopher, which, he writes without any apparent irony, "excludes all the mainstream media liars and news fabrication propagandists working for CNN, WashPost, NYT, MSNBC and so on. We already have an authoritative list of who's who in the independent media. Compiling a contact list would only take a day or two."


"What good is a totally censored search engine?" you may be asking. All the good in the world, it seems, if you feel a need to lower a cone of ignorance over yourself every time you do an Internet search. It's sort of like the cone of silence in the old Get Smart TV series, except instead of preventing the escape of secret information, it prevents the infiltration of facts. Or maybe it's more like parental block, except instead of protecting kids from online exploitation it protects willfully stupid adults from learning real facts.

Facts may be stubborn things, but they're not nearly as stubborn as those who like to make up their own "facts."


Adams, like everyone else in the conspiracy biz (not to mention the basket of gullibles who embrace and spread phony conspiracies on social media), seems to have a very casual relationship with the truth, and that is putting it charitably. To advance his own agendas he isn't above perpetuating distortions and libelous falsehoods (e.g., his recent smear campaign against Dr. David Gorski, aka "Orac," as I wrote about in April of this year). Nor is he above casually posting complete misinformation that doesn't libel anyone but is simply, ludicrously inaccurate.

If Adams were just another blog-fodder blowhard there wouldn't be much cause for concern. But there are larger and more serious issues that stretch far beyond cranky little blogs like this.
For Adams is both riding the crest of an enormous wave of disinformation and making that wave bigger. He's part of the "alternative" press/"independent" media that are the vanguard of the
"post-truth" era. These are the media that are tailor-made for Trump, and he for them. It's a match made in infotainment (with the emphasis on "tainment") heaven. 


Granted, the mainstream media have made serious missteps themselves, and we shouldn't let them off the hook. And I'm not just talking about the insane amount of non-critical attention and free promotion the media have consistently handed to Trump on a silver platter, or the way they embraced the "Crooked Hillary" narrative and made a huge deal about the non-issue of her emails. I'm also talking about the way major news outlets such as Washington Post may have lent undeserved legitimacy to a questionable group, PropOrNot, in their own reporting about "fake news." The conspiracy lunatics and the alt-right and the Trumpians are all over that one, but Rolling Stone and Fortune also weighed in critically. Even so, it would be folly to discount the possible roles played by Russian operatives in influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and certainly foolish to dismiss the influence of fake-news sites and the under-informed voters who take these sites seriously. 
 
Apart from the dumbing-down issues there are more serious matters of public safety at stake. On Sunday, December 4, 2016, Edgar M. Welch, a 28-year-old white gunman from North Carolina, apparently fueled by the ludicrous and debunked "Pizzagate" conspiracy narrative, walked into Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in northwest Washington D.C., and fired from an AR-15 rifle. He had driven six hours from his home to "investigate" rumors that the pizzeria was harboring young children as sex slaves, as part of a child-abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton. Yes, there are idiots who truly believe that; Ron and I just got scolded by a couple of them on Facebook within the past few days. If you ask me there are far too many people who seem to be unhealthily obsessed with pedophilia, and it's not the Clintons and their cronies.

Fortunately Welch was arrested before anyone was hurt, but what about the next angry nutcake who walks in? Comet Ping Pong has reported that they have received lots of disturbing threats in the wake of Pizzagate, and even some of the neighboring businesses have received threats as well.

Pizzagate is far from the only blatantly false conspiracy tale making the rounds, and what is disturbing is that Donald Trump himself seems to be a big believer in conspiracy theories and conspiracy web sites, and is stocking his administration with others who have a fondness for fake news sites and conspiracy stories. And if that doesn't worry you, just a little bit... then what are you doing on this blog?

Once again without irony, Mike Adams concludes his December 2 post thusly:
 It’s time to #TakeDownCNN once and for all. The network doesn’t deserve to operate in any free society (but they might feel right at home in North Korea). And it’s time to support the rise of the new, independent media in America.
Uh-huh. Freedom of the press is an inalienable right in America, but only freedom of certain types of press: the fact-free, totally self-serving-to-cynical-scammers-and-hatriarchs variety.

But if you care about actual freedom of the press, and about responsible journalism, there's plenty you can do. Start with becoming a fact-checker yourself. Read with a critical eye, especially if the content seems to fit too neatly into someone's preferred narrative (even or especially your own). And hold the mainstream media's feet to the fire, but don't dismiss them just because they're mainstream. This isn't to say that you should automatically dismiss a source just because it's "alternative" or "independent," but keep your eyes open and your b.s. detector active, always.


Otherwise, Trump and his cynical champions and surrogates may lead all of us around a corner from which there will be no turning back.  

 

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Monday, December 05, 2016

SCOTUS rebuffs Kevin Trudeau; Camp Cupcake gets to keep its celebrity huckster

On Monday, 5 December 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that it will not hear the criminal appeal of imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie on this blog. In July Trudeau petitioned the SCOTUS to hear his case, hoping that they would overturn his criminal contempt conviction and ten-year prison sentence.

Without comment, SCOTUS let stand a 5 February ruling by the federal appeals court in Chicago. The appeals court had upheld Katie's November 2013 conviction and March 2014 sentencing (
as reported here in February of this year).

The conviction and sentence were not for Trudeau's mega-scam the Global Information Network, or GIN, which in its heyday bilked thousands of folks out of millions of dollars, because... well, the FTC is pretty slow about getting around to these things. Instead the case was about deceptive claims Trudeau had made in infomercials about his diet book, The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About, after having signed consent decrees promising that he would stop lying in infomercials. The case had dragged out for decades and cost millions of dollars.

I first shared the link to Trudeau's petition to SCOTUS on this July 2016 post (under the sub-head, "Katie and the Supremes"). A couple of months later I shared the link again on this post (under "Caged Katie and his fellow scammer").

Here's a direct link to the petition.

After losing his appeal in February, Katie was clearly holding out hopes that SCOTUS would set him free. The promotions he has been running from "Camp Cupcake" via social media all centered around donating to his legal fund to help pay for his high-dollar attorneys to keep working on his behalf.

Sometimes, though, even money can't buy you freedom.

On the other hand, Katie has been getting a lot of social media mileage out of
the martyr creds he has gained since he's been on the inside, and he has become quite the "spiritual" leader. Besides, he has often said that he is perfectly content being at Camp Cupcake, aka Federal Prison Camp (FPC) Montgomery (Alabama). I guess SCOTUS was paying attention and decided to bestow mercy upon him by totally rebuffing him.

But hey, maybe
Herr Drumpf will pardon Katie when Drumpf assumes the throne of the United States. Turds of a feather...

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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Message to James Arthur Ray: Please. Stop.


 
A couple of days ago I published a brief (for me) post about the CNN premiere of Enlighten Us, a documentary about New-Wage hustledork, star of The Secret and -- oh, yeah, convicted killer -- James Arthur Ray.

I didn't watch the premiere. I don't have cable so I don't get CNN on TV, and because I live out at the Edge of Nowhere, in an area where currently the only option for high-speed Internet is severely bandwidth-restricted satellite Internet, I can't do in-demand (if that's even an option right now for this film). At some point, if I get a chance to watch Enlighten Us -- which some have described as a James Ray infomercial -- for free or relatively cheap (maybe on Amazon Marketplace or in the Walmart DVD remainders bin), I will. But what I have been doing is keeping up with the buzz around the film, and it appears that Death Ray is milking it for all the publicity it's worth. (I know, big surprise.)

Yesterday I found out via
a Facebook post from Jean Brown Allison, the sister of Ray victim Kirby Brown, about some of the egregious and hurtful lies that Ray has been spreading about his victims and their families -- specifically, about Kirby. Then last night Salty Droid sent me a link to a snippet from an interview Ray gave, in which he claimed that Kirby had been "estranged" from her family, and that she had attended the fatal event in part because she was trying to deal with her family problems.

Jean, who gave me permission to share her Facebook post here, wrote:

This morning, I got a comment on my Oprah letter. I can only imagine this is in response to the effort we've made to counter James Ray's infomercial.
"Darlene" wrote: "I’m curious Jean,why you would purposely go to James Ray’s FB page ? Why do you care what he’s doing? He served his sentence. What exactly do you expect him to do? All the hatred towards him leads me to believe you want him dead! Like that would be the only solution that would make you feel better. He has a right to move forward and live his life. So should you!"

I responded:

"Hi Darlene,

Thank you for your question. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss how I feel.

I would never wish anyone dead. That is not at all what I wish for James Ray. I’ve always been a pacifist, do not believe in the death penalty, etc. James Ray’s trial tested those convictions and I assure you, they held up. He absolutely has a right to move on and live his life and I recognize that he fulfilled the conditions of the law following his conviction.

The problem, and the reason that we continue to follow him, is that he is not moving on. Moving on would be recognizing his mistakes and vowing not to recommit them. Instead, he is back in the same line of work, trying to convince people to trust him with their desire to improve their lives.

Instead of moving on, he is using the story of what happened–my sister’s story–to relaunch his business.

And in fact, he’s now manipulating her story. He was on CNN yesterday saying that she was estranged from our family. This is a gross and deeply hurtful lie. Just months before she died, she was my maid of honour, in the wedding at my parents’ house! Kirby was seeking her own path in life, absolutely. A path that deviated from the normal path, certainly one that deviated from my parents’ path. But that does not at all mean she was estranged from our family.

Do you understand why James Ray using and misrepresenting her story would be so deeply hurtful to me and my family? And yes, I have a right to move forward. Ray’s return to the self-help industry makes it very difficult for me to do that. He is using my sister’s story–and in so doing makes us relive our pain over and over–for his own gain. Do you see how that prevents us from moving forward?

I continue to share this story and press this case because in order to live with my sister’s death, I need to do everything I can to make sure someone else doesn’t die needlessly as she did. I need to make her story mean something. Despite saying that he takes responsibility, James Ray continues to deflect responsibility and will not recognize the actions he took that led to people’s deaths. This is why I still feel he is dangerous. Honouring my sister’s memory means I will continue to warn people of this danger, from James Ray and others in the self-help industry who abuse their customers’ trust.

Thank you again for your question. I wish you well!

Jean Brown"

***

Friends, I share this because we are very much in the "post-truth" era, and I feel like over and over again I'm losing the battle to proclaim the truth. I need help. Please share whatever you can far and wide to help us tell the truth about James Ray. My posts about SEEK, etc, are usually public and shareable. [Seek Safely is the Browns' nonprofit that attempts to bring responsibility and accountability into the self-help industry. ~CC]
Thanks xo
"Post-truth" era, indeed. We're seeing signs of that everywhere, and I won't get into the political angle on this post, because what I wish to stress here is that it is the height of arrogance, ignorance and insensitivity to callously declare that the loved ones of those who were killed as a result of James Ray's recklessness -- as well as those who were injured or otherwise traumatized by him in some way -- should "just move on."

Jean has been making a concentrated effort to counter Ray's lies, and yesterday
she posted a video imploring him to "Please stop." It's embedded at the beginning of this post, or you can click on the link in the previous sentence.

Jean and her family are not going to shut up about this, and neither am I, and neither are several other bloggers... and if you care about countering the dark side of Scamworld, neither should you. And by the way, if you need a primer or refresher on why those who were hurt by Ray, or those who sympathize with their cause, cannot and should not "just move on,"
here again is a direct link to Ray's October 2016 motion to have his convictions for negligent homicide overturned, and -- more importantly -- the State's response.

Never forget.

PS added 8 December 2016: Salty Droid will never, never forget. Here he does a detailed debunking of Death Ray's outrageous lies about the Brown family (and Ray's other victims as well). And once again Salty points a finger at CNN.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a pathetic attempt at journalism. This is CNN using air time on its news shows to promote its entertainment content. It’s a fucking commercial … and that’s how James Ray is using it as well.

So inside the commercial :: within the commercial :: within the news show … James Arthur Ray is allowed to speak horrible unquestioned slander against Kirby and her family.

.

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Friday, December 02, 2016

En-blight-en us more: Death Ray documentary to premiere on CNN

This past April I mentioned a documentary on the rise and fall and attempted rise again of convicted killer James Arthur "Death" Ray: Enlighten Us, in advance of the film's premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Mostly I wrote about Salty Droid, aka jason Jones, writing about it, since he actually attended the premiere.

Now the work is finally coming to a wider audience; it is currently scheduled to premiere
on CNN on Saturday, December 3, 2016 (that's tomorrow, as I write this) at 8 PM ET. There will be several encores later in the month; they're listed in the link above. No doubt it will be available for even wider viewing in due time via Internet outlets, Blu-Ray/DVD and the like. I'll wait.

Not surprisingly Salty weighed in again, ahead of the CNN premiere; he never did publish his full review of the documentary on his blog, but
on today's post he did include snippets from one of his efforts. He describes meeting Ginny Brown, mother of one of Ray's victims, Kirby Brown. It was an emotional experience, to say the least.
This thing, The Salty Droid, is all about computer screens. I observe and capture the world as seen on my screens, and then I interact with that world via a half-crazed half-fictional character. The layers of abstraction help to keep my brain safe while I’m inhabiting one dark mire after the next; I try to crossover as rarely as possible. This is the first article I’ve ever published as myself.

Ginny and George are out trying to raise awareness for SEEK Safely
[
the Browns' nonprofit that attempts to bring responsibility and accountability into the self-help industry]. They feel like they’ve been completely shutout by the film makers. They’ve not been represented on camera, and their input has not been sought off camera. They haven’t even been invited to attend the premiere. They are visibly upset, and that makes me upset.
Jason noted that Ray was not in the theater where Enlighten Us was screening." Too bad :: because he missed the audience’s overwhelmingly negative reaction to him :: which manifested via audible groans :: and again during the Q&A with director Jenny Carchman."

Despite the seemingly uncritical lens through which the film presented Ray, Jason wrote that he "still comes off as a horrible disgusting monster." Not to mention a hypocritical one:

Ray tells the film maker’s camera …
I came out of prison in debt. My credit is crap. I’ve got nothing tucked away.
Juxtapose Ray telling a marketer’s camera …
I’d like to begin a conversation with you here today… it’s about the topic of wealth, abundance, and prosperity.
Scamworld in a James Arthur Ray nutshell.
Yep. It's all about Ray "pitching himself as a specialist in comebacks … while perpetually waiting for his own comeback to come." Salty also took some potshots at CNN for providing such a golden platform for Ray for years, and he got some shots in at Ray's "old-as-dirt mentor-in-scam Bob Proctor" (who has also been a frequent guest on my Whirled, particularly back in the heyday of The Secret).

Salty/Jason wasn't the only one of my pals to write about Ray in the wake of the CNN premiere buzz. Steve Salerno of SHAMblog had
an excellent piece on Slate yesterday. And he published some "outtakes" on SHAMblog yesterday as well.

Apart from the fact that Death Ray is trying, mostly in vain, to regain his superstar status in the selfish-help industry,
he is also trying to get his criminal convictions set aside so he can have all of his civil rights restored. If the motion were to be granted he would regain voting rights, and international travel would become less of a hassle.

Back in 2013, following his release from prison in Arizona, Ray had toyed with getting the convictions overturned,
but in September of that year he moved to drop the appeal. In an affidavit he wrote, "I wish to ensure the prompt, complete and definitive termination of these criminal proceedings by dismissing this appeal and allowing the conviction and sentence to stand undisturbed." Apparently he didn't want to risk re-trial and possible re-sentencing. He insisted, however, that the convictions were flawed.

And now he's trying to push that narrative through the courts.
As Steve Salerno wrote in the Slate piece linked to above:
In both the film and in life, Ray is poorly cast as the martyr of self-help culture. He’s far from it: Ginny Brown, mother of 38-year-old victim Kirby Brown, recalls that when Ray finally reached out to her after her daughter’s death, a full five days later, he kept saying over and over, that he “couldn’t believe this had happened ... to him.” Seven years later, Ray does not seem to have changed—indeed, he is currently petitioning to have his conviction set aside. The state of Arizona is countering the motion vigorously, as are families of those killed.

Legal maneuvers like the one Ray is attempting rarely succeed in homicide cases. But the hubris of even trying reaffirms that far from offering a story of redemption, Ray remains the epitomic reminder that self-help culture may be less about bettering the self than about creating alternative realities in which your unimproved self is just fine.

Couldn't have said it better myself. (And as I've written about numerous times on this blog, the selfish-help culture is full of false heroes and martyrs, imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau being one of them.)

Here is a link to Ray's October 2016 motion and to the State's response, requesting denial of the motion. If you aren't familiar with the events leading up to his conviction, or just want to refresh your memory, you can get a reasonably good overview by reading the response.

Ray may never get his luster restored, either legally or in the minds of a the public. But the very fact that he is still trying so desperately to do so says a lot about his character, or complete lack thereof.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Politix and Scamworld on an extended honeymoon


http://assets.motherjones.com/politics/2013/12/Devos_Familytree-960.jpeg
Graphic from Mother Jones, January 2014


We’re working very hard. We have great people coming in. I think you’ll be very impressed with the names. We’ll be announcing some very shortly. Everybody wanted to do this. People are giving up tremendous careers in order to be subject to you [New York Times] folks and subject to a lot of other folks. But they’re giving up a lot. I mean some are giving up tremendous businesses in order to sit for four or maybe eight or whatever the period of time is. But I think we’re going to see some tremendous talent, tremendous talent coming in. We have many people for every job. I mean no matter what the job is, we have many incredible people. I think, Reince, you can sort of just confirm that. The quality of the people is very good.
~ Donald Trump, from his
New York Times interview on 22 November, 2016


Oh, the sacrifices that Not-My-President-Elect Donald J. Trump and his family and appointees are making for the sake of the regime! Or so Trump wants us to believe, in much the way that imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau once tried to get us to believe (and he convinced many) that he was making terrible sacrifices and even endangering his own life in order to sell us frauducts and flopportunities and misinformation that "they" don't want you to know about.

"I don't have to be doing this," Trudeau used to earnestly assure his listeners and readers through, among other forums, his long-defunct KT Radio Show and his elaborate online promos for his huge scam, the Global Information Network (GIN). "I could be sitting back enjoying my tremendously successful lifestyle; I have so much money I don't ever have to lift a finger to work again. But I'm doing this -- all of this! -- for you." (I'm paraphrasing, but that's the basic message with which he used to pepper his infomercials, radio shows and online promos.) And his loyal fans faithfully repeated the narrative.

But this awful reality show we're witnessing now is, I am sorry to say, bigger and even worse than Trudeau and his scams, though there are certainly Scamworld connections, which I will get to momentarily. (And I mean Scamworld connections apart from
the ones for which Donald himself is notorious.) In truth it seems that Herr Drumpf et al. are sacrificing very little that is of value to them, and as of now it seems to be full speed ahead for the plutocracy/kleptocracy/theocracy (not to mention the hatriarchy).
 
It's not bad enough that Drumpf chose white nationalist and darling of the neo-Nazi crowd Steve Bannon to be his chief strategist. Or that his choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is an enemy of civil rights, civil liberties, voting rights, immigration (even legal immigration)...the list goes on. Or that his pick for the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, could "take the agency back to its darkest days" of brutal interrogation and torture. Or that his national security advisor choice, Michael Flynn, never met an anti-Islam conspiracy theory he didn't like (he even called Islam "a cancer"). So far Herr Drumpf has made it pretty clear that under his rule, the ship of state will list dangerously rightward.

And now it has been announced that Trump
has picked elitist "education reformer" and theocrat Betsy DeVos to be his Secretary of "Education." This pick has been touted by some as Trump's attempt to "diversify" his choices by finally picking a woman to lead something. This is supposed to be a step towards healing rifts and whatnot, but apparently the only rifts he's concerned with are those within the right-wing tent.

The DeVos scamily tree is impressive, as you can see by looking at the infographic above, which I borrowed from
this January 2014 Mother Jones article.

And here's
a related January 2014 MoJo piece about the Devoses and their union-busting activities.

But a lot of that is about Dick DeVos. This 2011 piece on Talk To Action has information about Betsy that may give a clue about her qualifications to run the Department of Education (into the ground).
Who is Betsy DeVos and Why Is She Trying to Privatize Public Schools?

Betsy DeVos is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party; daughter of the late Edgar Prince and Elsa Prince-Broekhuizen; sister of Blackwater-founder Erik Prince; and wife of Dick DeVos (son of Richard and Helen DeVos). The Devos side of the family fortune comes from Amway/Alticor, the controversial, multi-tiered home products business. A Center for Public Integrity Report showed that the DeVos family and business interests were the fifth largest contributors in the 2003 -2004 election cycle, with 100% of the donations going to Republicans.

Dick and Betsy DeVos have been credited with helping to 
finance the Citizens United case which allows Super PACs to raise unlimited funds and conceal the donors, meaning that we will no longer know who provides the millions of dollars for the big media campaigns, or reveal the information that I have in this article on the Pennsylvania campaign.

The Prince and Devos families have also funded the Family Research Council, Focus on Family, and the ministries of the late D. James Kennedy, all warriors against separation of church and state. Kennedy did, however, believe in separation of school and state. Like many others who have benefited from Devos and Prince family largesse, he signed the proclamation to end public schools.

Much of the research claimed to support vouchers and charter schools comes directly from the Foundation for Education Choice, a think tank founded by the late Milton and Rose Friedman. Milton Friedman was the patriarch of the "Chicago School" and radical free market economics. In a 
briefing paper for the Cato Institute (Scaife/Koch/Devos-funded) titled "Public Schools: Make Them Private," Friedman stated, "Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a market system."
So, goodbye public schools, if Betsy and gang have their way. And goodbye, separation of church and state.

The National Education Association quickly voiced its opposition to Trump's choice.
“Her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps. She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education.”
It's worth emphasizing that even though Betsy had money of her own, she also married into money, and the money came from one of the very foundations of Scamworld, Amway. As many of you may know, the aforementioned Kevin Trudeau has a background in Amway, which I wrote about on this April 2013 post (under the subhead, "MLM fever"). In that post, I linked to this 2004 piece, "Amway, Republicans & That Old Time Religion," which has some information about the cozy relationship between Scamworld and right-wing (Republican) politics. The two have been cozying up to each other for a very long time.

Indeed, right-wing politix and Scamworld have never been on such intimate terms. I wish they would just get a room and leave the rest of us alone. But instead they're forcing the whole country -- and indeed the world -- to watch as they slobber all over each other, and we're the ones who are going to be saddled with their vile offspring.

* * * * *

I will probably have a lot more to say about all of this in the near future, but for now let me just make one more point, because ultimately this too has to do with education: fake news was arguably a significant factor in the disastrous outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Certainly it wasn't the only factor, but it played its role.

From Paul Horner to Jestin Comer to those Macedonian teens, some folks who weren't even Trump supporters, and some who don't even have any skin in the game, were making tons of money duping the "poorly educated" voters for whom Trump himself has expressed such enthusiasm (and vice versa). And a lot of those profoundly critical-thinking-impaired Trumpians are now poo-pooing the very idea that some of their most trusted content sources are fake news sites. Instead they turn it around, Pee-Wee Herman style ("I know you are, but what am I?"), and accuse the mainstream news outlets of being the real fake news sources.

But real journalism does still exist, though now more than ever it is an endangered species, as endangered as public education if not more so. If you care about maintaining a line in the sand between information and disinformation, do whatever you can to support legitimate journalistic outlets such as Mother Jones, whether it's donating money or subscribing to their print magazine (which I've been a fan of for many years), or both. I'm not getting paid or compensated in any way for this; it's just something that I think needs saying. 

Addendum, 26 November 2016: From Salon.com, here's a brief history of fake news, with emphasis on the observation that the American right has always been uniquely gullible, long before Facebook. Those who lean towards right-wing politics and conservative social values seem to be more gullible when it comes to the wildest conspiracy theories, and they also seem to be more vulnerable to scams and scammers -- like Kevin Trudeau with his "forbidden information." I also discussed these matters on this recent (7 October 2016) Whirled post.


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Monday, November 14, 2016

A reptile dysfunction



As the Trumpsters continued to gloat and the huddled masses desperately attempted to self-soothe by referencing the... choke... President-elect's "don't be scared" homilies on last night's episode of 60 Minutes, I sat down and knocked out some lyrics, inspired by
recent campaign history. It didn't change the unabashed awfulness of things, such as the facts that the orange atrocity will soon have his stubby fingers on the nuclear codes, and that Leonard Cohen is still dead... but it was good therapy.


The Orange Snake*
by Cosmic Connie

On the road to ruin one morning
Down the path along the lake
Some angry voters came upon a huge and leering snake
His skin was orange and glowing and he wore a bright red hat
"Oh my, " the voters cried, "Here’s something new! Let’s vote for that!”
“Vote me in, o angry voters
Vote me in, for heaven’s sake
Vote me in, unhappy citizens,” smirked the snake.

They welcomed him so warmly even as he bared his fangs
They cheered his glowing orangeness and his odd combed-over bangs
They clapped and cheered at every hateful diatribe he spewed
For they believed that under him the realm would be renewed.
“Vote me in, unhappy voters
Vote me in, for heaven’s sake
Vote me in, you angry voters,” grinned the snake

And they did despite his hatefulness.** “Our hero!” they all cried
"If Killary had won, our dear Republic would have died!”
They cheered the huge orange reptile till reality intruded:
They saw he’d granted favors but that they were not included.
“Stop your whining, loser voters
Suck it up, for heaven’s sake
I’ve made our country greater,” leered the snake.
“We loved you, " cried the voters
“And you've screwed us so, but why?
You know the things you’re doing might just make our nation die!”
“Oh shut up, stupid losers,” said the reptile with a grin
“You knew damn well just what I was before you voted me in
You bought my lies, you losers
Every lie, for heaven’s sake
And now I’m here forever,” jeered the snake.

© 2016 by Connie L. Schmidt

* No offense intended to actual snakes, which serve a useful purpose in nature.
** I recognize that many people voted for Drumpf
because of his hatefulness,
not in spite of it, but I was trying to maintain the meter.

Frankly, I would love to be proven wrong on the outcome suggested in my lyrics, but for now... well, as I said, it was good therapy. If you want to sing along but don't know the tune, here's this. I hear that singing is also good therapy.



Finally, there's this, from John Oliver. Watch it; it's good therapy too.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

And even though it all went wrong...



What a week.

On Monday
we lost the man who wrote that democracy is coming to the USA, though we didn't learn about it until Thursday, the day he was quietly buried in his native Montreal. On Tuesday we learned that democracy may be leaving the USA.

And on Saturday, on the cold open for Saturday Night Live, the truly lovely and talented Kate McKinnon
paid a poignant tribute to both events by singing a few verses from Leonard Cohen's most-covered song, "Hallelujah."

I'm far from the only person to be grieving over both the election loss and the loss of Cohen, and certainly far from the only writer to see the interwoven themes they present.

In The Guardian Jonathan Freedland wrote:
...Cohen's songs often told of gloom and defeat and darkness, but his voice was one of consolation – of sharing the loss by finding another who felt it too, of discovering the glimmer of love or light that might get you through.

My word, do we need that now.
Cohen died on Monday, slipping out before he had to glimpse the news that has convulsed the world. He saw a lot in his 82 years, but he never had to see the words President-elect Trump. With his impeccable timing, Cohen spared himself that ordeal. But his songs anticipated how the rest of us would feel. Looked through the paper. Makes you wanna cry.

The Trumpists and their sycophants outside the US taunt those of us who are fearful. Boris Johnson says we need to get over our collective
“whinge-orama” and embrace the new reality. Iain Duncan Smith says Barack Obama was a cold fish anyway, and he’s glad to see the back of him. Nigel Farage chooses to describe America’s first black president as a “creature”. Why, Trump’s arrival could even be a good thing, they say: he might offer the UK a decent post-Brexit trade deal.

This is not only pathetic in its cravenness, grovelling to a bigot when the moment demanded some of the moral steel shown by Angela Merkel – who extended her hand to Trump, but only on condition that he accept basic human values including respect for the minorities he had so copiously insulted – it is also unforgivably myopic. It fails to see there is a much larger picture here...

A much larger picture indeed, which is why I find it both sad and intensely annoying to read sneering comments on social media -- even from people whom I'd considered to be friends or at least allies -- calling the anti-Trump contingent spoiled crybabies who are merely "butt-hurt" because "their" team didn't win. "Get over it," we're scolded, and some of the scolds aren't even US residents and will not have to reside in Trump's America.
 
And here's
Andrew O'Hehir on Salon.com:
I don’t know how much attention the great Canadian troubadour paid to current events during his final days in this vale of tears. I can only imagine he was both horrified and mordantly amused by the rise of Donald Trump, a cartoonish would-be despot who seemed to have been conjured out of Cohen’s darker visions. (I have no particular objection to Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize, except one: Leonard Cohen deserved it more.) All those disgruntled and downtrodden white people we’ve heard so much about apparently felt that everybody besides them had gotten a box of chocolates and a long-stemmed rose. So they ordered their own — and boy howdy, did they ever get them! Now, it’s true that the chocolates have a funny smell, almost as if they were made of something else that’s about the same color as chocolate. And the delivery guy bears a distinct resemblance to Freddy Krueger. As Cohen observed, that’s how it goes.

In the title song of Cohen’s now-classic 1992 album “The Future,” he outlined a litany of terror-nostalgia that captures our present era even better than it did that one: “Give me back the Berlin Wall/ Give me Stalin and St. Paul/ Give me Christ or give me Hiroshima.” I think he really was a Jewish prophet (turned Buddhist monk) who could see the future. That human yearning for moral certainty and clarity, even at the risk of extinguishment or fiery damnation, runs through Cohen’s lyrics. There is a great deal of that spirit behind the unlikely election of a real estate tycoon and TV star, who possesses no understanding of policy or governance and no aptitude for public discourse, as president of the United States.


The "box of chocolates" bit was a reference to lyrics in a song I've often quoted myself (here and here, f'rinstance): "Everybody Knows," which appeared on Cohen's 1988 release I'm Your Man.

Years ago I read an article that I can't seem to find online, in which the writer described Cohen as "the hoarse man of the Apocalypse." And indeed he was, having earned that title by virtue of both his "golden voice" and songs such as the aforementioned
"The Future."



Back in the early 1990s, when "The Future" was still a work in progress, I read a Cohen interview that mentioned the song, which at the time was titled, "If You Could See What's Coming Next." This October 2015 post on the wonderful Cohencentric blog quotes the original opening lines:
If you could see what's coming next
If you could see the hidden text
You'd say, Give me love or give me Adolf Hitler
And you'd say, Give me back the
Berlin Wall
Give me Stalin and St. Paul
You'd say, Give me Christ or give me Hiroshima
Just get me out of this mirror.
Cohen was clearly inspired by the heady events that had been unfolding throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s: the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unraveling of the Soviet Union, the deaths of tyrants. So many of us who were alive and aware back then were downright giddy, and some observers even suggested that we had for all practical purposes reached "the end of history" and that it was, by and large, a happy ending, because the good guys were triumphing at last.

Clearly, Cohen knew better, and while some might have merely found his message in "The Future" congruent with his own long history of being a brooding poet/novelist/troubadour, he framed it in a compelling way that cut into my own giddiness. I've long since accepted that in history and politics, as in Scamworld, there are no neat and tidy endings.

Yet on the very same album on which "The Future" appeared, Cohen also sang about democracy coming to the USA, and he offered another anthem of hope, titled, appropriately enough,"Anthem."

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, there is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

Well, yes, there is that. And as Kate-as-HRC said at the end of her song on SNL, "I'm not giving up and neither should you." For sure, Kate,
I'm not giving up.

I'm stubborn as those garbage bags that time cannot decay
I'm junk but I'm still holding up this little wild bouquet
Democracy is coming to the USA.
And I'm thinking that if we can survive and even push back on the autocracy, there may be hope yet for democracy.

Addendum 15 November 2016: A.J. Goldman penned a thoughtful and lovely tribute to Cohen's work and why it matters now more than ever: Why We Mourn Leonard Cohen in the Age of Trump.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

You want it darker



Not only do we have a world in which a bloated billionaire megalomaniac is going to be given the nuclear codes, but now the world has grown even darker with the announcement that one of the greatest songwriters ever, Leonard Cohen, has left the table.

Tributes
are pouring in from all over the world.

His death was not completely unexpected, especially in light of
the words written in his last "so long" to Marianne. But being expected doesn't make it any less heartbreaking.

RIP, LC. Travel light.
[Update November 12: Cohen actually died on November 7, but the announcement was not made until November 10.]


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Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Mourning in Amerika, and what to do next

Some of us may be crying, but rest assured we won't be saluting.

Congratulations, America. After John Oliver and I begged you not to blow it, after Salty Droid clearly told you not to blow it, you went and pulled a Brexit yesterday. A lot of polls, pols, pundits and regular folks didn't see it coming, but many of us thought it a possibility, though we hoped against hope that it wouldn't happen. But it happened. And so we wait.

Among many other fun and interesting things, Drumpf's triumph could very likely mean...


A win for scammers
And
private slammers
A loss for the
broken
And
boldly outspoken
A triumph for
whites
But
not civil rights
A loss for
the ill
The
death of goodwill...

...and so on. I've got more rhymes, but I'm short on time.

I'm upset and sad and truly scared, but not defeated. (Hillary isn't truly defeated either, damn the Schadenfreude that is dripping all over the Interwebz today.) And even though I fear above all that the election of Trump has legitimized the hatriarchy in awful new ways -- we've seen examples already -- I also think this may be a good time to focus on our proverbial better angels, rather than the bitter ones.
 
Towards this end I would like to share -- and this is long overdue -- some thoughts from my friend Tammy Samede in the UK. Tammy is a true bluebird on the barricades; overcoming a brutal past, she has chosen to devote much of her life to fighting to help others. She was instrumental in the Occupy London movement, and over the years she has led or been involved in demonstrations against a multitude of evils, from fracking to fascism. At times this has come at a great personal price: she has been jailed, prosecuted, sanctioned, beaten down... but she still leads with love and grace and poetry (much better poetry than my own lame efforts).

And here is what Tammy had to say a few days before the historic and jarring Brexit vote last June, an initiative that was pushed to success in large part by carefully crafted appeals to hatred,bigotry and xenophobia. Tammy has graciously given me permission to share it. There's a lesson here for those of us on this side of the pond as we come to terms with our own Brexit.

As someone who grew up in a racist environment, I can only too well recognise the behaviour that is spilling out into our streets and infecting our Parliament with the rancid smell and taste of fascism, racism and xenophobia. However, I grew up quite the opposite, and as an antifascist, and as a mother of three mixed race children, not only am I daily more and more appalled, I am afraid for the future of my children.

Our right wing government has been assisted by the national newspapers and media, to over time feed the people of this country, a diet of fear, disinformation and right wing ideology. With newspapers printing this daily, in their online additions and all over the news, it is little wonder then , that the general public have in their apathetic ignorance, began to yet again allow the far right groups to rise, and have believed every monstrous lie that the government spoon feeds them.

Or have they?

Certainly Britain has always been pretty racist. I know this because I grew up here, and because I have travelled the length and breadth of this country. Some have the opinion that this is not true. It is, but it used to be hidden. The talk of 'Paki's' and' niggers' would be done quietly, in homes or in hushed tones. This has been changing for some time.

Since 9/11 and other such horrific happenings, the hatred towards particularly Muslims has been whipped into a thoughtless, tactless and ill informed frenzy, and on top of this, the conspiratoids have swamped social media and elsewhere with their crazy ideas that it is all an 'inside job'. Then again, it did give some nations the perfect excuse to invade, attack and go about their business of thieving resources etc. Though I believe this to have been more of an opportunistic course of action, rather than an orchestrated one.

Certainly many innocents were murdered in the wars and battles that followed, and they still are. Yet the collective mourning is apparently only acceptable for white western countries, for the status quo would have you believe that the Middle East is full of terrorists who spend their time trying to devise new ways to kill us.

Here in the UK,
one of our few remaining decent and good Members Of Parliament was brutally murdered a few days ago. The man arrested is a white British male. He was heard to shout allegiance to an extreme far right organization (Britain First) as he stole Jo's life away, and indeed it has come to light that when asked his name by the judge, he declared that it was something to do with Britain being free... or some other such twaddle that I can't recall in this moment.

This in my humble opinion should be treated as an act of terrorism. After all, an MP was assassinated! Because he is white, the focus is on his poor mental health. Well, what absurdity! For surely it is the case that anyone who takes the life of another like that is mentally unstable. Why then is this not applied to Muslims, suicide bombers (who let's face it, are sick to death of us bombing their homes, killing their families and taking their resources). Not that I excuse any violent behaviour, however there are mitigating factors.

And indeed, western countries can wipe out a thousand lives a day and this is called war/defence and other lame excuses for murderous actions. A suicide bomber injures twenty people and it is called terrorism. It is all senseless killing at the end of the day.

The Hatriachy are using this to their advantage in multiple ways. Donald Trump (and what appears to be his twin here, Boris Johnson) are of course taking full advantage of the latest news, to whip up their supporters into a hate filled frenzy, and to push forward their various hateful campaigns. Trump is encouraging racial profiling amongst other things. This is despicable. The very idea that where someone is from or what they look like. If only it were so, because perhaps then Trump would be sat in a certain kinda chair.... or at least locked up forever as a danger to society.

Here in the UK, three days before the vote on whether to stay or leave the EU, the murder of Jo Fox is being used to fuel both campaigns. It is perverse to me, that this country behaves in this manner, at a time when so much suffering grips the world. We should be pulling together as a global family of humanity, not tearing each other apart.

It is hard for me to speak too much about other countries here. For though I attempt to keep up with news around the world, I do not live in these places and therefore, I cannot really have too great an opinion. we all know the the media around the world drip-feeds us with only news that suits them for the most part, and apart from a few friends who make alternative news available, I can never entirely believe what I am reading.

But here in the UK, yes. For I have been on the front-lines in the fight against the far right and its hate for some time. This can take various forms. The battle online is by far the biggest (and the hardest in some ways). It is a constant battle to educate folks and try to engage them in mature debate, rather than hate filled ranting. They are ignorant beyond belief, and for the most part have no desire to learn or listen to another opinion, or even establish any facts. I suppose if Rupert Murdoch and the various far right leaders say it, well, it must be true right? Wrong... so terribly and tragically wrong. The far right have been organising more and more marches and demonstrations through our streets. Some are happening monthly now; others happening even more regularly.

Yet if these people were told they could not march, I guess I would be one of the first to complain. The reason is that it is everyone's right to express their opinion, no matter how warped that is. And also, should one group be banned from this democratic right, we shall all lose it. But there is also the right to counter-demonstrate and say no and stand against this hatred on our streets. And so we do. The first time I was arrested for counter-demonstrating against this racism, I was utterly shocked, not to mention confused. How could it be, that simply because I had stood chanting against the vile words of these people, I was inside a cell , locked away for over 13 hours, and treated like a criminal?

When the right wing were on the streets carrying swastika flags and promoting violence, I had been wearing a sweater that said in large letters "one race-the human race" -- and unlike the fascists, I was carrying no weapons. I had been dodging bottles and bricks and the sticks from placards, which they had thrown at us, over the heads of the police! And yet
we were the ones to be beaten by the law, dragged into vans, and thrown into cold cells! How was this happening?

Racist speech is a criminal offence here, so why is it being allowed to happen in our streets, in front of hundreds of police officers, openly... and yet, I have been arrested four times in two years for simply asking for less hate and more love! In my battle against rascism here, I have been beaten, cut by bottles landing on my head, dragged into custody and injured by cops, and my face appears on Redwatch, putting me in great danger of being attacked and even stabbed (Redwatch is a site the right wing use to post names, addresses and images of antifascists, so that their members can seek us out and attack us). And yes, the police are aware. And no, they do not do a thing.

All in all, the fight against the rising tide of hate in this country is getting harder by the day. UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) is now driving vans around our streets with openly racist slogans, anyone not white is open to physical attack in the streets, mosques and temples are having their windows smashed... and there is much fear. But, no matter how hard it becomes, fight we must. Wherever there is injustice a stand must be taken. For it may be a dangerous thing to do, and yet it is and will always be the right thing to do.

As I write this I am also preparing for a court case to answer charges for my most recent arrest in London, standing against the hate. They have warned me again that it is possible that the prosecutors may ask for a prison sentence for me. The law in this country cares little for what is morally and ethically right. It cares only what the laws say. And the law makers themselves are fascist and racist.

But one thing I believe amongst anything else is and will always be this.Love cannot be imprisoned. Honour and truth cannot be murdered. Humanity needs to get its collective act together.

Am I ready to go to prison for this? It is a hard question. My children need me. However, as a mother I realise that it is not just their present that I need to take care of, it is their future that must be wrestled from the wicked grip of those who preach hate. And when they do preach it, they preach it against my babies too, for they are dark skinned, and face a worrying future in this country. My hope lies in the slightest possibility of getting out of here, and getting them out too. The grass isn't greener on the other side, but there are places where it is easier to walk on.

So yes -- I guess that I am ready to go to prison to fight the hate. Yes. For if we sit and do nothing, if we allow the law and the fascists to make us to afraid to stand up, we will fall. And we shall be found lying beside all those we did not speak up for. And I will continue to put my body between these vile thugs and those who need our help for as long as I am able to. For the cuts and bruises I often receive at such times, are still far less than the collective wounds we are feeling globally.

This challenge that humanity faces is indeed a frightening one, and a desperate struggle. But we must fight it. For a future led by the Hatriachy, by the racists, by the cold-hearted and ignorant, is far more terrifying to me than being locked in a room for a very long time.

They must not pass, and they shall not pass.
Indeed. Thank you, Tammy.

Many folks may feel like crying, in between rolling their eyes when they see
some stupidly evil nutcase gloating about the triumph of Trumpism. Many may feel almost overcome with anger. But we can turn that anger into action. And in the end we are far more than our immediate gut reactions to this lamentable electoral outcome. As a post-election-day Mother Jones piece put it, this is not the time for prolonged mourning. It is the time to fight like hell.

So once you've recovered a bit from the shock, get out there and fight, in all the ways you're willing and able to do so. But please keep it as peaceful as possible, and and please, please keep it nonviolent, unless you are truly acting in self-defense. And while it is important to try to keep an open mind to the possibility that Trump might not totally destroy the American experiment, don't be fooled, don't be seduced, and for f--k sake, don't salute.

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