Posted July 21, 2011 at 1:24 am
by Simon Black
Bruce Lee, a long-time hero of mine, died 38-years ago today, and in tribute to his intellect and philosophy, I wanted to blow the dust off an old quote of his that seems quite prescient:
“Those who are unaware they are walking in darkness will never seek the light.”
Each day it becomes increasingly obvious that there are essentially two kinds of people in this world– those who are unaware that they walk in the darkness, completely oblivious to the real dangers in the world, versus those who understand reality and seek the truth.
The former group comprises the vast majority of society. This is your voting electorate and mainstream media audience, and they’ll buy every bit of propaganda that’s sent their way… whether it’s support for the war(s), ruinous economic programs, child molesting TSA policies, or just plain old fear and hate.
In its latest effort to spread fear and hate, the Ministry of Love, also known as the Department of Homeland Security, has produced an Orwellian new video (watch here) intended to encourage Americans to rat each other out.
If you’re not in a place to watch the video right now, I’ll summarize briefly.
First of all, it’s one of the most pathetic attempts at filmmaking in the history of motion picture; the average shampoo commercial has better acting and production quality… and is much more subtle in its message.
In the world of Homeland Security, terrorists all drive unmarked full-size vans, wear hooded sweatshirts, and deposit backpacks in conspicuous public places. They might as well have had a cackling James Bond villain twirling his moustache in the corner.
Posted July 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm
by Brendan I. Koerner
Rodolfo Rodriguez Cabrera didn’t set out to mastermind a global counterfeiting ring. All he wanted was to earn a decent living doing what he loves most: tinkering with electronics. That’s why he started his own slot-machine repair company in Riga, Latvia. Just to make a little cash while playing with circuit boards.
Born and raised in Camagüey, Cuba, Cabrera always had an affinity for technical pursuits. Once, after winning a student essay contest in 1976, he was given a personal audience with Fidel Castro. When the dictator asked the 10-year-old what he wanted to be when he grew up, Cabrera confidently replied, “An architectural engineer.”
Nine years later, after becoming obsessed with airplanes as a teenager, Cabrera won a scholarship to Riga Civil Aviation Engineers Institute, home to one of the Soviet Union’s finest aeronautical-engineering programs. While working toward his degree, he fell in love with an older Latvian woman, and though he was expected to return to Cuba after graduation to serve Castro’s regime, Cabrera decided to stay in Riga and build a new life designing and working on aircraft.
But soon after Cabrera completed his degree, Latvia broke free from the dying Soviet Union. The newly independent country had no aerospace industry of its own, and thus no aerospace jobs. Instead of fixing jet engines, Cabrera was forced to make money repairing radios and telephones. In 1994 he accepted a gig with a company called Altea, servicing the boxy videogame consoles found atop Eastern European bars, where they offer drunks the chance to waste a few coins answering trivia questions or playing Tetris.
As Latvia became more open and prosperous, slot machines began to pop up in the nation’s bars, clubs, and supermarkets, creating new repair opportunities for Altea. Though he wasn’t much of a gambler, Cabrera was drawn to these devices. He spent hours dissecting slot electronics to learn everything he could about how they worked. The deeper he plunged, the more he came to regard slot machines as his true professional calling. So in 2004, Cabrera used his modest savings to found his own repair company, FE Electronic.
Posted July 12, 2011 at 3:55 am
by 5280 Magazine
The spring day had been a warm one, but as Taylor Romero walked from his Centennial office across the parking lot to the Embassy Suites, the sun was setting and the air chilled. His employer, Wayde McKelvy, had been holed up in a room at the hotel for days. Romero knew this likely meant one thing—well, two things: booze and hookers. For as long as Romero had known McKelvy the guy exhibited hedonistic, self-destructive tendencies. Lately, though, he’d been on a Charlie Sheen–like tear.
The 46-year-old McKelvy had taken to showing up at work drunk, holding the waist of whichever working girl he’d flown in. He was so blatant that even his wife, the mother of their twin girls, knew about it all. By then, late spring 2009, Donna McKelvy had grown accustomed to her husband and his prostitutes. What she could not abide, however, was the whore du jour banging up the Mercedes-Benz. She’d asked Romero to go to the Embassy and get the keys.
Romero took the elevator up and knocked. The way he remembered it, the door opened, and there, standing on a floor littered with empty Bud Light bottles, was McKelvy. The two men were not merely colleagues, they were friends. They plopped onto a couch, McKelvy dropping his 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound frame. Romero learned the keys to the Benz were gone. And sure enough, so was the girl. While Romero stuck around, waiting, the two men discussed their dream of making a movie together. It would be dark and atmospheric; McKelvy already picked a tagline: What’s the Definition of Insanity?
Young with long dark hair, Romero is the kind of computer-programmer dude who wears flip-flops to work. He’d built a website for the Mantria Corporation, a new green company for which McKelvy was the lead investment broker and ultimately the sole money engine. This startup, as McKelvy had put it to anyone who’d listen, was a revolutionary investment opportunity. Mantria, so went the pitch to investors, was constructing the country’s first carbon-negative residential community, where energy-efficient housing would be built with sustainable materials, and the whole thing would be powered by alternative energy.
As if that weren’t enough, Mantria was also supposedly on the verge of releasing an unprecedented technology that turned garbage into usable materials and produced something called biochar, a charcoal that when used as a fertilizer was carbon-negative. Operating from his hometown of Denver, McKelvy would raise close to $40 million from hundreds of investors, the majority of them from Colorado.
After a while, a short Latina woman walked into the hotel room holding a bag of groceries and the car keys. Slurring, McKelvy yelled at Romero. Romero yelled back. Something about the family’s car and the prostitute. From a corner of the bottle-strewn room, the prostitute piped up: “Why are you talking about me like I’m not here!” She put down the keys, Romero grabbed them, and he split. Talk about the definition of insanity: “It was classic Wayde under pressure,” Romero says. “The bigger things get, the harder Wayde crashes.”
The crash had only just begun. In November 2009, some six months after that night in the hotel, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil lawsuit against McKelvy and his wife, and against the Philadelphia-based owners of Mantria. As far as the SEC was concerned, McKelvy had fleeced his investors out of tens of millions of dollars in a big, green Ponzi scheme.
Multimillion dollar white-collar scams are as American as apple pie. See, most recently, Bernie Madoff, who wormed his way into Wall Street and decimated the portfolios of thousands of investors to the tune of $17 billion. Sentenced to life in prison, Madoff has become the infamous face of financial-market malfeasance nationwide. Coloradans, meanwhile, witnessed their own high-profile grifter. Denver hedge fund manager Sean Mueller ripped off 65 people, including John Elway, for some $71 million. Last December, Mueller was sentenced to 40 years in prison. But whereas Madoff’s and Mueller’s frauds could have occurred anywhere, during almost any era, McKelvy and Mantria’s “business plan” was based on a uniquely contemporary premise, and one that has been especially appealing for Coloradans.
The United States shouldn’t be dependent on foreign oil; the country must create a workforce for the 21st century; the environment must be protected: These are a few of the reasons the federal government has been nudging industry toward green, or clean, energy. The national trend has dovetailed nicely with progressive thinking in Colorado, where conservation and sustainability are rooted in the mountain lifestyle. Former Governor Bill Ritter lured numerous clean-tech companies to Colorado, including the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas. He successfully championed a bill that required the state to produce 30 percent of its electricity from renewable energy, the largest proportion in the Western states.
Colorado is so synonymous with green power that in February 2009, President Obama chose to announce his $787 billion economic-stimulus package—filled with “clean-energy” provisions—in Denver. The venue the president chose was the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where the roof is home to a solar-panel field, which was installed by a Boulder-based company, Namasté Solar.
Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to imagine a place more perfect than Denver to exemplify the confluence of environmentalism and capitalism (not to mention the venture capitalism of Boulder). Arguably, no one is more primed for green investment opportunities—or susceptible to clean-energy con men—than Coloradans. “If you can show me how to save the world,” as a Denver-area woman who was one of the first Mantria investors puts it, “sign me up.”
It was just after Obama’s Denver appearance that McKelvy and his Philly-based Mantria partner, CEO Troy Wragg, were telling investors that the company was engaged in promising meetings with the president of Ivory Coast; that Mantria was hobnobbing with the Clinton Global Initiative; and that the company was “this close” to selling $240 million worth of its “systems.” To develop their audacious projects Wragg and McKelvy needed cash. Mantria investors, according to the SEC, were offered securities in the form of “promissory notes, stock, limited partnership interests, and so-called profits interest.” These contracts promised extraordinary returns over periods as short as eight months.
The reality, according to the SEC, was that Mantria produced virtually no [continue]…
Posted June 16, 2011 at 1:44 am
Whether it involves stuffing envelopes, processing medical insurance claims or assembling toys, most victims never get paid for their work or ever recoup their startup fees.
You might think the opportunity of making easy money in your pajamas would get anyone’s hackles up. Indeed, thousands are duped every year. The most likely prey includes senior citizens, stay-at-home mothers and people with low incomes.
In 2009 the FTC received 7,955 complaints involving work-at-home-business opportunities, up from 6,126 in 2007 when the latest recession started taking hold.
The FTC estimates that only one in every 55 of those work-at-home opportunities was legitimate. Stopping the scammers is like a never-ending game of Whack-A-Mole: Smack one on the head and another pops up.
Posted June 14, 2011 at 4:01 pm
by Barry Goss
I’ve said it before — and have said in some focused, raw, lets-get-real-here-Johnny ways — and I’ll keep saying it:
Practically since the dawn of time (whenever the first human wanted to exchange an idea or item for the day’s form of money), selling fear has always been a lucrative market.
It’s easy for marketers as a) they only have to find validation to protect your future instead of increase the value of your present and b) they know there’s plenty of meek souls who need a good excuse or two to not succeed.
But, for now, here’s how Mark Ford (editor of The Palm Beach Letter) put it [an excerpt of a Cigar Bar conversation with Tom Dyson]:
Posted June 2, 2011 at 1:00 pm
by Barry Goss
In the best-selling book on the planet, the following line was printed:
“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
I’m not sure why I’m quoting the Bible, because I don’t like anything about what the book has come to stand for: lack, limitation, fear, crowd thinking, hypocrisy, exclusionism, etc.
But let me give you the Barry-ized version of that Bible verse:
“Forgive them, for they know not what they think.”
Thinking is powerful. But, thinking correctly is change-making. Not only for cleaning our own lenses, to get a clearer perception of reality (what life is), but for ensuring we don’t let distorted, tainted, and misaligned information control our individual lives.
This all came to mind last summer as I accidentally* read an article by Amy Domini, founder and CEO of Domini Social Investments, in the July/August 2010 issue of Ode Magazine.
[ * It was sent to us as a trial offer, because it was automatically included via another offer we DID intentionally purchase. Anyway, being that it was sitting on our kitchen island looking like it needed to be picked up, and since its tagline "For Intelligent Optimists" was intriguing, I read a few articles. But, Domini's was the most unintelligent do-gooder pitch for income equality that I've ever laid eyes on. ]
Her appalling argument is that the government, in order to dig us out of the financial crisis (the economic recession), should spend more time (yes, even more than it already is) replicating Robin Hood’s favorite meme — “rob from the rich and give to the poor!”
Yup, your eyes didn’t deceive you…
In her quest to enable mediocrity and feel solace for the financially inept, she actually says:
“Our self-interest, indeed the nation’s economic well-being, starts with creating more people who can spend, even at the risk of creating fewer people who can spend billions.”
Wouldn’t you agree that those who spend billions create more value, more opportunity, more jobs, and more opportunity for others to create wealth than the person who is merely spending a little bit on himself?
Posted May 30, 2011 at 11:50 am
by Barry Goss
Looking for a new career path?
One, for instance, that’ll get you out of the Iowa corn fields into the land of milk ‘n honey, California dreamin’ style?
Heh, skip the movie lots of burbank, put on your flipflops, my friend, and head straight to an LA beach.
According to an Orange country city report on lifeguard pay for the calendar year 2010, of the 14 full-time lifeguards, 13 collected more than $120,000 in total compensation; one lifeguard collected $98,160.65. More than half the lifeguards collected more than $150,000 for 2010 with the two highest-paid collecting $211,451 and $203,481 in total compensation respectively.
Even excluding benefits like health care and pension, more than half the lifeguards receive a total salary, including overtime pay, exceeding $100,000. And they also receive an annual allowance of $400 for “Sun Protection.” Many work four days a week, 10 hours a day.
In a time where government spending now makes up about 45% of the U.S. economy, maybe this it just want the doctor (er, I mean “body watcher” in you) ordered.
See more via this video to sync up with the title of this post.
Posted May 17, 2011 at 11:14 am
by Barry Goss
I’m posting this open letter, by Jeff D. Opdyke, in full (no excerpts) for two main reasons:
#1) I respect Sovereign Society’s mission, their depth of content, and their upstanding approach to guiding their readers and members to a self-reliant and unrestricted (from government meddling) life.
#2) I too wonder how long 60 Minutes can continue to outwit themselves by believing that what they do is considered thorough and unbiased journalism. As pointed out in my The Big (“Poor Me”) Gamble post (on the LWL blog), they get under my skin.
So, Jeff… I commend your disgust for their atrocious display of continuing to be the poster child for blatant biased news reporting.
by Jeff D. Opdyke
We must set the record straight.
Some of you have seen the recent 60 Minutes segment titled “Sovereign Citizens,” in which the CBS news program examined a marginalized faction of disaffected Americans who live by a largely anarchist belief system and which, 60 Minutes says, the FBI considers a domestic terror threat.
To build its case that the so-called sovereign-citizen movement is a menace to America, 60 Minutes pointed its camera at The Sovereign Society website, holding for about six seconds on a single headline: Never Pay U.S. Taxes Again – Legally. As the shot closes in on the headline and Sovereign Society logo, reporter Byron Pitts asserts that the Internet is full of “an endless stream of mind-numbing seminars on how, with just the right paperwork, you too can beat the system.”
Had Mr. Pitts, his researchers or 60 Minutes’ legal team bothered to read beyond the headline the producers chose to emphasize, they would have instantly realized that The Sovereign Society story they played up had nothing to do with the premise of the 60 Minutes segment.
Where 60 Minutes focused on a band of largely poor Americans who effectively believe the U.S. government is illegitimate, our story was about expatriation, which remains a fully legal, non-violent, non-confrontational option for Americans who wish to renounce citizenship for asset-protection reasons – a move that ultimately would result in not owing taxes to the U.S. government, legally.
I come from the pinnacle of high-quality journalism. I spent 17 years as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. I know the game 60 Minutes unsuccessfully tried to play. Its researchers trolled the Internet for anything tied to the word “sovereign,” and when they found The Sovereign Society website and the headline about legally avoiding taxes, they latched onto it as an inflammatory “ah-ha!” smoking gun.
Only, there is no gun. And there is no smoke.
Posted May 16, 2011 at 3:15 pm
by Michel Fortin
Sometimes, I answer helpdesks to help in special cases or on more technical issues. But when I do, I do it anonymously as our support staff works as a team.
(It’s the way my wife’s company works. It allows us to work interchangeably, such as replacing each other on vacations or providing collaborative input, without any interruptions.)
However, when I do, something interesting happens.
Some clients treat me like crap. They patronize me and show contempt towards me. They are terrible to deal with, not because of their request but because of their attitude.
They range from the miserable, “the-world-owes-me,” insatiable ingrate who sends tickets in rapidfire succession for every little itch they need to scratch, to the uppity, snarky snob who expects others to bow in the mere presence of their support ticket.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
I’m not talking about someone who’s genuinely pissed off because of some frustrating problem they need help on, but later becomes appreciative when their problem is solved. (I do sympathize with them when stuff like this happens. I’ve been there!)
No, I’m talking about people who lambaste subordinates just because… they can.
It is utterly amazing to me to see how clients treat me when they don’t know it’s me — the same person they revere, are friends with, and pay $500-$1,000 an hour for consulting.
Worse still, it’s terrible to see how people are downright condescending toward others in seemingly menial positions. It’s also surprising because I would have never expected it from some of them. They’re the kindest people I’ve met.
To quote Lynette Chandler who shared a similar story with me on Facebook:
“I was floored… I’ll never view her the same way again.”
Posted May 12, 2011 at 1:04 am
Here’s a Fox News exclusive report (see video here) announcing the publication today of a new peer reviewed study containing powerful evidence that not only do vaccines cause autistic conditions but the US government has been paying out multi-million dollar settlements to the few children and their families lucky enough to have been able to prove their cases.
But unlucky enough to have had their family life and child’s life destroyed by vaccines.’