The old story -- whether true or not, I have no idea -- is that the English in the Nigerian scam emails is deliberately bad, so as to weed out those who are too alert to fall for this obvious scam. It seems Peter of England is doing the same thing, only in his videos, not his emails (not that they are much better).
He just published a video of his WeRe "bank card" on YouTube:
But -- whether deliberately or not -- as the Quatloos! posters found out within a few hours (all the images below from the Quatloos! thread here), his "card reader" is in fact an off-the-shelf machine from a company called "onliner" that uses a key fob (keychain-held activator) for financial transactions of various sorts, apparently as a sort of credit-card-on-key:
What is more, Peter can be seen palming just such a key fob in the video in which he claims the machine in the video is "reading" his WeRe card:
How do we know for sure it's the key fob, and not the WeRe "bank" "card", that is activating the "card reader"? Well, quite apart form the fact that the machine Peter is using is not a card reader but one intended to be activated by key fobs, the WeRe "card" has a different name on it, the machine "reading" the card shows the name Martina Stein -- which is the default name used as a "demo" by the key fob reading machine on their own web site -- as also seen in the image above.
Not that someone would expect a card from a "bank" that, according to Peter himself, uses magical "energy units" and that presenting a check for payment in Re "currency" automatically will pay the debts because "of the law of conservation of energy" to actually work. But one would expect some more effort.
Here is a youtube video that explains the entire fake in detail:
Ah well. I suppose his idea is that if you watch that video and actually think his card works, you are ripe for the taking.
The idea behind the WeRe "bank" is the old 'banks create money out of thin air' story, only this time Peter took it one step further and added, 'then so can I!'. Essentially, you send him a promissory note for 150,000 pounds, thus "creating" assets in the WeRe "bank", and in return receive a checkbook for your new "account". You can now, according to Peter, pay all your debts (esp. mortgage and council taxes) in WeRe checks.
This would make some economic (if not practical or legal) sense if the promissory note were real - that is, if you actually took out a loan for 150,000 pounds, got the money, and used it to pay your other creditors, although why you would use a shady character like Peter of England to do so and not a reputable institution is another issue. Peter's selling point, however, is that the mere fact that you signed a promissory note creates 150,000 pounds even if you never pay back a penny. So it is a "promissory note" that from the start you promise not to pay.
There seems to be a small flaw here somewhere - to wit, Peter "forgot" that the only reason real mortgages or other loans are treated as having value is because the lender actually pays the money back over time. The mortgage crisis (which the likes of Peter love to go on and on about) was caused, inter alia, by the fact that mortgages were given to people who the banks should have known would not be able to pay them back. Once that became clear, those mortgages became worthless, as bad loans.
If Peter's 'banks create money magically' theory were true, there would have been no mortgage crisis, since whether or not the lender actually pays back the mortgage would have been irrelevant. What's more, even if Peter were correct and the banks did create money for nothing, scamming everybody, it would still be morally wrong to do the same - just like the fact that some people make money by extortion or blackmail hardly justifies one doing it.
After all, doesn't it logically follow from Peter's own two claims:
1) 'The banks are scamming you'
2) 'I, Peter of England, can do the same thing the banks do'
3) 'I, Peter of England, am scamming you'?
In other words, it's a something-for-nothing scam of the usual type, which is seen on his own forum, the aptly-named (in its something-for-nothing intention) get out of debt free (GOODF) forum. Needless to say, as the quatloos! thread on the subject (150 pages!) notes, it doesn't work. Peter's shady past and lack of license to run a bank aside, the WeRe "bank" has no assets except for the worthless "promissory notes", nobody accepts the worthless "checks", and those who attempted to pay anything with them in the real world found out it doesn't work in short order, as the "checks" bounced.
Peter has a different explanation for why it doesn't work. Naturally, it's all an evil conspiracy involving everybody in the world except Peter and his "clients". Here is his latest Facebook post (see above for a link to his Facebook page), about the REAL MEANING(tm) of the recent meeting between American leaders and 'president Xi' (that is, Xi Jinping of China):
Roman Number Xi (XI) = 11 = President Xi
President 11 = President XIAIIB = Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank = Solomonic Kabbalistic Numerology encoded as follows:
-A = Aleph but can be Tav so 1 or 22
B = bet 2 or 21so
AIIB = 22112 for "Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank" read as follows: This is a direct numerological clone of the 11 Symbol of Twin Towers, 11 Downing Street, Armistice Date of WW1 11/11/11
...and so on (and on and on, as one can see in his Facebook page).
When he is not discovering the REAL MEANING(tm) of everything, he is threatening his perceived enemies (the banks, most of the world's famous people, Quatloos! posters, etc.) with everything from lawsuits to arrests and summary executions for being part of the worldwide conspiracy that keeps the people in chains, presumably by not allowing them to magically eliminate their debts by saying Shazam! - or whatever the magic words that make you debt-free are supposed to be. There is some disagreement among the GOODFy, or perhaps GOOFy, community, whether those words are 'Magna Carta', 'accepted for value', 'unilateral contract', 'X of the family Y', 'wet ink signature', 'flesh and blood person, not a strawman individual', or something else.
One wonders if Peter is a scammer pretending to be insane, or truly insane. The evidence, I think, is inconclusive: on the one hand, he took a lot of naive people's money for nothing; on the other hand, he has a long record of similar (and even less logical) statements, all of them having the paranoid's mark of, as Aldous Huxley put it, 'living in a world of terrifying significance', where everything has deep, secret meaning, in this case 'Solomonic Kabbalistic Nuremological' one, whatever that is.
The standoff between Cliven Bundy and some of his supporters, on the one hand, and the federal government, on the other, ended peacefully, with the protesters surrendering and going into custody. The core of the fued is Bundy's long-running fight with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over grazing fees they charged him for grazing his cattle on land owned by the BLM.
Bundy is one of the freemen that think the Federal Government has no authority over the States, and that therefore the BLM doesn't actually own any land in Nevada. Bundy also got flack, and lost much support, from stupid racist comments he made about how "The Negro" was better off under slavery. However, the exact comment, if not politically correct, takes this very much out of context. His exact words were, according to Wikipedia:
They [black residents of a housing project] didn't have nothing to do ... they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom
Well, he could have put it better. He could have been more sensitive. But the point of his statement is that life under welfare with broken families is worse than slavery, where at least you had a family and work, good things in themselves, clearly not that blacks are inherently inferior or that they should be returned to slavery.
Similarly, he made comments about illegal aliens that:
They come over here against our Constitution and cross our borders, but they're here, and they're people ... Don't tell me they don't work, and don't tell me they don't pay taxes. And don't tell me they don't have better family structures than most of us white people.
In short, hardly the words -- in both cases -- of a dyed-in-the-wool white supremacist, but of a man who sees the family breakdown (in black and white communities, less in Latino ones) as terrible, and blames the federal government for it in the case of the black population.
That aside, as J. J. MacNab pointed out, he seems to be closely aligned with the Posse Comitatus views, in his views that there is no higher authority than the local country sheriff. In 2014 he "ordered" the local sheriff to disarm federal agents and deliver their weapons to him, Bundy, within an hour, later expressing disappointment that the sheriff for some reason didn't do as he was told.
All this shows us how stereotypes do not necessarily fit reality. The man is an extremist in one way -- refusing the authority of any government above the county level and "ordering" the sheriff to do his bidding -- but not in other ways, i.e., he is not a tax protester or an extreme racist, certainly not one who thinks blacks or Mexicans are subhuman.
The main moral problem (racism aside) with such views is that you can't have it both ways. If you wish to live without the government, then you cannot at the same time, as many of these protestors do. You cannot receive, e.g., federal farm subsidies, and then refuse to recognize the authority of the federal government. Some people -- such as the Amish -- do indeed see involvement with the government as morally forbidden, but they do not take federal money, for just this reason.
Okay, the title is a bit unfair -- some of them aren't idiots per se, but "true believers". That as it may be, to get an idea how well the "sovereign citizens" actually manage in real life, just go to Youtube and enter "Sovereign Citizen" in the search box. What will you get?
Some videos about what sovereign citizens are like; some videos of sovereign citizens complaining about how they are mistreated; and... numerous videos of these people getting arrested, tased, handcuffed, denied bail, put in prison, etc., etc. -- for trying their idiot theories in real life.
Perhaps it isn't representative. Perhaps many people like to blow smoke online / in print on how they sovereigns, Freemen on the Land, non-14th-amendment-citizens, and the like, but once they get in trouble their lawyers talks some sense into them, so those in the videos -- the ones who go full sovereign, so to speak -- may well represent the most intractable sovereigns.
Really, since when did Thanksgiving become the time to discuss politics / economics / similar subjects? Everybody knows its real purpose is to re-erupt the old family feuds that have simmered for the last year and gloat over distant family's failures or problems.
belongs to Derek Johnson of Calgary, Canada. He is accused, and under injunction, for real estate fraud. The story is that he preys on those in financial difficulty who've fallen behind on their mortgages, and those looking for somewhere to live.
You can read all about him, his associates,and the operations that led to legal action against him here:
Another one of the 'you've got to be kidding' MLM products from Israel: a 250 ml (about 8.5 fl. oz.) bottle of conditioner in the Israeli Neways MLM web site is selling for 360 NIS -- or about $95 US at the time of this writing.
Actually, it's selling for 360 NIS and 10 Israeli cents (about 2-3 American ones) -- in order, no doubt, to make the customer think the price is somehow "scientifically" calculated and therefore couldn't possibly be made lower than 360 NIS.
The most expensive imported (apparently, flying first class) conditioner I could find from Israeli retailers online is about 80-100 NIS for a 250 ml bottle. These are high-end, fancy-hairdressers products (whether they are worth more than the regular products is highly debatable, but that's another issue). The standard, everyday products one buys in the supermarket (the equivalents of 'Head and Shoulders' or the like) are, usually, about 10-15 NIS for a 700 ml bottle, or nearly 1/100th of the price they want, per ounce.
The rest of their catalog is similar in its prices, as well. Anybody wants a quart of laundry detergent for $22? A steal at $88 a gallon! $17 for a 6 oz. tube of toothpaste?!
Oh, but I am sure this product is just wonderful for your hair's health. Only hair is dead matter (which is why one can cut it without pain, for example).
What a deal!
No surprise that the distributors' web sites, such as this man's [Hebrew], speak endlessly about (to quote the title) 'the way to reach happiness and wealth', but quote no prices for his wonderful natural products, knowing full well what the reaction of potential customers who are not yet brainwashed by the MLM story will be.
The "Pyramid Scheme Alert" site, whose logo is above, had been massively updated. Of particular interest is the fact that R. L. FitzPatrick, the creator of the site, also has a related "false profits" blog as one of the parts of the site. Well worth a look.
Al-Jazeera America has an in-depth five-part series of how MLMs recruit, brainwash, manipulate, and hurt people -- in short, why they are a financial cult -- as well as what the government, and you, can do about it.
As can be expected from this source -- a news network whose target audience is immigrants from the middle east -- they pay particular attention to the way MLMs use what is known as 'affinity fraud' to target minorities and immigrants. The titles of the five parts are worth mentioning:
1. An army of recruits
2. Seeing green
3. Your company loves you
4. Legal remedies
5. Thinking outside the pyramid
The last part, in particular, has some good advice on how to resist the sales pitch of the MLM. But read the whole thing.
Unless you lived under a rock for a few years, you have heard of electronic currency known as Bitcoin. I accept that if, for some reason, everybody tomorrow (governments included) accepted Bitcoin as money, it would become money. But, I wish here to show how the Bitcoin does not fail to be money due to certain reasons that are often claimed against it, but does fail to be money in one, very crucial, aspect.
Why bother showing how some arguments against Bitcoin fail? The reason is that people are likely to believe that, if the arguments they are aware of that prove Bitcoin isn't real money fail, then it follows that Bitcoin is money. This does not follow logically: indeed, salesmen and, for that matter, scam artists (one legitimately, the other not) are experts at overcoming one's natural objections by having "an answer to everything". But that only means the answer to the would-be buyer's most common objections. Just because those objections fail does not mean there aren't other serious reasons to suspect Bitcoin.
Nothing I write here is the economic equivalent of rocket science. But this, if anything, is all the more reason to write it: the more obvious the problem and the more people ignore it, the more urgent is to show what is going on.
Let us, then, start with some obvious objections that are not, in themselves, crucial -- in the sense that, while true, real money has the same issues.
1). Bitcoin is private currency. It is -- in the sense that it is not backed or issued by any government. This is important (as we shall see later), but, historically, most money was privately printed. Indeed, until the 19th century, most bank notes were notes issued by private banks, for example.
2). Bitcoin is fiat currency. That is, there is no way to limit the amount of money printed. But this is true for government-backed currency as well. The US dollar or the Euro, indeed all modern currencies, are not backed by gold or anything else. In theory the US could print as much money as it wishes. So why should Bitcoin, whose big selling point is that it is limited in quantity, in practice at least, be less money than the US dollar? If anything, it seems it should be more valuable than government-backed fiat money.
3). People speculate with Bitcoin, and its value can therefore fluctuate wildly. Why did Bitcoin's value skyrocket recently and then fall? Because, for psychological reasons, people began to believe its value would increase, increasing demand for it, and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once people began to suspect Bitcoin is overvalued, they stopped buying and started selling -- creating another self-fulfilling prophecy.
Yet this, while true, is not in itself evidence that Bitcoin is illegitimate any more than the existence of bubbles in everything from tulips to internet startups is evidence, in itself, that the underlying commodity is worthless, and the bubble a pyramid scheme. It is true that there were (and are) deliberate bubbles that are simply frauds -- pump-and-dump schemes for example -- and others that, in hindsight, seem absurd (the south sea bubble, the tulip bubble). But that in itself is not evidence Bitcoin is a scam.
4). Bitcoin is electronic money, and does not exist physically. This certainly be a problem in the sense that it may well be difficult to, say, stop people from counterfeiting it, but in fact most transactions with real money today do not involve the physical transfers of federal notes, let alone of gold coins. It is, in theory, possible to replace all paper money -- or gold coins for that matter -- with electronic equivalents.
The real problem is different: no government accepts Bitcoin as legal tender for the payment of debts, and in particular, of taxes. It is therefore not legal tender. In the USA, people must accept the US dollar as payment, and the government must accept it as payment of taxes. This is not so with Bitcoin. You must convert your Bitcoins to dollars before you can use them to pay any debt to the government.
You might be able to find someone to sell your Bitcoins to for dollars, or who will accept goods for Bitcoins which you can then sell for US dollars, but that is no different than anything else: it is not illegal for a private individual to accept anything whatever, including monopoly money, as payment. Indeed, James Boggs paints his own "money" and actually exchanges his "notes" for goods -- which led to him getting in trouble with the feds, but (correctly) he was acquitted of charges of counterfeiting, since no reasonable person would think his art is genuine federal bills, and he openly tells the person he gives them to that they aren't. But he can do it because people are willing to do it, considering his art collectibles, not because they have any legal duty to accept his bills.
Same with gold, in the "old days". It was not merely the fact that gold was rare that made it money, that is, legal tender (as opposed to making it valuable). It was that the government had to accept it (or at least its own gold and silver coins) as a payment of taxes. Similarly, to simplify, the original bank notes were notes the bank had to accept, legally, for gold or silver in the amount written on the note (which, to simplify, had then to be legally accepted by the government).
So Bitcoin is simply not money if by money we mean 'legal tender'. This does not mean -- in itself -- that it cannot be used for exchange, or is valueless. By definition almost everything that is valuable is not legal tender: corporate bonds, real estate, livestock, and so on. The government is not required to accept cows and oxen as payment -- livestock is not legal tender -- but this does hardly means that such commodities are not valuable: indeed, the term pecuniary comes from the latin pecus, cattle, and the Bible speaks of Abraham of being rich with cattle and livestock, despite the fact that he lived (if he existed in reality) about a thousand years before the invention of coined money.
But here, alas, is Bitcoin's second problem: if something is not legal tender, in order to be valuable, it should have some intrinsic value -- like livestock or bonds. Bitcoin does not. If something is neither legal tender that the government must accept, nor has intrinsic value, the only reason to exchange Bitcoin for legal tender or for goods with intrinsic value is the view that somebody else will want to do so in the future with our Bitcoins. They may -- or they may not. But they, too, would do so only if they think that someone in the future would be willing to do so with their Bitcoins.
Sounds problematic? It is. Bitcoin has, by definition of being "private" money, that, if this is not a contradiction in terms, the crucial bad property of fiat money -- no intrinsic value -- with the crucial bad property of commodities -- not being legal tender.
It is true that, the way this post is written, it may seem that the government can mysteriously create value out of nothing -- as if the mere fact that something is legal tender makes it valuable. Let us say only that things are, of course, not as simple as that. How money, a medium of exchange with no intrinsic value, actually becomes a "store" for value, is significantly more complicated than this. If nothing else, this can be seen by the fact that governments certainly can, and often did, make their legal tender practically valueless with hyperinflation.
All I am claiming here is the opposite: that if something is not legal tender, it by golly better be intrinsically valuable if it is to be used as a store of value. Bitcoin is not. It is not different, in this respect, than (for example) Pokemon or Magic: the Gathering cards. Some people will pay a lot of money for such cards, or for rare tulips for that matter, but...
The argument between "bitcoiners" and economists remind me of the arguments between creationists and biologists: the bitcoiners spend most of their time arguing against fiat money, arguing in particular that fiat money, despite being legal tender, is valueless (as indeed, in particular cases, it is), just like creationists spend most of their time arguing against evolution, not for creationism.
But even if it were true that all fiat money is indeed valueless (as an experiment, ask the next person who tells you that to give you all the valueless fiat money in their wallet), this would not be any evidence Bitcoin is valuable -- just like, if evolution were disproved tomorrow, it would not be one whit of evidence that creationists asre correct.
Well, thank God for that. Kevin Trudeau, the scam artist who recently got 10 years in jail for fraud and had been involved in MLMs (surprise, surprise), had declared that it is not prison time he's doing, it's '100% "ME" time! ... And I am LOVING IT!" (click on image for large picture).
Well, one wonders, if he loves it so much, why does he keep asking people for money to help with his legal defense fund?
One of their interesting items is a Sovereign Citizen's Cut-Out Kit. All you have to do is but the kit, cut out the material, stick it in all kinds of places in your home, wallet, car, etc. -- and you are tax-free, do not have to get a driver's license, and in general have it made.
But aren't cut-out kits usually toys for children who use them to recreate fantasies? Well, indeed they are. Amazon's other cut-out books offer, are, almost exclusively, of that sort. Here is where, ranked by popularity, one finds the Sovereign Citizen's Cut-Out Kit when one searches for "cut out kit" items in "books":
Other items on the list are similar to the first and last item here: e.g., cut-out doll houses, haunted houses, dragons, etc. Of course, the other manufacturers do not imply that, once you are done building their kit, you will own an actual Roman amphitheatre or old-fashioned carousel. The only item to make (or strongly imply) such a preposterous claim -- that once you're done playing with their kit, you really will be a "Sovereign Citizen" -- is the Sovereign Citizen's Cut-Out Kit.
This certainly shows something about the mental and emotional level of maturity of the average "Sovereign Citizen".
...that Kevin Trudeau, the serial scammer who had recently been sentenced to 10 years in jail for stealing millions, was involved -- naturally, as the guy at the top -- in an MLM venture, ITV Direct Inc.? Or that, more generally speaking, one MLM after another is being prosecuted as a pyramid scheme -- which, of course, they all are? The last link, incidentally, takes you to an excellent anti-MLM blog.
Are there any "good" MLMs? Rhetorical question, I know, but it is interesting to note how it seems that all of them are using the same stale psychological tricks -- no matter where, no matter in what language.
For example, take the following [Hebrew-language] Facebook page, 'Pro MLM Israel'. Yes, it is in Hebrew... but believe me, it doesn't matter. You can all just guess what's there. On the first page, we have:
- 'A one time offer to learn personally from one of Israel's top marketers!'
- 'Our amazing conference! Be there!'
- 'Why most marketers don't make money in MLM' (dead link -- let me guess, anything but the true reason, i.e., that it's a pyramid scam).
- 'Is there another way except for working for peanuts for 40 years'?
...and so on.
The Facebook page itself is defunct -- its last update was in 2012. Strange. Well, I guess the authors of the page are millionaires by now.
Another page, 'I am MLM', is offering the same sort of pop psychology. It includes posts such as the:
- 'We are only using 10% of our brain' myth,
- 'Getting rich is an exact science' (so buy the book / lecture / whatever that will teach you the "secret"),
- 'Every company is a pyramid, get over it' (sure -- only in MLMs, the "workers" don't actually get paid...),
- 'What you need is MOTIVATION' (every second or third post): i.e., if you didn't succeed in MLM, it was because you were not 'motivated' enough.
Naturally, the web page is full of invitations to register for the seminars that will teach you the 'secrets of success', 'how to make money on Facebook', testimonials such as 'I made $100 today sitting next to the pool, you want to as well, right?', etc.
To be fair, they also have standard-issue 'feel good' videos there for free; of course, if that's what one wants, one can find them just as easily on youtube.
'It's not even a good idea' -- the motto below this "pseudolaw" portal logo on the rational wiki web page.
The excellent rational wiki page about tax protestors (or protesters) has all the usual -- detailed -- tax protestor nonsense debunked. It is well worth a visit since it deals with all kinds of pseudoscience and debunks it. It is common for tax protestors to also be creationists (like "Dr. Dino" [Kent Hovind]), conspiracy theorists (like - well - most of them), believers in psuedohistory, and even (in the case of the NESARA scammers, which are not technically tax deniers but share many of the same beliefs) in UFOs.
Note: All links go to the "rational wiki" portal, which is well worth pursuing for its own sake.
Naturally all these areas overlap. They all share the same important point, namely, of making the believer in the theory think that he (usually; most women seem to have more common sense) is special, part of a tiny elite which knows THE TRUTH(tm), and everybody else is brainwashed and wrong.
This explains, incidentally, why many of them fight the IRS even if their financial situation is such that they actually don't owe much, or even any, income tax. It really is a matter of principle, or perhaps worldview, for them -- not necessarily the money.
It's not that Good to be the King after all, I Guess.
Photo credit: latest.com
Apparently, the man above -- Crown Prince Emperor El Bey Bigbay Bagby (badaboom badabam), a.k.a. William McRae -- does not, in fact, posses diplomatic immunity. A rather extreme (in silliness, not violence) case of people considering themselves "sovereigns".
The judge threw out his claim for diplomatic immunity, needless to say, but I noticed something in his titles: it is even logically impossible to be a "crown prince emperor el bey", since one cannot even logically be a crown prince, an emperor, and a bey (roughly, a chieftain or ruler of an area within a country) at the same time.
Not that the man in question is even on nodding terms with this thing called "logic", but still...
Sovereign citizens are not known for their literacy, as this post of the SPLC center notes. A man tried to declare that he is not subject to the laws of the state of Georgia (the US state, not the former Soviet Republic), but rather to the law of the "Moorish Nations", and therefore he wants to be tried by their laws, which, presumably, say he can do anything he feels like.
The judge noted that it may as well be "Martian law", which, presumably, is the law they have on Mars, where the man in question -- Akeem Kwame, the executor of the Akeem Kwame trust, a.k.a., somewhat less grandiosly, as Gregory Ross of Covingron, GA. -- seems to be living.
Kwane seemed bewildered when he was thrown in jail: "You're placing the occupant of the executor office of the Akeem Kwame [trust] in custory?". Why yes, Mr. Kwame. Yes indeed.
A very good anti-fraud web site is the Fraud Files Blog -- which investigates all sort of frauds and scams. Its most recent (May 2014) emphasis is on divorce fraud (spouses hiding assets from each other using all kinds of illegal means), but there are much more information there. In particular, searching for 'MLM' in that blog leads to a huge list of articles, and looking for specific MLMs -- such as "Amway" -- leads to many others, many of them not likely to have been seen by readers here before. See if your own favorite MLM scammer is there (they likely are).