In Part 4 of our series on Scientology financial crime, we conclude our look at the evolution of Scientology as a criminal enterprise, specifically at how Scientology’s many rackets have evolved over the last 20 years or so under the authority of David Miscavige. Having essentially abandoned auditing in favor of less risky income streams, we look at the “Golden Age of Tech,” “Super Power” and other scams such as the “Ideal Org” real estate portfolio racket and their place within the criminal enterprise that is Scientology in the 21st century. Lastly, we’ll examine Scientology’s vulnerability in the post-9/11 era of financial regulation. However, before we return to examining David Miscavige’s and Scientology’s behavior during the Lisa McPherson trial that we described in Part Three, it’s important to establish some additional contextual understanding of several key events in the mid to late 1980’s that influenced not only church behavior during the McPherson trial, but also served to shape the church’s behaviour and culture within Scientology into the present day. Continue reading “Scientology Financial Crime Part Four: Miscavige’s Golden Age of Grifting”
We return to action following a Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Fortunately, the news from the world of Scientology watching was fairly light and fluffy, and easily digestible, unlike the gluttonous feast most of us in the US consumed.
Chez moi, the supermodels behaved themselves, and the fights that broke out at some of the emporia where the rural riff-raff shop (the camouflage fishing tackle department at the local Wal-Mart) were not in evidence at the Vera Wang dress shop at Bergdorf’s or the Christian Louboutin shoe shop on upper Madison Avenue. Whatever the supermodels did, it didn’t involve my credit cards and the drama quotient was low when Supermodel #1 and I returned from our vacation to my parental units’ waterfront estate.
The other major American holiday of “Black Friday,” an ode to materialism the way that Thanksgiving was an ode to gluttony, appeared to be pretty solid. We’ll be interested to see who has a take on how the various retailers fared on the biggest shopping day of the year. Our biggest find: we checked with some sources in the retail electronics business and it appears that Apple may have underestimated demand, since a number of outlets we checked with were out of various iPads. Retailers seemed to have fewer units in stock than they wanted. But it appears that the folks at Samsung were anticipating this, as the stores we talked to had plenty of Samsung tablets in stock, and many frustrated consumers who walked in looking for an Apple product left with a Samsung unit instead. There are no Sony Playstation 4’s to be found anywhere, and lots of begging and whining from parents desperate to get one.
In Scientology news, more photos ratchet around Teh Intertubes from the IAS event, including a bunch posted on Tony’s blog. Mike Rinder captures the incredible gulf between the breathless hype around Golden Age of Dreck 2 launch and the reality of what’s been happening inside the cult, contrasting people saying it’s the biggest thing since Dianetics versus stats giving a peek at the plummeting membership roster.
The best Orwellian disclaimer comes from the bottom of a cult flyer from the land Down Under, where it says “Joining Scientology staff is a religious commitment and all activities are entirely voluntary. Scientology is a religious philosophy and offers total freedom.” The fact that they feel compelled to append this disclaimer actually calls negative attention to their cause, especially since the ad had absolutely nothing to do with being on staff. It reminds me of a Karin Pouw statement about the RPF which stresses its entirely voluntary nature.
Also, don’t miss Mike Rinder & Mike Bennitt’s aerial stunt at the IAS event, having a plane tow a banner asking “Where is Shelly Miscavige?” Fun, but not quite as epic as the helicopter over the Super Power building opening.
Tony Ortega’s Blog
Sunday’s story featured the usual Sunday Funnies. As always, there’s something to laugh at. I still can’t quite help feeling that the staff is so stressed that the creativity level has been on a bit of a slide lately. A lot of the Photoshop gurus on Tony’s site are turning out higher quality art in less time than the cult’s marketing department can generate with a lot more effort. In particular, they’re reaching down even deeper to get the Hubbard quotes than they have in the past, and they’re coming up with ever more inane stuff.
The bigger news was the IAS event held Saturday night in the big tent in Clearwater. The best comment ever on Tony’s blog, both in one-liner puckishness and especially when considered against the backdrop of the author, is Paulette Cooper’s comment with a suggestion for a slightly different banner that could have been flown over the event by Rinder & Bennitt. I did love the picture of the knight on the horse.
Mike Rinder’s Blog
- A great data point: Mike takes apart some breathless assertions of success in Pasadena, where they have had one Golden Age of Knowledge completion in six years, and walks through the numbers to estimate the Pasadena public at about 300, no more than 500, in the greatest concentration of Scientologists on Earth (Glendale, next door to Pasadena, is home to tons of Scientologist-owned businesses). That’s got to be embarrassing.
- Further evidence that grammatical standards inside the cult are plummeting: Mike happened on a fund-raising letter which says that “The next MASSIVE, ULTRA MAJOR BOMBASTIC blow against psychiatry to date is being released at the [IAS] event.” Someone needs to word clear “bombastic.”
- An article dredging up an old e-mail about the expansion of the Seattle Ideal Org gives a real insight into Hubbard-style management insanity as practiced by Miscavige. Apparently the reason that the Ideal Org strategy is failing is that the cult is not doing enough of it. If the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” what is the word beyond insanity when you do more of something that doesn’t work and expect success?
Forum Sites (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)
Aeger Primo comes through once again with summaries of interesting discussion threads. Thanks!
- Two threads about the Ideal Org in Taiwan opening on December 7th at ESMB and WWP. News is that the COB himself will be there for the opening ceremony. If true, that’s pretty remarkable, because DM is rumored to be chartering a Boeing Business Jet these days. Those charter for about $15,000 per hour wet, which means that round trip airfare from Hemet to Taipei is over $400,000. That’s probably more than the total revenue of the Kaohsiung Ideal Org over the next two to three years. Wonder if Dave is billing them back the cost of the jet charter or if he’s paying that out of Int Management’s budget.
- An interesting indie group called the “True Source Scientology Foundation” is apparently making Scientology material available in a central location over the internet. ESMB is discussing what that might mean in terms of legal action by the cult.
- Narconon Arrowhead is apparently offering voluntary Bible study as part of its treatment program. It’s just another ploy to stay under the radar.
- Bruce Wiseman, former president of CCHR (Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights) is apparently hiding cash for the cult in the Cayman Islands. Does this thread confirm it because of a change in Cayman law?
Today was definitely busier than yesterday. The biggest news today was that Clearwater granted the permits for the events this weekend with only some minor restrictions. It sounds like they rolled over on the cult, but the permits for the IAS event over Thanksgiving weekend and the New Year’s Eve event are still pending.
Also, a subtle data point but one that’s pretty telling: apparently, the cult won’t show the video of the big events at missions. But if they’re that important, wouldn’t they want everybody and their brother to see them? Oh, and there will be no DVD’s made under any circumstances. Guess they don’t want them to end up in the wrong hands. I’m sure they will anyway, in a matter of minutes. Dave may well find out that his security is still more porous than he thinks. This shows the power of the Joking & Degrading community, which probably outnumbers current cult membership these days.
Tony Ortega’s Blog
The big feature of today’s story was how Lisa Marie Presley used language that seemed to move closer to condemning Scientology outright than the fairly elliptical language in the past. This is potentially interesting in light of the fact that her mother, Priscilla, apparently remains in the cult (though she could well be “under the radar”), as well as her ex-husband and potentially her kids from that marriage. Thus, disconnection may be a significant issue.
Tony also published a photo taken from inside the Ft.Harrison hotel across to the Super Power building, to needle DM about the increasingly porous security.
The “thetaburst” mailing list put out a bogus e-mail purporting to be from Flag announcing a date change for the event.
Finally, there’s a pic of the “endocrine states” machine, which looks like some sort of miniature version of the “Star Tours” ride at Disney World, kind of like an aircraft simulator platform.
My take: It’s interesting that Lisa Marie is moving towards openly condemning the cult, but it’s probably premature to hope that she will publicly break with them the way Leah Remini did, if for no other reason than that Leah got her entire family out at once; it’s unlikely that LMP will be able to do the same.
Regarding the Fort Harrison picture, it appears to be above the top floor of the new Super Power building, so it’s potentially shot from the top two floors of the Fort Harrison Hotel. I’ve never been there, but it appears that those two floors have significantly higher ceilings so they may be some sort of dining facility or meeting rooms. I doubt that Miscavige will be able to catch the leaker if it is shot from a public space instead of from a guest room. But I wouldn’t want to be one of the guests in a room on the 8th floor right about now.
I’m still baffled by the intent of the Thetaburst e-mail list, and particularly by the not very clever attempt to put out a bogus press release to confuse Scientologists about the dates of the event. Even though some of the commenters claim to have “doxed” the owner of the list (two different candidates have emerged), it’s not clear why either one of them would be doing what they’re doing.
The endocrine states machine appears to be something that will give you an adrenaline rush, since adrenaline release is about the only thing that the endocrine system does that happens in a short enough period of time to be perceptible. In other words, they have a very expensive machine that will probably do no better than a hungry “reg” sneaking up behind you and saying “Boo!”
- New commenter CobGatYour$$ shares the sad story of a family member ill with melanoma and facing myriad other problems, still believing doggedly in the power of the cult to save her.
- MissionaryKid thinks all the perceptics are a way to distort your perception just as the rest of the cult doctrine distorts your reasoning processes. He also comments on how real the experience of the video of a fighter jet simulator from long ago felt when he experienced it, suggesting that the hemispherical dome on the front of the endocrine state machine might be a projection screen for some sort of attempt to induce nausea.
- AquaClara describes a great comic moment when a British author talks about how film adaptations generally work well, with one single exception.
- SandiCorrena points out that Mark Wahlberg has trashed Tom Cruise publicly for the statement where he appears to say his job is as hard as being a soldier fighting in Afghanistan.
- MaxSpaceman uncovers a Hubbard quote about auditing that has more “ness” words per sentence than just about any Hubbard quote I’ve seen so far. A triumph of jargonness.
- Derek shares a couple vignettes of moments of natural beauty that he was lucky enough to appreciate when he was trapped in the worst parts of his Sea Org experience. This is why.
- Jeff Hawkins contributes two potential poster slogans encapsulating what he has experienced as winning slogans to get culties to wake up.
- SkipPress contributes his personal memories of Lisa Marie Presley at Celebrity Centre in Hollywood when he was in, as well as recollections of Dave LaCroix, one of the two candidates named as the potential operator of the Thetaburst mailing list.
- OrangySky shows how the cult can generate shots of a full house with only a fraction of the seating capacity of the hall, through digital compositing of cutaway shots.
- TruthIWant has a great explanation for some of the newer readers about how the cult keeps people ignorant of what’s really happening, by prohibiting TV, newspapers and internet.
Mike Rinder’s Blog
- Mike’s first post today drew a number of parallels between life in Scientology and life in the crazy kingdom of North Korea. I’m a bit of a fan of all things North Korean, because the lulz quotient is about as high as that for Scientology, though the North Koreans would regard Miscavige as a bumbling amateur. Gets all the details right.
- Mike’s second post lampoons cult “Facebook police,” the oddly named Jojo Zawawi, for trying to track down the bogus “thetaburst” e-mail that Tony also mentioned today. More importantly, she points out that the Missions are totally excluded from showing videos of the Biggest. Event. Ever, and that local orgs will not get to do repeat showings. Apparently, they are desperate to keep video from this event from falling into the hands of the J&D brigades (which probably outnumber active Scientologists by a fairly large margin). Mike also points out that the Volunteer Ministers planning to parachute into the Philippines to do their unique brand of disaster relief have a big quandary: go to the Philippines while the Biggest. Event. Ever is in Clearwater? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Forums (ESMB, WWP, OCMB)
- Here’s a video on ESMB of Anna Paddock, who showed up to harass Mosey Rathbun at her former home. Makes you want to hurry up and join the cult.
- Some ex-culties and others with interesting backgrounds discuss whether auditing expedites memory loss. There might be more to the story, but I forgot.
- A recent article from the “Scientologists Getting Back in Comm” blog in South Africa discusses a particularly hellish job in their org – being the “Bookstore Officer.” On ESMB, others describe life in the bookstore.
- On WWP, an emerging thread captures YouTube videos and other resources for people to understand the breadth of the disconnection policy.
- The City of Clearwater appears to have rolled over completely and given the cult most of what it wanted in permits for the event this weekend. Permits for the IAS event and the New Year’s event are still pending. There are some limits, including decibel levels for sound and restrictions on lighting. Apparently, they will be permitted to keep the security fence they’re building to keep all those people who are so good at confront-and-shatter away from any source of entheta like Anons carrying clever signs.
- The cult announced a “ScientologyCenter” in Karmiel, Israel, about 50km (30 miles) from the Haifa mission, which seceded from the cult and “went independent” about a year ago. Yeah, that’ll work. Interestingly, they got a spokesman from the Druze minority (the smallest religion in Israel) to speak at the opening.
Tony Ortega’s Blog
I’m not a lawyer and the subject of today’s article is sufficiently esoteric that it seems to be tripping even a couple of the lawyers who read Tony’s blog.
Today’s article focused on the response of the Garcia’s legal team to the motion to dismiss on “diversity jurisdiction” grounds that the cult filed recently in the Garcias’ suit in Federal Court in Florida alleging fraud in the Super Power donation campaign. Almost a year into the case, the cult’s legal team dropped a bombshell, asserting that the case did not belong in Federal court because several of the cult corporate entities are trusts whose trustees are California residents. The concept of diversity jurisdiction explained by Scott last week is apparently complex and arcane, and the cult appears to have created and sprung a trap that may have some chance of success either in the trial court or on appeal, because the trial court may have to do something that breaks an apparently ironclad procedural rule to keep the cult from profiting by chicanery, risking a messy appeal, or they have to dismiss the case so it is re-filed either in Florida or California. That could be a problem if re-filed in Florida since the cult has seemed to have done well with Tampa-area judges in the past, such as in attorney Ken Dandar’s being barred from suing Scientology again.
According to Scott Pilutik’s legal analysis, this was a sharp move by the cult because the Court apparent has no choice but to dismiss the case if subject matter jurisdiction is involved. In other words, good lawyering apparently may not be able to fix the issue.
The response from Ted Babbitt, the Garcias’ lawyer, appears to be alleging fraud: the cult has claimed that the directors are California based, without actually identifying them. In other words, he’s pointing out that the cult is not offering any proof to back up its case, so fraud may be involved. It sounds like he’s pointing out that the cult’s credibility after the motion to disqualify plaintiff’s counsel might be worth taking into account by the judge in looking at how to remedy this situation.
- Jeff Hawkins talks about life hiding behind the curtains on lockdown inside buildings at Int Base when protesters were outside the fences. So much for the most “theta” beings in the Scientology universe to “confront and shatter”” suppression. And these protests were long before Anonymous cranked up the numbers by a couple orders of magnitude.
- Semper Phi, who was doing training at Flag in the Anonymous 2008 protests gives her version of being on lockdown.
- DamOTclese2 also reminisces from his perspective as a protestor during the same era.
- Sunny Sands asked Roz Cohn to record her one-woman show about Scientology described in yesterday’s Underground Bunker article and post it; Roz e-mailed her back and said she was planning on it.
- Jmh details a phishing attack attempting to steal passwords for the people working to take down cult ads on Craigslist.
- Gerald Plourde raises the interesting notion that the delaying tactic of the motion on diversity jurisdiction may just be a tactic to stall the Garcia suit until Miscavige gets through the big events. I’m not sure there’s any way to determine whether this is true, but it is very interesting to think about; it will be worth noting if the cult withdraws the jurisdiction motion once the events are complete. It’ll also be interesting to see what happens if the cult starts to do some sloppy lawyering after laying what appears to be a remarkably clever trap.
- Nice comment by StillOnYourSide about another theory of a potential path for Babbitt to win the diversity jurisdiction argument for the Garcias.
- Grundoon did a nice bit of research on the historic neighborhood in LA where Hubbard lived for a time and where early cult facilities were located.
Mike Rinder’s Blog
- Brief post only encouraging people to vote for Leah on “Dancing with the Stars” and encouraging them to e-mail Clearwater city officials to encourage them not to grant the cult an exception for the late filing of the street closure permits for the events in two weeks.
Marty Rathbun’s Blog
- Marty has been on radio silence since October 30. This is an unusually long period of time for him. I did not check the comments to see if he is away or something.
“Scientology” on Google News
- Scientology has purchased a historic building in Buenos Aires for a new Idle Morgue. The deal, announced Monday, was for US$1.5 million, and restoration is expected to take 12-18 months.