don’t be like Keith

Long ago and far away I wrote about Keith Raniere.

I still check Frank Report regularly, but I really only like to read what Parlato himself has to say (coverage of the trial is better elsewhere) and most of the writers who rose from the level of commenter just do not hold my attention.

It is OK, you don’t have to follow it now. There is plenty on the web for posterity and there will be a lot more. In terms of timing, look the day after he is convicted and there will be a spike. Since with his demise–the leader is always key–NXIVM will sink further into the history of squashed cults, even more people will talk. For those whom the branding did not get their attention, maybe the sentences will. Clare Bronfman is yet to come too.

What is currently going on is everything the feds said made him a monster is coming out. We are privy to more texts, photos, and the like but people are actually saying it. Raniere is a buffoon and a half for sitting there day after day and taking it.

Why would someone do that?

The reason is that he is a superb example of a narcissist. At trial Lauren Saltzman broke down on the stand. The judge called her a broken person and stopped cross-examination. It is a rare move–the defense asked for a mistrial (denied) and it is sure to be brought-up on pointless appeals.

Raniere is also smart and controlling. Those closer to the trial than I have commented that he sends notes to his lawyers dictating the questioning. He tries to make eye contact. Despite his complete downfall he is still trying to stake claim to his powers in the courtroom too.

They are parading all these women to the witness stand to show what a destroyer of lives he is.

He takes it as they still love me. Look how emotionally attached they are. (Send note to attorney.) Listen to how they believed in my mission. (Another note.) They said they would do anything asked. The sex was consensual.


That was written when the trial ended. Soon after the verdicts (very fast and all guilty), I thought about Nancy Salzman. He could not have done it without her, and vice versa. She was the first to accept a plea and did not testify against her long-time boss. She is at the mercy of the judge for sentencing, and she is, when it comes to guilt, second only to Raniere. Bronfman, with her money was perhaps more dangerous, but Saltzman was irreplaceable. The getaway money ($.5 million in laundered cash) was in her house.

If Raniere was vanguard emeritus, Nancy was ceo and daughter Lauren was coo.

Lauren, who married NXIVM’s former chief hacker, was one of the few who made a stable salary. I am not sure when it began, but it was her job and life. Convinced? She was controlled, as they would say in a cult, by both her mother and Raniere.

She managed the confinement of the young, family-less and friendless Mexican woman. When Raniere was arrested in Mexico he was in bed with Lauren. The police busted in and Lauren confronted them, guns and all, while Raniere cowered in the closet.

Her testimony was so damning no one else who confessed had to appear at the trial. “Everything he taught us was this … what men do, what women do,” Salzman said. “And then he didn’t do it — and I did do it.” She is, still today, conflicted. There is much more here and elsewhere.

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Joey was getting it from all sides and he was having health problems.

The friend, former roommate, and co-bartender was going to come over to help paint, he went to the hospital with his girlfriend instead, and was “rebuked.” The schedule would be off because of the flooring contractor. Then, when the room was painted the color was wrong and they had to do it again.

The murders (or abduction) were done during a period of construction. Merritt was also there. Then there was an open window and he had days to go back.

Everyone was out for themselves. Some were very nasty.

They were not having financial problems anymore, per se. They had a new house and mortgage, some $100K in the bank (two-thirds business account, rest personal), and the plan as reported was to fix the house bought from foreclosure and sell it. Two small kids and no employer benefits, they were not well off. Earth Inspired Products, primarily an online business, was not particularly solid, especially with Merritt and Kavanaugh reportedly both on their way out and no backups.

All these people had lives and problems. But none were sociopaths or psychopaths except Merritt.

Merritt was right where he had put himself. Lying on camera. Fooling the police. And climbing through the window with Joey’s brother. It is hard to picture a loser driving a work truck as a visible, famous, ostentatious, and an extremely selfish narcissist, but that is what is behind the destruction of the Joseph and Summer McStay family.

We have all heard the label before: People like that do not care. Over and over, chance after chance, a they are a person who cannot or will not learn. They have a built-in mechanism to rationalize it. Other people are are props or tools. And they do not care.

mcstay family murders

I had not heard of it, and after nearly a decade it is in the news because Chase Merritt has been convicted.

Patrick McStay has called the San Diego County Sheriff corrupt. I have never been a sleuth and for me it is not about that. I do not know how you can do it if the people in charge are corrupt.

This kind of thing, if I spend a day watching and reading about it, eats at me. There is much more to write, but I want to stop thinking about it. Here are my 5 takeaways.

  1. Chase Merritt is a lifelong criminal and con artist. He also has 3 kids and a welding and fountain-making skill, like an average father and breadwinner. This is an American Greed case without lavishness. Merritt should have been a clear suspect to everyone. He is a classic psychopath and sociopath and a danger to those around him. He is one of those people, rare as a murder but more common in the general population (that is why I do it), who can kill, steal, or lie and lie right to a camera about it. “I am definitely the last person who saw them,” he said to CNN and the world.
  2. Corruption in San Diego County is a harsh takeaway but I argue it is an appropriate conclusion. The house is here. I guess Fallbrook does not have a police department. I would go so far as they let it happen and then failed to do anything about it. The whole “blame it on Mexico” thing is ridiculous; if you did not find them in Mexico they are not in Mexico.
  3. It was not paradise at the beach in sunny California. Bankruptcy, divorce, lots of lawsuits, and both Charles “Chase” Merrit and Dan Kavanaugh pecking like vultures. No health insurance, 401K, or other benefits as well as two kids in a $215/week apartment for 5 years. Notice the counties not mentioned–Los Angeles and Orange–but it is still Southern California and it is not inexpensive. Summer (not her real name) could be attractive and a bit of a princess, was career-less, and formerly lived with Vick “I was a Marine and know how to kill” Johansen ; Joey was an awfully good guy who worked with waterfalls and wanted a family. In 2010 they were not having money problems. They bought a house and they had money in the bank, but it was not paradise.
  4. The entire trial is on Law & Crime and the videos are on YouTube, but it is surprising there is not more. Dateline, 20/20, and the biggies have not covered it. The CNN doc, updated with the arrest is excellent. Another great vid is Les something, yet another victim from a person who had to be stopped. As a blogger Cornelius is awfully good and he has the following, although not all that many hits, to prove it.
  5. Everyone was fooled including Joey’s father, in that even after the bodies were found he still did not suspect Merritt. And Joey’s brother went with Merritt as the first persons to enter the house after the murders. It is obvious Merritt is a danger to those around him. I think San Diego County should have charged him even without the bodies because the whole thing would not have been prosecuted if not for the motorcyclist. Others came forward too despite the professionals paid to solve it, but the motorcyclist’s tip is what did it. Perhaps it is fast, but congrats to San Bernadino County for providing public safety less than a year later.

When you attempt to resolve a customer dispute do you…

Always take the customer’s side……………………………………………………….1

Usually take the customer’s side………………………………………………………2

Sometimes take the customer’s side, sometimes the company’s side……3

Usually take the company’s side………………………………………………………4

Always take the company’s side………………………………………………………5

DON’T KNOW…………………………………………………………………………..8

It used to look something like that. That is not the best example as “side” is ambiguous if not contentious, the question does not explain what it is asking about, and I just do not know how anyone can answer it. Probably the scale needs to be clarified and at least rotated too.

But how can anyone answer it is a heck of a question in itself. It not a good question because of its lack of reliability, though it is an interesting one.

Under the right scenario–assuming it is a part of a longer questionnaire and the circumstances had been explained there was room for open-ended responses–one could answer it if they had already thought about. If they had a preconceived notion they could answer it. If someone had thought about it and had strong beliefs they could answer it. If they had been trained for their job to act a certain way they could answer it.

Again, assuming there were more questions surrounding it… “90% of the time we do what the customer needs or wants and everyone is happy” could be one answer. “My job is to resolve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction” would be even strong.

“We enforce what we are told and the customer frequently goes away disappointed” would be the other side of things. “I am not empowered,” would be even harsher.

Think like a lawyer, think like a lawyer. Interesting, albeit not necessarily good advice, and we’ll get to that.

For now I am thinking in terms of customer satisfaction. I have dealt with Bank of America and I know it will be like a legal fight. I am going to pull out all the punches; I am going to utilize the United States Postal System.

And I going to use writing.

I need the practice. Baby steps.

A month ago I did it for Liberty Mutual in an effort to finally cancel my last policy. I have not seen a reply but I do not check my mail often. Everything is on autopay and I can usually solve whatever ails on a smartphone or at most a larger computer. Now I must employ a printer too.

Why does a company hide behind phones when a chat will do? Why do they force chat? Why do they require writing–and not email–when phone is better?

Parts of it have become even more difficult than they used to be, sometimes because of security. Put it this way: the hiding is intentional. At the very least it is a clearcut way of operating. It can be infuriating because the combination of technology and fine print can daunting, ever-changing, unavailable too.

It can seem like everyone’s role is even more clearly defined. No one is an owner, they are just an operator. They are viewing the same screens, and they cannot change them either.

Is there a person behind it and are they going to resolve it? Maybe the answer depends on if they are told to.

So how to cut through is the problem. I will employ writing, the USPS, and eventually the courts.

Oh, I am repeating myself. It is good practice. That is how you learn and improve. If it is important and if you do it over a long period, I guess it becomes you.

P.S. Hostinger requires chat (which takes is terrible) and a foreign transaction fee, which is curious, but it works. It is easy and it looks all black and white.