Tag Archives: Super Power Building

An Interesting Data Point on Sea Org Headcount and Revenue

Sea Org executives back in the good ol' (or at least more numerous) days

Sea Org executives back in the good ol’ (or at least more numerous) days. Why do their hats look just a bit too large for their heads, in yet another parallel to the North Korean military?

In a video posted Sunday on Tony Ortega’s site, recently escaped Sea Org member Jillian Schlesinger talked about her time in the cult.  Jillian related several data points that are of interest, including David Miscavige’s claim that RTC is reaping $75 million per year in revenue from Flag in Clearwater.

Here, we look at a few of the things Jillian said, and we look at what this might mean for the cult.  Throughout, I share some analytical techniques I’m using to evaluate some of the things Jillian said when they either confirm or contradict my current best guesses. These thoughts may help you to do a better job in your own analysis.

Perhaps the most interesting quote from Jillian’s video was something Scientology leader David Miscavige said to the assembled Sea Org troops in LA:

There was an analysis done some months ago, probably about six months ago now. And he [David Miscavige] had revealed that in Florida, there’s about 2,000 Sea Org members, and they send up $1.5 million a week to him. Then, looking in all of LA, there’s about 2,000 Sea Org members, and they were not sending up that much to him every week. So, he wanted a huge rearrangement of staff, and then to make a, in-house, out-of-Sea-Org-member, construction unit, so that we could save money doing it ourselves, even though we have no training in construction, and then we don’t have to hire anyone. And then I was doing that for about the last six months.

How Many Sea Org Are There, Really?

This quote from COB is interesting in two respects.  First, of course, Miscavige is saying that there are at least 4,000 Sea Org members in the US, approximately evenly distributed on both coasts.  And he’s claiming that he’s getting $75 million per year from Flag and a lesser amount from the Western US.  My estimates are that the real number from Flag is closer to $30 million per year these days, perhaps a bit less, and that they’re probably getting $10 million from the higher level orgs on the West Coast (it’s not an international destination for people coming in for advanced training like Flag is).  And based on some correspondence late last year with a couple Anons in the Clearwater area, it appears that some of the cult-owned apartment buildings used to house Flag workers are sitting empty.

So how does a careful analyst think about the disparity between previous estimates and the new data point?  This is one of the trickier analytical traps: it’s dangerous to discount new information when it doesn’t fit your biases, but it’s equally dangerous to believe implicitly that a newer data point means your prior thinking is wrong.  If the new information is correct, it would mean that my estimates of about $180 million in cult revenue in 2013 were low by an integer multiple — the cult could have been raking in $400 or $500 million a year; that’s a major error.  Intellectual honesty, essential for a good analyst, means we have to look at a surprising new data point with a willingness to consider honestly the possibility that we’re way off in our numbers.

The first thing to do in teasing apart this information is to consider the credibility of the source.  It’s probably reasonable to believe that someone emerging from the Sea Org only a couple weeks ago and re-adjusting to reality is not going to have the spare time to fabricate a story like this out of whole cloth. It is thus reasonable to believe she’s recounting accurately what she heard.  The question then becomes whether Miscavige’s numbers are credible.

First Cross-Check: Direct Observation

In looking at the claim of 4,000 Sea Org members, it’s important to cross-check this against other data that we have.  In evaluating the number of Sea Org members in LA, let’s start with easily observable data points.  One such is the level of foot traffic at L. Ron Hubbard Way in LA.  A recent afternoon stroll down the sacred street showed only two people (one a security guard), in front of the building, and two RPF girls on the back side on Catalina St.  No Sea Org was visible.  The parking lot, which holds approximately 200 cars (I counted from the aerial Google Maps view) was only slightly more than half full; even assuming that few Sea Org have cars, that’s a pretty light occupancy load.  These observations are enough to raise suspicions about Miscavige’s credibility, but they’re not conclusive: given the tight constraints on their work schedules, it’s reasonable to expect that one wouldn’t see too many of the Sea Org types out on the sidewalk during nose-to-the-grindstone hours.

Second Cross-Check: Independent Rules of Thumb

The next step is to cross check the claim against another independent metric, one that has nothing to do with the first set of observations.  In other words, you want to look at an independent measure.  It’s often useful to consider real estate square foot per staff member.  I would estimate that the 11 floors (+/-) of the original Big Blue building total about 125,000 square feet, and the rest of the complex is similar sized — call it 250,000 feet total.  While I haven’t done a complete count of the rest of the cult properties in the area, let’s assume another 100,000 square feet.  Let’s then assume that the hypothetical 2,000 Sea Org members are joined by about 1,000 other staff.

If you do the math, that implies there are about 120 square feet of facilities per person, slightly larger than a 10 by 10 foot office.  But that’s quite a bit lower than conventional estimates of office space per capita, which is currently typically about 250 square feet per employee. That’s including conference room facilities, restrooms, and all sorts of other stuff.  Incidentally, various commercial real estate trade groups suggest this number is shrinking rapidly due to “hoteling” (unassigned cubicles shared by multiple workers) due to the rise of telecommuting, a trend that the cult is unlikely to embrace.  I thus am sticking with the 250 square foot number for the foreseeable future even if the overall trend in real estate is expected to drop sharply.

It’s also worth noting that within the original Big Blue building, the floor plate of a 1930s edifice is substantially less efficient than a modern skyscraper, so the percentage of each floor plate devoted to “core” functions like elevators, plumbing, janitorial, restrooms, etc. is a much higher percentage of the space on a given floor in a building of that age than in something more modern. By the way, that explains why the Empire State Building in New York is a great landmark but a terrible office building — the ratio of rentable space on each floor is too low for it to compete against modern buildings.  So in the case of the Big Blue complex, the 250 square foot per person number could actually be low when you measure the gross square footage of the complex (that’s what you measure when you measure the outside dimensions of the building).

Note that in these estimates, we’re not subtracting out square footage for delivering services, places where employees wouldn’t normally be stationed. So we’re not deducting square footage for course rooms at AOLA, for the L. Ron Hubbard life exhibit, for the Psychiatry: Industry of Death exhibit, etc. Again, we’re being “conservative” (using assumptions that are least favorable to our argument).

Using the 250 square feet per employee and dividing that into total square feet, we get about 1,300 employees in Hollywood.  Adjusting for regular staff versus Sea Org, we get to about 600-800 Sea Org in Hollywood.  So Miscavige is lying by a factor of about 2.5x to 3.5x what we believe is observable.  That, too, is consistent (perhaps even on the low side) of the “Miscavige Reality Distortion Ratio” that we’ve often seen from the cult’s “fearless leader.”

And The Same General Principle Holds True in Clearwater…

To cross-check the 2,000 claimed Sea Org in Clearwater, we’ll use a similar process.  Those of you who are denizens of the greater Tampa Bay area and who have better visibility into the real estate holdings of the cult at Flag could help list and then nail down the use of the various buildings, to help me develop an understanding of how much space is customer-related (i.e., non-office), how much is office-related, and how much is guest accommodations.  Yes, that’s a pretty subtle, but definitely impassioned plea for any hard data points that you have.

The diversity of real estate holdings in Clearwater makes the process of getting credible staff counts a bit harder, though it is still ultimately possible to get accurate numbers.  Until we’re able to list all the properties and figure out how much square footage is in each, then categorize them as office, hotel or customer spaces, we’ll try to use metrics other than the total square footage of all the downtown Clearwater buildings.  

At this point, the most useful observation came from an e-mail conversation I had with a former member and current Anon in the area, who sent a preliminary listing of properties including apartments, and who pointed out that a number of the buildings are actually empty at this point.  While I can’t find the exact notes at the moment (ah, the joys of restarting a blog after a hiatus), I am going to guess that staff levels are substantially below peak levels, with perhaps less than half the cult-owned units occupied by staff. Incidentally, it’s entirely possible that the cult over-bought apartment space a few years back, above even staffing levels at the time, so it’s not wise to try to estimate current staffing based on the number of total units.

Perhaps the best check of staff size at Flag will now boil down to the capacity of the staff dining room in the basement of the Super Power building.  The total permitted floor space of the building is 377,000 on eight floors (including the basement), so we’ll assume a floor plate of 50,000 square feet. I have some feelers out for more data about the layout of the basement, but if you subtract out machinery spaces, storage, etc., then it is reasonably likely that no more than half of the basement floor plate will be devoted to the staff dining room. Typically, in a restaurant, about 40% to 50% of the square footage is devoted to the kitchen, and the rest to the dining room. One rule of thumb suggests allocating about 20 square feet per customer. If we thus assume that the total dining space is 25,000 square feet, then a dining room of 12,500 square feet will hold about 600 staff.  Then if we further assume that they have two meal services per meal (easily done given the staff’s regimented lives), then we could believe there are about 1,200 staff at Flag.  But I would not expect hotel staff to have to eat in the staff dining room, so we could add another 300 staff to that number and get about 1,500 total staff in Clearwater.  That cross-checks reasonably well with a quick back-of-the-envelope estimate of the capacity of the occupied apartments.  And again, assuming that at most 2/3 of staff in Clearwater are Sea Org, then we get to about 800 Sea Org at Flag.

The Other Guys are Sending Me $75 Million a Year; What’s Wrong With You Morons?

The second part of Miscavige’s assertion is that he’s pulling $75 million out of Flag per year.  The quote is worded to say that “they send $1.5 million a week up to him.” In other words, that’s the contribution to Int Management and thus to the Sea Org reserves.  Let’s assume that Flag is sending about 75% of their revenue uplines. That implies that the cult is pulling in $2 million a week in gross revenue, about $100 million per year.  How credible is this?

First Cross-Check: No Decline in Flag Revenues in Ten Years? Seriously?

There are a couple of ways to cross-check this.  First, there’s a common sense metric.  Mat Pesch once commented, either in an article on Mike Rinder’s blog, Marty Rathbun’s blog or on Tony Ortega’s site, that when he was in ten years ago, Flag was pulling in about $2 million a week.  Mat was a finance guy at Flag and has been credible in his description of life in the cult, so we’ll believe that the numbers he gave are accurate.  Miscavige is thus claiming that revenue has remained consistent with the decade-ago level. Given all that has happened in the cult, this is ludicrous on its face.  In other words, the bullshit alarm is ringing loudly.  But simply sounding the bullshit alarm isn’t sufficient; we need to look at a couple of other metrics to try and understand what’s really going on in order to demolish this claim convincingly.

Second Cross-Check: Flag Revenue Per Potential Customer

Second, an upper bound of Flag revenue could come from an estimate of per-capita spending from each active member.  My current estimate is that there are 20,000 active public Scientologists.  I believe about 4,000 of those are from countries with relatively low per capita income (Russia, Taiwan, etc.) where travel to Flag on any sort of regular basis is not likely to be affordable. As a result, I believe the total market for Flag services is about 16,000 active cult members.

But it’s important to realize that likely overstates the actual addressable market for Flag services.  An addressable market is one with proven potential, not just the theoretical upper maximum.  The total market for cars is everyone who currently owns a car, plus the number of people who will get a driver’s license, minus those who will be too old to drive further. But the real addressable market for cars are some percentage of those whose leased cars whose leases are up, the number of people whose cars will be totaled in accidents, plus other populations — a far cry from the total number of drivers.

In considering the addressable market of Flag customers, I’m intrigued by the recent interviews I’ve had with ex members.  Consistently, these folks said that they had done everything possible to avoid going to Flag, since they were quite clear that they would be hit up endlessly for donations, and that they would be trapped there for far longer than they intended to stay.  They all pointed out that the pressure to donate when one stayed at Flag had consistently grown worse in their often decades-long experience in the Church.  None had been to Flag in the last ten years before they walked away from the cult.  In other words, they had all managed to avoid the clutches of the FSO reg’s.

Additionally, I believe Europeans are less likely to jump on a plane to come to Flag, partly because of the cost and hassles of much longer flights, but also because of the declasse nature of Clearwater — why go there when you can get many services at a stately English manor home (Saint Hill)?

It’s probably also necessary to cut out second generation members in their early 20s who are on their own, who don’t have the economic firepower to afford two weeks at the Fort Harrison Hotel and all the services.

Finally, one must estimate one of the most productive markets for Flag services: the customers “on the level” (i.e., doing OT VII), who are required to come in for sec checks every six months.  At this point, there are probably less than 500 Scientologists actually on the level.

I thus believe that the actual addressable market for Flag services is no more than 7,000 people (excluding OT VII sec checkers). $100 million divided by 700 people gets you to about $15,000 per person per year, for every single person in the addressable market in every single year, whether or not all of those potential customers actually do come to Flag.  That seems extremely high, though it is not inconceivable.

Importantly, it may have been possible to get $15,000 per Flag visit out of the average Flag visitor in years past if they were doing multiple intensives with Class XII auditors at $1,000 per hour.  But that is probably more the exception than the rule these days: you have to take into effect the effects of the Golden Age of Tech Phase II (GAT 2) announcement.  Remember that GAT 2 is requiring many people to redo lower-level course work, and that the promise of GAT 2 is that you’ll get through all that low-level nonsense so much faster than ever before.  We’ll ignore the opportunity for assorted (and obvious) hilarity when contemplating the joy people will feel from screwing up their brains learning Study Tech in the “Student Hat” course for the fourth time.  What’s important is that the per-hour revenue for getting people to come to Flag to do these low-level course is likely to be significantly smaller than the per-hour revenue from Class XII auditing intensives in the past.  And that suggests strongly that the Flag business is off from levels a decade ago, where the cult had a much larger addressable market (perhaps 40,000 total public worldwide in 2000 versus the current 20,000, and almost all from high-GDP economies back then).  The mix shift away from high-margin services and thus much higher per-hour revenue to lower margin low-level services must inevitably mean that revenue is down.

It’s possible that total Flag revenue is as high as $50 million, a little higher than I had previously been estimating.  I had estimated that all services-related revenue including Flag was about $60 million, but the revenue from the Orgs may actually turn out, based on recent document dumps from Mike Rinder, to be less than the $20 million I had estimated.

Third Cross-Check: Revenue Per Employee at Flag

If we believe the overall cult revenue number of $180 million is reasonably close, and we believe that the cult has about 5,000 total staff, then we quickly compute an average revenue per employee of $36,000 per year.  If we assume that the cult has efficiently distributed staff across the organization (a laughable assumption, but bear with me), then if we take cult-wide revenue per employee of $36,000 and divide our estimated $50 million per year in Flag revenue by that figure, we get about 1,400 employees who should be involved in generating that much revenue.  That’s not terribly far off our estimate of about 1,600 total staff at Flag.

The point of this excercise is not that this calculation proves our estimates of either Flag revenue or of the number of staff at Flag.  It does, however, show that there aren’t obvious contradictions in our model.  If we had estimated 2,000 staff and $100 million in Flag revenue, that would imply revenue per employee of $50,000, substantially above the cult-wide estimate, and that’s particularly suspect in the case of Flag since many of those employees are in hotel and restaurant guest services, producing much lower-margin revenue than high per-hour revenue employees like auditors and reg’s.  In other words, our current model sanity checks reasonably well.

If They’re So Rich, How Come They Have to Do Their Own Construction?

The second interesting aspect of this is that, despite the claim of taking $75 million per year out of Flag in Clearwater, and a lesser amount on the West Coast, the cult is still so expense-starved that they have to turn some appreciable fraction of Sea Org into a construction brigade to save money on construction.  

There is no particular reason to disbelieve Jillian in this story, since there are plenty of accounts of waves of staff being demoted to the RPF when Big Blue needed renovations before, then mysteriously finding that they completed the RPF program soon after renovations were finished.

However, the fact that the cult is now using Sea Org staffers for construction duty suggests either low manpower utilization on useful tasks for the Sea Org, making it attractive to pull them to other tasks, or a cash crunch that would make deploying them on renovations important to avoid extra expenses.

Most businesses are somewhat rational in their decision-making process, deploying labor where it is best used either to generate revenue or to avoid costs (i.e., paying internal slave labor only a fraction of what outside experts would cost).  But it seems unwise to believe that the cult would be rational in deciding to deploy slave labor to avoid expenses, given that David Miscavige seems to make many decisions to enjoy arbitrary control over the lives of staff, rather than from economically valid principles.  The detail that Jillian was detailed along with another girl to remove Fiberglas insulation from ceiling crawl spaces in Las Vegas, rather than participating in a large-scale construction project at Big Blue suggests that the motivation for creating this construction brigade is unclear — a small project like might not necessarily have been undertaken for economic reasons, but just as a way for Miscavige to throw his organizational weight around.

When I started considering the apparent contradiction between Miscavige’s inflated claims of staff size and revenue at Flag versus the apparent need to save money on construction, I was hoping to be able to quantify this, but I’m not entirely certain about the financial aspects of this construction project. Anyone with any detailed perspective on recent construction efforts in Hollywood could help greatly in teasing out relevance, if any, of this detail.

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!
Poster for the 1966 comedy classic

Jillian’s assertion that 80% of Sea Org at Flag are Russians is quite interesting. There had been numerous reports that employees are increasingly non-native English speakers, and Eastern European origin for many of the staff was frequently mentioned, though Latin Americans are also a large part of the mix.  But the assertion that 80% of all Sea Org in Clearwater are Russians is a bit surprising.

Some discussions on WhyWeProtest suggest that these Russians are not all Russian nationals, but may be Moldovans and Russian speakers from Eastern European countries whose economies are in even worse shape than that of Mother Russia.  Interestingly, the economic situation in Russia is not all that good; I’ve read surveys that suggest that almost half of young Russian citizens want to emigrate to the West.  It’s not hard to believe that the situation is even worse in small satellite countries like Moldova or its breakaway Transdnistria region.  That certainly suggests that the cult has access to a pool of desperate recruits.

While it certainly cross-checks with already known facts that many Eastern Europeans are being sucked into the cult’s slave labor pool, it’s not clear that the number has reached 80%.  For that to have happened, there would have had to have been massive expansion of the size of the Sea Org.  There’s no evidence that there has been any such expansion, either in anecdotal checks in the activity levels at Pac Base or Flag, or in other stories from recent defectors.  Economically, given the low cost of Sea Org labor (I suggested the fully loaded cost of a Sea Org staffer is probably about $500 per month), the cult could potentially expand the size of the labor pool “just because” without wrecking finances. However, I am not sure the cult would do this just to feed Miscavige’s need to keep up appearances — adding 500 staff would cost at least $3 million per year, difficult to justify in a time where revenue is likely declining faster than the rate seen in previous years.

If massive expansion of the Sea Org was not the driver behind a sharp rise in the percentage of Russian-speakers in the mix, then the only other possible explanation is a significant wave of replacement of existing Sea Org members.  Again, there’s not any real evidence that this is taking place. 

I would thus treat the 80% number with some skepticism, as if it is a quick eyeball guess or a number relayed through a number of intermediaries before it got to Jillian.  It may be that 80% of new Sea Org recruits literally are Russian speakers, though the total number of Russian speakers in the Sea Org remains quite a bit lower.

If 80% of new Sea Org are Russian speakers, that would speak to the increasing difficulty of using the kids of existing members as Sea Org recruits. That, in turn, suggests that the potential to use the threat of disconnection from a kid in the Sea Org to keep doubting parents in line is losing its impact.  And remember, the parents of Sea Org members are presumably the more loyal of the older generation of Scientologists, and if a key retention tool to keep them enmeshed in the cult is losing its effectiveness, then further declines in membership in the short to medium term are inevitable.

Any further data points on the nationalities of arriving Sea Org members would be extremely helpful.

Emerging Trends to Watch

Eric Falkow joins staff... at age 79

Eric Falkow joins staff… at age 79!

Given the struggles the cult has in retaining staff, we’re always interested in looking at emerging trends in where they’re finding new employees.  This is why the influx of Russian speakers into Flag is important to monitor closely and to quantify more closely.

But in the last two weeks’ “Sunday Funnies” stories, Tony Ortega’s blog has featured older cult members going onto staff, the first time I can recall seeing something. Once is a curiosity, twice is a coincidence and three times might just be a trend worth considering.

Yesterday’s column featured the above ad, proudly announcing that Eric Falkow has joined the staff of the Pasadena Ideal Org.  According to one database I use, there is a 79-year old named Eric Falkow living in Pasadena; it’s reasonable to conclude that they’re the same person.

If we see any more older members joining staff, that could be evidence of yet another desperation strategy in trying to fill the rolls.  This and similar evidence of difficulty recruiting new staff leads to the scenario I’ll detail in a blog post later this week: can the cult continue to operate if the number of employees at local orgs shrinks beyond some minimal level?  

Scientology Daily Digest: Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Today’s news seems to be focused on the new Mark VIII e-meter, with some commenters noting that it bears more than a passing resemblance to the recently redesigned Kenner Easy-Bake Oven.  Some say that this is because Ideo, the legendary design firm that did tons of iconic products over the years including many for Apple, did both products. In a comment on Mike Rinder’s blog, not yet moderated by press time, I said that the design of the new e-meter isn’t half bad, and could well have been done by Ideo.  And I’m actually serious. The good design doesn’t excuse the stupidity of leaving this thing in a warehouse for a decade or a lot of other mistakes in the GAT2 rollout, but it’s not bad design by itself.

Also, life seems to have dealt Mr. Thomas C. Mapother IV a mixed bag today.

My Blog

I normally don’t like to do something that looks like I might be tooting my own horn, but there were a couple comments on my blog in the last 24 hours that I thought were worth calling your attention to.

  • Eclipse-girl wondered how I got an estimate of 500 to 700 Scientologists in Germany when the German government’s official count was about 4,000.  I went through a detailed discussion in my reply.  This might be a useful read as we start to go through and build up an estimate of membership.
  • OrangySky takes umbrage with a commenter in another forum who says they’re too clever not to get involved in a cult.  I share the experience of several very smart people who still managed to get tangled up a cult (one Scientology, one not), because that cult was able, whether by intent or by accident, to target their Achilles’ heel.

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Tony’s blog post today contained the regular Tuesday feature with Claire Headley (recently joined by longtime top ranked auditor Bruce Hines) taking us “up the bridge,” going through all the materials for each level.  Today’s OT 2 stuff basically sounds like pages and pages of Orwellian “word salad” that sure looks like the goal is to scramble any remaining critical thinking skills.

There’s also a status update on the depositions in the Monique Rathbun case. The next court date is December 11.  They’ve gotten depositions from cult execs Warren McShane and Allen Cartwright, plus defendants Monty Drake and Steven Sloat. Tommy Davis is scheduled for December 4 in Austin and Leah Remini is still not scheduled.

 

Senate House at the University of London, considered to be the model for the Ministry of Truth building in George Orwell's 1984.

Senate House at the University of London, considered to be the model for the Ministry of Truth building in George Orwell’s 1984.

My take:  Some of these statements, including the first few, which read:

1. To Die is To Live
2. To Live is to Die
3. To Surrender is to Victimize
4. To Victimize is to Surrender
5. To Lose is to Win

… all suggest that somebody was reading a little too much George Orwell when they wrote all this stuff. Perhaps one could envision these chiseled on the wall at the Super Power building, which, given its foreboding footprint on its lot, resembles the immense

Super Power Building. If you imagine this in gray, you can kind of see a resemblance.

Super Power Building. If you imagine this in gray, you can kind of see a resemblance.

Ministry of Truth building in 1984 but with a pseudo-Mediterranean Disney-esque paint job. Even skimming this list without holding the cans, I can see my synapses frying like an egg on a hot griddle.

Regarding the depositions in Monique Rathbun case, it would be delightful fun to read Warren McShane’s deposition, given that I seem to recall a quote from Miscavige to the effect of how he loved it when Warren testified because he is the best liar on the management team. And I would certainly pay money (though I wouldn’t go so far as to hock the Global Capitalism HQ jet) to see the video of Tommy Davis’s deposition, just to watch him get “really angry!”

Some of the comments that riff on other trending topics are the best payload of Tony’s story today.

Selected comments: 

Mike Rinder’s Blog

  • Exhibit 1: The Mark VIII E-Meter

    Exhibit 1: The Mark VIII E-Meter

    Mike picked up on the commenter from Tony’s blog who noticed the resemblance between the new Mark VIII Super-De-Duper and the recently restyled Easy-Bake Oven.  One commenter claims that these two products were done by the same design firm, the one that has done a lot of work for Apple.

    Easy-Bake Oven... Separated at birth?

    Easy-Bake Oven… Separated at birth?

    I contend that this is eminently possible, and in a long comment on Rinder’s site, I deconstructed the design elements of the new e-meter that make me believe this. I also tracked down an interesting tidbit on the history of the redsign of the Easy-Bake Oven.

  • New Valley Org solicitation.  I "command" you to reach for your wallets, since asking politely didn't work too well.

    New Valley Org solicitation. I “command” you to reach for your wallets, since asking politely didn’t work too well.

    Mike also published an interesting Valley Ideal Org flyer (which a tipster originally sent me a couple of days ago).  The first thing you see is the word “Command” at the top. It’s all about how DM is commanding you to get the Valley Org done. Not about how great it will be for those about to throng the doorway to learn about Scientology, nor what it will do for existing public. It’s all about how you can obey him.

Forum Sites (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)

  • WWP discusses new “rules” for owning an e-meter, including a clause that says you can only own one if you remain in good standing. Not sure how enforceable that is, but nice try… Also, it might be interesting to see if the requirement that you have a current annual or lifetime IAS membership before being allowed to buy a meter constitutes “tying” under anti-trust law.
  • A WWP thread discusses the software update for your PC that connects to the new Mark VIII E-meter, wondering if it is entirely about the E-meter or wondering if there might be other secret capabilities involved, like a new “net nanny” package.  Worth monitoring in case some clever Anon manages to disassemble part of the executable to see what it really does.

General News

Scientology Daily Digest: Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Programming note: Again, exhaustion overtook me in trying to get this done last night.  That and a desire to maintain some semblance of an actual life. Apologies to Faithful Readers who may depend on this before bedtime.


Perhaps the most unexpected news item today is that Marty and Mosey Rathbun recently became parents, with little William James Rathbun entering the world a few days ago.  Ironically, William James is considered “the father of American psychology.”  Congratulations!  And, of course, this makes Mosey Rathbun a mother lioness; Miscavige would do well to remember that messing with a mother lioness (think Karen De La Carriere after the loss of her son Alexander) is almost always a low-percentage shot.

The best Facebook comment by a cultie hyperventilating over the ultra-amazing events of the weekend goes to this unnamed Kool-Aid drinker, posted to BlackRob’s WWP thread of crazy cult Facebook posts.

Some delusionally delirious praise for David Miscavige from an attendee at last weekend's events.  Wonder if the Nobel committee will pick Miscavige over that Pope Francis guy.

Some delusionally delirious praise for David Miscavige from an attendee at last weekend’s events. Wonder if the Nobel committee will pick Miscavige over that Pope Francis guy.

Something to watch for:  Buffalo (thanks to Ze Moo) and Melbourne report Scientology ad campaigns popping up in the last couple of weeks.  It will be important to see if this is the beginning of a major initiative to pollute adorn buses and airwaves in major cities worldwide.  Please pass along any data points on new ads in mass media (Craigslist doesn’t count).

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Today’s story featured leaked photos from the Super Power building.  Apparently, these photos came from one of the books distributed as souvenirs to the attendees at the weekend’s events.  There are some pictures from inside the building being posted on social media, but nothing yet that appears to be actual pix of the oiliness table or anything else on the Super Power floor.  Tony also revisited the fact that the speech was 8 minutes long.

My take:  

I had another thought on the 8-minute speechus interruptus (perhaps better termed quotus interruptus, evocative of another happens-too-fast problem that DM may have to contend with) and why it is such a disaster for Dave. Recall that, based on the articles on Mike Rinder’s site, all the events on Friday and Saturday gave a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo about Golden Age of Dreck 2 issues, filled with nonsensical acronym-slinging. But he didn’t say much about Super Power at that time.

So if he really wanted to “sell” Super Power to his best customers, most of whom were seated in the front row at the event, he really needed to get people whipped up into a lather before they entered the building. When you unveil a major new product, you have to get people emotionally invested before they try it out. You don’t want them making a buying decision on purely rational grounds. It’s like when a manufacturer unveils a new car at a car show — the speeches, music, lights, food, booze, etc. are designed to get people excited before they see the car, and then transfer the excitement from the other stuff to the car itself. It doesn’t matter that they’ve been hyping Super Power for 15 years of fund raising; you still have to do it all over again when people are about to sample the product for the first time.

That’s why I think this is an epic fail, far worse than just the personal embarrassment of being “confronted and shattered” by “chopper tech.” It’s a strategic blunder of the first degree. And it will definitely be felt not only in Super Power enrollment figures, but perhaps even in the IAS event in two weeks.

So what’s the next scam after this one?  Ivan Mapother tongue-in-cheekily thinks we’re up for new Super Powers buildings in Europe and Australia.  I think we would do well to watch the “Pacific Events Center,” an auditorium complex so sorely needed because the dozens of live event venues within 10 miles of Pac Base, ranging from the 1,300 seat Wilshire Ebell theater to the Forum, the Sports Arena and the Staples Center (each 15,000+ seats) just don’t give them any choices on where to hold an event.  They’re also talking about an “L. Ron Hubbard Auditorium” in Clearwater.

But there are also local ad campaigns popping up.  It’s going to be important to keep an eye on local ad campaigns (which are cheaper, and thus involve less fundraising) versus big building campaigns (which last longer, and have the potential to raise more money over time but probably a much slower start). That may give us some insight into whether DM believes his donor base is tapped out.

Selected comments:

Mike Rinder’s Blog

  • One of Mike’s sources talks about their tour of the Super Power building. Apparently, they’re not allowed up on the sixth floor to see the running track where the Cause Resurgence Rundown will take place.  Perhaps that’s because the marketing promise that this rundown can be done at any point and will absolutely positively deliver all sorts of “case gain” won’t reconcile too well to the reality of a running track in the dark in the minds of even the most obedient public.

Forum Sites (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)

Thanks again to Aeger Primo for the eagle-eyed scan of the forums.

General News

  • Leah Remini was on The View, the ABC gab-fest led by Barbara Walters. Apparently, Baba Wawa asked about disconnection, and Leah pointed out that she didn’t disconnect from her friends, they are the ones not allowed to talk to her.
  • In Buffalo, the gateway to the quaint rural region of upstate New York called “Canada,” the local paper notes a billboard and bus ad campaign for Scientology and considers the question of whether they’re trying to spruce up their image.  Leaving aside the question of whether raising the Titanic would be easier, it’s nice to see local press do a reasonable job grappling with the question.  Nice job scoring an interview with two recently departed local ex’s.
  • Off topic but still relevant, since many in this community are fans: Monty Python is reuniting for a show.  They had rarely appeared together in public in the last 20 years (I was at a movie premiere of a documentary in NY in 2009 and actually got to shake Terry Jones’s hand) and now they’re performing together.

Scientology Daily Digest: Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Morning Quarterbacking: Apostate Air Force Edition

I think the follow-on effects of yesterday’s airborne raid on the Super Power ribbon-cutting ceremony will reverberate for some time, and we might even see some significant changes in the way the cult produces the IAS event in two weeks.  Given that those changes are likely to be about protecting David Miscavige from imagined threats to his personal security and about protecting his image with his “flock,” it’s possible that he takes his eye off the ball: raising money.

If it is true that Miscavige has postponed the events earlier this year mainly due to his need to micro-manage the legal cases he’s embroiled in, then there’s a non-zero chance that he’ll postpone the IAS event while he revamps the event and the security plan.  And if he does that, it is extremely likely that the proceeds from the gala are going to be down substantially.

Rookie poster “roxhum” asked in yesterday’s story, “Although it was fun pissing off the little dictator, what is the objective?”  Roxhum also went on to suggest that it might be counterproductive because cult members might actually become more loyal since they perceive their religion as coming under attack.

Certainly, it’s valuable to be skeptical of the game-changing potential of what could be seen as a rather expensive prank.  My reply to “roxhum” may provide some illumination on why I think this could end up being as epic as the coordinated Anonymous raid with approximately 10,000 protesters in front of half of the cult’s org buildings.  I said:

There’s actually a very real objective in play, which Mike & Mike either intuitively or overtly grasped: keeping your opposition off balance causes them to make mistakes. This idea goes back to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, first published about 2,500 years ago. If you control the time and place of the battle, you’re way more than halfway to victory. He who doesn’t shape the battlefield faces an uphill fight from the opening shot. And demoralizing an opponent by attacking at a moment they might consider a time of triumph has the most leverage of any attack you can make.

What’s the practical effect of this stunt? Miscavige has been increasingly paranoid about outsiders getting a hold of his speeches and mocking him on the Internet. He appears to be obsessed with what outsiders, particularly ex’s say about him, despite his media strategy, which appears to be to ignore them at best, be hostile at worst.  To the extent opponents can keep him focused on security and on shoring up his image, he won’t be focused on growing the business, and it will probably end up shrinking.

Last year, a tabloid reporter easily snuck into the IAS event in the UK. In May, at the opening of the Portland Ideal Org, the cult was responding to the London disaster by having unprecedented security and area control for the event, checking ID’s and prohibiting electronic devices. When they discovered that Mark Bunker (“Wise Beard Man”) had cut a deal with the store across the street to put a hidden camera up with a great sight line to the stage, Miscavige lost it, and ultimately ended up turning the sound down so that his speech can’t be recorded, and he also appeared to cut short the event.

Both of those events shaped the current reality: he moved the big tent from the UK to the US, where he probably thinks he has better security for the IAS event than he could get in the UK (it was easy for people to sneak onto the Saint Hill property from adjoining fields). But better security in response to Bunker’s little prank comes at a cost: he has basically killed the European event business, and by doing so, has probably hastened the decay in the European Scientology orgs — the rich donors from Europe who have been propping up the cult over there are not that likely to come all the way to the (tasteless, low-brow) US for an event. The biggest event of the year is probably going to pull in a lot less revenue going forward.

While it is correct that many people still in the cult will be able, through thought stopping and cognitive dissonance, to think that the attacks on the cult and on Miscavige must mean Scientology is important and successful, not everyone will be swayed that way. While I can’t accurately predict that attrition will accelerate specifically as a result of this event, I strongly suspect that bad knee-jerk decisions made as a result of this event (more security, more sec checking of people who posted event details on Facebook, etc.) will ultimately accelerate the exodus, and we should start to see people whose “Aha!” moment was shortly after this and the upcoming IAS event appearing in the next couple of months.

I thus believe that yesterday’s stunt is important in causing Miscavige to withdraw even more from reality, and thus to make even worse decisions. Because the events business is such a money maker, any damage to the event business significantly reduces cult profitability, and when they start eating into reserves, the decision making process is likely to become even more insane — Miscavige can rationalize almost any idiotic decisions, as long as the reserves go up every year. But if reserves start getting depleted, that’s when the death spiral begins.

Is this a prank or a really, really good investment?  A Robinson R44 goes for about $500 per hour, plus perhaps a bit more for a pilot, insurance, etc. So for less than $2,000, Mike & Mike had an opportunity to rattle Miscavige significantly. Perhaps even enough to cause him to make a potentially significant mistake that could potentially bury the events business for good as he worries about his personal security and about his image. I don’t think his personal security is at much risk, because most ex’s are having too much fun laughing at him. And his image is none too good except in the presence of the most rabid Kool-Aid drinkers.

So why do this now instead of at the Portland Ideal Org opening? Because Miscavige has another great opportunity to screw up, in just two short weeks, at the biggest-grossing event of the year.

I will bet you that Rinder and Bennitt will look back in a couple years and tell you that this $2,000 was the best two grand they ever spent, both in terms of the fun value and in terms of the gravel it dumps in Miscavige’s gearbox.

The IAS event, this year more than ever, needs to be about revenue growth. But as a result of the first mission of Viper Squadron 1 of the Apostate Air Force, it will be all about trying to plug imagined security leaks. It’s entirely possible that Miscavige will postpone the event entirely while he tries to figure out what other leaks might exist that those evil SP’s might try to exploit. That would be a $20 million mistake at least, a 10,000-to-1 return on their investment…

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Tony’s story today featured an exclusive interview with Jacqueline Olivier, the principal hired to turn Will Smith’s home schooling operation into a “legit” private school, the New Village Leadership Academy, which closed its doors after three years.

My take:  It sounds like Olivier took the job knowing that “study tech” would be involved, but may have figured that, since the school board was “committed to best practices,” they would be able to move past that odd fixation once she showed them that “study tech” was anything but a best practice.  But I suspect she ran up against a small definition problem: in the real world, best practices are “the current consensus of qualified experts as to the best way of accomplishing measurable results, subject to evolution over time as new, scientifically valid research shows improved methods.”  Scientologists also believe in best practices, but unfortunately, they use their own definition: “stuff that Hubbard pulled out of his ass 50 years ago.”  So when those two visions of best practices collided, it’s no surprise that Olivier’s reality-based version lost out.

There is a lot of commentary about what she should have done, with some thinking she should have left immediately and blown the lid off the cult’s machinations, and many who felt she did the best she could given the circumstances.  I don’t think the commenters here were able to settle the issue, but there were some well-articulated points raised on all sides, which makes me proud of the community in these forums.

I think it will be very hard for Will and Jada to deny they’re Scientologists after Olivier alleges full involvement of the Smiths in making Scientology-related decisions in the school.  I can hardly wait until some intrepid reporter asks one of them why, if their new religion confers such super powers on anyone, they seem to be unwilling to acknowledge that they’re involved in it.

Selected comments: 

Mike Rinder’s Blog

Mike didn’t have a new post up today, pleading exhaustion (a veritable epidemic among Scientology bloggers the last couple days), but he did put up a post late last night that I didn’t include in yesterday’s Daily Digest with pictures from the event.

General News

Various news outlets picked up the Super Power opening.  I glanced at the stories and didn’t see anything remarkable; some of them basically rewrote the Tampa Bay Times piece.

Scientology Daily Digest: Saturday, November 16, 2013

Important Programming Note

Stay tuned for a major scoop tomorrow.  This weekend, Supermodel #1 and I hosted a guest who was in town from her idyllic rural home in the frozen northern part of the US (no, she’s not from Canada, but close enough). This guest, a much-loved commenter on Tony Ortega’s blog who hasn’t been seen in a while, was in town for a girl’s weekend out while the males in her family were busy on opening day of deer season.  I had to spend some time in the office in the morning, so our guest accompanied Supermodel #1 to the pre-Black Friday sales at Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin.

Later, while Supermodel #1 was fixing tea, the super-secret Analysis Hotline in the penthouse apartment rang.  Since I started the blog just over 10 days ago, I’ve been deluged with calls and e-mails, even though the phone number isn’t yet public.  The voice at the other end claimed to be very, very close to the festivities taking place in Clearwater and offered a unique perspective on David Miscavige and on the content of the events.  Since Supermodel #1 was busy making hospitality happen, our guest decided to conduct the interview, and had a transcript prepared for me when I got home.  After a careful review of this source’s bona fides, I realized that we might have a unique look at the Most. Important. Events. Ever.  Stay tuned sometime around mid-day tomorrow (US Eastern time).

In the meantime, here’s the Daily Digest. I’ve mixed in a couple comments and stories from yesterday that remain relevant, even though they’re 24 hours off the crest of the wave of breaking news.

The Big Picture

Obviously, today is all about the Super Power opening event. We’re starting to get some data points trickling in from various sources, including some photos leaking out to Facebook.  Mike Rinder’s blog put up the first confirmed look at GAT 2, confirming no surprise at all — it seems to be a retread of prior “tech,” bringing back a bunch of stuff that Miscavige previously cancelled almost 20 years ago. The forum sites have other interesting details.  The problem with this, of course, is that if gung-ho auditors realize the sleight-of-hand Miscavige has engaged in, they’ll realize that he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing and are at risk to bolt.  I would suspect some number of long-time loyal cult members who have been frustrated with their progress “up the Bridge” and who have believed promises that GAT 2 would fix everything, are going to wake up on this one. Defections are likely to increase.

Surprisingly, there are a number of pictures that are making their way to Facebook, perhaps from culties who are there attempting to impress their friends who remain stuck back home, or from leakers trying to expose the craziness to the outside world.

As you continue to read coverage about the events, it would be helpful to try and look at anything substantive that turns up regarding whether the new facility actually has anything new and different for new member recruitment, as implied by Tobin & Childs in their Tampa Bay Times article of Thursday night.  Any evidence we can find for what’s on the first floor, particularly if there are any changes from the architectural drawings Tony published at the Voice in early 2012, would be extremely helpful in helping us determine whether this is just reporting what the cult claims, or whether it is deeper insight into a signifcant change in strategy — the cult clearly has not been interested in new member recruitment in many, many years.  Bring any data points you find to light in the comments section here!

Tony Ortega’s Blog

The regular Saturday series with “A Piece of Blue Sky” author Jon Atack continues, this time with the startling assertion that Mary Sue Hubbard may have doubted the validity of “the tech,” refusing to pursue an endless series of auditing sessions in the 1970s to enable her to “go exterior.”  Atack says she was overheard on at least one occasion calling Hubbard a fraud and a charlatan.

Tony also featured numerous pictures from the event, including some posted on the Internet by a Scientologist in good standing who apparently couldn’t resist the urge to share all the theta.

My take:  One of the pictures was a pool party at the Fort Harrison, appearing remarkably under-attended. It would be useful to get a sense of what this event was and whether the photo was taken early or late in the event to try and figure out if the event was really as dead as this one picture with no context might make it appear.

Another picture featured a scene in the lobby of the Fort Harrison, where two of the columns were festooned with banners reading “New Universe” and “Big Push.”  I’m a big fan of non-sequitur marketing, and these two banners are great examples of the genre.  It goes to show that fancy artwork doesn’t rescue bad copy, and even good copy can’t rescue an incoherent marketing strategy.  Non-sequitur words on the walls were put to great use in the legendary Talking Heads concert film, “Stop Making Sense.”  In this video, check out the effects starting at around 31:15, during the song “Making Flippy Floppy.”

Selected comments:

  • Marc Headley outlines a less-exensive alternative that Scientologists can use to get all of the same value as “Super Power” at a fraction of the price.
  • RMycroft posts a picture of the Toronto Org during the event, with the building enshrouded in Stygian gloom.  Apparently, all that theta emanating from Clearwater stops cold at the 49th Parallel and doesn’t penetrate far into Canada and people are not putting down their dinner plates heaping with back bacon, donning their toques and spontaneously flocking to downtown Toronto to get free personality tests.
  • Once_Born found a record of a nifty, simple experiment that would demolish the notion of out-of-body experiences being accurate descriptions of the actual environment, if only the sample size were large enough.  But this certainly points the way.
  • Once_Born also suggests that bringing back the “Board Technical Bulletins” that Miscavige outlawed in 1996 may be a way for Miscavige to make stuff up when he needs to evolve the product strategy in the future.  These BTB’s were written by staff either based on something Hubbard said or something they found in his archives that pointed to the possibility of what they were trying to do.  It was a fairly low-level way to have a committee evolve the product to keep things current, though it clearly was purged when Miscavige came to power.
  • MonkeyKnickers says well in her unique style what many have long wondered: how did Hubbard manage to score with the ladies, with his physical and mental attributes?

Mike Rinder’s Blog

  • The first post in the series gives details, heavy on the cult-speak, about what is at the heart of GAT 2.  Apparently, the key to this is un-cancelling some stuff that he cancelled almost 20 years ago.   It will be interesting to see stories developing of long-time auditors who aren’t fooled by this move and who blow as a result of these changes.
  • Mike’s second post features lots of Facebook comments by loyal culties who are long on enthusiasm and short on details.
  • The third post, which appeared just before press time for tonight’s Daily Digest, goes into mocking detail on a lot of the new courses, and how Miscavige will profit, probably at the expense of the orgs and missions.  Mike even obtained a picture of the new (old, warehoused for a decade or more) e-meter, which has a candy apple red housing and a new, higher price: $5,000 apiece, minimum order of two.  Interestingly, he says that the new e-meter puts the readings  on a memory stick, so it could be possible that this is a new device, not the ancient one that has been moldering in a warehouse for a decade, since memory sticks weren’t all that common back in the day, and (IIRC) the original meters interfaced with PC’s via an RS-232 serial port rather than the now-ubiquitous USB.

Forum Sites (WWP, ESMB, OCMB)

Thanks again to eagle-eyed reader Aeger Primo, who once again helped out immensely by staying on top of the avalanche of comments on these sites.

As expected, much of the day’s discussion centers around “joking and degrading” of the new building and the new “tech.”

  • WWP talks about the Super Power opening.
  • Black Rob is at it again! This ongoing thread of screenshots of Scientologists’ Facebook posts lists numerous entries all related to the Gat 2 release. The thread also includes recent shoops and real photos of Flag’s weekend events.
  • OCMB notes that there is actually a real card-carrying capitalist in the cult: Robert Duggan is now officially a billionaire after his company’s shares have soared in the last year.  I am sure Miscavige is lavishing even more attention on him than usual at the event.  It would be interesting to see if Duggan shows up at the IAS event in a couple weeks; it might be very interesting if he does not.
  • OCMB has another great thread of squirrel-related shoops.

Scientology Daily Digest: Friday November 15 — Tampa Bay Times Overview

Due to scheduling constraints, there will be no Daily Digest tonight.  We’ll resume with a double-header edition distilling down what will undoubtedly be a flood of reports of the goings-on under the Thetadome tomorrow night.  I have a very early start tomorrow morning (the pilots are not happy about a pre-dawn pre-flight check of the jet) but will be back on the air in plenty of time to catch up.  

Just in case you haven’t seen it, there is a big article in the Tampa Bay Times by Joe Childs and Tom Tobin which was published after Daily Digest press time last night about what’s inside the Super Power building. The article is not particularly critical of the cult, but it does contain an interesting statement:

Scientology says it’s the most important project in its 59-year history. And indications are it will represent another important first for the church in Clearwater.

Recruiting new followers will be emphasized, it appears from a Tampa Bay Times review of church publications, internal memoranda and construction plans submitted to the city.

This is extremely unexpected — the idea that Flag will now be used as a central tool for recruitment of new members, whereas previously it has been exclusively for higher-level services to existing members.  It is too early at this point to tell whether this is a distillation of a low-level PR statement or whether this is a significant change in strategy.  It would be extremely important to try to understand any attempt by the cult to do something different (and perhaps actually effective for once) in terms of member recruitment, which it has seemed relatively uninterested in doing in the last decade or two.

In looking through the text of the article, it is possible that this conclusion is based entirely on the contents of the first floor. But Tony’s initial article in the Village Voice with the renderings of the first floor exhibits don’t lead me to the same conclusion; it seems that they’re more about presenting tangible “evidence” for the success of Scientology to existing members who may be at risk for doubting the achievements of their “Church.”

My guess is that the cult is not going to make a major change in attempting to recruit new members, though they may say they are.  But this is only a hunch at this point. If they really are embarking on a serious, credible program to attract “fresh meat,” it is important to recognize this as early as possible to try and figure out maximally effective ways to thwart that, and then to undertake coordinated action to nip it in the bud.  

So my challenge to readers is to watch for any data points to try and look for those that confirm this as a major change in cult thinking versus as a “throwaway line” in a PR package.    Talk is cheap, and I think that we must look carefully for evidence of behavioral change rather than just verbiage, before we believe this.  But it is important that we not miss evidence of such a change if it is in fact taking place.  Skepticism is a viable way to approach looking at this statement, but cynicism (unwillingness to believe that they are making such a change even if evidence suggests they’re going to try) is unwise here.

———–

Administrative note: due to problems confirming e-mails in the subscription system, I have been manually adding addresses of commenters to the mailing list.  I haven’t yet been able to debug the subscription system.  If you don’t wish to be included in the e-mail list, please send a reply asking me to remove you and I’ll do it as soon as possible.

Scientology Daily Digest: Wednesday, November 13, 2013

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!”

Selected comments: 

  • 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)

General Press

  • 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.

Analytical Techniques: The Power of Anecdotes

Summary: We look at the role of anecdotes in researching the cult.  They can be powerful tools to either validate or challenge your existing thinking.  Anecdotes don’t prove trends or general conclusions, but they are a great tool for alerting you to possible trends, changes in direction, or conclusions you’ve missed.  This article talks about how we use anecdotes on Wall Street. But the best part is a case study, with one of our commenters reporting on a great chance encounter who interviewed a Scientologist at length in an airport bar, as well as my quick take on what to do next with an anecdote that challenges some of my beliefs about the cult.

Anecdotes are powerful tools: Today, I want to look at the power of anecdotal evidence in analyzing Scientology.   Stories from current and former members can be a powerful tool to check your assumptions and your thoughts about what is going on inside the cult. These are particularly important to help you make sure that reality has not changed without your noticing.  In other words, anecdotes that don’t fit into your current hypothesis of what is going on are one of the most powerful tools in improving your analytical work.

In order to make anecdotes work, one has to have a foundation of intellectual honesty. In other words, you have to be open to the possibility that some new piece of anecdotal data will unravel a theory, potentially even one that you are inordinately fond of.  You can’t rush to defend a theory without thinking dispassionately about what the new data point means. Pride in doing good analysis comes not in being right about a particular theory, but in being able to adapt your thinking and to continue to hone in on useful and actionable conclusions, even if they are heading in a different direction in your prior work.

While anecdotes are powerful, “the plural of anecdotes is not data.”  What I’m saying here is not at all conflict with what I have said in multiple comments on Tony’s blog and elsewhere about anecdotes as inherently insufficient to prove general conclusions.  As you may recall, I have said on numerous occasions that clear and convincing anecdotal evidence that Scientology auditing has produced big “wins” for some people in some circumstances is not sufficient to “prove” that auditing works in a general case across a broad population of people. As scientists say, “the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data.'” That’s because anecdotes, no matter how credible the teller, aren’t structured rigorously the way that statistically valid data points in a clinical drug trial would be.  So you can’t get from “a big bag of positive auditing success stories” to the assertion that “auditing works and is an effective form of therapy.”  

In other words, anecdotes are great ways to get you to continually challenge your existing views and to guide your work by digging deeper into inconsistencies in your scenario of what is happening and your predictions about what will happen.  For that, one or two anecdotes can be sufficient to open up a whole new area of research.  However, those same anecdotes are not proof of your new theory or model.

Incidentally, I am working on a longer piece that looks at the apparent contradiction of how anecdotes can be valid individually, but any number of them cannot be combined together to establish a true statement.  It should be out in a week or two.

How anecdotes make you rich and famous on Wall Street:  In the late 1990s, Oxford Health was an HMO growing explosively, and the stock was on a rocket ride.  But one analyst, who checked in with doctors who were Oxford providers, started to hear that they were having trouble getting paid, though she knew that Oxford had always been very timely in physician payments to date.  She talked to more doctors, did some more research, and eventually made a gutsy call: Oxford would miss their profit forecast for the quarter for the first time ever, and by an immense margin. Her research helped get her clients out of the stock while it was still high and avoid catastrophic losses when the company reported several weeks later that they were hemorrhaging money and the stock collapsed.  An article from the New York Times talks about the Oxford case (I can’t remember the name of the brave analyst who went against the grain and was roundly criticized until she was proven magnificently right).  And this article from the Wall Street Journal at about the same time gives more depth on the thought process of using anecdotes in a very powerful way.

Case study:  Let’s consider a case of a really interesting anecdote which was sent in by “B. B. Broeker,” a longtime commenter on Tony’s blog.   He ran into a Scientologist at the airport in Tampa and had a long chat with a longtime supporter of the cult, which he relayed to me.  He said:

I was in Tampa for business not long ago. When my business meetings went more smoothly than I’d predicted, I saw my chance. I drove across the bay to Clearwater, parked near the Super Power building, and took a leisurely walk around the Scientology complex. It was a pretty unremarkable visit, but I was glad to have seen up close the buildings that have occupied so much of my mental real estate since becoming a Scientology watcher.

On my way home, I stopped at the airport bar, and sat next to a chatty woman in late middle age. She was, based on her interaction with the bartender, on what I figure was her fourth or fifth glass of chardonnay, and was engaging the guy on the other side of her in a trite conversation about the deleterious effect electronic gadgets are having on communication.  Needless to say, I stayed buried in my phone.

While I avoided a conversation for a while, I eventually gave in after she directly asked me how my (crappy) food was.   As it happens, I was reading Mike Rinder ‘s blog when I finally surrendered.  It turned out she lived in the greater Clearwater area, and I mentioned that I’d just been there. She named a couple restaurants and asked if I’d gone to them, and I said no, I’d just visited on a pilgrimage of sorts to the Scientology complex.

Her jaw sort of dropped, and I figured, “oh, shit, she thinks I’m a clam, and doesn’t know what to say.” So I hurried to add, “yeah, I find them fascinating.” She fumbled a bit, and eventually said, “you have no idea what’s about to happen there.   I’m a Scientologist.”

Now it was my turn to be taken aback, but I quickly recovered.  “Yeah! Super Power is finally opening! The IAS gala! Golden Age of Tech Phase II is debuting! And … you’re leaving town?”

She seemed suspicious, but answered. “Yeah, I’m headed out of town for a while. I’ve got lots of friends [at my destination], and I need to get away for a bit.”

(beat)

“How do you know all that, about all the events?”

“Oh, I read a lot. Like I said,  I find your religion fascinating.”

Well, after telling her what I do for a living (I was soooo tempted to say I was a psych, but I made a conscious decision to not antagonize her, both because I didn’t want to be mean and to see if I could get this tipsy woman to open up), she seemed to decide that I was good people, and she told me her life story.

She grew up in one of the richer suburbs of a large city, but her family wasn’t really wealthy, and she didn’t really fit in with the other kids.  Consequently, she had a hard time of it in school. “I didn’t need Scientology to teach me how to stop being effect and start becoming cause.  I had to learn that in high school.”

She got into Scientology in her 20’s.  Her boyfriend introduced her to the church.  They got married, and her new husband started a company which he ran on LRH “admin tech.”  It succeeded, and was later sold, and they moved to Clearwater.

It was at this point that she confessed that he wanted a divorce, and that she felt like she needed some time apart to figure things out.  That’s why she was headed out of town.  He wanted to stay for the events, and she decided to let him have them, while she got her head straight.

“I’m really sorry to be missing what’s happening – especially the developments in the tech and processing – but I can watch them all on DVD when I’m [at my destination].”  I guess she was planning to be gone quite a while.

We talked about the tech, and how much it helped her and her husband relate better (I courteously ignored their impending divorce), and how study tech is probably the greatest advance in human development in the past thousand years.  She even talked about the amazing efficacy of Narconon  – she had referred family members to the center and tried it for her own drinking problem.  She felt the tech and the counselors had saved their lives.  (I chose not to comment on how she was throwing back the vino – probably on glass five or six – at that very moment.) She volunteered that her husband was on a fairly high Bridge level, and had been for a number of years, but I didn’t know if it was a faux pas to ask about her own case, so I didn’t.

Anyway, I continued to demonstrate I was knowledgeable about the subject, so I wasn’t that surprised when she said, “you know so much about Scientology. Have you ever taken any courses?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Why not?”

“Well, I’ve read a lot of LRH, and … well, I guess it’s just not for everyone.”

She sort of accepted that, but after a while eventually returned to the topic – not in a proselytizing way, but as if she were genuinely curious why someone who had familiarized himself with the Founder’s work wouldn’t want to rehabilitate his spirit.

“Is it it the press?  You know you can’t trust the papers.”

“Oh, I know.  But I agree with LRH – ‘look, don’t listen.'”  (She smiled wide at that.) “I just don’t feel like I need Scientology. “

Again, she seemed to accept my position, but then she asked me a question I never would have expected:

“Everyone thinks we’re crazy, or we’re weird. I mean, people seem to hate us. You don’t – don’t get me wrong.  But why do you think people hate Scientology?”

It was touching, and not a little bit sad. She really wanted to know, and really had absolutely no idea, why the vast majority of people outside her little bubble believe that something at the core of her life is ridiculous and/or contemptible.  In keeping with my approach of not antagonizing her, and because I thought it would lead to a more illuminating discussion, I played it soft:

“Well, there’s the money aspect–“

which prompted her to talk about how much training the auditors all had, especially with the GAT II release and with Super Power, and about how that costs lots of money, and there’s all sorts of self-study courses besides.

“Right, but I wasn’t talking about donations for coursework or auditing.  I mean, the fundraising.  The Ideal Orgs.  The IAS.  You’ve been in for eons – do you get the sense that they’re regging you harder?”

“Well, maybe. But they really don’t pressure you to give what you can’t afford.  I’ve never felt pushed to give more than makes sense. Sure, really wealthy people – and there are a lot of quietly wealthy people in the Church – give a lot, but it’s nothing to them.  Normal people aren’t forced to give that much.  It’s just not expected”

“Are you guys IAS patrons, or anything like that?  Did you get pushed to prepay for Super Power?”

“No, we’ve got two bridges to pay for, and college for the kids.  We give what we feel we can, but our bridges come first.  And no one makes us feel bad about that.”

I don’t know about you, but I found that fascinating.  Sure, it could be a PR line, but it was delivered pretty genuinely, by a woman who had heretofore demonstrated no ability to effectively shade the absurd disconnect between her idealized vision of the tech and the reality of her experience in the Church. (See: her impending divorce, her Narconon “success” story.)  Now, whether she actually isn’t being coerced into donating, or whether she no longer can discern coercion – whether she actually isn’t giving a lot to the IAS, or whether she no longer has a sense of what “a lot of money” actually represents – I don’t know.  But I believe that *she* believes that there truly isn’t a regging problem.  And that’s interesting in and of itself.

Anyway, we chatted for a little while longer, but I soon had to head to the gate. As we parted, I caught her name off her boarding pass.  I checked her on Kristi Wachter’s completions list, and she had indeed been in the Church for quite a long time.  And I suspect she’ll never leave.

Thanks to BBB for a well-written narrative, and for doing a great job helping the lady he was talking to to open up.  Great job on sucking up the snark and wit to ask bland questions to help her feel comfortable.

How to analyze this data point:  There are  a couple areas where the lady’s statements fall outside my beliefs about how the cult operates.  Here are what I noticed and how I’d react to them (not to refute her statements, but to dig deeper to see what’s really going on):

  1. Regging is at tolerable levels:  The lady says that she doesn’t feel overly hounded for money, even though she is reasonably well off in semi-retirement, which I would assume makes her a prime target for enthusiastic FSM’s.  Given the horrific stories that have emerged from so many quarters, I’m surprised to see someone who is relatively sanguine about the amount of fund-raising in the cult.  It’s not likely that all those stories of obscene fund-raising techniques are wrong, but this lady apparently spoke truthfully (“in vino, veritas”?) about how she doesn’t feel overly pressured to donate all the time.  There are several possible explanations, and we would need further follow up to determine which might be applicable:   a) her husband might be the target of all the regging, since he controls the money in the family; b) they’ve reached the status of a “sideliner,” having made clear to the cult that they’re not giving more money ever; c) the cult is toothless to follow up on e-mails sent out in order to get people to attend events; d) the cult is more sophisticated in fundraising approaches, spending less time on members who are assessed as less likely to give, or e) something else entirely.  A detailed follow-up interview, if it were possible, with suitably gentle and wide-ranging questions might be able to give some perspective.
  2. Focus on the “Bridge” instead of events and donation: the picture in publicly available testimony is that the cult is making it difficult for people to move up the Bridge because it’s forcing them to redo long-ago levels and courses.  The fact that so many recent escapees say that having to redo “Objectives” caused them to blow may be a function of a self-selected audience; we’re not interviewing people still in the cult (which is why this conversation is so interesting).  I am intrigued that this person’s story challenges what many of us take on faith about lack of progress on the “Bridge.”  I would want to ask a whole bunch of follow-up questions including understanding how much Bridge progress they’re making, and whether they have had the setbacks (kicked back to “Objectives”) that others complain about. In other words, are they just engaging in a little cognitive dissonance, like touting the benefits of Narconon while belting back the drinks?  Or is there some sophistication in how the cult is targeting its members to maximize the total revenue per customer (like a casino who knows which customers prefer blackjack to poker, so they don’t shoehorn a craps player into a roulette game that they don’t really want to play).  Or, again, is something else in play?
  3. Narconon:  the fact that this lady was quickly getting bombed while talking about drug and alcohol “tech” is amusing. But beyond this, it’s reasonable to guess that a possible reason she’d be doing something that most addiction and rehab experts would say belies any actual rehabilitation, is that the cult’s definition of “recovered alcoholic” differs from the one used in the rest of the world by a fair margin.  In other words, the cult may rely on definitions to get people to think Narconon works.  She may think that because she has completed Narconon that that is what determines whether she’s an alcoholic or not.  On Tony’s blog the other day, a commenter quoted a story of one cult member saying of a nearby OT VIII who smoked madly, “he could quit at any time, he just chooses not to.”  It would take a follow-up interview to see if the lady believes Narconon works because it teaches you that you have the power to stop drinking any time you want, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to stop today.  If that is indeed the definition culties use for “success” at Narconon, it’s no wonder it’s easy for them to repeat claims of an 85% success rate for the program with a straight face.

The more data points one collects on a regular basis, the better prepared you are to detect changes in the environment that would allow you to update your scenario. The faster that you detect and respond to change, the more effective you’ll be… in capitalism, if you figure out that a company’s business is deteriorating, you can sell the stock before others think there might be a shortfall, and can often avoid huge losses.

Scientology Daily Digest: Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A day off turned out to be a great thing. It’s amazing how much difference two hours of sleep can make.  I’m back in the saddle now and rarin’ to go.

Today seems to be relatively quiet, perhaps because of the first snow of the season in many parts of the Northeast, including a few inches in the Canada region of upstate New York, an amount of snow that the locals, in their native tongue, call “flurries.”

Reaching back to yesterday, the latest video from Karen De La Carriere and J. Swift about the cult’s legal machinations is worth a watch. The funniest line was when Karen interviewed Jeff, wearing a silver wig that would make him the envy of any late-night televangelist, who said “We threatened Vanity Fair with a very serious threatening letter.”  “Yes but they published the article.” “Yes, but they almost didn’t publish it.”  Legally omnipotent, indeed.  Karen asks, “Why does the entire internet laugh at us?”  “Well, that’s not true.  It’s only part of the Internet that’s laughing at you, a large part to be sure, but only a part.”  I think the most important point in the video was the idea that the cult may start to turn up the “religious persecution” angle to try to rally the troops and to blunt opposition from outsiders.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI8d8pZQW04

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Tony’s weekly feature on actually “doing” Scientology with Claire Headley featured an interview of longtime auditor and Scientology exec Bruce Hines and some commentary about OT II.  More importantly, there’s a mention of what appears to be a looney-tunes filing in the Garcia case.  The cult is complaining that the Garcia’s reply to the description of arbitration that the Court limited to five pages is itself longer than five pages.  Also, Tony unveils the “sensurround” room with speakers throughout to help you perceive where sound is coming from.

My take: of course, the Garcia’s were not limited by the court to any specific length in their response, so this almost sounds like first graders arguing about the rules for tetherball.  The “diversity jurisdiction” trap that the cult sprung was way more clever than the usual maneuverings, because there’s little latitude for the judge to rule against it.  They follow this slick maneuver up with a couple of extremely odd filings that can only irritate the judge. So one wonders if they’re almost baiting the judge to try to find some way around the “diversity jurisdiction” issue and waste a lot of the Garcia’s money on a trial, only to have the jurisdiction reversed on appeal.

The “sound room” from the Super Power machinery revealed in today’s posts appears to be an acoustical engineering nightmare, but that is apparently in keeping with the grand tradition of recording engineering in the cult, leading straight back to Hubbard himself, as documented in the long but hilarious ESMB thread written by someone who was with Hubbard on the project.

Selected comments:

  • Marc Headley chips in with a couple comments.  He predicts that a lot of members will hit the streets when they realize that virtually all of the Biggest. Thing. Ever is warmed-over dreck that they’ve already seen before, but which they’re being bludgeoned into donating at great expense.  He also gives a great vignette of Scientology’s technological backwardness with its Incomm system.
  • Legal Eagle Scott Pilutik provides some details on why the Garcia case filing is bizarre, but also points out that the Court won’t wade through any of the nonsense until the petition over jurisdiction is decided.
  • Missionary Kid hypothesizes about the effects of the acoustical environment in the Wall-o-Sound chamber, as a way to bring about psychological effects from certain kinds of sound.
  • MaxSPaceman finds a quote attributed to David Mayo, who was Hubbard’s auditor and who was one of the first splinter groups to try to do independent Scientology, began to suspect that it was a con when he first read the OT III materials.

Mike Rinder’s Blog

  • Mike’s first post yesterday provides more perspective on what happened in South Africa. It is an interview with Wendy Bowman, one of the 18 people who were declared suppressive persons and cast out of the church a couple of weeks ago. http://www.mikerindersblog.org/wendy-bowman-of-the-joburg-18-tells-her-story/
  • Today’s post features comments from the cult’s Facebook page where the public are getting near delirious with anticipation.  I guess this goes to show that if you hype the event up far enough before it happens, that you’ll get people to believe anything is great.  Google “The Royal Nonesuch” from Huckleberry Finn and you’ll see what I mean.

ESMB, WWP, OCMB

Fairly quiet here, though eagle-eyed Aeger Primo was on patrol again today, for which we are grateful.

  • The most interesting discussion was one started yesterday, about how “independent Scientologists” delivering auditing can be accountable to their customers, instead of hiding the lack of customer success under a veil of secrecy as the cult does.  My take is that this is indeed necessary to build a growing business, since word of mouth is a powerful customer recruitment tool.  But I still think this is a potentially fatal challenge for the Indies, since I continue to think they’re not enthusiastic about building a real umbrella organization.  And the last part of the original post speaks volumes: they need to have a way that OSA spies don’t get auditing and then denounce their auditors as frauds.  Yes, there are all sorts of obvious comments to make about the idea that OSA would denounce auditing as a sham, but I’ll skip them to stay focused on the corporate strategy issue: it will be hard to build an effective organization when there is always some residual paranoia about the intentions of some of your customers, and that may even extend to suspicion about some of the partners you need in order to grow the organization.  
  • On WWP, some members of Anonymous plan to launch “Anontube,” a hosting site for anti-cult videos that would be beyond the reach of the bogus takedown notices that are part of the DMCA landscape in the US.

A couple discussions from yesterday were also interesting, including:

  • Some members of ESMB predict a mass exodus of Scientologists when GAT 2, Superpower, and all the Scientology celebrations planned in ClearwaterFL. More Scientologists may say WTF and leave. Then there is the recent wave of apostates in South Africa. Will some of them wish to practice Scientology outside the Church and join the Indie movement? A new thread discusses the challenges in doing this.
  • There’s a rumor that the cult will give a $500 bonus to staff members to celebrate the GAT 2 launch.  This sounds a bit far-fetched but it’s worth thinking about. A bonus of that magnitude without offsetting “mandatory donations” back to the cult, say, for copies of the new and improved (yet again) “Basics” would be uncommon, and would point to the possibility that staff retention is becoming a near panic-level problem.  That, in turn, is one of the issues that would bring about the end of the cult, and which all the reserves in the world wouldn’t be able to solve.

General News

  • Kevin Trudeau, Scientologist and serial fraudster, whose latest effort is an apparent pyramid scheme called “Global Information Network,” was found guilty of criminal contempt of court for failing to disclose assets that could be used to pay a $37 million fine levied for his scams.  The saddest part of the Chicago Trib article about the verdict was that there were dozens of “supporters” who were in tears when the verdict was read.  The penalties for criminal contempt in Federal court are fairly open-ended, potentially up to and including life in prison.  It seems likely that the Court is not going to be lenient when it sentences him in February.  Apparently, Trudeau is almost enough to make Grant Cardone seem like a class act.

 

 

 

Scientology Daily Digest: Saturday, November 9, 2013

Today, some follow-up details on the South Africa nightmare showed up; I continue to think this could be significant as the cult appears to be retreating and retrenching from some geographies to focus on the US operation.  I’m hungrily devouring everything I can to attempt to figure out whether this scenario of the cult declaring a sizable number of big donors will have ripple effects potentially including the entire org declaring itself independent of the “mother church.”

Tony’s article today focuses on a filing in the Garcia suit which can be used to cast aspersions on the credibility of the “diversity jurisdiction” memo which is still at issue in the case.

The message boards have a fair amount of clever creativity worth checking out.   While some might accuse me of bias, I must say that Supermodel #1’s comments on yesterday’s Scientology Daily Digest are worth noting.  She’s tolerant of my interest in the cult but has not had much interest in the spotlight.  I invited her to put in a small comment on my first blog post to help “christen” the blog, much as an elegant woman christens a lumbering smoke-belching ship before launch.  I may have created a monster, however, as reading her rather witty repartee will show.

Supermodel #1 Cover Shoot from early in her career. I’m not saying if I’m the male model in the background.

Incidentally, now that she’s surfaced publicly, some might wonder if Supermodel #1 is a sock puppet of mine.  She has met Tony on a couple of occasions, and has also met a number of other prominent members of our community; all can vouch for her, and since I was lurking nearby, proving that we have both been seen in the same place at the same time.  She’s even found a potential self-portrait, shown here, that she feels captures her true essence.

Tony Ortega’s Blog

Tony’s story today analyzed the filing by Ted Babbitt, the plaintiff’s attorneys in the Garcia’s Super Power donation fraud case .  Scientology was required to submit a five page (restriction to avoid them droning on for hundreds of pages) summary of the arbitration procedure, so that the judge could determine whether the arbitration procedure is fair. That’s needed in order to determine whether the court could intervene, given that the donor agreement requires a “Church” arbitration panel (which the Garcias contend inherently stacks the decks against anyone seeking redress).

The response to the arbitration outline filed by the cult is withering and direct, accusing the cult of “fraud” and “fiction” in the description of arbitration.  The underlying legal filings are provided, as is a declaration of Mike Rinder, who points out that he spent 20 years in charge of managing legal affairs for the cult, and who says that he never knew of an actual arbitration proceeding to take place.

My take:  I think that the Garcia’s attorney may have been rocked back on their heels by the diversity jurisdiction issue, which appears to leave the Court little room for discretion in determining whether it has to dismiss the case or whether it can continue.  To a non-lawyer like me, it feels like this filing is far more confident in tone than the plaintiff’s opposition to the diversity jurisdiction issue. It is unusual for a motion like this to use such extraordinarily strong terms as “fraud” and “fiction.” In other cases I have looked at, attorneys tend to use a reasonable amount of restraint, even in the overview sections where one is expected to use passionate rhetoric to attempt to sway the judge before beginning the legal reasoning process. It is a surprising to see such strong words, one of which has a clear implication that a criminal act upon is being committed upon the court.

I think it is no coincidence that this response was filed very quickly, so that it influences the judge’s perception of the diversity jurisdiction argument and implies that it is likely fraudulent and fictional as well. Since I am not a lawyer, I don’t know how to assess how the judge reacts to this motion, either on its own merits, or in conjunction with the diversity jurisdiction issue. But I do note the more confident tone in this filing. 

Key comments: 

  • “Anonymous” gives a nice analytical writeup on how Scientology “ethics” are supposed to work, particularly showing how it traps you into doing the will of the supreme leader, even if that turns out to be unethical in other ways.
  • Good perspective from Skip Press about the playbook generally used for the CommEv scam. Fortunately, a number of people who have been through CommEv’s speak up about their experience, which is right in line with the theory Skip proposes.
  • TruthIWant points out that he underwent a CommEv procedure, and how it represented an opportunity to bully him into submission, rather than to try to figure out what happened as the paper documents suggest it is intended to do.  Not that we’re surprised it turned out that way, but firsthand accounts are always valuable.
  • Madora Pennington talks about her own CommEv, and gives a sense of how much monkey business was involved in auditing, especially in getting the person in the chair to report just how wonderful every auditing session was. Madora says memorably, “you aren’t allowed not to get better from auditing no matter what!”
  • Speaking of CommEv’s, “Room 101” had one, too.  It did not end well.
  • In a related example of how “Scientology ethics” seem to be rather highly flexible, Tory Christman shared an experience she knew about where to Scientologists were cheated out of a lot of commission money by a WISE company. Apparently, the cult step in and reverse the arbitration award because the CEO of the company was a major donor. The cult changed policies that Hubbard put in place the day before they “heard” the complaint to protect the money of the larger donor. Money quote: “it was the first time I realized you could PAY to have ‘tech’ removed.”
  • Lurkness located an interview that Mark Bunker did of Greg and Debra Barnes, talking about their CommEv’s and expulsion from the cult.
  • Sunny Sands somehow managed to find out that various Flag restaurants have been put on cash only basis with their liquor suppliers by order of the state alcohol regulator.  In life, you apparently can stiff just about anybody but the tax man and the booze peddler. One potential explanation for this is that the cult doesn’t regularly sell liquor at its restaurants, but is dusting off its liquor licenses to accommodate the booze-swilling IAS guests.  Too bad they didn’t bother to read the fine print before trying to get (illegal) extended payment terms from their vendors.  Hope Miscavige doesn’t read this blog and find out about it, or there are going to be some sorry campers in the RPF.
  • NoseInABk picks up on a cute poll that TMZ is doing about Tom Cruise’s involvement with Suri. Apparently, 96% think Cruise should not have the right to get Suri involved in the cult, though interestingly the readership is far more divided on whether “Abandoned” is a defamatory term.
  • MonkeyKnickers writes an open letter to the cult, providing some heartfelt advice to management on how to improve the cult’s image. One of her better efforts, one that proves that messing with the pregnant lady carrying twins is generally less than smart. 
  • TheCommodeDoor finds a nifty quote in a nifty paper by Stephen A. Kent of the University of Alberta on whether Scientology is a religion.  
  • Chuck Beatty, who designed the routing forms for refunds in the 1980s with the express intent of driving people seeking refunds over the edge, gives some background on what he did. 

Mike Rinder’s Blog

  • Mike posted an article mulling over the extent to which Tom Cruise is subject to the disconnection policies that other Scientologists must live by.  It’s a well-written piece that doesn’t cover a lot of new ground in the discussion, but is a clear and cogent summary of what most of us already understand, and is worth reading on that basis.  http://www.mikerindersblog.org/tom-cruise-and-disconnection/
  • Mike’s second article relays a story on BackInComm, the South African blog of the wave of ex-Scientologists recently declared by the head office.  Mike references the story of Ernest & Gaye Corbett, decades long Scientologists and, according to Mike, the highest-profile members of the cult in SA.  More useful details to try to back into what Miscavige thinks he is doing. http://backincomm.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/here-is-their-story-ernest-gaye-corbett/#more-132

WWP, ESMB, OCMB

Aeger Primo helps out in a big way today, again. A serious article to lead off followed by some lulz.

  • WWP picked up a broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on the harassment campaign against Marty Rathbun, to be aired Sunday (tomorrow) at 10pm ET.
  • ESMB has some snark and info about the casting call ad for actors “needed” to make the upcoming Co$ events at Flag (Clearwater, FL) look “good.”  Apparently, management thinks the average Scientologist is just not attractive enough to populate a brochure. Either that or that, or if they used 15 culties for the brochure photos, at a rate of one blowing a month, they’d have to re-shoot the brochure in just over a year.  Now you know why Winston was so overwhelmed at work in his job at the Ministry of Truth: erasing unpersons is a lot of work.  
  • Some pretty good humor and shoops about Tom Cruise’s comment in the Bauer Media deposition about how “My work as an actor is as hard as fighting in Afghanistan.” Some nice imagining how our troops would feel about the comparison.  Both ESMB and WWP are weighing in. 
  • OCMB captures Angry Gay Pope talking about his recent adventure, including the “citizen’s arrest.”
  • OCMB ponders what slant the cult might take on a new “tag line” for its ads.

General Media

  • Ex-Scientologist Skip Press writes a column on celebrity news site The Morton Report that profiles Jon Atack, the Hubbard biographer who has been sharing pieces of his revised version of “A Piece of Blue Sky” on Tony’s site every week.  Apparently, Atack helped Skip escape the cult.
  • The BackInComm blog for South African Scientologists and ex’s ran an article today advocating that all Scientologists worldwide stop giving money to the “Church.”  Well written advice.  More importantly, it’s worth reading to feel the gauntlet being flung down. We’ll see what Miscavige does next.  I am sure that being one of the recent Sea Org imports sent to town to fix things up will not be a pleasant lot in life (though I’m not feeling sorry for them at all).