Saturday, January 09, 2016

Eternal Grift

With the political season upon Iowa, the grift is as high as a Republican's eye, the Democratic version being more sedate, but there is no denying that mailboxes, virtual and metal are filled with appeals to save the nation, or maybe cut it to pieces.  Amongst the chaff Jeb! has had the best success with the classical model of separating the billionaires from their bucks.  The Carson campaign stands out, following the tradition method elucidated by Rick Perlstein in the Long Con  

The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.
Carson's campaign is a masterful combination.  Is the point is to promote a candidate for office or support a money raising operation which casts off riches to those doing the shilling?  Carson spends about 54% of every dollar raised to raise more dollars. Carson's business, after he gave up neurosurgery, at which he was quite good, became self-promotion, at which he is also quite good. and the Father, if not Mother of Self-Invention.

Self invention delusion is (watch the pea here) the lodestone of many classical grifts.  Who amongst the bunnies has not accepted received an invitation to have one's sterling biography listed in Who's Who in the Burrow? and is not LinkedIn the online versions of this?

By way of Lucia's blog, Eli just became aware of a rather, to Eli, more pernicious version.  JD from Ohio wrote:
My 9th grade son was invited to a conference sponsored by “National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists” in late June. Among the speakers are Buzz Aldrin, Dean Kamen and 2 Nobel prize winners in physics. ….

I don’t expect that actual attendance at the conference, in itself, will be overly helpful to his academic career. (He scores roughly, in the top 5% in science with disciplined work but without a lot of stress) However, I think it might be a fun experience and that he might make friends/connections that would be worth the $1,500 cost. Online, a number of people call this a scam. Personally, if the speakers are as stated, I find it is hard to believe it is a scam. Whether it is worth doing is another question, and I am wondering what your opinion and that of others is.
According to the solicitations, only the best students have been selected for this honor.  The standards judged by many comments on line from students and parents who have been solicited are a bit elastic

To many it was clear that this was a variant on Who's Who, seeking to capture money from parents trying to give their kids a leg up.  Eli, being a more perhaps obsessive through type turned a few rocks over, and soon realized that this was not an isolated thing.  Back in 2009 Diana Schmo wrote about these schemes in the New York Times under the headline of Congratulations! You Are Nominated.  It's an Honor.  (It's a Sales Pitch).

The Richard Viguire of this money maker appears to be one Richard Rossi starting with a creature called Envision EMI. a private company (at least now) which, as Schmo writes it
While the council’s (Congressional Youth Leadership Council) stated goals are educational, Envision has gone after profit openly: a vision statement adopted after 9/11 called for it to increase profits tenfold within eight years. “This big hairy audacious goal has ignited us to think completely out of the box when assessing potential opportunities,” the statement said. “Halfway through this eight-year vision, we are on track to achieve our goal.”

 The company adopted that goal, Mr. Rossi says, as tourists fled Washington in 2001 and the company’s survival was in doubt. Newly energized, the company branched out into new markets and bought out the nonprofit council, which aimed to grow “incrementally, or not at all,” Mr. Rossi says.
Envision runs dozens of programs from K-gray having now completely absorbed the Council but the Foundation Center has the Form 990 tax return from the Council.  Lest anybunny think this is small beer, revenue was north of 56 million back in 2007 before they went private.  Where did it go?  Well 18 million of that went to Envision, the Viguiere model to a T 

Rossi appears to have moved on to more of the same.  As JD found out the current pop stand is the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists but wait, there is more the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists and the National Academy of Youth Leadership

All of these share the same leadership, Richard Rossi and Pat McLagan.

Eli is not the first to have figured this out.  From Delphi Listener @ college confidential
Who is behind it? It is a FOR PROFIT Educational company founded by Richard Rossi who is well known for his burgeoning stable of for profit educational companies that make lots of money from high school students and their families.

He is behind: National Young Leaders Conference, NYLC see: ; National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists, Congressional Youth Leadership Council, and many others.

He's been at this marketing to aspiring college students for 26 years.

Since the organization has no track record, let's look at the founder's track record. See Envision, EMI LLC, in particular THE CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST another one of his for profit companies that he ran until 2011
To sum these things up, in spite of the come on, they are mostly working from pretty non selective lists, parents pay the money and there is a program, you might get a nice certificate grandma can hang in her living room but, contrary to the promotional literature no college admissions office pays the least little mind. 

The pattern is obvious and dispiriting.  Eli awaits the expected delivery of astroturf.


Hank Roberts said...

Oh, barf ... has anyone invited Buzz Aldrin and Dean Kamen to comment about their involvement in this?

A quick 'oogle shows this thing is all over the place. Thanks for lifting the rock and shining a light on the scum.

Here's a kid's pitch -- cancelled, it's inactive -- for donations to attend this thing.

The for-profit school scammers are using the mortgage model, and it's been in the news a while:

Thomas Palm said...

Reminds we of when we got a letter from one of these vanity professional organizations addressed to "Doctor Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan". It's the name of the school, not of any scientist there! Some screening might be useful before sending out these letters if you hope to be taken seriously.

Brian said...

The politician counterpart to this, at least in the US, is slate mailers. For a fee, the candidate can join slates appealing to any ideology with no actual screening or qualification involved (although there are some slates that do screen and have some meaning involved).

This is a mutual grift by the candidates and the slate mailers against the voters.

Russell Seitz said...

Anybunny darkening the front burrow to try the Who's Who grift should be sent round to the servant's egress for a thumping.

OTOH, Ethon might scout the mass invitiation publishing possibilities of a gilt morocco Who's Who of Nobel Peace Prize nominees-- just fill out the enclosed nomination chain letter and we'll take care of the rest. Available in vellum and miniver at slight extra charge.

Hank Roberts said...

on politics and scum:

On a different tangent, Russell will be pleased -- perhaps, I can never be sure -- with the current text on aerosols at

...The scientists did this work mainly for public consumption. When they announced their results in 1983, it was with the explicit aim of promoting international arms control. Surely the likelihood that all-out nuclear war was literally suicidal would persuade nations to reduce their arsenals? As a side effect, the studies helped to improve scientific understanding of how aerosols could affect climate.(9)

The computer models were so simplified, and the data on smoke and other aerosols were still so poor, that the scientists could say nothing for certain. Critics, mostly people opposed to nuclear disarmament, quickly pointed out the deficiencies. In the mid 1980s, detailed studies confirmed that a nuclear war would probably alter global climate temporarily. But as Schneider and a coauthor explained in a widely read article, it was not likely to bring an apocalyptic winter, but it would bring a damaging "nuclear fall."

Russell Seitz said...

A propos of Stockholm Fever, Sagan & Turco did modestly subtitle their 1990 What Meltdown ? book ,
A Path Where No Man Thought ,


Susan Anderson said...

Wow! One of our home health aides has a very bright daughter, who was invited to a similar costly program a couple of years back. It took a while to ID the disguised scam. Shame! Exploiting parents is about as disgusting as it gets.

Hank Roberts said...

Srsly, if anyone is attending any of his public events, ask him:
Or there's a contact link, if you're someone whose name he might recognize.
He has a 501(c)3 nonprofit and might well straighten out the vanity press profiteer, if brought to his attention.
One can hope. He's doing much worthwhile.