Monday, January 16, 2012

Common Circle Education, Spam Or Scam?

Previously published Nov 24, 2011 at 08:53PM at BloggingPoet.com


I returned home from Thanksgiving dinner today to find the following e-mail in my inbox:

    "Hi there,

    This message is to inform you that we have received a takedown notice for your post here:

    http://bloggingpoet.squarespace.com/bloggingpoetcom/commoncirclecom-eco-spam.html

    And have disabled this entry on your site.  This entry cited text which violated Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works -

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention_for_the_Protection_of_Literary_and_Artistic_Works

    We strive to stand by our users, but must take action when legally required to do so.

    Kind regards,
    Christa"


It would appear the hosting company I'm using is taking some heat from something I have written. For starters, that is wrong on so many accounts. If I have written something that is wrong then I should be the one to answer for it-- not the hosting company I pay to host my website. This is also an abuse of the DMCA regulations. So I replied.

"Christa,
Does anyone from Squarespace actually read the links you are "forced" to take down? Or do you simply cave at the first mention of DMCA? I ask you this because 1. I've not violated DMCA copyright regulations and 2. the Wikipedia link you sent me is to a nonexistent article. Go ahead and try it yourself.

I recommend that you familiarize youself with DMCA before you continue with this action.

Over the 6 years that I've been a Squarespace user I've literally gotten hundreds of DMCA notices from companies and persons whose scams I've helped expose. Not once have I ever taken anything down and this is the only instance where Squarespace has been asked to take down anything I have written.

Commoncircle.com, the company I cite in my post is has a long history of abusing clients, spam and possibly scams, and is anything but green. And the fact that my post about them has remained online since Oct 9, 2008 can only point to their use of heavy handed threats to force hosting agencies to fold in fear of DMCA regulations that do not exist.

Please reconsider your compliance with this alleged DMCA takedown notice.

Thank you -Billy Jones"


Now don't get me wrong, I'm all about going green, I even wrote the following in my now invisible post:

"Spam wastes electricity by stealing bandwidth from those persons the spam is sent to even if your spam blockers block said spam. As a matter of fact, stealing something you plan to waste is the worst form of ecological rape I can possibly think of. That's why it angers me to find the following spam from CommonCircle.com in my inbox this morning:"

Of course, I can't actually show you the spam e-mail that I posted the first time 'round as the content of that spam e-mail is the reason http://www.commoncircle.com/ is pushing a DMCA takedown notice via my web host. So, I can only affirm that on Oct 9, 2008, I did receive spam from Common Circle pitching Eco Tours and I did post said e-mail to my blog only to find myself and others now under attack.

If you'd like to see the real DMCA regulations you may click the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMCA

You'll notice there is no mention of e-mail.

What is happening here is in no way, the fault of my hosting company. They have, in-fact, been an excellent provider of services to me since 2005, but, as is too often the case, they risk being sued by a larger company with lots of money to spend on lawyers and potential legal defense costs that could break the company before they/we ever see our day in court.

This is typical of the tactics of the 1% no matter what color they claim their politics to be and yet another reason why we must Occupy.

Now I am in no way implying that Common Circle Education does or doesn't do what they say they do but they did, on Oct 9, 2008, send spam (Unsolicited Commercial Email) to my e-mail address and as I've pointed out time and time again, spam is anything but green and wastes large amounts of electricity that amount to more than 1/2 of the cost that you and I pay to use and access the Internet even if you never see a spam e-mail in your life.


Update: November 25th 2011.

I got an e-mail from Vladislav Davidzon today. I'm not sure if I should share it as posting the last e-mail from Common Circle Education is what got me hit with a DMCA takedown notice for my previous post. I'm also not certain that I want to give him the time of day.

Anyway, just so you know I'm not the only one with concerns about how Common Circle Education does business, here's a list of links to other cites where others have made complaints:

http://openpermaculture.org/pipermail/permaculture_openpermaculture.org/2011-November/004638.html
http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2005/10/326467.shtml

Mr Davidzon did mention in his e-mail today that I should have sent him an e-mail before publishing my previous post but I found it interesting to read the following e-mail from Squarespace showing that Mr Davidison went straight over my head without ever contacting me before issuing his DMCA takedown notice and has yet to ask Peer 1 and Squarespace to make my previous post live again. Besides, have you ever know anyone who was able to successfully unsubscribe from a spammer? Most spam experts recommend you don't even try as that simply lets the spammer know your e-mail address is real.

"Hi Billy,
I understand your frustration -- we received the notice from Peer 1 directly. You can read the article referenced here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention_for_the_Protection_of_Literary_and_Artistic_Works
You are welcome to contact the claimant directly:

Common Circle Education
Attn: Legal
14525 SW Millikan Way, Suite 17760
Beaverton, OR 97005

And you can further contact Peer 1 abuse department here:

abuse@peer1.com

If you have any other questions I'm happy to help.

-- Christa Collins
Director of Customer Care
Squarespace, Inc.


I sent Christa an e-mail to let her know I understand she's between a rock and a hard space when it comes to DMCA takedown notices. As I've stated before, I hold neither Squarespace nor Peer1 at fault for what has happened but do find it very disconcerting that complaints about the way a company does business can magicly become copyright infringement even though no infringement has occured.

And people wonder why we're sick and tired of being run over by the 1% and their cronies.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here's one person's feedback about Common Circle: Part 1, Hello. I'm writing re a permaculture design course I took with Common Circle Education this past July. I'd like to be concise: I'm worried about the process and goings-on under Vladislav Davidzon's direction.
During my two weeks...three people left the program because they were uncomfortable & unhappy with the overbearing, controlling setup that Slav kept us under. 1 of those who left was actually an intern at Dharmalaya. Another did come back after some coaxing that we shouldn't let Slav get under our skin like that. But for most of us, he did. I, personally, considered leaving daily, but having spent all of my graduation money on this certificate program, and with the great support from my classmates, I cried through it. I felt scared that I was involved in a "cult-ish" scheme. Our every movement was controlled, from us being made to "circle up" before meals if we wanted to eat to being asked to hold a circle for therapeutic work (after a 12-hour work day, at 9:30 pm until 11:30). In this circle, we were told by Slav that this was commonly practiced group work, developed by Joanna Macy (whom I deeply respect), and that we were to enter the center and release our anger, sorrow, emptiness and fear toward a specific element or object. Volunteers entered the circle and did not only that, but many sobbed themselves to choking. After those who wished to participate finished, we chanted, "I hear you." I can see this work being beneficial, but it was left open-ended. There was no close to any of this "opening of wounds" (so to speak), besides a group hug. Personally, I felt sick. I learned the next day that most of us were scared and unhappy. Many who shared within the circle were physically sick the next few days. This "ritual" stirred dramatic conversations and arguments with Slav for days to follow. We told him we were unhappy with how the ritual went, especially with how it ended. Slav not only disregarded our feedback, but also the fact that many of us were shaken. We were unhappy that this was not what we signed up for, as important as "social permaculture" can be, we were anxious to get our hands dirty. Slav repeatedly stated that this was the process and that we should let go of any expectation that we originally had for this experience. At that point I was scared I had entered a severe mind-control situation. We immediately began telling Larry Korn (our main instructor) our fears. I was unable to sleep at night; a classmate of mine, Joe, expressed to Slav and us that he had suicidal thoughts after the ritual. I suggested that maybe in the beginning days of the course when they ask us if we have any physical issues they should know about (seizures, passing out, allergies, etc.) that they should also ask us if any of us are more emotionally / energetically susceptible than others. There were indeed a lot of us there with those qualities. We also suggested that someone more qualified lead us through such therapeutic work, even our meditations (which were being led by Slav or his staff member, Hugh Williby [HW] and were flawed to say the least). Slav was very against the idea of "pedigreeing" and continued to ask, "what is qualified? /what is an expert?" We expressed that maybe if Ms. Macy had been leading that circle (as we had learned that it had been developed by her) then we would have felt more comfortable.

Anonymous said...

Part 2:

My classmates and I have been expressing our worries these past few weeks on our facebook page and we are trying to reach all of the instructors in order to spread this information. I deeply believe that Common Circle needs evaluation, and cannot hardly believe that the company is run solely by Vladislav. I hope that things change.

In addition to that, here are some other things I experienced there:

-12 hour days, with an hour break before lunch and dinner (if you weren't on cooking crew that day, if so, no free time [we were expected to attend 90% of the course])
-canned and powdered food (we did not grow or harvest any of our food)
-1 day of actual work/getting our hands dirty, let me rephrase that ... 2 hours of working with the earth to build adobe bricks and a small clay oven. I thought this would be something we'd be doing daily, but we actually spent the days on the ground in a classroom setting
-no caffeine, alcohol, wheat, soy, or MUSIC, among other things
-many hours dedicated to personal and interpersonal work, including "morning circles," which we were not allowed to miss. During these circles, we were often led through meditation by people who had no idea what they were doing.
-on a positive note, some of the instructors (Larry Korn, Mark Lakeman) were truly inspiring, as well as the group of students I met there
maureen m. Costa Mesa, CA
8/11/2011

Anonymous said...

Part 3: What a relief to see that others have experienced what I did in Eugene, OR this past July. I, along with the friends I made during my stay, was apalled by Slav's "black magic" as we called it. Slav was controlling, impersonal, germophobic, hypocritical and unwilling to accept any feedback from us. Instead of "getting our hands dirty" (as it states on the website - very misleading!) the course concentrated on personal/psycho-therapeutic work. One night we actually went through a "ritual" (yes even Slav called it a ritual. As others have stated - this experience was cult-like), after a 12-hour day ... we sat in a circle while a few voluntarily entered the circle and spilled their guts. The end of this "ritual" consisted of us giving each other a group hug. Most of us (over half in a group of 23) were furious that this session was left open, including me.. I felt sick for days afterward and worried constantly about what I had gotten myself into... I wanted to go home. What got me through was the support from the rest of the group, Larry Korn, and the fact that I had spent over $2,000 on this program - I was going to get that certificate. I was not alone, 3 people left during my stay (one of which was a STAFF MEMBER); we repeatedly expressed our concerns about the process of the "ritual" and of the entire course. Slav did not budge, and said that the process would remain the same for future courses. This is why I am posting these reviews. I hope that no one has to suffer through this militaristic mind control ever again. I worry for future courses.

Then there was the food. This being a permaculture course, I was very excited to think that we might be harvesting our own food. How wrong I was... we ate canned food at every meal. The only excitement came from my classmates being kind enough to buy food at the local farmer's market to contribute to our meals so that we might actually have some fresh vegetables besides lettuce. And this was almost too much for Slav. He was so worried about one of us getting sick (insurance and PR reasons, we concluded) that he wouldn't let us save anything, so pounds of food were wasted if we didn't finish everything at that meal.

I could go on and on about the negatives I experienced with CCE, or with Vladislav I should say, since he is CC (yes, just him). I hope that if someone is interested in permaculture that they definitely pursue that interest since it is a wonderful cause and I fully support it, but that they NOT take a CC course - I repeat - DO NOT TAKE A CC COURSE! As I stated previously, my classmates and Larry Korn were the two positives I got out of those two weeks. Thank you, Larry and thank you to my permie posse ... you made it worthwhile.
10/2/2011
Houston, TX

Anonymous said...

Part 4: AVOID, AVOID AVOID anything to do with this organization and Vladslav Davidzon. We signed up for a promising-sounding bike trip, but found out that the website description was misleading, and in trying to get things clarified, we began to realize that this was not an organization that wanted to work WITH the paying customer--not in the least! Even the other staff with whom we talked on the phone who tried to be helpful expressed frustration because while they understood what we were asking, they could only defer everything to Slav, who comes off like a totally intractable control freak with no people skills. You don't want to deal with this guy. And you will have to if you do anything with CC.

During the 8 months' long process of trying to get our money back, which included Better Business Bureau intervention, we googled him and found a large number of complaints of all sorts. Slav's rebuttals to the complaints were flat out defensive and didn't address the reasons for his bizarre actions and reactions. He just made himself seem more awful. 'Conciliatory' is not in his vocabulary.

It really is a bummer, because many of us support the goals Common Circle espouses. You WANT to think it couldn't be that bad, because the trip SOUNDS so cool... but think again!
Seriously, I would not be motivated to take the time to write something so negative if it weren't bad.
Tony P.
Tucson, AZ
10/6/2010

Anonymous said...

Part 5: You are going to find this difficult to understand when you look at their website. CC looks like a heart centered organization and I was lured in because I want to make my community better. I signed up for a course but two weeks later was diagnosed with an illness that prevented me from attending the event. Instead I will be visiting the AZ Cancer Center.

Careful how you pay for their courses! When you sign up online they ask for a deposit, but they don't explain that the additional amount for the course will also be automatically withdrawn from your bank account/ credit card. It just happens. They also do not explain that the entire amount is non-refundable, no exceptions. Look at the site, can you find a refund policy?

I thought I would lose the $95 deposit but guess what? Despite giving them 3 weeks notice and explaining my circumstances they refuse to even speak with me, don't return my calls and send me an email stating they will "gratefully" keep the entire $500!! Who takes $500 and gives you nothing in exchange and feels good about it?

I was sent an email when I contacted them about this with a link to their cancellation policy. They actually suggest you buy insurance to cover your course fees if you cannot attend: "Client is advised to purchase necessary insurance to cover their course fees and any course-associated costs/circumstances."

Wow! Wouldn't you feel ripped off and wonder about the 'integrity' and lack of compassion of such an organization? I am extensively networked in the sustainability movement and I'll be passing along this experience to others.
8/9/2011 Jonah D.
Petaluma, CA

Anonymous said...

This is to notify all permaculture practitioners that the Permaculture Institute does not recognize Permaculture Design certificates issued by Common Circle Education.
Thank you,
Scott Pittman www.permaculture.org

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone. I recently took a Common Circle Education class and I thought I would share my experience. Common Circle Education is a "permaculture course" that is run throughout Oregon and California and is attempting to branch out across the country. I am writing this review because I was fooled by this program and wasted over $2000 with this course. I did my research before attending this course and was unable to find any feedback, so here I am, giving my opinion. The director, Vladislav Davidzon once owned an internet company and I am fairly certain that he monitors the web to delete bad press about this program.

The program style is disorganized and cult like as it allows for little to no personal time. 90% participation is required to receive the certification and half of the course is dedicated to psychotherapy with no resolution. There are no hands on projects throughout this course! Do not let them pursued you otherwise. Your hands will never get dirty at any point in this course.

Throughout the course, we were blindsided by being required to go to ritualistic events. The rituals required the participants to reveal their deepest truth, sadness, emptiness and fears with no additional follow up and guidance towards resolution. After the ritual was over, the director made it clear that him and his militant sidekick would be available directly after if anyone needed anything. However, he left the premises immediately following the closing, leaving numerous people with extreme psychological trauma. When the ritual was brought up the following day, 23/25 of the participants were clearly upset with the lack of experience and care the ritual was done with. The director stood behind his work, yet had his tail between his legs as we had to literally pressure him to own up to the fact that he lost control of the group and create something bigger then himself that he couldn’t control. Members of the class expressed how they felt vulnerable, upset and even suicidal and the director had no care for anyone’s feelings and constantly fell back on the phrase “it’s all part of the process.” That night 80% of the class walked out on their “teacher.”

The director is not experienced or educated enough to facilitate this psychotherapy on people. He has no credentials to hold rituals and is a closed off, angry, sad and lonely who wants you to feel as horrible and unwanted as he is. He will not treat you as a person, but rather a disposable piece of shit that will only help him further his career within permaculture. The rules around this program are militant and have zero flexibility. He will claim to "hold a container" for the classmates, which means that you will be under his control the entire program. His inability to listen to others is demonstrated nightly at the closing circle when he will only respond with “ Thank you, I hear what you are saying” yet that will be the ONLY thing he responds with. Fear based ideologies and mind control are taught daily to leave us with the feelings of destruction, domination and control..

COMMON CIRCLE CLASSES NEED TO BE AUDITED! I would NEVER recommend anyone to take this course unless you would like to become part of a pretty shitty cult. I took this class and have kept in touch with many classmates who needed to seek therapy after this detrimental psychotherapy course. THIS IS NOT PERMACULTURE. Be cautious of this man! He is deceiving and slimy. With his nicely designed website, it is very easy for anyone to appear knowledgeable as though they are an expert, yet they know very little. Slav is a true narcissist with a huge ego. He is looking for a platform to be heard. Narcissists truly believe that their way is the only way. He honestly cannot hear our criticisms. That is the danger in this type of personality disorder. Controlling the container is his top priority. DO NOT TAKE ANY COMMON CIRCLE EDUCATION CLASSES! YOU WILL WASTE YOUR MONEY!