Lessons about lying from ‘expert’ Dean Letfus

Last week in my post about Tall Poppy syndrome being the last refuge of the scoundrel I mentioned property spruiker Dean Letfus’s apparent reluctance to answer criticism …

Spruiker Dean Letfus says he has been studying lies.

What I DO find interesting, however, is that the spruiker in question, Dean Letfus, doesn’t actually answer my criticism — of (a) his marketing methods, (b) his hyperbolic claims & promises and (c) his demonstrated track record as a property spruiker/commission agent while promoting himself as an ‘educator’ — in a meaningful way. No. Instead, he chooses the Madoff-esque route of slandering his critic while spouting double-speak to the faithful…

Pursue truth, real truth, knowing you will rarely find it in people who have agendas, are negative or critical, and where their envy is showing.

Oh dear. Speaking personally, I interpret that dodge-the-question-smear-the-messenger behaviour as fitting part of a pattern…

Guess what? He’s still not answering — he’s still doing the smear thing.

AND he’s claiming new expertise (to add to his property and internet ‘guruships’) … (1) as a student/teacher of America’s founding documents and constitution, and also
(2) how politicians and the media tell lies “with supporting lies”. (He’s worked it out, apparently: ‘I have now studied sufficiently to understand [it] as a “tactic” or “strategy”.’ )

Yesiree, the President of the United States, former US senator and sometime constitutional law professor Barack Obama says religious freedom is enshrined in the US constitution, but property salesman, former print finisher and self-professed internet guru Dean Letfus from Pakuranga dismisses that opinion (and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s) as “patent rubbish” (!) — based on WHAT, you ask? Oh, some quotes he probably copied-and-pasted from a religious propaganda website justifying bigotry and second-class status for US citizens of other religions? It’s almost embarrassing.

After overtly damning Obama’s and Bloomberg’s careful, judicious statements about the constitutional protection of religious freedom as “lies”, instant expert Dean Letfus then (if I read him right) takes another swing at lil ol’ me with this brief treatise on news media ethics and “lies” … Continue reading →

Right/wrong vs Can/should

Oh boy. John Stewart (in fine form) revs up on the plan to locate an Islamic community centre (Mosque) two blocks from the site of the World Trade Centre. I like his take, as usual … and his roasting of the Fox News phoneys on their lack of consistency.

And then there’s a squirmy/bad taste segment on religious freedom with The Daily Show‘s ‘Senior Religion correspondent’ John Oliver…

Well worth watching. (Video below the fold.)

This issue is, it seems to me, another of those where people’s rhetoric kicks in and they start throwing partisan labels around — well before engaging their brains.
Continue reading →

Godwin’s Law (again)

Godwin’s Law strikes again…

Billionaire investor: 'Obama Administration's Tax Proposals Are Like 'When Hitler Invaded Poland'. Yeah right. (click)

What an arse, sorry, billionaire investor arse.

Hyperbole and puffery — that’s your DEFENCE?

'We didn't expect anyone to believe our puffery.' Oh dear. (image: treehugger.com)

Lawyers for fuel giant Shell facing misleading advertising charges have told a court in Wellington that claims in their advertisement for petrol containing an additive ‘designed to take you further’ were “hyperbole and puffery” and they didn’t expect anyone to believe them. (Source: Radio NZ News)

RNZ Court reporter summarising Shell’s statement of defence: “The imagery was obviously hyperbole and puffery. No one would actually have believed it … and it can’t therefore be misleading.”

Wow, pretty sharp defence boys. GREAT for trust in your brand.

Listen to Morning Report:

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Or stuff.co.nz:

Ads for oil giant Shell misled consumers by giving them the impression they could travel “appreciably further” by using the company’s petrol, a marketing expert testified today.

Shell New Zealand is defending 22 charges laid by the Commerce Commission under the Fair Trading Act.

They relate to an advertising campaign from April 2006 to May 2007 in which Shell claimed a fuel economy formula added to its petrol was “designed to take you further”.

Commerce Commission lawyer John Dixon told Wellington District Court today that the advertising made false or misleading claims, and the company had engaged in conduct that was liable to mislead the public. Continue reading →

Plagiarism as a business model

Makes you think: One of Tom Scott's excellent 'warning labels' for news media. (click)

What’s coming up for discussion with the new media/old media/social media/internet marketing debate is: how important is ‘original material’?

It’s an issue not just for the Rupert Murdochs of the world: original, quality content for news media — actually any media — is expensive to produce on anything like an ongoing and quality basis. It really is.

Some observers can get all breathless and excited about new media and the ‘instant-ness’ of the internet but much of the runaway success of sites like The Huffington Post and any number of copycats and also-rans is directly attributable to their parasitic behaviour towards the old media they sometimes denigrate. But at least they generally acknowledge sources.

Now, this isn’t intended to be another wee grizzle about aggregators who scrape information from other sources then surround it with their ads … no, that’s cycnical enough, as we have discussed.

But what I’ve seen through this blog and observing others is an emergence of a different aspect of the ‘Content is King‘ idea — and dishonest attempts to build businesses on plagiarism — unsourced copying of original material.

Duplicate content vs ‘original content’

Search engines, we are told, despise duplicate content, although it seems that aversion seems to be overstated by some. (Google: “Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.”) Continue reading →

Leadership — not always about popularity

That’s what I’m talking about. Enough with the pious BS from the religious right and those looking for a smokescreen or trying to earn brownie points with their one-eyed supporters.

Another student of the US Constitution opposes ignorant, shallow religious bigotry. Amen.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday forcefully endorsed allowing a mosque near ground zero, saying the country’s founding principles demanded no less.

“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” Obama said, weighing in for the first time on a controversy that has riven New York City and the nation.

“That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” he said. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.” Continue reading →

The escape of exnzpat, Part 3


In my dream I saw a man.  It was me.  And I remember this…

“…I can feel the walls closing in on me: banks, brokers, lenders, wives, children, and dogs — especially dogs!  Where was Lincoln?  “That Bad Dog!”  There… there he was on the dining room floor.  The floor I spent hours sanding and polyurethaning!  “Bad Dog!”  I went to him, nail puller in my hand…” Excerpt from “exnzpat buys a rental”


Success at last!  Lincoln had had a small clump of dirt lodged  up high between the toes of his right paw, and after what seemed like ages of licking and gnawing, he finally dislodged it.

Lincoln stretched out on Michael’s bed.  Michael moved uncomfortably away from him, deep in his own sleep.  Lincoln took immediate advantage of the space on the bed and stretched out completely, his head almost touching the boy.  Lincoln attempted to lick at the back of the boy’s head but the distance was too great.  He snorted and closed his eyes and soon the rhythm of his breathing matched that of the boy.


What had it been?  Six dinners, maybe seven dinners since his master had gone mad?  Standing above him — enraged, his arm outstretched in anger, the hard metal thing in his hand — and then a strange thing! The yellow horse thing that lived in the attic above had slid slowly through the ceiling.  Lincoln had known that it was there too – he had sniffed at it during the deepest and blackest moments of the each and every night spent in the gray little home.  He smelled it – and other things too.  Dangerous things – their smell stung his nostrils! Now he saw it, coming up swiftly behind his master.  Giant and huge it was; monstrous, yellow in color, with flat and flabby arms, like bird wings.  The creature grabbed his master’s hand and stayed the blow.

“Run Lincoln, run.  Don’t look back. Hide, and don’t come out no matter what.”

The words were not spoken, and yet he heard them all the same.  From his master he heard only a gasp of surprise as the beast took his arm.

“Go now,” the thing said once more. Continue reading →

In a nutshell: a matter of trust

This small comment, in the middle of an article discussing Facebook privacy, explains what’s actually lost when certain spruikers (you know who I mean) expand their hyperbole and ‘puffery’ into potentially misleading claims … and then their offerings disappoint repeatedly, as in the case of some whose activities I have highlighted here.

image: Shutterstock via faqs.org (click)

“They’ve lost the users’ trust. That’s the problem,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group. “In the earlier days, there was time to regain it. It’s not so clear now. I think it’s getting more serious than making changes and moving on.”


As they used to say about Bill Clinton: One’s repeated behaviour reveals one’s character.

Some people advocate a world without criticism or ‘negative’ comments … about anyone.
‘Why are you so mean?’ they ask the critic. ‘Why do you say such negative things?’ or ‘Why can’t you just live and let live?’

Look, when it comes to personal relationships, I get it. I do. But even in those, there are times when the best thing to do is hammer someone on what they’re repeatedly doing or not doing. Unpleasant as that may be. There are times when you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

And as my hero Rachel Maddow tried to do with Rand Paul a while back, there are times when a prolonged sceptical probing spotlight exploring someone’s professed position vs reality is actually the right and best thing you can do. That’s not being ‘negative’ in my view. It’s being responsible. (And if you believe they present a danger to you or others, or that they are acting in a predatory way, why shut up?)

In a case of ‘You can take the journo out of the newsroom but you can’t take the newsroom out of the journo’, one of the ongoing themes of this blog is Whistle-blowers (39 posts and counting) — I’m encouraged by people who courageously speak up in the face of what they see as doubtful or wrong behaviour. I see it as a litmus test of their character.

It takes guts to make yourself a target for retaliation and retribution for the sake of principle.
I applaud them for standing up and following their conscience. Kia kaha. – P

Re-framing World War II as a facebook profile page…

OK, I know I may be WAY behind on this, but if you haven’t seen it — Bwahahaha…it’s hilarious!

OMG WWII on FACEBOOK! by Matthew Leeb on CollegeHumor (click for link)

Thanks to Brett Roberts.

An apology? … Oh, that’s all right then.

Here’s how Bob Jones’s publishers handled incorrect information asserted as fact

ERRATUM SLIP: An Apology — Whitcoulls Publishers apologise to the Values Rangitikei by-election candidate for the reference to him as a ‘whiskey-priest’ and as ‘having fathered five children’. This claim has no substance. In fact the candidate is a bachelor with no children. (Click for a larger view)

… which is a bit different to how Gareth Morgan handled ‘a mistake in the book that must be corrected’ in the first edition of his After The Panic.

I occasionally ask readers to clarify any matters of fact that may be inadvertently misstated in any of my writing here, but so far, there’s been not a squeak. I guess it must all be correct.

That’s reassuring.

(Thanks to G for letting me snap her book.)

Let’s head ’em off at the pass!

Even more on ad-blockers

I was reading over at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, about a new extension for the Safari web browser which ‘cleans’ a lot of the extraneous material from around You Tube videos. Naturally, I’m not the only one annoyed by the ‘creativity’ You Tube’s owner/operators Google engage to interrupt my viewing pleasure. (Interruption marketing: ‘Find out what your customers like doing and interrupt it‘ — a neanderthal marketing idea.)

Here’s a nice extension for those who visit YouTube but dislike its visual clutter. A Cleaner YouTube by 200ok Web Consulting removes all of the ads, sidebar items, comments and pretty much everything else that isn’t the video you’re watching. Once installed, youtube.com simply shows a search field. Enter your criteria and hit return to review the neatly-presented results.
Select a video to watch and it appears centered in a field of white all by its lonesome. Nice, eh? …

We’ve discussed the pros and cons of ad-blockers here and here coming up with the golden rule (quoting myself, sorry):

Desperate for revenue? Then don’t annoy the hell out of your readers.

Reading the comments following the TUAW post, I saw this absolute gem from insider ‘stewy6598’:

This is BS. I work in Internet advertising, and this is how we make money. I understand ads are annoying, but just ignore them. Free content = ad supported. Just like this site and its parent AOL.

Priceless! Oh yeah, that’s a business model we can all get behind.
Self-inflicted wounds, I say, stewy6598. Why do you think TV remotes have a MUTE button?*

What future for ‘Cashflow machines’?

The implications for those selling ‘cashflow machines’ based on ‘gaming the system’ of Google Adsense and Amazon click commissions are worth considering. Before plonking down a wad of cash to learn how to ‘steal traffic’ perhaps one should consider the landscape, and how it’s changing.

Of course, the spruikers selling the systems will want you to ‘buy now!’ … because it’s “mind-blowing” and “the most incredible cash-flow opportunity I have ever seen in my life”.

Meanwhile, apparently this (below) is nothing to do with internet marketing gurus [cough] Shaun Stenning and Dean Letfus (who made such an impression with their You Tube Traffic Thieves ‘special report’ ).

Originality is not generally a spruiker's trait. Any resemblance must be a coincidence.

Oh no. This cashflow machine ‘Google Sniper’ is a different thing entirely to their ‘sni.pr’ ‘Made for Adsense/Amazon’ cashflow machines … or their ‘Twa.lk 2.0’ – ‘Make big money on social media’ cashflow machine. Not them, apparently.

But you’d be forgiven for thinking it was. Watch the similar hyperbolic claims. (‘Zero to six figures’. ‘FREE traffic for life’, ‘The complete blueprint’. ‘Holy Grail of affiliate marketing’ etc etc.)

Must be a different internet whizz kid. (I hear there are quite a few around.)

– P

* Read further down the comments on the TUAW post and you’ll see someone reports the current version extension clashes with the BBC iPlayer … so be cautious (… which is why I read comments.)


Creativity — There are these AMAZING shoes…

Gaetano Pesce, shoes. Wow. image: melissashoes.com.br. via NYTimes

… which I read about in the New York Times:

[Italian architect and designer Gaetano] Pesce’s new shoe for the Brazilian company Melissa — an ankle bootie composed of interconnected PVC circles, whose form can change at the whim of its owner with a swift slice of the scissors. Cut once, and the boot becomes a bootie; cut again, and it’s a ballet flat, a peep toe, a sandal or even a flip-flop. ‘‘This is the future of mass production,’’ Pesce says. ‘‘With the technology we have today, we can give people something that is half done and ask them to finish it.’’ Go to melissashoes.com.br.


Another reason to speak up now

Speak up! Tell your truth — Do the right thing NOW.
You may not always have the opportunity …

Thought-provoking art from painter Kristin Calabrese: 'My Only Regret', 2010, oil and acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches (click to visit her website)

As someone said elsewhere: “I am not perfect or lily white and try never to claim to be.”  … but we do our best, right? (This art just resonated for some reason.)

Tall poppy syndrome: last refuge of the scoundrel?

Is a claim of ‘tall poppy syndrome’ the last refuge of the scoundrel?
(Yes, I know that’s supposed to be patriotism. But how about it? Or perhaps it could be claims of religious virtue?)

Whistleblowers often get called 'envious competitors'. But what if they're proven right?

Here’s a typical definition of the ‘syndrome’ …

Tall poppy syndrome: a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers. Jealousy cuts the mustard too. — from Jeroen Ten Berge

Well, one can’t argue with the idea that THAT would be a terrible thing.

Jealousy, envy and resentment are ugly emotions, I’m sure we all agree, and surely can’t motivate (emot-ivate) any good thing, can they?

But hang on. What if the ‘high achiever’ under fire by a critic is actually a fake and a liar.
What if the ‘genuine merit’ is phoney?

e.g. let’s say someone claimed things that were untrue — for instance, citing success or achievements that are exaggerated and (perish the thought) trumpeting ethics and motivations that were … dubious.

What if they claimed titles like ‘most trusted advisor’ or ‘top investor’ or … ‘leading expert’, ‘top guru’ … and these were baseless, even misleading marketing claims?

Question: Is someone who exposes those false claims invoking tall poppy syndrome? … or are they unmasking a fraud? (The question answers itself, doesn’t it?)

A case in point: Harry Markopolos, the whistleblower who repeatedly warned authorities in the US about the scam being perpetuated by Bernard Madoff was NOT indulging in tall poppy slashing — although it’s apparent a US version of that particular smear would probably have been directed at him.
In fact, he was trying to blow the whistle on a criminal. Continue reading →

I had to laugh …

One of my key research tools as a writer is a very flexible archiving system called DEVONThink … which its brilliant creators describe as an

Information Manager with Built-in Artificial Intelligence

I’ve been using it for five years (almost to the day: I bought my first version on 9 August 2005) and the artificial intelligence is impressive (although it creeps up on you sometimes).  The database of information and materials I’ve loaded into DEVONThink over that time is huge and wide-ranging … and only getting more valuable with age. (Ahem)

In my experience, the power of DEVONthink’s artificial intelligence (AI) is that it alerts me to links between items in the  database that I wouldn’t have made.

Sure, the program has a superb and flexible search function, but the extra edge of the AI is that it can classify and suggest other items in the database whose relationship I might not have recognised.

For example, it will find an article I downloaded from the New York Times which parenthetically mentions an aspect of something I’m looking at presently — and suggest that I ‘See also… ‘ … and often, I’ve appreciated the suggestion.

It’s very, very good technology for someone like me — a journalist, writer and evidence gatherer. (I know this must sound like an enthusiastic endorsement — it’s genuine. I’m not an affiliate or anything for DEVON, just a happy user.)

Anyway, then I saw this sign recently … and had to laugh.

Ain’t that the truth?