Why speak up?

Recent events have seen me revisiting a theme (or meme?) of this blog — and central to my own thinking:

WHY SHOULD one speak up about perceived wrongdoing?

Adapted from Neil Roberts' slogan, Wanganui Nov 1982

Let me start by saying this: Life is complicated.

Sometimes people and things can appear to be one thing on the surface but as you look closer, you begin you notice cracks in the façade or artifice. You may detect inconsistencies in the narrative, or note a dichotomy between a person’s words and deeds, or be subject to broken agreements … even being strung along with excuses for non-performance.

You may start to experience a feeling of dissonance.

Later, you might even reach a point of seeing the person or situation as 100% the opposite of your original impression. It’s happened to me. When it does, the chain of events leads one to reach certain conclusions.

But back to the question, Why speak up? Why not just quietly go about your business, live and let live, look the other way and let the chips fall where they may? Why open yourself up for criticism as um, well … a critic? Why do it?

I’ve discussed part of it before: I’m sick of seeing the effect on the victims of certain types of ‘sales’ operations. It’s tragic in some cases … and just downright wrong in others.

I also personally think that the decision to remain SILENT in the face of what you perceive as wrongdoing is a perverse mistake and causes a ‘social harm’. (I’m not going to use the word ‘sin’ because it’s loaded with baggage, but, hey, if it fits for you… ) I’ve expanded on this aspect in another discussion prompted by a claim that ‘God told me to cover sin’ … on my way to drawing conclusions.

There’s another very important reason why I think people who SEE what’s going on have a duty to blow the whistle. It’s this: Continue reading →

Ode to a whistleblower

I’ve only met Bruce Sheppard once — at a Howick school gala one wet Saturday, but I’ve read his columns and long admired his outspoken advocacy for small shareholders.

Now, apparently, he’s been snaffled up to be part of the new Financial Markets Authority’s establishment board and is leaving the Shareholders’ Association.

Sheppard said he learned New Zealand’s corporate leadership was “greedy, grasping and self-serving but frightened when challenged”.

Good on him. We need more straight-shooting truth-tellers like him.

And WikiLeaks.

Tumbleweed Dean Letfus pitches the next ‘goldmine’

I take no satisfaction in being proven right (again) about ‘Tumbleweed’ Dean Letfus, the itinerant get-rich-quick spruiker who from time to time features in these pages.

Missing ingredient? (image: Pete Laburn - click)

I observed earlier “He seems to flit hyperbolically from one cash flow generating event (for him!) to the next without much regard for consistency …”

This afternoon a friend directed me to the latest marketing effort from this self-proclaimed “property expert”, “internet marketing expert”, and “sin coverer” and I have to say, it seems very thin, even for him.

Read this blurb (my comments in green):

DEAN Letfus
“Snipr Laser Targetted Niche”

Dean Letfus has been a full time property investor for over 6 years and a part time internet marketer for 2 years.
[Comment: Is it just me, or does 6 years make a property guru? and, even less so, does ‘2 years part time internet marketer’ fill you with confidence that he knows what he’s talking about? Not me.]

In that time he has built, sold and traded over $250,000,000 worth of property [That’s quite a claim. What’s he actually worth?] and he’s not ashamed to admit that along the way he has made a bunch of mistakes. [Yes, we know about some of those: Coral Lagoon, Sponge Bay, Perriam Cove, Storage Zone, Azzura Gold Coast Apartments.] However, that’s what makes him so qualified to teach others about how to create a successful life… [Oh really? Doubtful.] He’s been there, done it and made the mistakes for you, so you don’t have to. [But hang on: haven’t many of the mistakes been over-selling to his gullible naive, trusting clients and students? Not to mention his ‘mentoring’ people while he still had his training wheels on … and he himself hadn’t invested through a property downturn?]

Sales pitch (click)

In the last 18 months [18 months? Crikey.] he has focused his energies on building strategies to create cash flow on the internet to counter act [sic] the disastrous economic situation [Whose ‘disastrous economic situation’? His own, perchance?] and he has successfully built a secondary income from the internet. [Really? From the internet? Or just ‘Selling the dream’ as he and fellow spruiker Steve Goodey did with Shaun Stenning and the doomed Geekversity scheme before it shut down with huge losses and a string of broken promises?]
Now he is not your normal Internet Marketer, he is not in his mid-twenties, he is not a computer geek, he is an everyday person [Is he? I thought Dean Letfus said he’d been ‘a professional sales and marketer for a long time’?] using simple strategies [Simple? Or deceitful? Like YouTube Traffic Thieves?] to get massive results [‘massive results’? Oh, so vague…] online. [Online? Really? So why the near-constant touring and personal appearances at hard-sell ‘events’? Is he selling the ‘system’ instead of using the system? You’ve gotta ask.]

Pardon my cynicism. (Maybe you had to be there?)

But then … look at this current marketing letter emailed broadly about the same upcoming ‘event’ from the very same spruiker with these remarkable ‘afterthoughts’ in the PS and PPS… Continue reading →

Still one of the best

This back page ad from TIME magazine is still one of the most memorable for its ‘tone’.

It was part of a ‘A True Story’ campaign in the late 1990s by the mighty American Express to show their services are more than just a credit card…. that they really do try to serve international travellers’ needs.

I like the photography and the humour:

THE AMERICAN EXPRESS “Had I known the Salavdor Dali etching you purchased a year ago in Italy was never shipped to you, I would’ve tried to get this lovely picture of … er … whatever, to you sooner” SERVICE.

Nice work from Amex's ad agency.

And the nice touch of the ‘snap’ of an attractive, hard-working Amex rep on the phone, holding the picture sideways … well, it’s just a nice ad.

It makes me smile — which is a good attribute for their brand.
How can we encourage that response in our own marketing (for… er… whatever)?

Comments are open.

Why not say it with style?

Here’s a funny and pointed video making a series of good points stemming from the unrealistic, unattainable ‘beauty’ images young women are presented with every day … and the ‘deception’ effect of make-up.

Jenna Marbles — a great example of setting a bad example, satirically (click) for video

How to trick people into thinking you’re good looking is a good-hearted (be warned: foul-mouthed) ‘tutorial’ for young women by Jenna Marbles on changing one’s appearance to get over the fact that ‘you were born ugly’. (i.e. It’s not too deep.)

Watch it below the fold.

And in the meantime, in the same vein as my earlier post, ‘Re-touching to the point of distortion‘, this pic from Photoshop — The Perfect Lie is yet another example of the beauty industry taking what’s already a breathtakingly beautiful image of a person and making it impossible — not a single blemish. I personally think this is unfair to women.

Left: already beautiful. Right: 'Flawless' — and impossible. (click for link)

Continue reading →

High profile conman jailed for at least 10 years

Apropos my comment yesterday about liars being stopped in their tracks:

Go on working your con-game and feeding your lies to anyone who will listen … until you are finally exposed by inconvenient truth (like Bernard Madoff?) and STOPPED IN YOUR TRACKS.

What's behind the facade of some 'motivational' speakers?

I heard this guy (below) speak once. He was very memorable. Highly engaging, funny, seemingly sincere and oh-so-persuasive. I felt ‘motivated’ after hearing him. (I even got a recording of his talk!)

Just a few short years later …

A MOTIVATIONAL speaker who ripped off investors to the tune of $1.7 million has been jailed for 10 years.

Kate Jones | Herald Sun July 22, 2010

Christopher Philip Koch, 60, was found guilty by a County Court jury of 15 counts of obtaining property by deception, seven counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one count of making an offer or invitation in a prescribed interest scheme.

During the Koch’s three-month trial, his lawyers told the jury he had not intentionally scammed his victims but was in a reckless state of mind. [Comment: Good grief!]

But in sentencing Koch today, Judge Carolyn Douglas rejected this defence and found that Koch had deliberately taken large sums of cash from his victims to invest in a high-yield scheme he knew was fictitious.


Christopher Koch jailed for $1.7million investment scam

By David Olsen on Thursday, 22 July 2010

Christopher Koch, formerly a high profile motivational speaker, has been sentenced to 13 years jail after being found guilty in the Melbourne County Court on charges brought by ASIC.

Christopher Koch, of Point Cook, Victoria, was found guilty on Friday 11 June 2010 and sentenced today. Mr Koch was charged with 15 counts of obtaining property by deception and seven counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception totalling $1,152,000. Mr Koch was also charged with one count of making an offer or invitation in a prescribed interest scheme totalling $1,742,000. Continue reading →

How liars deal with a challenge

Rachel Maddow telling the truth to Bill O’Reilly … gee she’s good at this stuff!

Whaaat? Meeting abuse meeting your facts with more facts? (click)

Spot the pattern:

Rather than contribute to a debate about ‘the facts’ Maddow asserted about him and Fox News, (e.g. ‘This is why what she’s saying is wrong…’) Bill O’Reilly merely whacked Maddow’s sincerity (‘you have to be kidding’) and mental alertness (‘Unbelievable. Do you even live in this country?’) and then trumpets the relative ratings of their networks (Fox ‘kicks your network’s butt every night, madam’).

In other words, a smoke screen. (A classic example of a bully’s crap argument style.)

That’s pretty much how liars deal with someone challenging them:
(1) Ignore the facts or assertions of facts
(2) Abuse and smear your critics as somehow mentally deficient or ‘envious’ of your ‘achievements’
(3) Go on working your con-game and feeding your lies to anyone who will listen … until you are finally exposed by inconvenient truth (like Bernard Madoff?) and STOPPED IN YOUR TRACKS.

Then, when you’re out of jail again, move on.
Find another niche (maybe in another country?) Rinse and repeat.

Watch the Rachel Maddow video below the fold. Or visit her page at MSNBC Continue reading →

Good writing

This is a very good article/profile by Miranda Sawyer from The Observer (via NZ Herald) of this complex artist M.I.A.
Worth reading.

I personally like this kind of semi-gonzo journalism:

While Maya is talking, I think: she’s nothing like I expected. She’s gentler, more smiley, more discursive. Still, it would be easy to pull out a damning quote or two; she’s no diplomat.

and the earlier judgement of another writer’s profile as:

To be honest, for the waspish Hirschberg the feature wasn’t that nasty, though its tone sneered and she made many of her points through implication.

Oops. {grin}

The whole thing is worth reading, even if you don’t know who M.I.A is.

The rush to certainty …

A WHOLE lot of wisdom in one bite-sized blog post from Dave Pell, internet superhero:

Talking sense: Dave Pell, internet superhero (click for link)

That’s an apt description of the new national pastime: Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and making determinations and judgments without a full set of facts.

When confronted with the realtime web’s constant flow of incoming information, who has time for a full set of facts? We each take a few seconds to consider a one hundred forty character blurb and then hammer out our reactions by way of a Tweet or status update.
Read the full post

He’s onto it. Good on him.

It’s a natural human tendency (lazy) to revert to shorthand to describe things we encounter — we often frame new experiences in terms we already understand (the infamous, ‘Hmm.. tastes like chicken.’) One of my journalism teachers trotted out the adage: ‘Making the new familiar, making the familiar new’ describing an aspect of a reporter’s job.

The reason clichés are so common in reporting isn’t (just) necessarily because the piece was written by a lazy hack. It’s because clichés, bless them, communicate. That, and tired old hacks who have seen it all before and are reaching for the line of least effort. Also, some things ARE clichés: ‘Minister overspends expenses’, ‘Hollywood starlet comes off rails’, ‘Government breaks promises’.)

I remember reporting my first airplane-in-trouble-alert-at-the-airport story. It got my adrenaline pumping in a way the sixth one didn’t. Same with a sinking ship. (But, to be fair, I only ever reported ONE lion-escapes-from-the-zoo story. And I never got over the ghastly kidnap and murder of a young girl, Karla. Never.)

But back to Dave Pell’s excellent point: the rush to judgement without full facts is a hazardous path. I think the ‘wired’, ‘connected’, ‘status update’ aspect of the internet and (gasp) social media in particular … and the ‘snippet’ or ‘quip’ mentality that often ensues … can lead to a pronounced shallowness.

What’s wrong with taking a bit of TIME & THOUGHT to consider something, a situation, someone’s actions or the veracity of their statements?

What’s the hurry?

Research first, I say.
I’m personally often slow to form an opinion about people and situations. I’m reflective, almost a wonk in terms of archiving and gathering notes and ‘evidence’.

I’m also blessed, truly, with friends with whom I can and do share my thoughts and gestating conclusions deeply. I also check my expression of those ideas with that ‘brains trust’ (Main Q: Am I being unfair?) occasionally drawing back from some ‘purple prose’ (as one of my mates calls it) if the expression is getting too heated.

It’s the same with debate. Why jump down someone’s throat without fully considering their argument, if they offer one? I invite people frequently: Let’s hear your side of it. Have I missed something? Am I misunderstanding this somehow?

It’s different if their ‘argument’ doesn’t exist…. if instead of being a constructed series of facts or data points, it’s just a collection of shallow postures or vacuous, unsupported claims of genius, expertise, godliness or integrity.

You’ll never get to the bottom of that sort of stuff.

Because they’re not being authentic.

Yet another good graphic …

The latest in my series of graphics that communicate

This one from a brief article, ‘The Mental Anchor of Money Mistakes’ by Carl Richards in the New York Times:

from 'The Mental Anchor of Money Mistakes' by Carl Richards (click)

Never argue with an idiot …

… People watching may not be able to tell the difference.”

So, I made a brief comment, mainly about a bloke (perhaps) being misquoted and (perhaps) inadvertently being caught up as window-dressing for someone else’s selling machine.

He came out slugging and justifying his position. Defending his ‘reputation’ with legend-in-my-own-lunchbox slogans, bristling.

It reminded me of this, Dueling Carls:

Watch the video below the fold Continue reading →

Guest ‘guru’ sometime soon?

How long can it be before ‘Tumbleweed’ Dean Letfus invites G Sharp to share the stage as a guest guru? I’m sure his sales pitch would fit right in!

'Lazy millionaire reveals secret' ... Where have I read that before?

I spotted this engaging ad in last weekend’s Sunday Star Times — the very same edition that carried the Property guru does US u-turn story by Rob Stock about ‘self-styled New Zealand property guru’ Dean Letfus‘s changing view of US tax liens as ‘snake oil’, oops, a ‘unique opportunity’.

I had to laugh.

YouTube Traffic thieves spotted in the wild

Remember my review of Geekversity spruiker Shaun Stenning‘s YouTube Traffic Thieves report… An odious little volume?

Apparently news aggregator site Gawker.tv (parent of Gizmodo, receivers of stolen iPhone prototypes) recently used one of the dodgy ‘tricks’ promoted by the young guru’s mephitic ‘e-book’ i.e pinching someone else’s video and uploading it to get ‘their’ traffic.

Charlie Todd spills the beans:

So Gawker.tv posted about my Star Wars Subway Car video today, but instead of embedding my video from YouTube like the rest of the Internet does, they ripped it from YouTube and uploaded it to their own site without permission.

So I get no credit for any of the views of the video on their site. How nice! Also, by uploading their own ripped version of the video, they can prevent me from seeing any AdSense revenue and focus on making their own money from the ads surrounding the post. Awesome! Continue reading →

Now that’s what I call ‘news commentary’!

Taiwanese news 'summary' of iPhone 4 issues — Hilarious! (click for video at YouTube)

Steve Jobs defeats Bill Gates/Darth Vader and becomes the new Dark Lord harnessing mystical powers of the Force while laughing maniacly … oh boy, it’s good.

Here’s an ‘artists impression'(?) of how Apple dealt with Gizmodo editor/receiver of stolen iPhone prototype Jason Chen:

Not exactly a mini documentary. Very funny.

Watch the video at YouTube.

Thanks to John (“My linking to these videos proves that I’m a hack on Apple’s payroll.”) Gruber.

Lying, my dear boy, just compounds the crime …

image: geekalerts.com (click)

A while ago I posted a few thoughts: Potshots from behind a mask of anonymity are, by definition, cheap, saying in part…

Internet anonymity has also clearly been abused by what I call cardboard cut-outs and glove puppets who pop up in online communities to anonymously denigrate their “enemies” without declaring their allegiances (or building a case other than abusive name-calling).

I’m all for well-expressed (even strident!) comments, discussion, argument and debate. I much prefer it to be in the critic’s own name (accountability) but sometimes anonymous can be OK.

The recent case of a British history professor and author, Orlando Figes, anonymously trashing his “rival’s” books and then DENYING it was him doing it when caught and confronted — lying, then threatening to sue his targets/unmaskers for libel (?!?!) — opens up a different conversation.

The aftermath to these events is this unseemly spectacle:

Historian Orlando Figes agrees to pay damages for fake reviews

Orlando Figes posted reviews on Amazon praising his own work and rubbishing that of his rivals
Alexandra Topping The Guardian Friday 16 July 2010

One of Britain’s leading historians, Orlando Figes, is to pay damages and costs to two rivals who launched a libel case after a row erupted over fake reviews [he] posted on the Amazon website.

(Hello “Slapper“? Hello “MUFFIT“? Is there anything you need to confess?)

Here’s a good background article ‘How I rumbled the lying professor’ from one of Prof. Figes’ targets. A low tale indeed.

I maintain there is a way to criticise people and their arguments: cleanly and directly. It’s what I try to do. Truly. (Do I fail? Yes, sometimes I fail.) Here’s an example of how it’s done … where Columbia Historian Alan Brinkley took issue with Seymour Hersh’s book on JFK The Dark Side of Camelot:

How to criticise — in your own name, openly.

Continue reading →