Re-touching to the point of distortion

From an eye-opening Dove soap commercial. Kudos to them!

The 'raw material' — fairly standard nice-looking young woman albeit with shaped eyebrows...

Good lighting, professionally coiffed hair and makeup. So far so good...

Now the DECEIT starts. Photoshop to 'lengthen' the neck, reposition and enlarge the eye sockets, changing the jawline and forehead (!), shaping the lips, 'carving' off the shoulders, neck ... over all, setting an impossible, unachievable target for young women. 'No wonder our idea of beauty is distorted.' There isn't a real person who looks like this.

Watch it happen in high speed stop-motion below the fold.
Continue reading →

What an amazing coincidence!

Er, does anyone really expect anyone to believe this? (It appeared in my browser all by itself this morning after I visited who-knows-what dodgy website.)

Or is it a sign of a ‘scarcity mindset’ to even question my good fortune in ‘winning’ this ‘prize’?

'Click "OK" to close window'? Uh, No thanks. I can close a window other ways. (image: unknown advertiser)

Oh boy. (It jiggled and blinked on the screen, too, in case I missed it. Thanks, Adobe Flash!)


Fraud takes new forms on internet

By Helen Twose | NZ Herald |Friday Jul 2, 2010
…. Cardiff University professor Michael Levi, [says] after nearly 40 years studying fraud and white collar crime nothing surprises him.

Levi is in New Zealand as the keynote speaker at the White Collar Crime and Serious Fraud Conference today at the University of Auckland Business School.

He joins Serious Fraud Office chief executive Adam Feeley, barrister Paul Dale and academics speaking on fraud detection, regulation and prosecution.

Levi said the internet has transformed the scale of fraud.

“There’s nothing new about international fraud.

“It’s not itself a product of globalisation but the internet has certainly transformed the potential for schemes because people have got used to supplying their credit card details or responding to international calls even if in some cases they think they’re dealing with someone in their own country.”

Yah. It’s like that. And in some cases the smooth-talking internet hucksters can and do make all sorts of claims (‘top’ this, ‘most successful’ that, ‘most-trusted’ the other etc.) without people checking up on them … until it’s too late.

The cost of principles?

Not a flattering headline, but I’m sure they have their reasons for the [reported] backpeddle after this brave start back in March: Google ‘leaves’ China over censorship

Will Google roll over for China?

By Marianne Barriaux | NZ Herald Wednesday Jun 30, 2010

BEIJING – Google has changed tack in China to address government complaints about its attempts to evade censorship, as it vied to get its business licence renewed in the world’s largest online market.

The US web giant said it would stop automatically redirecting mainland Chinese users to an unfiltered site in Hong Kong, a process it began in March in response to censorship and cyberattacks it claims came from China.

“It’s clear from conversations we have had with Chinese government officials that they find the redirect unacceptable – and that if we continue redirecting users, our Internet Content Provider licence will not be renewed,” Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond said on the company’s blog.

Is it just me, or does anyone else find Google’s attachment to the valued Chinese-government issued ‘Internet Content Provider licence’ funny?

Internet Content Provider? Who? Google? Content provider?’Content’? Whose content? as Rupert Murdoch might ask. (Just a minor amusement.)

Barack Obama’s Facebook Feed

Very funny.

Heads must roll! (Not really)

image: mudflats blog (click)

Move over General McChrystal, here’s someone else who has been fired for expressing his opinion outside of his authority …

“I must be the only guy ever to have been fired in New Zealand for telling the truth,” Gibbs said. “It was a big call to go with what I thought was right or upset my colleagues.”

… Tony Gibbs says he was “fired for telling the truth” from the board of Guinness Peat Group, ending a 20-year association with Ron Brierley after making an unauthorised statement objecting to the investment company’s plan to spin off its Australian assets.

He is “very pleased” to be keeping his role as chairman of insurer Tower and Turners & Growerstwo of GPG’s biggest investments in New Zealand. Gibbs holds about 10 million shares of Guinness Peat, worth $6.8 million at yesterday’s price of 68 cents.

Gee, ya think?

from the NZ Herald

Good bit of advice

from PropertyTalk, in response to someone declaring they’ve been sold a pup by a smooth-talking Kiwi property spruiker running ‘seminars’ in an Asian city (ha! who’da thunk it?) … this good advice-slash-confession from someone who clearly knows what he’s talking about (poacher turned gamekeeper?):

Hi Chan,

I am sorry to hear that you are in such a difficult situation. During the sales pitch, Mr D will tell you all about ‘positive cash flows’, and how he made his fortunes from a tiny house he bought while he was a student-how easy it is to purchase a property, rest on your laurels and await to reap a hefty profit. Next, he will probably tell you that it is a triple low, low currency, low interest rates, low prices. Maybe even a quadraple low, with taxes at an all time low. All this while wearing a smile on his face with a giggle or two and a spring and a swagger in his steps. Arrogance is the stance.

Such an invigorating and moving speech. After the sales pitch, the agents will move around and call out units that have been sold – like serving hotcakes in macdonalds. You will feel uneasy. Is this a investment of a lifetime? Will this opportunity ever come again ? Mr D is the guru, and if he says buy, we buy. Agents will probably tell you that there have several properties of their own – and more on the way. Envy is the emotion of the moment.

Before you know what hit you, your heart beats faster, and in the next moment, you have signed on the dotted line, and given the agent your cheque/credit card. Continue reading →

More property rights go up in flames in Fiji

image: dancing flames -- (click)

Last week we discussed the (then) latest development in property investment in military-rule Fiji. A ‘stagnant’ resort development (Momi Bay) was seized by the government — over the protests of the receivers of Bridgecorp the NZ funder which held securities over the project. Basically, leaving them whistling.

I also briefly related how property spruiker Dean Letfus had, apparently as part of his sales pitch, offered personal guarantees on sections in another planned resort development nearby Coral Lagoon. Dean Letfus was on-selling these sections to his ‘students’/clients — personally guaranteeing their purchase funds (“full payment in advance” to be “disbursed directly  to the developers” before title issued, he explained), until the purchasers actually received title.

He even compared the sections he was selling (favourably) to the now-SEIZED Momi Bay development “next door”! Crikey. A quick scan of the website of the re-christianed Coral Lagoon resort (now marketed as Malomalo) shows the project is still VERY MUCH DELAYED … although the developers are still chirping optimistically about “the political situation stabilising in Fiji”.

We’ll have more to say about Dean Letfus and his personal guarantees another time … but these comments are just as background to today’s development in Fiji — reported tonight on the website by longtime Pacific correspondent Michael Field…

News of another ‘decree’ — an ‘oppressive restriction’, a different property grab — if anything more brazen than last week’s seizure. Can things get any worse in Fiji?

Tough media laws hit Fiji; Murdoch ordered out

Michael Field | 17:25 28/06/2010|

LATEST: Fiji’s military regime has cracked down on the already heavily censored media and ordered the top circulated Fiji Times to remove Rupert Murdoch as its major owner.

Under the Media Industry Development Decree, announced today by military appointed Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum publishers and journalists can face thousands of dollars in fines for breaking the decree.

When first drafted earlier this year, the decree prompted outrage from international media organisations.
… “All media organisations have three months from today, to ensure that their directors and 90 percent of the beneficial shareholders of the media organisation are Fiji citizens permanently residing in Fiji,” Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“I wish to make it clear that any media organisation which fails to comply with this requirement shall cease to operate as a media organisation, and shall also be liable for an offence under the decree.

“At this stage, Fiji Times is the media organisation that needs to comply with the ownership requirements.” The Fiji Times, Fiji’s oldest and biggest circulated newspaper, is owned wholly owned by Murdoch’s News Ltd.

Read Michael Field’s full story at

Any business person or investor attempting to navigate the crazy political-economic situation in Fiji has my sympathy, including Dean Letfus. I guess it’s just one of those lessons someone with more experience would have perhaps learned before ‘on-selling’ sections that didn’t exist yet to their ‘students’.

Questionable news value

I can’t see what, exactly, makes this six-month-old story worthy of a front-page splash…


Last line of the ‘lead story’:

News of his daughter’s arrest has come at an unwelcome time for Phil Goff, who replaced former prime minister Helen Clark as Labour leader when she stood down in 2008. Polls have had him lagging way behind National’s John Key and a further drop was seen in popularity polls last week amid revelations of Labour MPs misusing their ministerial credit cards.

When could such news ever come at a ‘welcome time’ for any father?

from the Sunday Star Times. (Hardly gunning for a Qantas Media Award with that front page, are they?)

Do your opinions invalidate your reporting?

While we’re down this your opinions make your journalism questionable rabbit hole, if you’re interested, in the US a reporter/columnist for The Washington Post, David Weigel has just been fired/’resignation accepted’ after email trails revealed his rather robust private-ish views of some in the right wing movement (Tea Party etc) it was his beat to cover…

image: (click)


“I’ve always been of the belief that you could have opinions and could report anyway …. people aren’t usually asked to stand or fall on everything they’ve said in private.”

I agree.

One conservative(?) er, ‘publication’ which got hold of his emails, launched a hit piece of their own against Weigel, like this (reporting/commentary by Jonathan Strong,

Weigel seems to harbor special contempt for a type of conservative he calls a ratfucker, a favorite phrase of his.
In a thread with the subject line, “ACORN Ratf*cker arrested,” Journolisters discussed how James O’Keefe, whose undercover reporting showed officials from activist group ACORN willing to help a fake prostitution ring skirt the law, had been arrested in another, failed operation at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office.


“Deep breath.”


“He’s either going to get a radio talk show or start a prison ministry. That’s was successful conservative ratfuckers do for their second acts,” Weigel wrote, likely alluding to Nixon aide Charles Colson who converted to Christianity after a stint in prison for obstruction of justice and founded Prison Fellowship.

I don’t have a problem with any of that. Jeez, those comments are his (private? public? who cares?) reaction to that larcenous character setting up ‘sting’ type operations to create political embarrassment … for Democrats. That he got arrested trying another stunt? That *IS* funny.

And razzing Chuck Colson is fair game — although a friend of mine says he’s become a giant of man since ‘turning his life around’. Sounds fair enough. Second although: I’m not sure the Religious Right is all that good for American politics, however.

I actually like the form Weigel used …. may use it myself. This writing, for example, is 1) simple and 2) effectively makes its point:

“I think pointing out Coakley’s awfulness is vital, because it’s 1) true and 2) unreasonable panic about it is doing more damage to the Democrats,” Weigel wrote.

Read the intensely partisan, agenda-driven, anti-Weigel piece Jonathan Strong wrote:  ‘E-mails reveal Post reporter savaging conservatives, rooting for Democrats’ at Daily Caller and decide for yourself. I read the extracts about what Weigal said about Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich etc and found myself nodding — and sometimes chortling — in agreement. Continue reading →

You say potato, I say …

Cry me a river.

Hanover Finance co-founder Mark Hotchin will not be moving into his $30 million Paritai Drive mansion.
Instead, it will be sold, and Mr Hotchin seems likely to stay overseas.
Klaus Sorensen, who is acting as a spokesman for Mr Hotchin:
“We’re not saying why it’s being sold, we’re just simply saying that it’s going to be sold and people are just going to draw their own conclusions,” Mr Sorensen said.
“I mean, the reasons are probably pretty obvious.”
He said the property had become a lightning rod for all the “vilification” and investor anger over Hanover’s failure. NZ Herald Sat 26/6/10

What some call vilification, others might call ‘consequences’, ‘chickens coming home to roost’, or ‘a little bit of just desserts’.

If one uses lets say ‘questionable’ marketing claims (‘built to withstand any conditions’) and then, as the house of cards is collapsing, one uses ‘questionable’ tactics whose effect is to leave 16,000 investors in one’s ‘enterprise’ and out of pocket and outraged, while one creams tens of millions in ‘questionable’ dividends and continues to live an enviable lifestyle … well, of course one may cop a bit of opprobrium. Hello?

It’s the same on a smaller scale with low-rent versions of these spruikers. They’re just wide-boys with glossy marketing and a plausible manner.

What do they want? A knighthood?

The new breed of journalist-commentator

There’s really good insightful ‘defence’ of Michael Hastings — the journalist who (gasp) reported now-sacked-for-his-impertinence General McChrystal’s disparaging comments about his masters.

Interesting that Hastings’ ‘friend and admirer’ the writer Barrett Brown describes Hastings thus:

it was written by a perfect specimen of the new breed of journalist-commentator that will hopefully come to replace the old breed sooner rather than later, and which has already collectively surpassed the old guard by every measure that counts—for instance, not being forever wrong about matters of life and death.

Leaving aside the implausible adolescent-esque cavil about the ‘surpassed’ older generation ‘being forever wrong’, I know people who howl with outrage a the ‘mix’ of news/commentary exhibited by news professionals like Bernard Hickey et al. Get used to it, I guess.

After all: Why try to pretend you don’t have an opinion that is (a) relevant and (b) maybe actually reasonably well-informed, given the attention you pay to an area of interest on an ongoing basis? Why affect a ‘neutrality’ or fake ‘balance’ when it ain’t true? You have a view? Spit it out!

Anyway, the Vanity Fair article Why the Hacks Hate Michael Hastings is well worth a read.

“The times, they are a-changing …”

Here’s Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show typically excellent take on the topic (video below the fold):

“At approximately 11:04 Eastern Standard Time, the American news media finally realized they kind of sucked.”

Continue reading →

YouTube copyright win. For now.

image: Huffington Post (click)

Well, that’s an interesting turn. Looks like the judge has confirmed the rule as:
Go ahead, infringe somebody else’s copyright (or provide a platform for doing so), then stop doing it as soon as the aggrieved rights-holder demands you ‘take it down’ and … ‘sweet, bro!’.

Hmm, I don’t think I like that. The role of YouTube as ‘aggregator’ needs a different standard, in my view. They’ve built their fortune on the systematic exploitation of other people’s IP. (And I say that as an avid consumer/user of the service.)

In dismissing the lawsuit before a trial, [Judge] Stanton noted that Viacom had spent several months accumulating about 100,000 videos violating its copyright and then sent a mass takedown notice on Feb. 2, 2007. By the next business day, Stanton said, YouTube had removed virtually all of them.
Stanton said there’s no dispute that “when YouTube was given the (takedown) notices, it removed the material.”

Full [AP] story via Huffington Post

AP: Viacom Loses To YouTube In Landmark Copyright Case

A federal judge in New York sided with Google Inc. in a $1 billion copyright lawsuit filed by media company Viacom Inc. over YouTube videos, saying the service promptly removed illegal materials as required under federal law.

Wednesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in the closely watched case further affirmed the protections offered to online service providers under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The 1998 law offers immunity when service providers promptly remove illegal materials submitted by users once they are notified of a violation.

That safe harbor had helped persuade Google to buy YouTube for $1.76 billion in 2006, even though some of its own executives had earlier branded the video-sharing service as “a ‘rogue enabler’ of content theft,” according to internal documents unearthed in the case.

Although it’s a major victory for Google and other Internet service providers, Wednesday’s decision won’t end a legal brawl that has already dragged on for more than three years. Viacom vowed to keep the case alive in appeals court, a process likely to last another year or two. …

My earlier comments re ‘fair use’ — quoting Wikipedia — “The use … does not limit or impinge on the image’s commercial use…” apply. It’s not enough to see and be jealous of the income the founders of YouTube or the buyers (Google) are generating from the ‘traffic’ attracted by the [alleged] copyright-busting.

Does the inclusion of, say, a clip from The Daily Show commercially hurt Comedy Central, as Viacom claimed? (A claim undercut by evidence Viacom employees were busy posting such clips at the show’s producers connivance … building an audience, you know, virally.)

But there’s something ‘off’ about the predator/parasite aspects of YouTube. Try considering if it was YOUR stuff being plastered up on the website, surrounded by ads for which you get nothing … and they do that as a business. (But they pay for the bandwidth, the electricity, and the server farms – phenomenal!)

There’s an incongruity at the bottom of it. Any thoughts?

Take no prisoners

image: (Click)

The canonization (OK, not really. He’s not dead!) of Jon Stewart — America’s most trusted newscaster — continues.

I rate Stewart very highly indeed, which should go without saying, but hey, let me say it.

His recent whack at Pres. Barack Obama’s underwhelming primetime televised oval office speech about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill sparked an interesting appraisal (well, I thought so) of Stewart as a ‘true satirist’ defined as …

A true satirist, and a true patriot, takes no prisoners; he stands for certain values and judges others not by whether they agree with him point-for-point, but whether they can go toe-to-toe with the satirist in terms of consistency and honour.

That definition is a little fraught, if you ask me — but, on reflection, I agree with it as an approach to commentary here at …

Yes, you’ll sometimes read strong judgement here of certain people’s actions and their outcomes (or ‘fruit’ — we’ve discussed that) and, yes, I’ll name names.

I do look for ‘consistency and honour’ — and aim for it. My words may be harsh, but not, I think, unfair. (And I don’t regard nor promote myself as perfect or a ‘saint’, nor, despite the protestations, do I set out to engage in ‘competitor-bashing’. But I digress … )

Matt Zoller Seitz’s full article at ‘Jon Stewart was born to bash Obama —
How attacking the president has turned the liberal “Daily Show” host into a true satirist
‘ is worth a read if you follow Stewart, as I do.

It also has a link to a video of that episode of The Daily Show which is well worth watching.

Oops. Another unpleasant surprise …

The latest in my occasional series ‘Unexpected things that can go wrong with your business or investment…’

image: (click)

Previous episodes:

  • Your ‘clients’ may take legal action against you, en masse, causing your ‘enterprise’ to fold with an AUD $5.5 m loss and significant loss of your own reputation.
  • Google may change their page ranking system to stop you ‘gaming the system’ on AdWords (too bad you’ve sold that as a business — too bad for the buyers!)
  • Facebook may BAN you for exploiting their ‘social media’ site for unacceptable use of your so-called ‘internet marketing’ system
  • ditto Twitter
  • ditto Digg

But how about a bit of sympathy for these guys:

Fiji military seize Bridgecorp’s Momi Bay resort

By Anne Gibson | NZ Herald | Wednesday Jun 23, 2010
Bridgecorp’s receivers are investigating what to do after the Fijian military regime seized the failed Momi Bay resort against its wishes. … The Fiji Times reported yesterday that the Momi Bay Development Decree became effective last Friday. …

“The state found it was essential and imperative that the [superannuation] fund acquired proper ownership of the stagnant tourism project so it could realise the securities that the fund held in Momi,” the newspaper said.

Seized! Bugger!
Read Anne Gibson’s full stomach-churning story at the NZ Herald website.

This unusual state of affairs reminds me of someone I know of who was so confident in the bright future of sections in a Fijian resort development/subdivision he was, apparently, on-selling at a profit (to fund his “work with the poor in Fiji”) that he personally guaranteed the buyers’ funds until they receive title

Does all this sound a bit too good to be true?? Well it is not unusual for developers to offer presales at discounted rates to get s/divisions out of the ground. The level of discount reflects the fact that the funds are being disbursed directly to the developers so potentially your funds are unsecured until title. I am sufficiently confident in the development having met with the developers on site and completing extensive due diligemce [sic] in Fiji that I am willing to remove that risk for you by guaranteeing your funds until title.

There is VERY significant profit in these sites as soon as title is issued or close. My onselling of some now enables me to continue my work with the poor in Fiji and allows you to purchase a significant investment for much less than it’s [sic] true value. There are only a small number of sites left so please contact me promptly if you wish to pursue this offer. CONTACT ME …
— source: Dean Letfus Massive Action promotion for Coral Lagoon development

Lucky for those holding the personal guarantees, huh? Phew.
But seriously, I wonder how that’s all working out? I’d be curious to hear an update from people in the know. Continue reading →

‘Friends’ and enemies …

This looks like it could be a good movie. We’ve discussed Mark Zuckerberg‘s [alleged] personality issues before, and the ‘inside story’ on the [alleged] treachery and deceit at the core of the Facebook extravaganza has, as they say, all the elements of a ripping yarn — sort of a Raymond-Chandler-meets-Bill-Gates thriller. (Bill Gates has skeletons in the closet, too. Another time.)

Time will tell.

Visit The Social Network official movie site if you’re interested.


UPDATE: Ha! Saw this in the NZ Herald this morning…

Apparently 4,992 is ‘too many friends’. (Nice to know there’s a limit. Snort.)