August 23, 2007

The Internet Wall of Shame Isn’t Going Anywhere Soon

From Reporters without Borders (HT BoingBoing via Instapundit):

Government gets blog service providers to sign “self-discipline” pact to end anonymous blogging

Reporters Without Borders condemns the “self-discipline pact” signed by at least 20 leading blog service providers in China including Yahoo.cn! and MSN.cn. Unveiled yesterday by the Internet Society of China (ISC), an offshoot of the information industry ministry, the pact stops short the previous project of making it obligatory for bloggers to register, but it can be used to force service providers to censor content and identify bloggers.

Google isn’t mentioned. This RConversation link from earlier this month indicates that Google is as censorious as it has ever been. So on anonymous blogging, maybe the ChiComs didn’t feel they even needed an agreement from Google.

“The Chinese government has yet again forced Internet sector companies to cooperate on sensitive issues – in this case, blogger registration and blog content,” the press freedom organisation said. “As they already did with website hosting services, the authorities have given themselves the means to identify those posting ‘subversive’ content by imposing a self-discipline pact.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “This decision will have grave consequences for the Chinese blogosphere and marks the end of anonymous blogging. A new wave of censorship and repression seems imminent, above all in the run-up to the Communist Party of China’s next congress.”

And in the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympics.

It Looks like the BizzyBlog Internet Wall of Shame isn’t going anywhere soon.

Amway/Quixtar Is Exposed and Crumbling, as Are the Defenders of One of Their Frontmen

UPDATE, 11 PM — “Quixtar court case in Judge’s hands.” This would be the A/Q case in Michigan against the “Kingpins” (see the text of this post for a full description). A ruling is coming down on Friday morning. Video is at the link (but I couldn’t get it to work).

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Wow — I am truly amazed at how quiet this story has been; as of 1:45 PM today, a Google News search on “Quixtar” had only 20-plus results, mostly in Michigan, and none of them in national Old Media outlets.

Amway/Quixtar’s highest-level distributors — excuse me, “independent business owners” (IBOs) aka “Kingpins” — are going after A/Q with all the legal and other weapons at their disposal, including absolutely no shyness about “almost” completely and thoroughly discrediting the entire enterprise.

I got updated in an e-mail from pyramidschemealert.org, which has a web page on the litigation:

Amway, the oldest, largest and most politically connected MLM – the company that effectively created “multi-level marketing” – appears to be shaking and possibly on the verge of collapse. After millions of victims have lost billions in dollars, after millions of poor people in Third World countries were misled and ruined by Amway’s dream machine, and millions in ill-gotten Amway money were poured into the campaign coffers of politicians to prevent federal investigations, the full truth about the Amway/Quixtar scheme is being revealed.

….. A group of Amway/Quixtar’s largest and most senior distributors have charged in a class action lawsuit that Amway is a fraud, a pyramid scheme, a worldwide scam. The charges – which are effectively confessions – come from Amway’s ultimate insiders, its “top guns”, wealthy distributors with downlines that span the world and have worked with Amway’s founders for decades. The distributors have filed a class action lawsuit.

A big PDF (all scans) of the lawsuit is here. If you want to see the initial dueling press releases, here’s the plaintiffs’ (“Amway Sister Company, Quixtar Inc., Sued by Distributor Group”), and here’s A/Q’s response (“Quixtar Takes Swift Action to Protect Its Business”).

I said “almost” in quotes in an earlier paragraph, because I am reluctant to assign any kind of noble thoughts to the “Kingpins,” especially after reading this from their press release:

“We are not seeking damages against Quixtar, or to shut Quixtar down,” stated Billy Florence of Athens, Georgia, a distributor since 1974, who noted recent regulatory inquiries into Amway in India and the U.K. “Rather, we merely seek a judicial declaration that the non-competition and non-solicitation provisions are unenforceable, so distributors who choose to do so can extricate themselves from continued forced participation in Quixtar’s illegal pyramid scheme and pursue legitimate business opportunities instead.”

I’m speculating a bit, but I would not be surprised that the following is what is really happening:

  • The “Kingpin” IBOs have had a great racket for years — not from A/Q’s product business, but from the “tools.” The “tools” are Kingpin-generated selling and motivational tapes, CDs, books, and other items that lower-level distributors are expected (i.e., highly pressured) to buy, as well as Kingpin-run, profit-generating “pep rally” seminars and workshops low-levelers are “expected” to attend. These enterprises, which are essentially shakedowns that are mostly, if not totally, separate from A/Q, are more profitable, and probably far more profitable, for the Kingpins than the A/Q product business.
  • Amway (then without the Quixtar) was on record many years ago as having a big problem with the “tools” businesses the Kingpins were developing, but then mysteriously backed off.
  • A/Q’s discomfort over the “tools” business has returned, with the help of a class-action lawsuit filed by smaller IBOs, but the Kingpin monster A/Q allowed to grow has become unmanageable, and is on the verge of eating its parent.
  • The Kingpins appear to feel than they can get by on their own without A/Q and build their own replacement businesses. Not going after damages makes them appear more noble, but the people involved are multimillionaires (just ask them) who don’t need the money as much as they need to wash their hands of A/Q. So instead of just one A/Q stealing peoples’ dreams, what the Kingpins apparently hope for is that, absent government interest in doing something to stop this madness, the USA ends up having a dozen or more A/Q equivalents. Grrrreat.

Regardless of whether my theory is accurate:

  • The fact is that the Kingpins have officially called A/Q an illegal pyramid scheme.
  • The little guys further down the food chain have sued A/Q over many things, including the Kingpins’ “tools” businesses. In the process, the little guys have called the A/Q setup, in combination with the “tools” business, an illegal pyramid scheme.
  • The only people left in the whole enterprise who haven’t called it an illegal pyramid scheme are the owners of A/Q.
  • The Federal Trade Commission badly needs to get off its butt immediately.
  • The Republican Party needs to purge itself of any and all officeholders (no matter who they are) and campaign operatives associated with A/Q and/or the Kingpins, and, to the extent possible, refuse to accept any future political contributions from any of them.

Oh, and one more thing….

A lot of people gave me grief when I objected to being represented in Congress by a man who has profited from the Kingpins’ “tools” business as a “pep rally” speaker, internal infomercial host (fifth reason at link), and CD/tape seller; who kept his A/Q involvement, as well as his many years of lobbying, out of his campaign bio; and who (along with all too many others) has helped give the sleazy A/Q and Kingpin operations veneers of respectability they never deserved.

Regardless of how the legal wrangling turns out, those people owe me a big, fat “I was wrong. I am sorry.”

Couldn’t Help But Notice (082307)

Here’s what struck me about this coverage of the hit campaign against Bobby Jindal in Louisiana — I have a general impression that I bet could be backed up by research that when a poll-trailing conservative/GOP candidate goes on offense against a front-running lib/Democrat candidate, there is almost always a reference to how the lib/Democrat “is leading in the most recent polls” — the better to play into claims that the conservative/GOP candidate is “getting desperate.”

There is no mention of Bobby Jindal’s poll standings in the AP piece in question.

Suuuure enough, according to this article in the Lafayette, La. Advertiser, Jindal is comfortably in front — “In Jindal’s internal polling, as in most polls that include a trial heat question naming the specific candidates, Jindal has remained well above 55 percent as the campaigns round the stretch towards the Oct. 20 primary election.”

The suspicion that polls are only cited when they help lib/Democrat candidates would appear to have a valid basis.

Cross-posted in expanded form at NewsBusters.org.

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Amnesty International, founded by a Catholic in 1961 (communist, but nevertheless Catholic, never mind the self-evident contradictions in trying to be both at the same time, according to this portion of the Wiki entry) is now pro-abort. Backlash is, and should be, significant.

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Along with some at the New York Times, add employees at the BBC to the list of Wiki vandals.

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Yeah, it’s about greenTHE green:

Democrats in $7bn plan to turn US green

America’s politicians are waking up to the moneymaking and job creation possibilities of combating global warming and challenging the Bush administration to invest in a new generation of “green-collar” jobs.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives wants to spend almost $7bn (£3.5bn) in the coming year to reduce the nation’s enormous carbon footprint. This has put it on a collision course with the White House, which remains in denial about the dangers of global warming.

A major clash is expected between the White House and Congress in the autumn, with President George Bush sceptical of the Democrats’ newfound enthusiasm for the environment. The best way to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil is to drill for more, he believes.

Never mind the globaloney/Big Oil distractions in the article. Hundreds of existing and new companies are investing billions in potentially moneymaking initiatives every day. Internal projects at companies are known in the corporate world as “capital projects.” These capital projects must be justified on their ability to pay for themselves in a reasonable amount of time.

Many of these happen to be aimed at reducing fuel and utility costs. That would make such projects “green initiatives” that also happen to have a “green” payback.

Many of these initiatives require going to start-up and other companies that have developed the equipment and services involved in making these capital projects work. As these providers grow, they provide the jobs and profits to employees and shareholders/owners that Congress says it desires — but without congressional intervention. How ’bout that?

What Congress is proposing to do with tax dollars would not be subject to the payback rigors companies must impose on themselves to stay in business and grow. Congressionally authorized “green,” like Congressional pork, would more likely than not end up in the pockets of favored constituents and companies good at playing the lobbying game, while the environmental “green” accomplishments coming out of these initiatives probably will (if anyone even bothers to check up on them) be negligible at best.

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I agree with Richard Alter at American Thinker that “A ….. rescue plan for the sub-primes is an undeniable recipe for disaster.”

The dirty little secret of the sub-prime crisis is the fact that sub-prime lenders failed to charge interest rates high enough to offset their expected level of defaults. Make no mistake: sub-prime lending is going to have borrowers who fail.

True enough, but the other “dirty little secret” is that the government agencies securitizing many of these subprime loans lowered credit-approval standards significantly a few years ago. Lenders were, in essence, encouraged to approve loans where the chance of failure was unduly high, knowing full well that once the loan was off their books (i.e., sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and packaged in mortgage-backed securities sold to the investing public), it wouldn’t be their problem any more.

In sum, government-sponsored enterprises helped to create the mess we’re in. Logic, and history, are on the side of the idea that further government intervention is more likely to make things worse.

Update: Commenter “spongeworthy” tells me that “Fannie and Freddie don’t buy sub-prime loans.” Assuming that’s the case, which I have no reason to doubt, Fan and Fred still caused the approval standards for sub-primes to be lowered in the software models lenders use to process loan applications.

Positivity: TV newsman, daughter to donate kidneys

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 8:52 am

From Cleveland:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

When Jack Marschall learned his brother-in-law needed a kidney, he was ready to make the sacrifice.

It turned out that the two men were incompatible. But Marschall’s daughter, Lauren, was a perfect match.

So on Sept. 11, both Marschall, a fixture on local television news shows since 1982, and his 23-year-old daughter will enter the Cleveland Clinic together and come out two days later a few ounces lighter. A surgical team will remove one of Lauren’s kidneys and give it to her uncle, Ken Jakubecz. At the same time, Jack Marschall and an unnamed recipient will be prepped and ready.

“I’ll get to see Lauren after it’s over, make sure she’s OK, and then the same doctor who removed her kidney will remove mine,” said Marschall, 55.

Marschall is now a reporter at WEWS Channel 5.

His daughter said: “It was an easy choice. I have two kidneys, I can live with one. Why not help a person I love?”

Marschall met Jakubecz when he first started dating Jakubecz’s sister, Sharon, whom he married 33 years ago. Jakubecz was a gunner on a helicopter during the Vietnam War, and he attributes his later health problems to his service . His kidneys started giving him trouble after a series of strokes almost a decade ago.

During a recent family gathering, Marschall saw the large lump on his brother-in-law’s arm – the site of the port used for his dialysis. Jakubecz had been going to dialysis three times a week for almost eight years.

“It bothered me to think how hard that must be for him. I think that’s when I made the decision,” Marschall said.

Go here for the rest of the story.