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30.5.08

Vincent Wright driven to the brink of suicide: can you help? 

I thought I was saddened enough last week when , arguably the world’s biggest evangelizer of , decided to sever his ties with the service. Now I wake up here in New Zealand to news that he was seriously contemplating and left a note for members (the chilling ‘By the time you read this, I will be dead’ type) of one of the biggest LinkedIn discussion forums.
   Vincent says clearly that it was not the LinkedIn treatment that drove him to this decision, but events at and his allegedly in 1996:

I wanted to be somebody’s husband, somebody’s father, somebody’s supporter, somebody’s champion. I just could not figure out how to recover from Burkholder’s deception and how he set me up at CIGNA Corporation on October 22, 1996. He lied through and through and tricked into using its power to back him against me. CIGNA’s backing helped to turn October 22, 1996 into my personal September 11th. …
   I don’t have time to go into details with you tonight but, I knew I was a dead man as soon as I read Burkholder’s false dismissal notice on October 22, 1996. Burkholder accused me of missing a meeting with a CIGNA Executive whom I considered a personal hero. And Burkholder accused me of offering a woman a job in exchange for sex. Trouble is the woman DIDN’T EXIST! I tried for years to convince anyone who would listen that Burkholder made up that story. And he made it up to cover up how badly he was mismanaging the Staffing Department at CIGNA. For example, he paid an exorbitant amount of money to was of his business colleagues to teach a class on Behavioral Interviewing Skills. Burkholder forced me to go to that class on October 23, 1996. Oddly enough he knew from my resume that I’d taught that class to approximately 60 IT Managers at United HealthCare immediately before he seduced me to leave UHC to come to CIGNA. He then accused me of missing an appointment ON OCTOBER TWENTY THIRD NINETEEN NINETY SIX. In spite of the fact his friend Lynn Nymser signed a certificate indicating that I was in the all day class with her and other HR Managers, Burkholder used that date to indicate that I had missed a meeting. Folks even as I’m about to commit suicide what Burkholder did to me sickens me more than my imminent death.


   I have no way of verifying this information but this was the part of the note that struck me most. One or two negative people can indeed send you on a spiral of greater and self-doubt. This is clearly what happened to Vincent and it’s a lesson to anyone thinking negatively that they can turn things around.
   Vincent hung on for decades afterwards, and his championing of LinkedIn, promoting individual members’ causes and leading by example on how to network made him a friend and even an idol to those using social and websites. In fact, he says his worked championing LinkedIn encouraged him to keep on living.
   However, this hid the fact that financially, he was in terrible trouble.
   I can tell you that Vincent is still alive, according to members, who over the last 12 hours have been tracking him down and a donation process is now under way to at least help Vincent temporarily. This is the great thing about the human character: when someone is down, his or her back against the wall, people do rally around. (You can donate, too, by surfing to mylinkingpowerforum.ning.com and clicking the button in the top right-hand corner. It’s a PayPal account and all credit cards are accepted.)
   I’ve offered my skills in résumés and graphic design to help Vincent get back on his feet when he’s able.
   Once things are stabilized and things are looking brighter, there are few who would deny that Vincent Wright has amazing strengths in writing, networking, communication and online media.
   Google Vincent Wright (including the Blog Search and News Search) and you will see supporters from all walks of life, all over the world.
   If you know Vincent, or you have been a supporter of the work he has been doing, please consider helping in any way possible. He is a brilliant man who deserves it.
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26.5.08

Vincent Wright says, ‘Enough is enough,’ with LinkedIn 

I was saddened to receive the following email from my friend Vincent Wright, about the experiences he’s had with LinkedIn Corporation.
   I have been a user since 2003, and was probably one of the earliest users on it. As long as I’ve known Vincent, I’ve known him to be an evangelist for the service.
   He’s set up groups championing LinkedIn, and while they do use the LinkedIn , traditionally most companies would allow that.
   It looks like it’s got nasty for no real reason on LinkedIn’s end.
   While Vincent has championed LinkedIn, it hasn’t been reciprocated. I should note that this is Vincent’s side of the story only, and I shall be interested to learn of any responses from LinkedIn.
   I know it takes a lot for Vincent to be pushed into a corner where he has no choice but to take pretty serious action. He’s a very patient guy, but when LinkedIn made its last phone call to him in March 2007, I can’t blame him for running out of patience.
   It looks like LinkedIn got involved. Lawyers who do not know all the facts, as usual.
   I wonder if any company or organization would threaten its own fans in such a way—perhaps the Obama campaign asking netizens to remove their Obama ’08 logos?
   The following has only been edited for paragraphing and a few style items (e.g. quotation marks) to match the rest of this blog.
   I welcome LinkedIn contacting me so I can blog its response, if it so wishes.

Imagine a guest in your home whom you’ve made every effort to be courteous and respectful to—watching your every move—with jaundiced eyes—for 3 years.
   Imagine that in the last year the guest continued to stay in your home but stopped communicating with you—though there is much, much, much to communicate about.
   Even if the guest in your home doesn’t think you, as host, are worthy of a conversation, such a silent guest can make your own home seem inhospitable to you, the owner. Imagine how creepy that would be and what it does to your home environment…
   Since March 16, 2005, at least 10 Linkedin employees, including Linkedin’s Founders, have voluntarily made themselves my house guests at www.MyLinkedinPowerForum.com*
   That’s 99·999% of the lifespan of MyLinkedinPowerForum.com.
   My Linkedin house guests invited themselves. None received an invitation from me.
   Over the past 3 years of developing MyLinkedinPowerForum.com, when Linkedin employees would join, I’d rapidly give them permission to post unmoderated messages to to MyLinkedinPowerForum.com and any other of my groups I was aware they’d joined. Several Linkedin employees readily availed themselves of the opportunity to post unmoderated messages to MyLinkedinPowerForum.com.
   As you might imagine, over the past 3 years, there’s been a lot of communication within the house I call MyLinkedinPowerForum.com—almost 40,000 messages—most of which were respectful of my house guests—some, of course, may have been a bit challenging for Linkedin to listen to.
   As their host on My Linkedin Power Forum, it had always been my preference and, indeed, my intention to be respectful and hospitable to the Founders and to the employees of the company on whose corporate name My Linkedin Power Forum was derivatively conceived.
   For the most part, historically, the house guests have been tolerable—especially considering that the guests once made contributions to the conversational welfare of the household—no financial contributions, no structural, or maintenance contributions, however. The guests’ contributions were exclusively conversational, informational. My Linkedin guests contributed to conversations centered on their own primary concerns. Not infrequently, Linkedin Corporation would make weekly announcements on Friday nights about upgrading its own home at Linkedin.com
   Thousands of members of MyLinkedinPowerForum.com found many of those updates informative and some would contribute their own feedback about the Linkedin upgrades. (See the 40,000 messages in the archives for MyLinkedinPowerForum.com: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/MyLinkedinPowerForum/messages**** )
   Because within the past year, Linkedin Corporation has shown itself to be completely indifferent to MyLinkedinPowerForum.com in general and to me, personally, I think it only appropriate to reciprocate in “the Linkedin manner”. Meaning: I’m clear that Linkedin’s success or failure has nothing to do with MyLinkedinPowerForum.com, in general, nor with me, personally.
   Further, Linkedin, my house guest, has taken to a vow of silence over the past year or so.
   Linkedin’s silence leads to this most fundamental question: What good is a house guest who won’t speak to you?
   Finally, Linkedin, my house guest not only has taken to its vow of silence with respect to me and my other guests, since September 27, 2007, Linkedin has been hanging the issue of its vaunted trademark and indecipherable group and photo policies over our heads like the proverbial Sword of Damocles.
   One shouldn’t feel that uneasy in ones own home.
   And, too, Linkedin has unilaterally made decisions to force me to change the group name and icon for My Linkedin Power Forum on Linkedin, though they okayed BOTH as an “official” Linkedin group on July 15, 2005. (Though it was costly to make such an inordinate amount of changes, this one I can understand.)
   Linkedin has unilaterally made a decision to take down an icon for my photo. No, “Hey, Vincent! You can’t have an icon on Linkedin!’
   Linkedin has unilaterally suspended my group called “Keep STRONG”, one of the most innocuous, non-threatening groups I’ve ever created ­
   Here’s the heart of the matter about Linkedin’s decision regarding “Keep STRONG”: its rationale for suspending the group makes NO SENSE.
   If Linkedin followed its own rules and applied them without discrimination to all other groups equally, it would have THOUSANDS FEWER GROUPS than it now has. If Linkedin followed the guidelines it used to justify suspending “Keep STRONG”, Linkedin would have to suspend other groups of mine which they formerly approved—groups such as “The Encouragement Engine” and “The Science Of Encouragement” and “Pursuing Relentless Optimism” and “Attractionese” and “Linkonomics” and “Yearnalism” and “Linking And The Secret” and “The Biggest Business In The World” and “Linking Eyes To Find Missing Children”
   Linkedin has made all its decisions without discussion, without phone calls, without advanced warning via email, without a hint, without a clue…
   All with suddenness. All with maddening inconsistency.
   Inconsistency is infectious. Those of us trying to follow Linkedin’s lead have, ourselves, seemed inconsistent.
   It is also my belief that Linkedin has sent or authorized to be sent a letter to me claiming that I am intentionally violating their trademark/brand name in using the domain GetLinkedin.info. (That letter indicated that I was abusing Linkedin’s trademark with the logo I have on the site associated with the URL for GetLinkedin.info. Apparently, the author of that letter wasn’t aware that though I conceived the logo, Linkedin Corporation rendered the logo, sent it to me, and permitted me to use it for My Linkedin Power Forum *on* Linkedin.com starting on July 15, 2005 and lasting through about September 27, 2007. Again, though I conceived the logo, Linkedin rendered the logo. To the unbiased, this should be proof positive that not only has Linkedin been aware of my using the logo for MyLinkedinPowerForum.com but, indeed, they were complicit in helping me to create and use the logo which shows at MyLinkedinPowerForum.com, GetLinkedin.info, and PromotionPromotionPromotion.com. The logo in question was used by My Linkedin Power Forum for more than 2 years in the groups section directly on Linkedin.com
   I’ve reached out.
   I’ve waited.
   I’ve been patient.
   I’ve heard nothing—for more than half a year…
   Linkedin’s last phone call to me was March 23, 2007—an impossible date to forget.
   Many others have told me that they, too, have reached out, have waited, have been patient, and have heard nothing from Linkedin. Some surprising, long-time supporters have told me that they’ve also been cut off of Linkedin’s loop.
   Certainly, Linkedin deserves to have time to make itself into whatever it’s making itself in to—I hope and pray it’s something really good—something worthy of the alienation grassroots supporters have been subjected to—but, I’m convinced that not one single Linkedin employee—Founders included—would like to be subjected to the same silence some of Linkedin’s former evangelists have been subjected to.
   I choose to no longer wait for my mute house guest(s).
   And, too, please bear in mind that there are other matters in my relationship with Linkedin coloring my decision to no longer wait for my mute house guests. They are too numerous to fully go into in this letter but, a couple of examples:
   1. Linkedin has questioned certain posts I made on MyLinkedinPowerForum.com. For example, in that MyLinkedinPowerForum.com is based on Yahoo Groups, when I made an announcement regarding a new Yahoo service, I was asked by one of the Linkedin Founders why I posted something about Yahoo on a Linkedin-centric forum. Now here’s the interesting thing about that particular question: I only found out about that Yahoo service because the very Linkedin person who questioned me about it sent me an invitation to join him ON that Yahoo service! I’d never even heard of that Yahoo service until I received an invitation from Linkedin’s Co-Founder. So, I was dumbfounded when I got his email questioning why I’d posted something about Yahoo on my Linkedin-centric group which is HOUSED ON YAHOO GROUPS! Please think about that and let it soak in for a moment.
   2. Also, I was questioned about the content of member posts on MyLinkedinPowerForum.com. For example: One person who’d been highlighted on Linkedin *by* Linkedin, joined MyLinkedinPowerForum.com and posted about enjoying Linkedin AND one of its primary competitors at the same time. Not only was I questioned about that particular post, Linkedin informed me that they were removing this person as an example of the type of person they wanted to highlight. Because this member had deigned to blog about a Linkedin competitor, that person instantly became persona non grata to Linkedin. They’d done nothing wrong, nothing egregious—other than complimenting the merits of one of Linkedin’s competitors. (I never told this person about that behind the scenes conversation.) Of course, this left me feeling constricted about what members could and could not post and what I could and could not do with my own little grassroots discussion group.
   This questioning indicated that I’d have to pay a lot more attention to member posts than I’d originally thought when I conceived of MyLinkedinPowerForum.com back in 2005. It proved to be exhaustingly time consuming. So, I balked at adhering to Linkedin’s guidelines.
   Thus, after investing thousands upon thousands upon thousands of uncompensated hours championing Linkedin and answering the questions of thousands of Linkedin users, I must say that even were every Social Network Analyst, every Ivy League School, every law firm, every Journalist in the world, every Venture Capitalist under heaven’s sun, every Fortune 500 Company, every one of Linkedin’s 21,000,000 members were to take Linkedin’s side in this matter, today, Memorial Day, May 26, 2008, I am evicting Linkedin from MyLinkedinPowerForum.com
   Some may say that this is unduly harsh and that I may be overreacting by taking such a dramatic step. But I say “enough is enough”. I’ve had more than enough to convince me that I no longer want to champion Linkedin in its current manifestation. Sometimes silence forces us to take the most dramatic actions available to us. Some of us feel compelled to take fairly strong, declarative steps to back away from Linkedin as it goes on to the next phase of its existence. But even if Linkedin were to become the greatest Internet company in the history of humanity over the next 1,000 years, I want to focus on something healthier than on a company which alienates its former grassroots evangelists the way Linkedin has chosen to do…
   Now, I have no expectation that the gesture I make today will have any measurable impact on Linkedin. My action is not meant for that. After all, they are more than Goliath and I’m less than David. Rather, my gesture this Memorial Day is intended as a personal declaration of independence. And I’m forcing the issue today because some of the recent gestures Linkedin has been making towards others and towards me, have left me feeling completely uncomfortable having Linkedin employees as my guests. And though I still have a free membership there, I’m starting to be uncomfortable being a guest in Linkedin’s home at Linkedin.com The trust is gone…and likely irreparably so…
   On a completely human level, I must tell you I feel the pain of evicting Linkedin en masse because there is one Linkedin employee who seems like a real human being—one who really seems to understand Linkedin’s purported philosophy that “Relationships Matter”.**
   While Linkedin seems to have an unhealthy distrust of some of its members, candidly, as it shifts from a small company to a potential Internet powerhouse, I no longer know how to trust Linkedin… Thus, I can no longer trust inviting my friends to join me on Linkedin—so, I don’t. And I won’t.
   Of the hundreds upon hundreds of Linkedin-centric groups I developed both on and off Linkedin.com, Linkedin Corporation knows of no group of mine set up to be anti-Linkedin. It’s never been my intention to ever work against Linkedin. It was my exclusive intent to work with those parts of Linkedin available to me and users like me. (FYI: I’ve spent almost 6 months unraveling the Linkedin-centric path of networks I built over the past 3 years. Most recently, I’ve changed LinkedinBusinessDiscussionIndex.blogspot.com to WhyKeepSTRONG.blogspot.com. This change is meant, specifically, to memorialize to me the final straw in my relationship with Linkedin.)
   Recognizing that some may have thought this day might never arrive, nonetheless, it’s here. It’s the day of “the audacity of nope” as in “Nope, I no longer want Linkedin as my house guests on MyLinkedinPowerForum.com.”
   Though I do wish to thank Linkedin for the coffee cup they sent me, after 3 years of openly marketing My Linkedin Power Forum—as Linkedin Corporation watched—I will not voluntarily change the name of MyLinkedinPowerForum.com
   Upon the publication of this letter, no known Linkedin employee, Board Member, nor internal advisor, nor consultant will be a member of MyLinkedinPowerForum.com
   Obviously, there’s more to this story. If interested, you may wish to stay tuned…
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A brand plan makes better sense than a business plan 

Over the last few years, I’ve made plenty of that have come right. In 2000, I was interviewed by Josie Vidal for The Evening Post (as it then was) and I said we should expect a war in Iraq if George W. Bush were elected (this was during the day of the election). I was pretty forceful in getting the Audi A4 Avant chosen as ’s Car to Be Seen in for 2001 because I envisaged a fuel crisis and that it would be irresponsible to have a gas guzzler. Most of the environmental and initiatives I’ve been involved in, you probably know about. In 2006 it was easy to predict petrol hitting $2 a litre in New Zealand, though for different reasons; later that year I told someone about the ‘Ipodphone’, which may have been an open secret to those in the know, but not to non-techie civilians like me.
   But some these were predictable things, and a few were . I do not employ crystal balls or complex mathematical models. There is also some wisdom to say if you do make predictions that are cyclical, then sooner or later you will be right. A stopped clock, they say, is right twice a day.
   In most cases I was a few years too early: the green movement within Lucire and the quest to make the carbon-neutral at a time when no one had heard of that term. It reminded me of the beginning of the magazine when hardly anyone in New Zealand was on email and wondered why I would even do an online title.
   I discovered I can’t be put on the spot to make a prediction, though quite a few of the above have been on the record. The key, I guess, is to record as many of these as possible, then check your batting average. I’m not likely to remember the bad predictions.
   I am hardly 100 per cent accurate, and I can be way wrong. In 1990 I saw no for the , I was quite happy fiddling around with bulletin boards, and thought it was nuts that some upstart called Paradise BBS would charge its members for this newfangled thing called ‘internet access’. It took me till 1993 to change my tune. Ironically, I also criticized blogging in 2003 prior to the Beyond Branding Blog being set up.
   And unlike the Psychic Twins, I never saw 9-11 coming, not by a long shot.
   So what does this all mean? Well, it probably points at the folly of too deeply and the curse of the .
   The majority of the US’s fastest-growing new do not have business plans, and you could have once included folks such as Google and Yahoo! in their nascent stages. They just plain did it, but love seeing optimistic projections that dragged them into doomed ventures such as Pets.com and Boo.com.
   Of course the projections are optimistic. Few business plans are going to tell an , ‘I really don’t know. I do not have crystal balls. All I know is I will work hard, but ultimately, it’s still going to be a gamble for you.’ Why else would an be in business if it were not for some misguided desire to reject ?
   I do not use the term misguided negatively. If you were to follow conventional thought, you’d probably wouldn’t have a very exciting business, or you wouldn’t have started it anyway. Something drives entrepreneurs, and perhaps the question any savvy investor should be asking is: what is this entrepreneur’s gut like and what is driving her or him?
   There are certain things you can put aside straight away. No great venture has a head in it for the glory. We already know celebrity CEOs don’t possess too many skills other than being good vehicles for the team, investors and for the media, but the hard yards tend to be done by the quiet ones, building up a venture over decades.
   Sir is brilliant not just for his vision and his ability to inspire but he knows what he is talking about. He may well be the first to say he is not the best orator in the world. Did he attempt all those records because he wanted to get noticed? Probably not: he attempted them to get the Virgin noticed. All the while there was a real desire to get on with the job. It just proved more economical on a worldwide media coverage basis to pose as an adventurer, just as it was for Phil Knight to back brilliant sports personalities so Nike could appear on Sports Illustrated’s cover—at a time when it couldn’t afford to buy an ad.
   There’s no glory-seeking with Sergey Brin, Jerry Yang, Elizabeth Arden, Max Factor or even Rupert Murdoch, who is a great speaker to defend his family interests, but ultimately he is a “roll up your sleeves” kind of guy. Many editors dislike him for that reason.
   If the entrepreneur is someone who wants to get on with the task at hand, but happens to have good oratory skills, then all the better. If the idea is left-field or grand enough, resting on or just beyond the fringe, then it might just work.
   The predictions, such as the ones I have made, can come in handy just as a rough guideline, which is what we must always take them to be. It was easy to say that there would be a fuel crisis because some of the patterns of the 1960s and 1970s were being played out at the turn of the century. If I had to point to any method, I would probably say that my accuracy came partly from and analysing the involved, and nothing to do with any fancy-pants Wall Street model.
   However, my pushing this head-first into CSR was not due to any clever forecast, but from an internal desire and sense it was the right thing to do at the turn of the century. Nine-eleven helped somewhat, because I wanted to set some of the agenda in the period immediately afterwards. There was no predicting here: I just happened to have acted more quickly than most other people.
   And the Ipodphone, as I called it, was just a guess borne from not understanding the cellular, mobile world.
   I plain got lucky, and this knowledge only advises me in a general sense on where I would like to take my through the next 10 years.
   So we have cycles and luck making me look like some amazing CEO.
   If I had to write a business plan, I would still set , but set them in a general sense that they are accomplishable without being dependent on economic cycles. There seems little point in a privately held company to spew out exact profit figures.
   I managed to accomplish what I wanted this company to achieve through the 1990s by having a four-page plan—hardly an -style business plan—that set such general milestones. No numbers were included. The internet was not even factored in. And we did all right.
   It’s probably more sensible writing a or , bringing in how one should manage perceptions, because it’s through these that customers and audiences will decide whether to bring you any business. Then find ways of backing that up, all while knowing there a general target lies for the organization. And being prepared to roll up one’s sleeves to get there.
   I argue that this was the way. No record company could have wisely put in an airline into an early business plan and expect to be taken seriously. Yahoo! built itself up using this method, too, managing its brand, perhaps unconsciously, as a friendly, open online community. Google certainly did and was probably more conscious when an employee coined the ‘Don’t be evil’ ideal—which has become a corporate mission of sorts. It even breaks long-held brand views by playing with its logo and parodying it whenever possible.
   Business plans, for all of these folks, came later, only when they discovered they needed them to play the legitimacy game and to give some good BS. When they started taking such plans too seriously, their edge is lost. Yahoo! is the perfect example. Somehow, I think Sir Richard, as a leader, stays above it all, without getting into the minutiæ of next quarter’s profits. He is, instead, managing and sometimes personifying the Virgin brand.

PS.: Free prediction for today: cellphones and Blackberrys will get voice recognition that will spell out text messages in varying brevity.
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Nigerian 419 scammers go mobile 

As friends know, I don’t tend to like those newfangled for most things with the exception of courtship and for a few close friends, and have kept the number very private. How surprised I was to receive an from , of all places!
   Yes, folks, the have gone , and they are probably going through as many random numbers as possible.
   The dumbasses are from +234 8074 354-611 and wrote to me on May 5 with (sic):

Congrats! Your number has won u d sum of $1,300,000 on d OPEC  promo, winning no,C55T24. To claim fund, pls send us email to, opepriz@Live.com for details

Arriving at 10.22 (my phone is on GMT and I am not sure if that is local time or not).
   Mind you, if you are online and you can read this, then you probably wouldn’t have fallen for it anyway. I believe on email alone I got around eight or nine today suggesting I am the luckiest man alive, winning all these lotteries and promotions.
   While I am sure others have received them, I lead a largely cellphone-free life that it was a surprise for me. Nevertheless, be warned.
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23.5.08

On alternative fuels and petrol prices, Muldoon was right 

In January 2006, I predicted petrol would hit NZ$2 per litre but attributed it more to the Labour Government’s mishandling of currency rather than oil prices. Now that the price has come to pass—consider that when I made it, $1·40 per litre was unheard of—I am surprised that no one in the or even politics has brought up the parallels with the and New Zealand’s solution to the .
   It seems a very obvious thing to bring up, so I have to question what people are afraid of.
   Responding to the volatility of international fuel prices, the administration of 1975–84 embarked on energy projects in an effort to make New Zealand less vulnerable. The various Synfuel projects and energy exploration resulted in an era where New Zealanders drove around in vehicles, and we even produced our own after converting it from .
   By the late 1970s, the New Zealand Government was subsidizing gas conversions and certainly by the early 1980s, many (most?) petrol stations offered compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas alongside petrol and diesel. It was just considered normal.
   New Zealand was saving its foreign exchange and people were driving cars.
   In 1984, the right-wing policies of the Labour Government saw most state assets relating to the venture sold off to corporations and Muldoon’s venture was passed off as a folly by the new administration, the of the and, shockingly, by the National Party itself as it changed leaders.
   Even a bid to market LPG as an environmentally friendly fuel in the 1990s could not save it as the National Government taxed it tremendously—something that was clearly not done in the national interest.
   The winners of the destruction of this energy venture were the corporations, predominantly foreign-owned, buying in to outmoded, irresponsible technocratic thinking that has brought a widening rich–poor gap.
The logical and cynical conclusion is that National are as big a sell-out of New Zealanders as Labour and Roger Douglas were in the 1980s. They close their minds to the mere possibility that Muldoon might have been right
   That gap can only increase today with the cost of petrol, now refined offshore and imported by those same corporations, spiralling out of control.
   There’s not a peep from National, now in opposition, to say that it had been right in the 1970s as the only party prepared to shield a little country, so easily swayed by global economic forces, from greed.
   The only logical and cynical conclusion is that National are as big a sell-out of New Zealanders as Labour and Roger Douglas were in the 1980s. And that they are suckers for monetarist theory, all the time closing their minds to the mere possibility that Muldoon—whose policies were adored by successful national leaders such as of Singapore, who did all right with them—might have been right.
   It’s election year—and National’s John Key is silent. Again.
   There’s a lot Sir Robert Muldoon got wrong but on the alternative-energy policies, I can’t find too much fault.
   First, New Zealand is a little country that is too drastically affected by . Even Malaysia in 1997 could not protect itself properly against them. Hence, the , movement cannot be left unguarded.
   Secondly, energy prices are unstable and New Zealanders need to be protected against them.
   Thirdly, demand that we look at .
   Fourthly, this is something that needs a governmental push to ensure alternatives are available nationwide, or at least somehow create incentives for the infrastructure.
   Faced with these basic facts, the development of our own energy sources for the long term seemed to be the only way forward.
   Sure it was cumbersome and expensive to develop, and there were missteps along the way, but where would we be today? Certainly not paying $2 a litre.
   Little did Sir Robert foresee that it would be so gleefully dismantled by his successors—with the same arguments of efficiency so cleverly used by the technocrats of the Slater Walker era in the United Kingdom.
   In spite of all the English expats here, we bought the arguments hook, line and sinker.
   One would have hoped that today, we would remain shielded from these energy crises offshore, with our fleet of natural gas-powered cars. That we would be leading the world in showing how alternative fuels worked, and foreign countries would be coming to us to license our technology.
   We gave up that lead, that advantage, in 1996 to follow the American example of gas guzzlers and SUVs.
   The is mere months away, this is the hottest issue on the book, and no one dares bring up Muldoon. It’s because no one dares offend a few rich bastards making money off working New Zealanders by bringing up a leader who dared stand up to foreign corporate interests.

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19.5.08

The Medinge Foundation Ltd. incorporated 

Thanks to the hard work of my fellow director Patrick Harris, the Medinge Foundation Ltd. has been incorporated in England and Wales. Through this we hope to continue the work of the Medinge Group and, in particular, its commercial arm in . More official news from CEO Stanley Moss in time.
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18.5.08

Ford Falcon smaller than Mondeo in width, height, wheelbase 

Now that we are nearing the E241 launch in New Zealand, and in response to a comment Robin made about an earlier blog post I made on the subject, I Googled the dimensions of the new car and compared them with the CD345 .
   I’d been wanting to do this around the time of the Australian launch and now I see why the details were so darned hard to come by. There was nothing on the Ford Australia site at the time of launch.
    uses tags such as CD and E to signify the size of car, so the Ford Ka is B class, the Focus is C, the Mondeo and Fusion are CD, and the Taurus is D. Falcon, traditionally the biggest car, is E (as is the Territory SUV). Minivans are given the V tag.
   Here’s the kicker: the Mondeo is bigger than the Falcon in overall dimensions with the exception of length, which might not mean much to buyers interested in a car’s packaging. They want to know wheelbase and width, and interior volume (which I did not look up).

E241 Falcon
L: 4,955 mm (up 25 mm from last EA169)
W: 1,868 mm (up 4 mm)
H: 1,453 mm (up 9 mm)
Wheelbase: 2,838 mm (up 9 mm)

CD345 Mondeo
L: 4,778 mm
W: 1,886 mm
H: 1,500 mm
Wheelbase: 2,850 mm

   Ford and the other manufacturers know that ultimately, people judge a car’s size by engine capacity, in which case the Falcon’s base four-litre unit is more substantial than the Mondeo’s base two-litre (in the market).
   Hence, the Impala also suffers from the tape measure stakes compared to the new Malibu in the —but the Impala is not exactly a new car. Here we are talking about a brand-new design that, in global terms, should be bigger than the Mondeo.
   If you start looking at the Mondeo Turnier (wagon or estate), the measurements are even more substantial for length and height.
   Ford was probably wise not to renew the EA169 Falcon wagon this year, and leave it as a workhorse model. The Mondeo Turnier probably suits that market very well anyway and with the diesels, it will appeal to fleets.
   But it is tempting to start talking about the death of the full-size Australian car when the mid-size European car can no longer be considered mid-sized.
   Ford is now integrating its Australian operation into its global R&D anyway, but somehow I do not think sees it as a centre of excellence for big cars as sees its outpost.
   Instead, I suspect Ford sees as a place where it can speak English to engineers who can design for the entire market, including .
   I know that every 20–5 years there’s noise about the present Falcon being the last all-Australian car. In the late 1970s, there were thoughts about replacing the Blackwood (XD–XF) Falcon with a stretched Mazda Capella, under Project Capricorn. It never happened, but Ford was serious.
   Ford may yet discover there’s demand left for a full-size, rear-wheel-drive car and Australia and North America might team up on a replacement for the E241 Falcon and the Crown Victoria, but it’s usually been slow on the uptake when it comes to this segment. Already it has sacrificed part of that market to Dodge in the US, especially for police cruisers; the demise of the Fairlane and LTD Down Under means Holden will pick up that business; and when the finally dies, where will those customers go?
   For sentimental reasons, there is room for a rear-wheel-drive, big Ford. And I’m willing to bet that the Red Chinese, with their love of big Mercedes-Benzes and even the rebadged Holden Statesman (Buick Park Avenue there), won’t be arguing if Ford puts one their way. It makes economic sense, but I wonder if Dearborn is listening.
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9.5.08

Leadership comes from the grass roots, not institutions 

Sometimes I surprise myself on what comes up in blog comments. In a thread about the Iraq war and the short memories of nations over on Vox, I wrote the following. And as I wrote, I believed this to be a possible truth.

To go forth in the we need to discover our past, a hard thing in an age of short memories as you say. … might not come from size but from those nations that have steadfastly refused to give in to the prevailing decline in so many places. , for all its refusal to join the EU, has managed to maintain one of the greatest gun ownership rates in the world yet not have a single gun-related murder attributable to its own in most years; , retaining its , manages a city-state with limited natural resources.
   Their example needs to be communicated to the world, as well as the positive aspects of certain parts of the or —they exist, but they are hidden.
   This is one reason to like blogs because they can cut through the shield of the and government . I do not think that we have reached any critical mass among netizens, networking citizens together in a form of . … [T]here are pockets of good people everywhere as you and I have witnessed, just that we are not necessarily visible.
   But that critical mass can come—and if warfare now is at a terrorist, guerrilla level in so many places, I suspect moral leadership itself will come from a base.
   The system needs idealists like us, reminding people of their short memories, and maybe change will be effected not through top–down governmental, propagandist methods or the MSM, but through one-on-few communications from each of us.
   I would rather hope that the next superpower, therefore, is not a nation or even an ideology, but a collective of humankind cutting through the BS and revealing the truth. Who says the ’net cannot be a force for good once more? If it can propagate hate and porn, it can just as easily propagate hope and truth.


   I get reminded of this every now and then by others who feel the same way: Chris, at the Edutainment & Convergence blog, wrote to me privately and inspired me. And when I think back to books like Beyond Branding and Typography & Branding, I think there was a great deal of post-9-11 optimism and the desire to build a better, more understanding world. I find passages of my Typography & Branding inspiring, if an author is allowed to be inspired by his own work, and I can’t have been this cynical back then.
   It’s a good zone to be in and I haven’t felt this hopeful about the potential of the ’net in about a year.
   Last year, I was bemoaning the decline of the as it began looking more and more like the darker parts of society, with gossipmongers and rude, anonymous commenters finding their way on to it. Where were, I asked, the globally minded of the 1990s?
   On the other hand, their entry into this world surely puts them closer to the hands of the idealists who can now shape agenda, creating more hopeful sites and messages.
   And maybe channelling or finding the above message from my subconscious helped me put things into perspective more. If indeed the state nation is less relevant and change is better effected by people helping people directly, because technology has now made that possible, then the moral vacuum caused by various changes in society can be filled.
   All it needs are willing participants prepared to get together to make the world a better place, regardless of their political, cultural or religious stripes.
   That’s really why I got into .
   If we agree on this target, then the rest must follow.
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8.5.08

Dressing up for the General Election: a new logo for the Alliance 

This has been official for a while (or so I think—not that I ever heard what the Electoral Commission thought, but I did see it on its website). However, I wanted the party to approve the news first before sharing it with you all. The following is the overseas release which was rewritten from the one sent to domestic newsmedia.

JY&A Consulting revamps logo for New Zealand’s Alliance Party

Wellington, May 9 (JY&A Media) party, the Alliance, is looking more modern and relevant, thanks to its new logo by JY&A Consulting (http://jya.net/consulting).
   Devised by JY&A Consulting’s , the new logo signifies a new beginning for the political party.
   Mr Yan says that he has been a keen observer of in the , US and New Zealand since the 1980s and that played a part in his team’s design.
   He says the Conservatives in 1983, Labour in the UK in 1997 and 2002 and Labour in New Zealand in 1999 and 2003 had certain commonalties in their campaigns, centring around .
   He also said that in those years, the party’s name was important, not the symbol—hence the traditional Labour rose was not present on that party’s election materials in 1997 and 2002.
   By abandoning the old A symbol of the Alliance and concentrating on the word, Mr Yan says that the party looks more professional and ready.
   The Alliance has contested every in New Zealand since 1993. However, due to party changes it is trying to rebuild itself for the country’s General Election later this year.
   ‘We have two major parties in New Zealand that vote pretty much the same on all issues,’ says Mr Yan, ‘and minor parties that get ignored because of a lack of visibility. I wanted to change that. Why should minor parties be laboured with second-rate ?’
   The logo is based around the Frutiger and its lettering is predominantly in red, with a red dot over the i in Alliance to signify its environmental awareness.
   He says the letter i also shows the humanizing aspect of the party.
   ‘As a piece of I think it looks more cohesive than the committee-led logos of National and Labour,’ he says, criticizing the major two parties in New Zealand.
   ‘I was given a lot of freedom, which is a good sign of how the party leadership handles matters. It clearly believes in trusting the right people.’
   As well as heading JY&A Consulting’s parent, Jack Yan & Associates, Mr Yan co-wrote Beyond Branding in 2003 and is a director of the Medinge Group, a branding think-tank based in Sweden.
   In October 2007 he was a for the Alliance Party at its annual conference.
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David Horowitz: remembering the reason for the Iraq war 



Whether you support the war in or you don’t—and here in we have the luxury to criticize the ’s recollection of why the US went in correlates with my own. It’s why I have always held back attacking President , because faced with what he had in front of him, I cannot honestly say I would not have done the same thing. As Horowitz reveals, neither would Al Gore, who supported Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ speech in 2002.
   The end of this video (cut short) goes into the rationale for war surrounding resolution 1441, which UK PM Tony Blair managed to sell to Parliament—but which, I always felt, the US was less successful at doing.
   This is one of the problems I tend to have with the US , for all my own leftist tendencies. Right now, for example, constituents are begging the super-delegates that they should not select who will best beat Sen. John McCain and the Republicans, but who represents their position. The fact this question has even arisen is disturbing: as representatives of the people of course one should represent the citizens. The minute you do not, you do not have a democracy: it is a quest for power among élites ignoring the citizenry, the sort of thing people were getting away from when the US was founded.
   I say if one opposes the war, then there are ways to do it without resorting to . I might not agree with our PM, , on many of her courses of action, but at least she took a position based on the facts before her and said ‘No’ to going in to Iraq. She has never gone and revised history, and simply held firm on her principles. She has good support for it because most New Zealanders opposed the war and carried out her job (on that occasion) as a servant and representative of the people.
   The consequences of resolution 1441 were always clear but the means of acting upon them were less so because of the way the UN Charter is written, and that ambiguity effectively gave some countries a chance of opting out. Our PM took it, as did the leaders of many other nations. They believed that an extra resolution was needed before war; the US, , Australia and others did not.
   The Democratic Party and the anti-war movement probably think that this is all too tough to sell to the public, so they engage in other tactics, shaming US troops or the administration and pressuring those who have short memories to join their cause. I am not saying that what they have uncovered is all untrue—of course I accept there are dodgy dealings surrounding the war and I even accept some misconduct—but they’d earn my respect if they didn’t flip-flop or cover up the truth. , who voted for the war, who voted for the increase in expenditure alongside Sen. John Kerry, is one of those very high-profile politicians who has changed depending on the trade winds of public opinion.
   Of course a senator or a future president must be representative but she must also stand on truth. ‘I was wrong to have supported the war because …’ would have been a good start. ‘Now the American people are telling me that it is time to withdraw our troops.
   ‘My support was founded on the belief that resolution 1441 was inviolable. It was not, and we have carried out the due punishment needed on Saddam Hussein’s régime.’
   There are millions of ways to spin it, especially ways to do it without demoralizing the young men and women serving in Iraq—and I am not even a politician.
   This would also mean she’d have to go against her husband’s attacks on Kosovo, which also did not have that additional Security Council resolution but was a preemptive strike by the US. George W. Bush is not alone, just that the media give him more grief over it.
   But a mea culpa is not flip-flopping and it is not pandering. It is being honest, something the Beltway sees very rarely.
   What concerns me, however, is that the road to war is a serious matter. It should not be so easily bent because the decision should be founded on principle—and if those principles existed after resolution 1441 was broken then they exist today. Congress voted for the war, with bipartisan support. There needs to be a far bigger shift for any US representative to say no to the war now—so what is it?
   A poor entry strategy, a poor exit strategy, the belief that the US’s only task was to oust Saddam Hussein, the belief that the parameters of the original declaration of war have been fulfilled—what?
   Sen. Clinton has said that she would not have voted for the war if she knew there were no . But as Horowitz points out, the existence of WMDs was not the basis for war. Did Sen. Clinton “misspeak” again?
   There is a popular notion that that was what resolution 1441 was all about and we all remember Sec. Powell’s Powerpoint presentations to the UN.
   But unless Sen. Clinton has misremembered this incident as well, resolution 1441 on November 8, 2002 was about Iraq’s non-compliance with conditions laid down by the international community over disarmament, which included WMDs, but they were not the core issue.
   When Iraq lied about what it did with its WMDs, which the international community confirmed it had as late as 1998, the US took a hard line.
   Iraq itself never offered an explanation on the discrepancy between its claims and tests by the inspectors.
   That was one legal justification for the US and the UK, and, skipping over a few issues, the war began.
   I sure wish the US would just tell the truth about the vote at that time because they should have a better understanding of it, having been there—rather than let people like me catch them out.
   For if a leader bends based on the trade winds, then will she bend based on pressure from other sovereign nations? If Saudi Arabia put pressure to bear on the US, would Sen. Clinton cave in? If a communist nation put pressure on Sen. Obama, would he? Or, for that matter, how far will Sen. McCain bend to foreign pressure?
   We cannot turn back the clock now and see how the message could have been better communicated to the US. We should know, from the Horowitz video, why the US went in and understand who is now lying to the American public: that is important. I realize there is a conservative bias in the video and the anti-UN comments play to a more right-wing audience. But the core issues Horowitz cover are valuable reminders.
   The next presidential election is a chance to address some failings. The economy can be fixed but what is in dire need of repair are the values to which not only Americans want moral leadership, but most of us in the western world. Get the values right, get the truth right, and the rest will follow.
   At the end of the day I care not if the president is a Democrat or a Republican, and I have no say in it anyway, as long as our common values are restored and preserved, and the leader is truthful. And that the decision for staying the course or withdrawing is also founded on truth put before the American people.
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7.5.08

Buy and get gas 

is getting a bit of flak over its petrol incentive: by buying a Chrysler, the company will lock in a price of US$2·99 per gallon of for the next three years. Conditions apply.
   The very valid criticism is that Chrysler does not have many . They are, really, not that well made, their interiors look cheap and the Chrysler Sebring and Caliber aren’t the prettiest. In fact, Chrysler’s smaller cars look out of step, which is a far cry from how the Sebring and Dodge Stratus looked at the turn of the century.
   But this isn’t due to the fault of the Americans, but from the previous German owners, -Benz AG. As I have said for nearly a decade, that company never understood the Chrysler , and is no longer around for the price-leading consumers.
   Daimler missed the massive opportunity of using the ForFour and Colt platform and turning it into the Chrysler Java; it had no idea how to manage a portfolio of passenger-car brands. The -led tactic alone cost Mercedes-Benz itself terribly.
    and Eaton had Chrysler lean and mean prior to the takeover, with US-record development times, coordinated teams (has this competence been lost?) and an appealing product line—even the compacts. The Swabians came in and all the heads of department left, Plymouth was canned, and both Chrysler and Dodge ignored the lower end of the market. It was the Mercedesing of Chrysler cars, and the most positive legacy, apart from some old Mercedes platforms, is the Sprinter van. Hardly enough to build a success story on—when the DaimlerChrysler group had access to plenty of lower-end technology through tie-ups with Hyundai and Mitsubishi.
   I have doubts that those in strategy could not have foreseen the oil crunch during the late 1990s, not examining sociopolitical trends, but simple cycles. Maybe I am showing off, because I did foresee it. I also said in 2000 that Chrysler urgently needed a compact line. It was a sure sign that Detroit hadn’t learned from the 1970s, but the Japanese were primed with the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, not to mention the Scion brand.
   On the other hand, things were strong for , and big cars. It would have been equally silly for those sectors to not be fielded as went for the politically incorrect Dodge Durangos, Ford Excursions and Chrysler 300s. The US got efficient on most measures—except fuel consumption, which went backwards over the last 20 years of the 20th century. But another cycle was that even in the 1970s, big cars were selling, even if their market share was down.
   If that earlier wisdom holds, then there will be enough buyers who’ll say: we still want to buy a large car or truck, for whatever reason. Of course Chrysler sales are down across every division. But for those who might have to consider a large car for practical or egotistical reasons, then a $2·99 per gallon cap is not as bad an idea as the motoring and business press are making out.
   Short of rebadging some Mitsubishis as it had done in the 1970s and 1980s—and which remains an appealing idea given Mitsubishi’s subcompact line not sold in the US—Chrysler is product-poor down the bottom end. It says it has a truck coming for 2010, but at the end of the day, that’s just another big, politically incorrect vehicle.
   Yes, Chrysler needs to develop compacts, quickly. It should do it via captive imports for now. The Chinese deal cannot come soon enough. But in the meantime, the incentive idea will help it—and it’s the only logical tactical place to run to right now.
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2.5.08

Defending Rhonda Grant: the rationale behind the release 

[Cross-posted] I finally came across the full text of the press release attacking Massey University over its story on its alum , ’s second runner-up.
   You can read the statement from the Association of University Staff’s president, Assoc Prof Maureen Montgomery, via Scoop. I think she was pretty persistent, sending it out to the NZPA as well as other —she really disliked the story.
   It’s a shame Dr Montgomery has received anonymous hate mail over this today, when her release is filled with good targets for debate.
   I respect her right to hold an opinion and I think she was right to circulate it, but I wonder just how it might benefit the Association of University Staff, or any institution promoting tertiary issues.
   A lot of the arguments are addressed in our own release, which director Val Lott asked me to write. I was more than happy to put the record straight, something that Dr Montgomery gave me a good opportunity to do.
   You can tell Dr Montgomery failed to do what I thought academics should do first and foremost: get sufficient evidence and maintain an open mind.
   The story on Rhonda Grant was no better and no worse in quality terms than the puff pieces about alumni on the Massey University website, so we know she has been singled out.
   Dr Montgomery writes, ‘Massey’s story reads like the formulaic sort of thing that aspiring beauty queens are expected to say when interviewed on the catwalk.’
   As I said in our release, the reality is the interviews are tough—and there are no expectations of formulaic answers at Miss New Zealand.
   I defend the pageant because I know how tough the judging got: Rhonda was allowed to talk about nutrition, and other contestants were quizzed about everything from the moral repugnancy of bank charges to genetics versus socialization, depending on their university specialization.
   ‘One might expect a university public relations office to do more than piggy-back off what comes across as a publicity statement produced by the Miss Universe organisation,’ she said.
   Publicity statements from the Organization seldom focus on second runners-up but, whether we like it or not, Massey has engaged in . We might argue over the quality.
   I share some of her concerns over but I believe that was sufficiently addressed when Rhonda’s bikini-clad photograph was removed from the Massey University website in favour of something more conservative.
   Once that was done, then the complaint really is a case of the lady protesting too much, unless all alum puff pieces are equally, to use Dr Montgomery’s word, ‘banal’.
   And as deep journalism, maybe that’s not unfair—but it should apply fairly to all puff pieces, not just Rhonda’s.
   If it were couched in such terms, I would gladly stand by her.
   Dr Montgomery’s complaint on Rhonda’s piece specifically might be better directed at government educational policy that has supposedly bred a generation of sex-obsessed high school graduates who might find Rhonda Grant’s figure the reason to join Massey University.
   Actually, on the of youth, I would also gladly stand by her.
   But for now, as a colleague here at said to me today, ‘You have to ask yourself: what does Maureen Montgomery get out of it? It’s none of her business. Why has she been allowed to be involved?’
   I suppose the answer comes, rightly or wrongly, from the stances of liberal universities around the world, and Dr Montgomery’s own informs them. It helps the profile of the University of Canterbury, where she works, and cements its liberal position.
   My own father equated Dr Montgomery’s release to ’s outburst on The View against Miss Nevada 2006 and : ill-considered, narrow-minded, poorly investigated and founded on opinion.
   Where Dr Montgomery and I do share some basic views is how images can shape agenda. I know this. I publish fashion magazines. Let’s not kid ourselves.
    She wrote, ‘Massey University has provided an excellent example of how the desperation to market universities as “attractive” places to gain knowledge and transferable skills intersects with the use of the sexualized female body as a site of desire.’
   There is an element of truth to such statements, but I question if university choices are made based on attractive alumni—even with my rant yesterday on sexualization.
   When I went to university, I had far more pressing concerns such as degree programmes and career prospects.
   Vitally, we are talking about a story that is hard to find on the Massey University site—a site that had proxy errors in the small hours of this morning that rendered it inaccessible. If it were not for her own strong and widely disseminated disapproval, it would have been seen probably by a few dozen people—perhaps one prospective student.
   I’d personally have saved the energy for when universities started putting out alumni swimsuit calendars.
   By all means, speak out—I do on even lesser issues. But consider the effect of the publicity: right now, it seems Rhonda Grant is going to be promoted to national stardom on Close-up and Campbell Live, and the pageant will get coverage on the same day Miss New Zealand Samantha Powell did her Good Morning interview on One. Earlier today, Paul Holmes promoted this as a major item on his radio show in Auckland.
   We couldn’t have dreamed of this profile.
   This has played into the hands of the pageant exceptionally well and, as a judge, I thank Dr Montgomery, even if I do so somewhat selfishly.
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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