What the web has been saying about DirectBuy (before the Dozier Internet Law fiasco)

A google search for “DirectBuy” reveals spam. A lot of spam. It also reveals the three posts at Informercial Blog, Infomercial Ratings, Infomercial Scams which led Direct Buy and Dozier Internet Law to send a barbaric cease-and-desist order.

Before the Direct Buy / Dozier episode, however, negative and mixed reviews could be found at 419 Legal, Brads Blog, Chris Wondra, City-Data, Garden Web, Owner Builder Book, Ripoff Report (twice!), and even a bad experience with a DirectBuy pop-up at Caleval.

Consider that a web search for “JL Kirk” still brings up a horror story as the first result after half a year — and even my bad experience with NationMaster brings up two of the top ten google results — DirectBuy and Dozier Internet Law‘s hardball tactics are strange. But then, without groups like EFF and PublicCitizen, many more writers would be too scared to speak truth to power.

What the Mainstream Media was already saying about DirectBuy

DirectBuy, before sicking the hounds (and copyrighted c&d‘s) via Dozier Internet Law, was a company that received mixed reviews from the blogosphere.

Even more interesting, though, is the negative reviews Direct Buy has earned from the mainstream media. Channel 12 News and Consumerist both reference a Consumer Reports article that reads, in part:

After the fee disclosure, we discovered that we had to sign up on the spot or never come back. We couldn’t bring DirectBuy’s “confidential” prices elsewhere to comparison shop, the representatives said, because this would likely anger retailers who might then retaliate against the manufacturers by refusing to sell their merchandise…

The fine print in the DirectBuy contract says you cannot return items, cancel orders, or terminate your membership. When we asked if, after plunking down $5,000, we could cancel and get a refund, a salesperson said, “You’ll have to check state law.” A review of New York state law revealed that the three-day cooling-off period for canceling contracts wouldn’t apply in this case…

The lack of price transparency makes it hard to evaluate whether you’ll save by joining DirectBuy. But even if you were to save 25 percent on purchases after joining, you’d need to spend more than $20,000 just to recoup your membership fee. DirectBuy might save you money if you’re furnishing a house from scratch or doing a major renovation. But since you can’t shop around beforehand, you’ll be joining blind

DirectBuy may be a scam, but it’s a business that uses a very “hard sell” and one should think twice about.

Romney and Clinton

Romney’s answer, in the debate that will be aired tonight at best is meaningless liberal nonsense and worse dangerous liberal nonsense (transcript via Byron York):

MATTHEWS: Governor Romney…if you were president of the United States, would you need to go to Congress to get authorization to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities?

ROMNEY: You sit down with your attorneys and tell you what you have to do, but obviously the president of the United States has to do what’s in the best interest of the United States to protect us against a potential threat. The president did that as he was planning on moving into Iraq and received the authorization of Congress…

Romney’s awful, awful answer is made all the worse by Hillary Clinton’s American Retirement Accounts private social security plan.

Hilldog will be hard enough to beat, even without a Massachusetts governor flanking her to the left…

Punishment and Torture

Michael Devlin, who would also be a murderer if the child hadn’t talked him out of it — who kidnapped a boy for four years — agreed to a plea deal which will, theoretically, send him to jail for the rest of his life.

The obvious question, as this is notionally a death sentence, is why the state wishes the execution to take decades instead of a much shorter amount of time. In other words, why not just kill him?

One explanation, supported by Senator John Kerry and others, is that we should torture people. That is, ending lives is too merciful and that the schadenfreude Twe get from imprisoning (subjecting to prison rape, etc.) Michael is reward enough. [Senator Kerry grants, though, that terrorists should have the mercy of death as quickly as possible. ]

Another is that we should be as merciful to Michael Devlin as we are to, say, a dog we really hated. So we shouldn’t allow him normal peer interaction, the ability to move about, etc., but we should not put him down, either.

I, opposed to punishment and torture, I reject both notions. Too much is influenced by both environment and genetics to believe that individuals are rational agents who think things out in any coherent manner. Or at least, such thinking is too far removed from action and observed physical evidence to allow men to know the hearts of others. Rather, our “justice” system should be based on discipline (teaching) and deterrence (making sure something doesn’t happen again), while minimizing suffering.

The questions should then be?

How can we teach Michael Devlin not to do this again?
Or, failing that, how can we guarantee that Michael Devlin will not do this again?
Whatever our approach, how may we do this without torturous punishment?

(Thanks for Mark of ZenPundit for an email which inspired this post.)

Lawfare Backlash: DirectBuy + Dozier Internet Law

As I wrote on Dreaming 5GW, these are some of the many blogs:

that are reacting to Public Citizen‘s posting of a legal threat (pdf) and subsequent reply (pdf) in the attempt of Direct Buy (and Dozier Internet Law) to shut down negative reviews online.

The case is informative because it shows how the generations of struggle depend on the scale you are looking at. Looked at one way, Public Citizen is engaging in a 4G campaign against aggressive legal threats on speech. But in another way, Public Citizen is a 5G organization, essentially unconcerned with the fate of DirectBuy or Dozier Internet Law, and looking to change the rules of the game under which the company and the lawyers operate This is because “generations” just measure the degree of kinetic dispersal, and a broader frame of reference allows one to see more dispersion.

DirectBuy and Dozier Internet Law SLAPPs InfomercialScams.com

Props to Public Citizen for publicizing DirectBuy‘s, and their thuggish lawyer‘s, cease-and desist legal intimidation (a hat-tip goes out to Slashdot).

The full text of the cease and desist letter, by Dozier Internet Law, P.C., is below. (I Hate Linux has also excerpted the text.)

Please be advised that our firm has been retained by DirectBuy, Inc. to investigate and take legal action against you for the series of unwarranted and defamatory attacks against it made by you and your visitors on your various websites. Specifically, these websites are www.infomercialblog.com, www.infomercialratings.com, and www.infomercialscams.com.

DirectBuy, Inc., has been in business for over 35 years and has provided consumers with the opportunity to save on products for their homes through its members only program. Our client provides its members with access to thousands of products and provides a high level of customer service. DirectBuy has established a well founded reputation for the quality of its services and customer satisfaction and your unwarranted actions and baselsss accusations have damaged that reputation and adversely affected our client’s business.

Your have personally posted many willfully false and misleading comments about our client. Examples of your defamatory statements include:

    “Direct Buy Nightmare” — www.informercialscams.com;

  • “all scams are posted uncensored!” — www.informercialscams.com
  • You are reporting the following SCAM” — www.informercialscams.com; and
  • “Recently, we noticed a sudden influx of 4 and 5 star ratings for the Direct Buy program… We don’t know if Direct Buy is behind this or not. But we do have our suspicions given the fact that the reviews came from the SAME LOCATION, say the same thing, and highlightpoints that most cusomters wouldn’t be concerned with.” — www.infomercialblog.com

The above statements made in reference to DirectBuy, Inc are utterly false and without merit, and they are defamatory per se in that they depict our client as engaging in fradulent activity that violates civil and criminal law.

Additionally, you actively encourage and solicit defamatory statements from customers on your www.infomercialratings.com and www.infomercialscams.com websites. According to a recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommates.com, LLC, 389 F. 3rd 921 (9th Cir. 2007)] you likely have serious financial exposure to DirectBuy.com for each and every one of the defamatory statements made by your visitors. Furthermore, your actions have also resulted in damages to our client and its franchisees in Canada, subjecting you to claims in that country as well.

Your attempts to spread libelous and defamatory material about our client have caused serious and irreparable injury to it, its reputation, and its business. Our client will not stand by and allow this misconduct to continue.

We hereby demand that you:

  1. Immediately remove from all of your websites all defamatory and disparaging remarks regarding our client made by you and your visitors, and
  2. Immediately cease and desist in publishing defamatory statements about our client, whether the statements are made by you or third parties, and
  3. Compensate our client for its attorney fees and costs

Please not that this law firm does not attempt to restrict legitimate free speech, and we believe that the Internet is an important medium for dissemination of accurate and truthful [emphasis Dozier’s — tdaxp] information and for fair comment on issues of interest. Your activities, however, unlawfully encroach upon our client’s rights.

This letter puts you on notice that should you refuse to comply with our demands by September 28, 2007, we will have no choice but to recommend that our client pursue all legal causes of action, including the filling of a lawsuit, to protect its interests. We will pursue both damages and attorneys’ fees and costs incurreed by our client as a result of your actions.

This is a very serious matter that requires your immediate attention. We therefore strongly recommend that you contact us immediately to address and resolve this situation. This letter is your one and only chance to resolve this matter amicably.

Please be aware that this letter is copyrighted by our law firm, and you are not authorized to republish this in any matter. Use of this letter in a posting, in full or in part, will subject you to further legal causes of action. [emphasis mine — tdaxp]

Online: INFOMERCIAL BLOG.COM >> Former Direct Buy Employee Reveals Truth About Company
Online (pdf): “How not to write a cease and desist letter.”
Online (pdf): “Re: Notice to Cease and Desist Internet Defamation

Additionally, a mixed-review of DirectBuy is available from ChrisWondra.com, while the theoretical implications are discussed over at Dreaming 5GW.

Copyrighted Cease and Desist Letters

Has anyone heard of copyrighted cease and desist letters before Dozier Internet Law slapp’d Infomercial Scams with one (and Public Citizen stood up for speech)? The only google result for “copyrighted cease and desist” comes from Legal Research Blog‘s coverage of the Dozier letter, while the copy occurrence of “copyrighted C&D” comes to kd.to_tumblr‘s reporting on the DirectBuy case.

(Chilling Effects has a searchable cease-and-desist database, but I’m not familiar enough with it to find any copyrighted strategic lawsuits against public participation.)

Christopher Columbus

While some communities prefer to celebrate this week with racist themes (whether Dia de la Raza or Native American Day), it properly is held in memory of Christophy Columbus, the Admiral of the Seas and the greatest explorer of all time. (Though a good argument can be made that it should be Ferdinand & Isabella Day, in commemoration of the granting agency.)

Isabelle, the Catholic Queen of Castille, Aragon, the Isles, and the Land of the Ocean

The success of Columbus is the success of markets and globalization. As the Mamaluke and Ottoman Sultans accelerated the decline of Islam by blockading the Silk Road connecting the Occident to the Orient, the Iberian monarchies attempted to find a new, oceanic route to the largest economies of the world. (Venice’s failed strategy of negotiating via arms with the Turks to reopen the silk road ultimately becoming moot.) Christopher Columbus, granted three ships (the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria) eventually discovered the new world, though the hoped for landings in Calcutta, Nanjing, or Kyoto were not to be.

Others had crossed the oceans before. Those ex-Siberians we now call “American Indians” first of all, of course, and later Polynesians who brought chickens and endtrail readings too. The Vikings landed, fought, and died, the Basque were cathcing a lot of cod from somewhere, and there are the theories about Admiral Zheng He

But Columbus, uniquely,ended the civilizational apartheid which had separated the Americas from the Old World since the end of the stone age migrations. Because of Columbus, and of course Ferdinand and Isabelle, the world changed. The barbarous empire of the Aztecs would soon fall, and even more importantly the English would follow in time, exporting the common law to the United States and Canada.

Thank you, Christopher Columbus.

A New Asia, Part I: Friends

A number of unfortunate stories out of Beijing these days, two being China promotes Taiwan-focused military officers and China rejects use of sanctions to resolve Myanmar crisis. While neither are new developments (the Communist Party has protected the Burmese junta and opposed Taiwanese democracy for some time), the decision to look to the past says little about the strategic wisdom of the Hu Jintao Presidency.

President Hu has not lived up to the high expectations set for him. In spite of personal squabbles with former President Jiang Zemin that just don’t end, the current generation of Chinese rulers are no more imaginative than the last. Things aren’t getting better with respect to China’s international behavior, but they aren’t getting worse, either.

A sensible approach would be to assume that China’s cautious glidepath toward development will remain unchanged. So we should keep growing trade links with China, and of course encourage helpful behavior from them. But we shouldn’t have naive dreams, either. China is developing, but she is not a democracy. She has people, but does not have the security experience of India. She has wealth, but does not have an ocean of free capital like Japan. She has culture, but nothing like the vibrant democracy of Taiwan or the captive city of Hong Kong.

American policy in western and central asia should focus on the economic integration of China and the security integration of Japan, Taiwan, and India.

In both cases, the prime obstacle is the Democratic Party. But that is a post for another time…