A Scam By Any Other Name

Photo Credit: MattysFlicks via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: MattysFlicks via Compfight cc

Until now, I am still getting emails and questions on two articles I wrote a few weeks ago: “Is Emgoldex a Scam?” and “Defending Emgoldex and Failing Miserably.” Today,  I hope to share some of those questions and my answers to them in order to address a broader audience, in case you have the same questions lurking in your heads as well.

 

  • Aren’t there legal pyramids and illegal pyramids?

 

No, by definition, a “pyramid scheme” is illegal. It is an “unsustainable business model that involves promising participants payment or services, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, rather than supplying any real investment or sale of products or services to the public.”

What is legal is Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) or Network Marketing although there have already been a number of MLM companies taken down for operating as a pyramid scheme, and this is what plagues the industry because laymen typically regard all of them, scams or otherwise, as “pyramids.”

 

  • You mentioned in your articles that you can prove mathematically why these schemes will fail. Can you please do that now?

 

Sure, this is a simple geometric progression. Emgoldex, in particular, operates on a 14:1 ratio — meaning to sustain 1 person, you need 14 participants. To sustain 2, you need 28. To sustain 3, you need 42…In other words, for all 14 non-exiting initial participants, you need another 14×14 people = 196.

Extending this (multiply each level by 14):

Level 1 = 14
Level 2 = 196
Level 3 = 2,744
Level 4 = 38,416
Level 5 = 537,824
Level 6 = 7,529,536
Level 7 = 105,413,504  ==> More than the Philippine population
Level 8 = 1,475,789,056
Level 9 = 20,661,046,784 ==> More than the world population

In this example, there will be a SURE collapse at Level 8 — because it will be virtually impossible to achieve Level 9.

Now, you might say, that will still take a long time so why not make some money on the side in the meantime? But take note that we are ASSUMING that everyone will eventually join Emgoldex…which is NOT the case in reality. In reality, A VERY SMALL percentage of the population joins ANY networking company and a MUCH SMALLER percentage of that will join Emgoldex specifically.

What I mean to say is this. It seems that for the level 1 people to exit, they need to talk to 196 people only. WRONG. They need to talk to MUCH MORE than that because most of the people they talk to WILL NOT JOIN. So in order to get your 196 people, you may already have “burned” through a thousand or more people who REFUSED to join. Therefore, the collapse may happen SOONER than you think it will.

 

  • But Emgoldex people say that they can keep on reinvesting their money so the system will never collapse.

 

NOT EVERYONE will reinvest. In fact, only a small percentage will do so. When that happens, it will collapse because the system as it is constantly NEEDS NEW FUNDS for it to keep going. Consider this. 15 people invest approximately 35,000 each and only one exits with 180,000. Total cash into the system is PHP 525,000, total cash out of the system is PHP 180,000. That means, for every peso you put into the system, you lose close to three pesos. That’s not very smart, is it?

Tell me how this is sustainable if no new investor comes in and the same people keep putting their money in. And these people have to question, where does the difference of 345,000 go? Why to the pockets of the Emgoldex owners, of course, who are laughing all the way to the bank.

 

  • I have a friend who is heavily into Emgoldex. Can I please ask you to write her and hopefully talk some sense into her?

 

I think the best you can do is to show her the articles I wrote. If that doesn’t convince her, I don’t know what will. I don’t think a chat with me will do it because I don’t have a personal connection with your friend. And besides these people are trained not to listen to “negative” people — which is how they look at me, for sure. There are people who simply cannot be swayed by logic or reason and talking to them is like talking to a religious fanatic. Some people just like to take lessons the hard way, I guess.

 

  • Can you also do a review of Company X or Company Y which appeared in this particular TV show or which has that particular person as its endorser?

 

I’m sorry but I would have to decline. It is not my full-time job hunting down every bogus scheme, or analyzing the business model of each scam that pops up every now and then. What I hope to have done is to give readers a general sense of how to detect scams and to make them analyze better. I wrote about Emgoldex because it kept popping up on my Facebook feed and it was getting annoying and someone close to me asked me to look more deeply into it.

In closing, my advice is to exercise extreme caution and due diligence before you invest your hard-earned money somewhere. The old adage still holds true — that if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. And for those who haven’t heard, Emgoldex has already changed its name to Global Intergold, but a scam by any other name will suck money out of your pockets just the same.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Send me your thoughts at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Letter To A Christian Friend

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs via Compfight cc

Dear Christian Friend,

If you are bothered by my unbelief, please do not just tell me you are praying for me. I welcome questions, conversation, and dialogue. But what I find really irritating is when you just give me that look — a look that makes me feel like I have some sort of disease — and then tell me you’re praying for me.

I understand that in our society, saying “I’m praying for you” is a great source of comfort for many. It is an expression of sympathy that encourages most people — especially the religious — and so I do not blame you if you think it will also encourage me.

But it does not.

When you say “I’m praying for you” to my face, I feel like you see something very wrong with me. And you probably do because you think that I am on the road to hell. However, please understand that to me, prayer is a meaningless exercise and hell is just a fairy tale. I do not say these things to your face because I respect your right to believe as you do. I hope you also respect my right not to believe as you do.

Saying you’ll pray for me is just as meaningless as a Catholic giving a rosary to a Protestant. It’s as meaningless as telling a Hindu to swear by the Bible.

It also sounds condescending. It’s as if you are saying you’re in a better position than I am — that your belief is better than my unbelief and that you are praying that I’ll come around to my senses and believe as you do so we can all hold hands and sing happy hallelujahs once again.

Now I know you most probably don’t mean it that way, but that is how it seems to me, especially if you’ve never bothered talking to me. If you did, you would find out that I’m happier and more content with my life. There is more honesty and congruence in my thoughts, feelings and actions. I don’t have to pretend to be sure of god’s mysterious ways and call it an act of faith. Perhaps I should be the one praying for you, if I had anyone to pray to.

But don’t get me wrong. I am not telling you not to pray for me. You are, after all, free to do whatever you want. And you are most probably sincere in your desire to help. I just do not want nor need to hear about it because hearing it does nothing good for me. It doesn’t encourage me and it doesn’t give me hope and it doesn’t even make me happy.

If you really want to understand me, you are always free to talk to me. I don’t bite. In fact, I appreciate the handful of pastors and other Christians who are not afraid to be open and honest with me, who would even visit our little community of doubters and skeptics. “I cannot understand why, but I am happy to be here. I am even happy to be offended,” said one pastor.

If there is a heaven, that must be what it is like — full of people giving and taking offense, and being happy anyway.

Originally published in SunStar Davao.

Send me your thoughts at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Eulogy

Photo Credit: Marcy Leigh via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Marcy Leigh via Compfight cc

My father passed away, last Wednesday. He was 88. This is the eulogy I delivered, more or less, at his funeral. The extra time gave me an opportunity to clean it up some more as well as rewrite some parts for better details and clarity:

My dad was not the perfect father, but he taught me to strive for perfection.

When I was in grade school, I would sometimes go to school on Saturdays to hang out with my friends. When I asked for permission, he would always ask me what time I would be home and I had to call him at the office when I arrived. One time I arrived home around 10 or 15 minutes late. When I called him, I could hear his stern voice asking me why I was late. As I stammered through my excuse, he said, “If you say you are coming home at 3:00, then come hell or high water, you better make sure you’re home at 3:00.”

From there, I learned an important lesson in responsibility, in keeping one’s word, and in being on time.

A year before I was to be married, I had the opportunity to work closely with him. I was his driver, bodyguard, assistant and secretary, as he hopped from one meeting to another. He was a workaholic and  on top of running our business, he was president of three organizations and active in one or two more.

Being the resident computer expert, I would type letters that he drafted in longhand. Later on, he didn’t bother writing anymore but just dictated to me while I typed and edited sentences on the fly. I became quite good at editing and composing and so after that, Dad would not bother dictating word-for-word anymore but he would  just give me the gist of what he wanted to say, very informally, and I would write out the entire text for him.

That experience was an integral part in honing my writing skills, especially in being concise, clear and businesslike.

But perhaps the best thing my dad taught me was about love, relationships and family.

He would always find time amidst his busy schedule, to spend time us. When we were younger, Sundays meant swimming at Apo Golf Country Club or Villa Victoria Beach, or even just Times Beach. When he had business trips in Manila when I was in college, he would stay over the weekend so that I could spend time with him at his hotel. We enjoyed many breakfast buffets together, as well as a number of steak dinners.

When I was working with him, some of my favorite times were the lulls between work, when he would invite me for a snack in the conference room of our office where he kept a microwave, some crackers, canned tuna and bottled sardines. Over these little bites, he would share to me bits of wisdom or stories from his younger days, and I would would also ask him about his recent projects, sometimes voicing contrary opinions and we would go back and forth with our ideas.

One of the phrases I remember was, “Do not love things and use people. Rather, use things and love people.” My dad might have been a businessman with many organizations, but for him, relationships always came first. He would not hesitate to stop in the middle of something to help out someone in need — be it a family member, or our househelp, a friend, and sometimes even random strangers or casual acquaintances.

From those times, I learned the value of love and compassion. My school prides itself on shaping people to be “men and women for others,” but even though my dad did not attend the same school, he lived out that very ideal.

My dad was not the perfect father, but he was certainly one of the best and I am grateful to have known him, and be one of only four children in the world to call him “Daddy.”

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Send me your thoughts at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Cherry-Picked Abominations

Photo Credit: clicheshots via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: clicheshots via Compfight cc

“Cherry-picking” is an idiom that refers to the logical fallacy of choosing only data that confirms one’s bias while ignoring other data that points otherwise. For example, a salesman hyping a new drug may point to one or two cases where it has worked marvelously while failing to disclose that 998 other people found it ineffective.

The US Supreme Court made a historic decision last Friday to legalize and recognize same-sex marriage throughout the United States of America. LGBT advocates and supporters celebrated while conservatives, especially religious clergy, were dismayed, calling the it a “violation of natural law” (never mind that homosexual behavior has been found in animals) as well as being offensive to God and an “abomination” according to Leviticus 20:13 (ESV): “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

So what does this have to do with cherry-picking? Well, the person who uses this verse to justify the “evilness” of homosexuality must also do what the second part of the verse says — to put to death these people. But most would balk at that although there are a few who openly state that “the government needs to kill all of the sodomites and all of their supporters, as the Scriptures command.” Thankfully, most people are not as bereft of their senses as these are. But that’s cherry-picking right there, in just one verse.

Cherry-picking also means focusing on the restriction of that verse (and another similar-sounding one in Leviticus 18:22) while ignoring other restrictions FOUND IN THE SAME BOOK.

Do you enjoy lechon, pork chop, adobo or bacon? Too bad. Leviticus 11:7-8 “And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.”

Garlic shrimp, sizzling squid, baked clams and oysters? You’re supposed to hate them like God does. Leviticus 11:10-12 “But anything in the seas or the rivers that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you. You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses. Everything in the waters that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you.”

Dinuguan, anyone? Rare or medium steak? Leviticus 17:14 “Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.”

Beware of menstruating women. Leviticus 15:19-20 “When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean. Everything also on which she sits shall be unclean.”

As well as men with wet dreams. Leviticus 15: 16-17 “If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until the evening. And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water and be unclean until the evening.”

Apparently, things such as crew cuts, beard trims and tattoos are forbidden as well — even if the tattoo is of Jesus. Leviticus 19:27-28 “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.”

Amidst all these, do you know what the good Lord doesn’t see as an abomination? Slavery — as long as you make sure to buy your slaves from other nations and not your own. Leviticus 25:44 “As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you.”

Now, the common argument against this is that these were laws specifically directed towards Israel that were applicable for them at that point in time. All right, but if you use that argument, you can’t use Leviticus to justify homophobia. If you think that our morality has evolved when it comes to dietary restrictions, bodily functions and so on, then it has similarly evolved for sexuality. But if you think morality is static and that “the word of the Lord stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8), then you should be willing to obey all those other restrictions and commands as well. You can’t have it both ways.

I like eating cherries but cherry-picking arguments are an abomination to me. Away from me, heathens.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Send me your thoughts at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

A Not-So-Perfect Jesus

Photo Credit: dangerismycat via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: dangerismycat via Compfight cc

Most Christians look at Jesus as the perfect human — perfect God and perfect man. Everything he did while he was on earth was good and right and true. Jesus is regarded as a maverick, championing human rights, women’s rights, and racial equality way ahead of his time.

I was reading a “random lunchtime reflection” of my Christian friend, Nate, who was musing on the persecution and discrimination of minorities. He recalled the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4) who initially refused to give him a drink on the basis of their racial enmity. But, Nate concludes, “Jesus offers her not only salvation but interestingly, also equality and freedom…”

I used to think like this as well. Jesus was my ultimate hero, my idol, and there was nothing he did that could possibly be wrong because he was, well, God in the flesh. When I began stripping away my beliefs, Jesus was one of the last to go, because he was the one that I had a supposed relationship with. But as I distanced myself, I began to read many of the stories more critically than I did before.

(Disclaimer: I will be discussing the stories about Jesus AS IF they actually happened. I have reasons to think they might not have happened the way they were narrated, if they happened at all, but that is another story.)

The anecdote about Jesus and the Samaritan woman does seem to imply that Jesus wasn’t a racist. However, there is this other story in Matthew 15:21-28 where a Caananite woman came to Jesus and asked him to heal her daughter from demon possession. Jesus initially doesn’t mind her, but she was persistent. His disciples finally asked him to send her away.

Then Jesus told the woman,“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

Still the woman persisted, so he said, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

To which the woman replied, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Jesus was then amazed at the woman’s faith and proclaimed her daughter as healed.

I used this story to mess around with Nate’s head a bit, to present another story showing Jesus was not as racially unprejudiced as he thought. The story shows snobbish, supremacist Jesus who wouldn’t give the time of day to this woman he equates to a dog. It is probably only the woman’s witty reply that saves her and makes him change his mind. But what if she had just scurried away at his stinging remark? Would her daughter still be healed?

The usual apologist explanation to this story would be something along the lines of Jesus making that remark on purpose in order to draw out the woman’s faith. Now, if you are a Christian, you would, of course, be inclined to accept this and be thankful even that such a wonderful explanation existed. It just doesn’t make sense for me though. Besides, this is not the only passage that shows Jesus favoring the Jews.

Another passage I find really uncharacteristic of a sane person can be found in Mark 11:12-14:

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it.”

The story goes on to say that when they passed the tree again the next day, it had withered and the disciples were amazed.

So let’s get this straight. The perfect God-man sees a fig tree that didn’t have figs (because it wasn’t the season for them) and goes into a little tantrum because he was hungry and curses the tree to die.

Sounds legit.

(Yes, I’ve read the various apologist commentaries on this passage. No, they are not really that satisfying, unless you are already predisposed to believing them anyway, because the alternative is simply unthinkable for you at this moment in time.)

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Send me your thoughts at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

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