Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Here we go again.

Readers of the Vancouver Sun might have noted that Sun columnist David Baines continues to pursue a selective investigation of my past, this time beginning with a quote from a 2000 CBC Interview I gave seven years ago.

In it, I reference a CBC television interview done much earlier. I was featured jumping on a couch singing and dancing to a song. In the 2000 interview, I'm quoted as saying "Do you think I ever woke up in the morning, surveyed my apartment and said, 'Maybe I'll crank the tunes and jump on my couch for a while?' I don't think so." I spoke confidently and naively about my media awareness, going further with a comment that I told people "amazing, wonderful, and, in most cases, untrue stories about [myself]."

In this second column, Baines searches for investigative credibility in quotes taken from my father’s participation in the same interview. He said that I was “a prototypical child of the electronic age. He knows how to use the sound-bite. ... He will give you a sentence that will be tailored for you to put into your news broadcast. He is a child of the age in that sense."

The point in bringing this material up from seven years ago and then observing the amount of media that together with GiveMeaning I have garnered quite deliberately since, is to suggest that if I was "spinning" then, I must be spinning now. In a vain effort at making his point Mr. Baines brings up my short-lived employment at a firm called Whalen, Beliveau. I began there when I was 17 and ended a year later when the Vancouver office of the firm split to merge with another firm.

My entire salary was paid as an advance or draw against commissions. This simply meant that before I was entitled to any bonuses from commissions, all of my salary would be deducted and any additional expenses I incurred would first be repaid. Mr. Baines is correct that I did not close any deals where a commission was paid to Whalen, Beliveau, but this is because I was working to develop a new field of client, not because I didn't work strenuously on behalf of my employer.

Under the terms of my employment I was responsible for my own expenses and Whalen Believeau lent me the money to pay these expenses pending receipt of commissions. When Whalen, Beliveau split to join a new firm I was sent a letter by the Montreal office of Whalen, Beliveau demanded that I repay the loan. Since my employment had ended unexpectedly I had no income to do so and Whalen Beliveau ultimately did not pursue me further.

Quite separately, because this money was in fact a “debt owing”, and under the advice of counsel, certain of the facts are as Mr. Baines reports; specifically that I declared as income the advances I received and claimed the paid expenses. It is true that Canada Revenue Agency originally disallowed the expense claims on the grounds that I didn't pay them. It is true that I appealed that ruling, arguing that even though I didn't pay the expenses directly, I was liable to the firm for the full amount. The Tax Court decided that I had done everything correctly and Canada Revenue Agency did not appeal the court decision. It is not true that I didn’t “earn” this income as Mr. Baines quite wrongly suggests. I consider the matter closed although I am reserving the right to consider Mr. Baines assertions more formally.

In his first column focusing on me, Baines quotes a recent interview I gave to a Victoria-based newspaper called "Monday Magazine" in which the interview asked me "why aren't you more of a dick?" I responded with a column filling quote captured by Mr. Baines "I think because I was a dick," Williams replied. "This path I'm on now is only something I arrived at after having fully explored my own dickiness." But really there isn’t anything new here. I have been consistent and candid in suggesting that the motivation to start GiveMeaning lay in part to redeem myself and correct the course that I seemed to be headed-down.

And so, Mr. Baines speaks of my past grabbing thoughtless quotes from a teenager delighted with the new attention of the media. What a sleuth! He points to the typical failures of anyone attempting to find the right path to follow in his search for a worthy future. With GiveMeaning now a cause for celebration Mr. Baines is sure there is something wrong with the picture and so he has chosen to search in the past in an effort to discredit me and the work of GiveMeaning.

When Mr. Baines first called me, I decided to speak openly to him and spoke to him several times both the day before his first column and then a few days after it appeared. That won’t happen again.

If Mr. Baines had taken the trouble to read or watch any of the recent interviews in full, the ones particularly about GiveMeaning, he would know that I am in this for the long haul and I am in this completely. I am nothing if I am not open although people like Mr. Baines are quickly making me much less naïve.

As far as anything else that might appear on the web posted in an effort to capitalize on the cheap shots of someone who should know better, I would much rather you wrote me directly.

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You're never going to make everyone happy. I wrote an article about the laptop project a few months ago and a reader emailed to say that health care is more important than laptops. This may be true, but I find it irrelevant. The guys at the MIT media labs are not doctors or even grassroots activists so I don't really see how a privately-funded venture with an altruistic mission can be faulted for not being health care. They're trying. Give Meaning is a great story not because it is the perfect organization, but because a couple of guys who have every privilege in the world seem to be trying. To cut them down without offering an alternative model of support is really just a call for no support at all. Maybe I'm wrong, but with all good intentions, I'm trying as well.

Read entire article: Meme.ca
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