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Mindconnection eNL, 2006-08-20

Past issues

In this issue:

  1. Product Highlights
  2. Brainpower tip
  3. Time tip
  4. Finance tip
  1. Security tip
  2. Health tip/Fitness tip
  3. Miscellany
  4. Thought for the day

1. Product Highlights

Hurdling language barriers
With English rapidly becoming a second language in the USA, the "Spanish-challenged" among us are increasingly coming up against language barriers.

The TL2S, pictured at right, has over 8,000 phrases and over 1 million words. It has voice input in both Spanish and English, and voice output in Spanish and English.It also has voice input in both Spanish and English, and voice output in Spanish and English.

No longer available.

The TL2S can display possible replies you may hear in response to a phrase it just spoke to the other person. It also allows you to adjust the screen font sizes to small, medium, or large.

The easy to-use sentence builder allows you to modify any of the canned phrases on the fly. For example, change "Where is the hotel?" to "Where is the restaurant?" Handsome, ruggedized case and intuitive controls.

 

We have other Spanish translation devices here: http://www.mindconnection.com/category/LANG-SPANISH.html


2. Brainpower tip

I've gotten into some heady stuff (no pun intended) in the brainpower column, in the last few issues. The point of each of these columns was to challenge you to actively think rather than to do the usual "autopilot" thing. Most of our readers are ahead of the curve. I want to do what I can to help you stay that way, and even move further along it. Stick with me here, and that's likely to happen.

If you'll observe closely, most of what passes for "thinking" is merely the regurgitation of baseless arguments, leaps of logic, reactionary statements, and emotion-targeted sound bites. This is why the "election" process in the USA has resulted in an absurdly expensive government that seems to specialize in stupidity and counterproductivity. The extremely small minority of competent people who work in government live in a "pool of frustration" all day long. Thinking would fix all of that. But don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

In fact, people hardly even discuss anything today, much less think about it. This goes way beyond that cruel joke we call "government." Pick any issue that is contentious today, and you will find that "discussions" on it are nothing more than turf-defending collective monologues.

It's almost as though people are trying to conserve brainpower by not using it. I find that quite interesting, because at the same time most of us Americans seem to out of our way to waste fuel and send petro-dollars to Mideast terrorists. Thinking would fix that, as well. But again, don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen. The brainpower conservation movement is in full stride.

Why should readers of this eNL not want to participate in the brainpower conservation movement? Because the reality is brainpower withers when you don't use it. So, use it or lose it. There's a sound bite for you! But in this case, it's quite true. The brain adapts to the load placed upon it. Load it up, and it responds by establishing new neural paths in an attempt to handle the load.

Here are some ideas for stimulating your brain to grow new neural pathways, and thus become far more powerful. Try any or all of them on a regular basis. Some are just exercises that develop your brain. Others can produce additional benefits.

  • Make a list of challenging activities you haven't done before, then pick one item from the list and engage in it for the next three months.
     
  • Take up a new sport, but something that requires different skills from anything you do now.
     
  • Do puzzles: crosswords, anagrams, jigsaw, etc. These games challenge you on multiple levels and heavily stimulate neural path building.
     
  • Associate with people outside your normal clique. Their different ideas, perspectives, and experiences will force you to deal with new things.
     
  • Make a list of your most cherished beliefs. Then, debate against them. Do the research, and come up with actual arguments. This is exactly how debate clubs work. If you find challenging your own beliefs too stressful, look up past debate topics of the National Educational Debate Association. Or, join a local debate club.
     
  • Winnow down the massive list of deficiencies in the United States Tax Code to the three items that you consider most damaging to the US economy. Then, compose a one-page letter to your Congressman explaining how these problems alone justify ditching our unfixable system in favor of something like the Fair Tax (www.fairtax.org).
     
  • Identify three areas of spending your county government can reduce, so that they can reduce the extortionary level of property tax you pay (either via direct tax or through your landlord, depending).
     
  • Take a college course. You may not have time for this, but you will have time for our final tip.
     
  • Take one of Mindconnection's courses.


3. Time Tip

As a youngster, you probably heard your parents tell you to "get your priorities straight." It's amazing how quickly we forget this when going about our daily activities.

How often are you distracted by things that don't move your agenda forward, and then wonder why you seem to have run out of time? If you're not sure, take notes on this for just half a day. The results may surprise you. If you are "normal" and honest about it, the results will shock you. And you will find huge opportunities for freeing up time you can use more wisely than you presently do.

Here are some questions to get you thinking about this exercise.

  • Do you reach for the phone, simply because it rings?
  • Do you respond to an e-mail, simply because it's in your In box, or do you shuttle it to a ToDo folder for later?
  • Do you engage in "polite conversation" until your next appointment is almost upon you?
  • When faced with more than one activity to do, is your choice based on which one really matters more or on something else?
  • Is your day fragmented by interruptions and low-value tasks?
  • When your mail arrives, do you open every piece or quickly pull out the urgent mail and save the rest for later?
  • Do you eat "fast food" in an effort to save time? If so, you are actually wasting time--huge, painful, expensive swaths of time. Not only do you take an immediate performance hit, but you are ensuring you will have medical problems and loss of function that you would not otherwise have.

Life is about choices. Make them wisely, and you will avoid wasting the limited time you have. You must be proactive about this. Letting the choices make themselves is also a choice--and it's one that leads to poor results.

4. Finance tip

Long-term Care Policies, Part Four

When should you begin to take action on this whole long-term care issue? That depends on two  factors. Let's look at those, now.

Employer-sponsored plan

Many employers now offer such policies as part of their benefits package. In many cases--especially where there's a copay-- they have a sneaky reason for doing this. You may be aware that in American corporations, there is typically very poor governance. The boards are all incestuous, with CEOs from one firm "serving" on the board of another firm. All of these folks get outrageous multi-million dollar "compensation" packages, which none of them deserve and which their counterparts in non-US firms do not get.

To further pillage the company, these folks add on various benefits. But the law requires them to offer those benefits to all employees. So what they do is offer a long-term care package to all employees. To get the insurance premium down, they find ways to legally lay off older employees so the average age of the insured is very young. This cuts the premium down significantly.

I'm not saying every company does this. I'm just pointing out that celebrity CEOs stop at nothing to enrich themselves, regardless of the cost to the company or its employees. They feel entitled. If your company is one like this, you can expect there to be some loophole somewhere that nullifies your coverage at some point. Get a job with a company that has an ethical CEO. There are many such companies. Garmin International, for example, is this way.

Sprint, on the other hand, is not. Look at the sordid history with the blatant handouts to CEO Gary Foresee, and you quickly see why Sprint has "had to" lay off so many people.

If your company doesn't have this kind of policy as a benefit (or if you insist on working for a company run by an unethical CEO), then you need to look at an individual policy.

Lifestyle

As with life insurance, your premiums are lower if you start younger. You can find articles and research to show you the "correct" age for buying such a policy.

  • According to the actuarial tables, you hit the "sweet spot" for lowest total cost at age 55. But this assumes you have adopted the disease lifestyle.
     
  • If you, unlike 98% of Americans, lead a healthy lifestyle, you can probably wait until age 75 or 80 before making this move.

The bottom line on any health-related insurance is this: The primary purpose of such insurance is to soften the financial blow of bad health choices you have made. Yes, things happen and you may be injured or contract a disease through no fault of your own.

We have a "health crisis" in America because most Americans seemingly do everything possible to get sick. You can reduce the need for this kind of insurance to nearly zero by adopting a sensible approach to your health. This would involve a very radical departure from what is "normal" in our society. But if even half of us applied common sense, we'd all be able to afford comprehensive medical insurance.

See http://www.supplecity.com for free articles on taking care of your body so it can, in turn, take care of you and your finances in the long-term.

5. Security tip

In the previous issue, we took a look at identity theft.

I'll continue in this issue with my acidic observations and blunt remarks. I also need to address a particular issue upfront, on the topic of personal security. The vast majority of loss in this area comes from two sources: legal government actions and illegal actions of government employees. To ignore these while writing on the topic is simply irresponsible. Nothing I say here is from any of the "conspiracy theory" hoopla. One of my key sources is the Government Office of Accountability. What they find in their audits of government agencies is stunning.

The AT

In our previous issue, I discussed how AT (American Taliban) employees and other crooks conduct identity theft. We are all required to provide some very personal information to the AT, and the only real safeguard in place is the fact there are so many of us to rob.

AT employees simply can't get to all of us--millions enjoy the protection of the crowd. This is similar to how a gazelle might escape being eaten by a lion simply because there are so many gazelles around. That's not a very secure system of protection now, is it?

Prevalence of Identity Theft

We also provide information to banks, hospitals, and universities--all of which have had some famous data security breaches in the past few years. The problem is not that the crackers (the pejorative term for a rogue hacker) are so good. It's that people who work in these institutions are careless. Most of them simply don't follow established procedures--which they don't understand or appreciate. Because of this laxity (brought about by ignorance), identity theft is common.

In a way, it's a good thing. That's because it creates market competition against which AT employees don't like to compete. But I am splitting hairs with this observation. If you're being robbed, you're being robbed.

A full 37% of the fraud complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2005 were due to identity theft.

That same year, Javelin Research conducted a study and said the total loss to consumers and businesses was $52.6 billion. That's a rounding error compared to the amount of money stolen and pi--ed away by the federal government. It's nearly zero, compared to what its unaccountable rogue employees steal in the various scams they run. But again, if you're being robbed, you're being robbed.

And, unlike theft conducted legally by the government or illegally by its employees who can laugh at the laws that the rest of us  must follow, identity theft does bring with it some good news.

Good news and better news

The good news on the identity theft front is there's actually a downward trend in the number of victims and the average time to resolve the case. Of course, the "always get it wrong" newspapers and the "distort what you report" television folks give us the opposite impression. If you actually listen to those propagandists, please contact me immediately about a great deal on beach front property in Arizona.

Now, the even better news is this. The Javelin study revealed that only about 10% of identity theft occurred online. That is, 90% of all identity theft is conducted offline. That's right--the major media have the story 100% backwards. Which is not at all unusual for them.

One reason for this difference is we have things like secure Web browsers. Another reason is the typical person who conducts transactions online is much savvier than the typical person who does not. So, the crooks have harder targets to go after. Another reason is most crooks are pretty stupid. It's easier for them to bribe a government official (who also tends to be pretty stupid) or just watch for a bank employee to commit a security violation than it is for them to hack into a secure system. About 1,000 times harder (that's an actual number, not a guess).

Despite the hoopla from the "mainstream" (read, special-interest driven) media, most people become fraud victims offline vs. offline, and the ratio is about 10 to 1. Think about those odds for a moment.

Even more revealing: People who detected identity theft via their paper statements suffered an average loss of $4,543. But those who monitored their accounts online suffered an average loss of only $451. Once again, 10 to 1 superiority for the online person. The total losses in the paper world are about 100 times the total losses in the online world.

This difference between reality and "mainstream media" reporting is another reason to avoid contaminating your brain with television or newspaper "news coverage."

Bad news

When there's identity theft, you have to overcome brainless bureaucracy to correct your credit report. Doing so can take years. One reason why you will be in the mess for so long is--you guessed it--the US CONgress.

In 2003, this band of criminal brothers passed yet another law that is named for the opposite of what it accomplishes. I don't know if CONgress has ever, in the past 100 years, passed any laws that do what they purport to do. But CONgress, like any two-bit hustler, sure puts the spin on things. They have, consequently, given the false impression to many naive people that they actually care about ordinary citizens.

Lest you think that I'm just an anti-government person spewing some kind of new age sentiment, I am in the company of such folks as Mark Twain--who said, "Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." And that was back in 1890 or thereabouts. I'm actually very much for government. But one that follows laws and serves the people. That's not what we have.

Shafted by FACTA

Back to this 2003 law. This particular attack on ordinary citizens is called the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). If you're a consumer, you can call it SHAFTA, because this law basically gives you the shaft. You can come up with your own thing those letters stand for.

The law allows consumers access to their credit reports, but only on an annual basis. Huh? Like most federal laws that purport to be good for you, it contains an aspect that works harshly against you. This law bars states from enacting stronger consumer protection laws.

Further, it requires you to go through the mill of talking to clueless cops so you can get a police report on file before you can get a long-term fraud alert put on your credit account. The cops are clueless because they are rendered that way by the system. An investigation into this kind of crime is way, way, way outside the scope of their training and expertise. CONgress doesn't care. They see no problem in adding yet another burden to our already overburdened (and underpaid) police officers.

Just for the record, the senate isn't so swift either. Criminal advocate Senator Charles Schumer wanted to ban police officers from carrying firearms when off-duty and to ban retired cops from having firearms at any time. This is the kind of stupidity that passes for "legislative deliberation." The only thing deliberate about it is the shafting of ordinary American citizens.

Ask your CONgressman if s/he voted for this blatantly pro-crime act (FACTA). If so, always vote for your CONgressman's opponent until that bum is out of office.

But most likely, your CONgressman or his/her staff will claim to have fought this bill. Don't believe what they tell you. Do some research online and find out whether your CONgressman is a criminal activities champion or not.

By the way, my CONgressman opposes the Fair Tax. Not coincidentally, he has also lobbied heavily for better working conditions for violent criminals and for mandatory wage cuts for every member of the middle class. Now, you may wonder why the heck he would do such harmful things. First, you have to understand that kind of anti-citizen behavior is the rule, not the exception, in terms of "representation" we get from CONgress.

Why this mess?

There's a reason CONgressmen consistently undermine the middle class voter/taxpayer. They figure if they create a situation in which citizens are struggling to hang on, then we won't have the time or resources to demand some minimal level of performance from CONgress. "Create a crisis" is their modus operandi.

While we are busy coping with the mess they created for us, they smile as they enjoy their $180,000 a year jobs (with automatic annual wage increases) and enormous benefits. In addition to the high salary, they don't have to pay SS tax on it and they have their own pension system funded at your expense. So that really translates into something north of a quarter million dollars a year. This person allegedly represents you. If you make around a quarter million a year, then that may be true.

You might expect me to say, "I'm not saying everyone in Congress is a crook." Don't hold your breath, waiting for me to say that. The level of thievery is staggering to even contemplate.

I'm not saying "our" federal government is totally useless. "Totally useless" would be an improvement.

A yardstick

Am I expecting too much from government? To answer that, just compare the track record of its (super costly) programs vs. the track records of organizations like the United Way or Red Cross.

It's like night and day. I've seen the report cards of these large charitable organizations. They obsess over getting a return on the dollar donated to them. I think for the 10 largest such organizations, the number is something like $1.40 in services for every $1 donated. The federal government, on the other hand, costs more than it returns.

Give the federal government a dollar, and they'll flush $1.25 of it down the toilet. Which is why we all pay between 76% and 86% of our income in taxes (when you add up all the taxes, that's the amount it turns out to be) yet still have a multi-trillion dollar federal deficit.

But give a dollar to the aforementioned organizations or their peers, and they return $5 worth of services (maybe not to you personally, but....). Something to think about.

People give willingly to support these effective organizations. But the government has to resort to forced extraction. This, alone should be instructive. Rather than create a federal income tax collection body that is larger than our combined Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, the government should start providing value for the dollars it collects.

Putting salt into this wound: The government provides only laughable controls to protect your privacy or confidential information. These other organizations actually care about the people who support them.

What to do

Back to identity theft. Getting rid of this pestilence known as the AT may take a while. In the meantime, look at other sources of criminal activity and identity theft. Get a free credit report (look online for credit reporting agencies and contact one). Then, look it over carefully. Thanks to CONgress, you have a whole year to do this before you can get an updated copy.

If you find problems, start tracking them down one at a time. It's better to get that long, drawn-out process started now than to find out when you need to refinance your home or pay for a medical emergency that you can't get credit.

There are some third-party services that can help you protect yourself. But your best bet is to keep reading this newsletter and to go through the back issues and then heed the advice given. I've written extensively on how to protect your information from everybody but the AT. Until we pressure legislators to abolish the AT, that huge security hole will remain for everyone. To help close it, contact http://www.fairtax.org.

Finally, shop at sites like Mindconnection. We use 128-bit security encryption, so whatever you enter into your browser is safe. The US Navy tried to break a 64-bit encrypted message using a Cray supercomputer and gave up after six months. 128-bit isn't "twice" as secure. It's something like 10 to the 64th power more secure. Look also for the Hacker Safe symbol, decent Web design, content written in grammatically correct English, and so on.

6. Health tip/Fitness tips

Ever wonder about the various diets out there? See the "Diets Exposed" articles at www.supplecity.com/articles/diets. Some of the diets you've heard of are helpful, but most achieve the opposite of what is claimed--or just don't work.

There are also some flat-out weird diets listed, and you may wonder what kind of whacko would dream up such a diet and what kind of moron would go on it.



 

7. Miscellany

  1. The only two animals that can see behind themselves without turning their heads are the rabbit and the parrot. However, a good friend can watch your back for you. 
  2. Help U.S. Marines: http://www.mypersonalfitnesscoach.com/supportourmarines.html .
     
  3. See: Special Offers (expired link now removed). It has some great offers that are worth following up on--such asgasoline offers. I especially like this one: Free special offer for people who are tired of not sleeping. Removed.
     

  4. We don't run ads in our newsletter. We do get inquiries from advertisers, all the time. To keep this eNL coming, go to www.mindconnection.com and do your shopping from there (as appropriate).
     

  5. Please forward this eNL to others.

8. Thought for the Day

Each morning takes all night to arrive. Don't waste it when it comes.

 

Wishing you the best,

Mark Lamendola
Mindconnection.com

 

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