- Product Highlights
- Brainpower tip
- Time tip
- Finance tip
- Security tip
- Health tip/Fitness tip
- Thought for the day
1. Product Highlights
(This product recommendation added in 2011, to replace the
original which has since been discontinued).
2. Brainpower tip
We've all had arguments with people.|
these arguments are actually debates. The two people exchange points back
and forth, and each adopts the "winner" in the exchange as his new
- Mark: "I read this statistic that 5,000 new jobs were created in the
Midwest last month. From this, I conclude that people are better off."
- Howard: "I read the same statistic. But it doesn't account for such
things as the number of jobs lost, what those new jobs were or what they
pay, or how many people are working multiple jobs."
- Mark: Hmm. "Good point. So, I guess that statistic, because it has
no context and is so vague, has no value."
- Howard: "You got it."
- Mark: "I concede that my conclusion has no merit from the fact
presented. If you were going to support my conclusion, what facts would
- Howard: "I think I'd start with such things as the decline in
government spending, which is non-existent. I'd look at the trade
balance, which is lousy. I'd look at personal debt, which is rising.
These things don't support your conclusion. But there are some new
factory starts that do. Toyota has opened, what, five plants in the past
- Mark: "Thanks for trying. I can't use plant openings, because there
are more plant closings. I still think people are better off. But I
can't prove it."
- Howard: "Some people are better off. You can certainly prove
that some people are better off. But extrapolating their data to the
general population doesn't work."
- Mark: "I think the necessary data for a general conclusion may not
You can see from this exchange that neither participant has an agenda.
The first one posits a conclusion, using facts. The second one doesn't
challenge the facts, but points out that the particular fact mentioned does not support the
conclusion. [This is what we call a non-sequitor. "Sequitor" and "sequence"
have the same root, meaning "to follow." You have a non-sequitor when the
conclusion doesn't necessarily follow the facts.
Most of the time, though, arguments are simply a collective monologue.
Each participant has an agenda, whether recognized or not. I won't give an
example--nearly every argument is done this way, today, so examples abound.
Why do people normally find it so hard to discuss things in an
intelligent, objective manner? Many reasons exist, and the combination of
reasons varies among individuals. We can sum most of these up into one
meta-reason: We want to feel validated, and we try to get that validation by
having other people agree with our views. But this approach is
self-defeating in over a dozen ways. Further, it bleeds over into the
information absorption process.
Not only does the "argue with agenda and self-validation as the goals"
approach reduce any potentially meaningful conversation down to an exchange
of "I'm not listening buy you had better" messages, it poisons our very
ability to form our ideas correctly in the first place.
If you are emotionally threatened by a viewpoint that differs from your
own while in a conversation, you will also be that way when absorbing
information to begin with.
Notice in our example exchange that Howard offers up information counter
to his own view. He is able to do this because he has looked at information
that supports his view and supports the opposite view. He formed his view
only after looking at all of the information. He does not have an opinion on
the matter--he has an observation.
Mark, by contrast, has an opinion. He is trying to validate it.
Fortunately, he realizes this is what he is doing. But suppose he started
with a conclusion? Then he would refuse to accept information such as the
number of layoffs, the massive increase in taxation, the massive currency
devaluation, plant closings, and so forth. He would look only at new plant
openings and other positive events.
Further, he would use non-information to prove subpoints. An example is
the so-called "unemployment rate." This meaningless statistic tracks new
claims for unemployment insurance compensation. It is completely unrelated
to the number of people unemployed or underemployed. Nor does it account for
situations where salaried people are working 70 hrs a week while their base
pay and benefits have been cut.
The way you approach information hugely influences your ability to form
correct conclusions. If you are always filtering things out because you have
already reached your conclusion and the information doesn't fit, then you
are limiting your ability to see reality.
A caution applies, here. I'm not saying don't ever filter. If ideas or
purported facts don't fit with your fundamental knowledge, then you do
yourself a favor by rejecting those out of hand. The trick here is to
correctly determine what knowledge is fundamental. For a long time, it was
fundamental knowledge that the earth was flat.
3. Time Tip
4. Finance tip
Thanks to the "mainstream" media, Americans are far
less better off than they otherwise would be. Wny? Grossly understated
The errors from such disinformation sources as the
New York Times (far left fringe) and the Wall Street Journal
(conservative) involve economics and
mathematics, which aren't normally the bailiwick of someone with background as a journalist. Since
the journalists choose to write and edit in these areas
(errantly) anyhow, I have summarized some of the common errors here:
- Most news sources mistakenly
defines the taxes of Americans in terms of the published federal income
tax rates. This narrow view grossly understates the typical
American tax burden. It ignores the dozens of other taxing mechanisms.
For example, there are 127 different taxes in the price of a single loaf of
bread. Did you know that the tax on an airline ticket can be a third
or more of its price? Taxes appear to be more abundant than
Looking at only one form of taxation as being
the form of taxation is intellectually disabling.
This "blinders on" approach leads to false comparisons of the tax
burdens among nations, allowing bad public policy to escape
scrutiny. Citizens of the United States, a debtor nation, pay
higher taxes than do citizens of other industrialized nations. You can
calculate the extent of the damage by looking at how much the US government spends.
You just need to understand
that money to pay for this spending comes out of taxpayers' hides (the pockets were emptied
long ago) one way or another. Despite wishful thinking, money does
not grow on trees.
- We have been hearing about the "massive tax cuts" that
allegedly took place over the past few years. It's unfortunate that
people are subjected to this parroting of political rhetoric. Those "tax cuts" are
just another example of giving a little with the one hand and taking
much with the
In reality, we have suffered an enormous
increase in our tax burden over the past decade. The bulk of this
increase occurred in recent years. Government
spending is been at record levels, and the money thus burned has to come from
somewhere--that "somewhere" is, via one route or another, the citizen. When the citizen has to
surrender money to the
government, that is called "taxes." Ergo, taxes have gone up. Way
- One way the government
"taxes without taxing" is it borrows. But the borrowing is huge and
it has a dramatic and negative effect on the capital markets. Due to
the law of supply and demand (Economics 101), it hugely raises the cost of capital, which you pay for
(dearly) in the
prices of the products and services you buy. Look again at the one-third
direct tax on the typical airline ticket and add in this indirect
tax, and you start to get the picture of just how massive the tax
load is for an American citizen. But it's only a start.
- Another way the government
"taxes without taxing" is it expands the money supply. This lowers
the value of every dollar you have (if ever so briefly), but allows the government
to pay its bills in dollars that have less value to the recipient.
We call this form of taxation "inflation." How big is this
tax? The $20 bill you put in your pocket in 1980 is worth less than
Imagine going to the store and being told that all prices are
quadrupled just for you. Or imagine what it's like to have someone
come into your home and steal 3 out of every 4 items you own. That's
what the government does to you by putting more money in
circulation. If not for inflation, that last airline ticket you
bought would have cost less than one-fourth as much as it did. And
that includes the huge portion of it that is simply a direct tax.
Take all the taxes out, and that $400 airline ticket would
run you about 36 bucks. In short, the actual price you pay is pretty
much a rounding error compared to the tax component.
- Some of these purported news sources go so
far as to say that President Bush inherited a budget surplus. But
that is a meaningless and misleading bit of information. A budget
surplus is easy to
achieve--just do what President Clinton did and move expenditures off
budget until you get the "budget surplus" you want. You
can increase spending and produce a budget surplus simultaneously--the two
actions do not share a dependency. As an example, consider people
who have a gambling addition. They put the gambling "off budget" but
wind up deep in debt anyhow. The federal government has a similar
addiction to frivolous spending, with similar results.
If you want to improve your finances, start where
the real problems are. Tell your legislators that you want government
programs and agencies eliminated, you want spending slashed, you want
taxes actually cut, you want borrowing to cease--in short, you want them
to stop robbing you blind just to they end up with a cushy job. This
constant stream of spending is destroying the USA.
We are hurting
If you've visited Japan (or any of several other nations)
recently, you've noticed the USA no longer leads the world in technology.
In fact, it has fallen behind in many areas. A November 2006 article on
cell phones, for example, revealed that the top nine models aren't even
available in the USA. Many other areas of technology follow a similar
"loss of lead" pattern.
For a clue as to where the
USA fits overall (not just technology), consider one statistic: life expectancy.
Americans are ranked somewhere between 40th place and 50th place among
nations (the statistic varies by source and methodology). My opinion is this
decline is due to such factors as the
"normal" obsession with overeating (which has resulted in a obesity
epidemic) and the stress of all the hours we work just to pay our
outrageously high taxes. The latter may be the cause of the former.
We can clearly trace the cause of our decline to massive
and rampant federal overspending
on waste). Repeat after me, "Money does not grow on trees...."
From a political point of view, bringing federal spending down to a
sensible or affordable level is impossible. That's because pork
barrel spending is the means by which politicians earn their keep from
those who put them in office. The more they waste, the more secure their
jobs are. Imagine if you could keep your job, with an automatic pay
raise each year, by robbing the homes of your company's shareholders. That's
what members of Congress do to keep their
jobs--they rob your home via higher taxes, direct or indirect.
There are only a few small groups begging legislators for some
mercy toward the people who are fleeced to pay for the massive
overspending. But there are hundreds of powerful lobbyists pressuring
legislators to misallocate your money--and rewarding them for doing so.
From a practical point of view, reducing spending to a sensible and
affordable level is easy because most of the spending isn't needed. The
idea of "making tough choices" doesn't apply, because there are so many
easy ones to make first.
How much is too much?
sources say 99% of federal spending isn't needed, and other sources
provide lower estimates. In any case, the amount of unneeded spending
dwarfs the amount of spending that serves any legitimate purpose or does
the average citizen any good.
The federal government is 185 times larger than it was a century ago, and
the debt it has saddled us with is astronomical. Yet, our so-called
representatives ignore such
"low-hanging fruit" solutions as eliminating costly agencies that serve no
legitimate purpose. Let's consider an example, next.
The United States spends more on its military than the next five nations
combined, while the IRS has more employees than all of our military has
soldiers and sailors combined. Yet, the IRS is just another, extremely
expensive, layer of taxing
that is redundant to other taxing bodies. This massive army that strikes
terror into the heart of innocent citizens while consuming vast
quantities of tax dollars to do so could be replaced by a
single harmless employee who simply coordinates and tracks payments from the 50
states. We could do this easily, if we went back to apportionment.
Having an IRS is like turning on all of your stovetop burners to heat one
small pan--just a senseless waste of resources (with the added catch you
also pour boiling water on your foot). Nobody
with any common sense would turn on all four burners just to heat
one small pan. Similarly,
common sense mandates to Congress and the Senate that they put an end to
the IRS with all due haste. They could then put the billions of dollars
a worthwhile use.
The fact we still have an IRS shows how
irresponsible the Congress and the Senate are. We have to quit putting
members of the same two insane parties back in office. Voting Republican
or Democrat is like not voting at all, because you are essentially
saying, "I don't mind if you pillage this country for your personal
benefit and I am going to show my approval by voting for one of the two
Senseless waste is institutionalized in dozens of federal agencies
and programs, most of which we would not miss if they were simply
eliminated. Cleaning up that mess would free up enormous financial capital that
could be used in something worthwhile. Insist on it. Don't wait until
the next so-called election. Start demanding fiscal responsibility now.
But keep in mind it won't be easy. The typical drunken gambler is more
competent in this regard than the typical senator. You will get
insincere promises. When you do, ask for a date by which your senator
(or Congressman, depending) will get back to you with the results and
what he or she will do if not successful. If enough Americans keep
pushing, we could see Tax Freedom Day arrive as early as Thanksgiving.
5. Security tip
As a merchant, I have occasion to work with law enforcement to track down
fraudsters and even recover stolen merchandise. So, I see a lot of fraud
schemes first-hand. I also get to talk with detectives and earn some of
the latest things thieves are doing.|
Some of the things I'm told are
not for public consumption, and I'm not in the business of educating
losers on how they can rip other people off. But I can provide our
readers with security tips based on what the experts are telling me.
If you find a credit card charge that you suspect isn't right, don't
just call the credit card company, contest the charge, and cancel the
card. You need to find out how that charge got there. To do this, call
the merchant. All merchants to take credit cards can tell you what the
thief knew about your identity, such as your:
- First and last name
- Possibly, your middle initial
- Phone number
- Billing address
- Home address, including street number and zip code
- Credit card security number
- e-mail address
Find out what you can about these things, and you may be able to
track down the person who stole your identity. But if all (or most) of
this information has been taken, you are not just a victim of credit
card fraud. You are a victim of identity theft. In that case:
- Contact your local police department, and ask for the latest
advice in clearing up identity theft. This may require an officer
coming to your home or business to take information and it may
require filing a criminal complaint. All of that effort is worth it.
- Contact every credit card company for which you have a card.
Cancel existing cards and get new ones.
- Contact your bank and explain that you are a victim of identity
theft. Tell them that you want to close your existing account and
open a new one.
- Provide all auto-pay providers (utilities, for example) with
your new bank acct number.
- Contact one of the major credit bureaus and obtain your current
- If you have been using a computer at your place of employment to
conduct your online transactions, stop stealing your employer's time
and other resources. It's possible someone installed a keystroke
tracker on your computer and got information that way. On a home
computer, this problem does not exist.
- Report the problem to the IRS. This organization is a common
source of identity theft, due to lax security, poor psychological
profiles of employees, rampant criminal activity (source: GAO
reports), lack of oversight, and a general attitude that taxpayers
are cheaters, liars, and scum. But still, even the IRS has some
standards. If the right manager sees your complaint, a criminal may
6. Health tip/Fitness tips
- If we could turn stupidity into usable energy, CONgress could supply
the entire world with all of its annual energy needs in just one month.
- For some amazing photos of our little patch of
the universe, see http://www.icstars.com.
See: Special Offers (expired link now removed).
It has some great offers that are worth following
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).
Please forward this eNL to others.
8. Thought for the Day
When someone mentions "great historical figures," whom do you think
about? Did any Congressmen or Senators come to mind? I'm going to guess
The current hoopla about the "leaders" in the US House and
Senate will blow away (mostly because of all the hot air). Paying
attention to the promises of those parasites is a waste of the limited time you have on
this earth. From their track records, we already know the outcome--more
stupidity and increased loss of personal wealth and freedom. Until we
start electing people from other parties (that is, non-Demopublicans),
this trend will probably continue.
How can you best use your limited time to improve your life and that
of those around you? What have you done lately for a neighbor, friend,
or family member?
Wishing you the best,
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