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Mindconnection eNL, 2007-05-06


In this issue:

  1. Product highlight
  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 Highlight

Personalize Your Space

ICat's Pet
Cat's Pet Art Print
16 in. x 24 in.
Framed | Mounted

Bald Eagle over Canyon de Chelley
Bald Eagle over Canyon de Chelley,
Paravano, 14 in. x 11 in.
Buy this Art Print
Framed | Mounted



Mindconnection's had a poster area for many years. Check out our offerings, and see if something suits you. Or, check out our offerings and see if something is perfect for someone you know. I have a friend who's really into elephants. So is his wife. Guess what I sent them?

2. Brainpower tip

Recently, I was the recipient of an e-mail cc:d to probably two dozen folks. A group had written a technical standard and put it out for comment. The document was full of flaws. I detailed a dozen of them, sending my feedback to the original sender and not to the whole list.

One of the other recipients apparently replied in the same manner. I received multiple replies to the one short comment he sent back. These replies were cc:d to the whole list. The were defensive and argumentive. They were also wrong (from a technical perspective) and did not answer the original comment. Some of the replies were long and convoluted, which is an indication the authors of those replies were grasping for straws.

What happened here was these people weren't looking for good technical feedback. They had produced something incompetently and just wanted a pat on the back. When they instead got the feedback they asked for, they defended their original errors instead of using the input to create a better document.

This behavior is common. And it's self-defeating. My brainpower tip for this issue is "lose the ego." Most people will reach a decision and then inanely argue in support of it no matter what facts are presented contrary to that decision. We hate to be seen as wrong, and because of that we will insist actually being wrong rather than changing our view so that it is correct. We see this all the time in politics (explaining how a Demopublican actually gets elected), religion, and many other areas.

"I'm a good person. How can I possibly be wrong?" Notice, there is no relationship whatsoever to these two thoughts. Yet, people tie them together all the time. There is nothing wrong with being wrong. It doesn't "make you wrong" as a person. When you are wrong, it simply means you are in an excellent position to learn something new.

Rather than justify an error, use the new information to correct the error. Don't wear blinders.

At the same time, you have to be able to recognize when information is not valid. I've written on that particular topic in past eNLs. It's amazing what some people will accept as "fact." It's also amazing to see the lengths people will go to when confronted with a fact that doesn't fit their existing opinion. Usually, they will reject the fact based on spurious and irrelevant arguments.

Here's a quick tip in that area. Look at evidence to disprove the viewpoint, as well as evidence to prove it. I was on the Debate team in high school, and we had to be able to argue either side of a position. If you practice this when analyzing any viewpoint, you will find your "confirmation bias" evaporating and your viewpoints actually standing on pretty solid ground.

One key to all of this is to stop assuming there's something wrong with being wrong. I used to think there was, but I was wrong.

It really is OK to admit being wrong. In fact, that's often a necessary step to being right.

3. Time Tip

4. Finance tip

This finance tip centers on information specific to USA citizens (the bulk of our audience), but the concepts will apply to citizens of any nation. The largest cost you have, by far, is the cost of supporting the enormous, mostly unnecessary, expenditures of your government.

The national debt is presently a staggering $9 trillion. And that's just for the stuff we know about. Let's pretend all of the secret spending and off budget stuff doesn't exist and then really go out on a limb and say the govt doesn't cook its books. I know, I know--but humor me.

Let's say the number of taxpayers in the USA is about 90 million (I didn't look that up--it's just a logical assumption and might even be on the high side).

  • 90 million...............90,000,000 (8 figures)
  • 9 billion.............9,000,000,000 (10 figures)
  • 9 trillion.....9,000,000,000,000 (13 figures)

Let's divide 9 trillion by 90 million. We can quickly eliminate zeros, making it 900,000 / 9. That comes out to $100,000. If you are an American taxpayer, this is your share of the national debt.

Very little of this debt was acquired for any useful purpose. Just about all of it was used for purposes not provided for in the US Constitution--things like further bloating the already over-bloated federal bureaucracies (parasite-ocracies) and making political pork paybacks to campaign financers.

Nonetheless, this is your share. Go to your bank's Website, and use their mortgage calculator to see what it would cost you to finance your share over the next 20 years. I'm going to go way out on a limb here and take a wild guess that if your boss docked your pay that month each month, and did so for no particular reason, you would be less that overjoyed. If I guessed wrong, I apologize. Send me money too, if you don't mind.

Now, that $100 grand is just your current debt (and remember, I am probably understating this by overstating the number of taxpayers). On top of that accumulated debt, you have your current tax load.

What is your tax load, anyhow? It's not 10% or 15%, as many people think. They get this incorrect notion by simply applying their federal income tax bracket to their income. That's not even close. To get there, you need to take a different approach.

First, add up all of your various payroll tax deductions. Don't forget to double the SS tax, because the part your employer "pays" actually comes out of the amount that is available for paying someone to do the job you do. There is no free ride, here--you do pay 100% of the SS tax. You pay for one half with a deduction, the other half with a wage cut. Both come from your pay.

To do this accurately, you need to work with the dollar amounts shown on your paycheck, not the percentages. That's because the percentages are based on your pay minus half of your SS tax. You would be overstating your tax burden and, unlike the govt, we want accuracy when it comes to math.

If you don't have a figure between 45% and 55%, recheck your numbers.  If you live in a low-tax or no tax state, county, and city, then you may be under 40%. If you live in a high-tax locale, you may be above 60%. Also, any overwitholding or underwitholding will skew the results--so you may need to backadjust based on last years state and federal returns.

Next, consider that the price of every product and service you buy must cover the payroll taxes of the folks who produced it. This is what's called embedded tax. How many people did it take to make, market, transport, and sell each item you bought last week, on average? Thirty? I estimate this hidden tax is roughly 20% of your income. This, of course, varies with individual spending habits. People whine about losing their retirement savings if we have a national sales tax, and yet they are already paying it. Go figure (and I don't mean that figuratively).

I read an analysis of a $400 airline ticket, showing that all but $40 of it was taxes. That particular example isn't typical of all airline tickets. But it does show there are a lot of taxes in what you buy.

Let's say this hidden tax is only 15% and your payroll taxes are 40%. That brings us to 55%. Now, count up the phone tax, vehicle taxes, roadway tolls, excise taxes, grocery taxes, delivery taxes, sales taxes, usage fees, landfill tax, sewer tax, building permit fees, city inspections, gas tax, fishing permit, hunting license, property tax, and all of the other taxes you pay. Well, give it a rest when you reach 100 of these (there are 121 taxes on a single loaf of bread).

And don't forget that the compliance cost of all the federal regulations. The index alone to the Federal Register was 65,000 pages before the Clinton/Bush legislation orgy. Regulatory burden is another form of taxation.

Government borrowing is yet another form of taxation, and it's a huge one. It raises the cost of capital, and you pay that cost when businesses pass it on to you. So when a politician talks about "tax cuts" without spending cuts, your taxes may actually go up.

Inflation is also a form of tax. The dollar of 1970 is worth a dime today, or something like that. Inflation is caused when more dollars are created to represent the same number of goods and services--thereby causing each dollar to lose value. This way, the govt pays back loans with cheaper dollars. The creditor gets cheated.

Identifying these various taxes could take dozens of hours of hard work. This is no accident. The people who pass these taxes don't want to be seen doing so. If you do enough digging, you will eventually arrive at a figure that is another 30% to 50% of your income. Let's call it 30%.

So you are now sitting there with only 15% of your income available to you. From that, you must pay for your food, clothing, and shelter--plus carry that $100,000 debt you had no say in creating. No wonder you work so many hours--about twice as many per year as your counterparts in Germany, Italy, and France.

But wait. Did you "have a say," after all? I think so. These taxes and that debt have been permitted by the American people. This is the natural outcome when the vast majority of people vote Demopublican in every Senate, Congressional, and Presidential election. If the same party wins in every election, there is no reason for them to listen or care to the victims of their excessive legislation and irresponsible spending.

They are guaranteed the average voter's vote no matter how outrageously they misbehave. That's because they play this cute game of pretending to be two parties.

Now, let's see if that is one party or two.

  • What do the Democrats do when they are in charge? Spend money and write more regulations.
  • What do the Republicans do when they are in charge? Spend money and write more regulations.

Hmm. Do you see any difference? Maybe in minor details, but the result is the same--more spending and more regulations. So if you vote for one party, you vote for the other. It doesn't matter. Nothing ever changes, because these folks have no motivation to change. There is zero competition. We voters keep giving our approval, no matter how outrageous the behavior or how much it costs.

These folks have taken turns back and forth for over a century and a  half, and what do you have? Basically, you work until Thanksgiving each year just to pay your taxes, and you have a $100,000 debt. Who is the real turkey, here?

Yes, you do get some services for all of those many tax dollars. But today, one person in private industry can often do a job that used to take 10 people to do. In government, 100 people do a job that should require only one person. So, you are being overcharged for government services. Such that they are.

The most important thing you can do in any federal election from now on is refuse to vote Democrat or Republican. It doesn't matter if you are a life-long Democrat and have been told this is a "critical election for taking America back" or some similar lie. It doesn't matter if you are  life-long Republican and have been told the scarey Democrats will ruin the country. Voting for either party is, frankly, unAmerican. No change will occur, and we'll have the same plundering as before.

But if 90 million taxpayers wrote in Mickey Mouse, you can bet things would change. Things will change if you choose any other party than one of these "two" guaranteed loser(s)--that is, the Demopublicans.

Refuse to choose between whether to have your left kneecap hammered or your right kneecap hammered. This is not a concept from some other planet. It's simple logic.

Making an actual choice is a thought on many people's minds. Anger at both sides of our single political party (Demopublicans) is high. Survey after survey shows people are disgusted with politicians, and the politicians are finally starting to sweat a little.

Here's why I say these folks aren't so smug anymore. In late April, I read two interesting bits of news:

  1. The Democratic Party Leaders are wanting to seriously flatten the federal income tax. A key part of their plan is a huge standard deduction that will take millions of Americans off the federal income tax rolls. They will also eliminate the 10% bracket. This could be the start of the end for the world's most evil, most feared, most corrupt, most destructive, and most hated organization. You know who they are.
  2. Yet another IRS Commissioner has had enough. Mark Everson announced, on short notice, he's taking the CEO job at the American Red Cross. Apparently, he decided there is truth to "you are known by the company you keep" and wanted some dignity at last.

5. Security tip

My home has been under surveillance for several weeks. Sometimes, the birdbrain on stakeout and even makes eye contact with me. I think he's rather flighty, too.

I should probably tell you this is a robin. What possesses this robin to come to a window and see what I'm doing when I happen to be in a given room is something I have yet to figure out. But it leads me into a good security tip. In my neighborhood, people keep an eye on each other's homes.

Say you live here and are a newspaper subscriber. You go on a trip, forgetting about that paper. When you get home, you won't find papers piled up announcing that your house is vacant. No, your papers will either be at the home of a neighbor or they'll have been brought around back and left in a discreet location.

Take a trip in the winter, and what happens? Someone either shovels your drive or puts tire tracks on it. Sure looks like someone is home.

It's not unusual for me to walk outside and find that someone has brought my garbage cans from the curb up to my garage. Whodunit is anyone's guess. If someone comes home and finds their dog gone, their first assumption is a neighbor has the dog for safekeeping and will be over shortly.

I grew up in a neighborhood like this. Things were tight, and folks looked out for each other. Today, those same old neighbors still look out for each other.

Do you know your neighbors? Do you watch out for them? With which of them do you share phone numbers or house keys? If someone pulled up in a moving van and started unloading your neighbor's stuff, would you know whether they were movers or thieves? What if it's your stuff and your neighbors don't have a clue?

Your neighbors are your best potential security measure. If they aren't your actual security measure, start working on that. Small kindnesses build strong bonds. Start there, if nowhere else seems obvious.

6. Health tip/Fitness tips

So, you made a New Year's Resolution to exercise regularly. How's that going? If you have dropped out or feel like you're going to, this article can definitely help you:

7. Miscellany

  1. If coloring weren't added to Coca-Cola, it would be green. If you actually drink that stuff, read this article:
  2. We don't run ads in our newsletter. We do get inquiries from advertisers, all the time. To keep this eNL coming, go to and do your shopping from there (as appropriate).

  3. Please forward this eNL to others.


8. Thought for the Day

Letting another person feel your annoyance puts that person on the defensive. Sometimes, this is desirable. Most of the time, however, it pits you against them and stops the flow of effective communication. Try to let respect flow from you. If you can't do that with a particular person, you probably can't do much else with that person either.


Wishing you the best,

Mark Lamendola


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