Friday, August 31, 2007

The Fallacy of Statistics

Nowadays, every group and organization with an agenda of some sort has taken to throwing out statistics, all in an effort to convince naive people into embracing that agenda. But if the truth be told, statistics are absolutely worthless when it comes to proving anything at all. Statistics are only as good as the method used to come by them, and they way they are presented.

EXAMPLE: I once sent two teens out to take a survey to determine how many Americans drink too much. I positioned the first in front of a Baptist Church on Sunday, to poll the parishioners. According to his statistics, only 1% drank too much.

The second teen was stationed just outside a popular bar in the "combat zone" near a homeless shelter. His statistics proved that 100% of Americans drank too much.

Of course, neither set of statistics is accurate.

And then there are those "drug" ads on TV, like the one that says a certain drug will reduce the chances of a certain rare disease by half. That sounds incredible. But when you discover that only one person is 100,000 will contract that disease, cutting the rate in half really does not mean much, does it?

Or the ads that say their product is "twice as effective" as a competitor. Hm-m-m. What if the competitor's product is not at all effective? Two times nothing is still nothing!

And then there are government statistics that politicians and political groups twist to suit their needs. Like the recent statistic that there are 700,000 more children uninsured this year than last year. Oh-h-h! Sounds so terrible. To the untrained ear, that would sound like the poverty rate is rising! But is it?

Actually, the poverty rate has shrunk considerably. So why so many "new" kids uninsured?

There could be many reasons. For example, the population has grown by over a million, so it is only natural that the number of unisured people would also rise proportionately. And some families are Christian Scientists who do not believe in medical care, so they have no need for insurance. But more likely, it has more to do with increased wealth and the ever-increasing cost of insurance.

Take my family, for example. None of us is insured. We do not need insurance - our income is more than sufficient to handle even the most catastrophic health event. And with the cost of insurance so high, it makes more sense to self-insure (which means we do not buy into health insurance). So, we are considered uninsured. But we are not. We are SELF-insured, paying our own way.

Entrepreneurism is still on the rise in America. More and more families are self-employed. And self-insured. But just because they are not insured does not mean they are poor, or that the poverty rate is increasing, as many would have you believe.

So the next time someone throws statistics at you, keep an open mind. You do not want to become a victim of misinformation by statistics.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Disappointed in Geraldo

As I watched Geraldo Rivera these last few days as he tries to defend sanctuary cities, I lost all respect for the man. As a reporter, he is supposed to be objective, but he is not. Like many others on the left, he has an agenda, and uses every opportunity to push it. That's fine. But what is not fine is when he prostitutes his profession in that manner. It seems dishonest. It is akin to false advertising, by claiming to be an objective reporter, and under that guise he leads people to believe that sanctuary cities are doing the right thing by breaking federal law.

Geraldo stated that the reason the illegal immigrant in Newark was able to kill three kids is because the guy was out on bail, and the bail was too low. While that sounds logical on the surface, it does not withstand even the most cursory inspection.

Here are the real facts:

1) If Newark did not have a sanctuary policy, that killer would have been reported to ICE and deported about 60 crimes ago, and would not have been out on bail, to kill American kids. He would not have been out on bail, because he would not have been here to rape the kids he was arrested for. He would be in his home country, and no American would have suffered at his hands.

2) If that killer had not illegally entered this country in the first place, and found sanctuary, those kids would still be alive today.

So, the murders occurred not because of low bail, but because immigration laws were not adhered to, and a sanctuary city allowed and enabled an illegal immigrant to roam our streets and terrorize Americans. This man raped children, and mudered college kids, among his many crimes. Yet, he was still running free on the Streets of Newark because, and only because, Newark is a sanctuary city.

Geraldo went on to claim that there were 60 murders in Newark this year, and people opposed to illegal immigration are not making an issue of those, so they have no right to make an issue of these three murders. But the fact is, while we cannot prevent crimes by Americans, we CAN prevent crimes by illegals, by deporting them. Geraldo does not seem to understand that 57 murders are better than 60 murders. We should prevent the ones that we can. But sanctuary cities - and people like Geraldo - are opposed to that because it harms their cause - to have open borders.

Personally, I think our immigration laws leave a lot to be desired. But it really irks me when people like Geraldo attempt to spin the issue in such a way as to insult my intelligence. For him to tell me it is a "low bail issue" is to try and tell me that the killer is not responsible - the court is.

Wake up, Geraldo - while the court may have erred, and in so doing may have provided OPPORTUNITY for the crime, it is not the CAUSE of the crime. The cause is simple - a person who should not have even been in America was allowed to enter, and was provided protection and sanctuary by the corrupt officials of Newark, New Jersey, even after he had committed many serious crimes.

Geraldo would do well to spend a few minutes learning about "cause and effect", and stop trying to legitimize giving sanctuary to ANY criminal, regardless of their immigration status.

Strange, though, how Geraldo has no problem turning AMERICAN criminals over to the feds, when federal laws are broken.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Are we making things worse?

Every day the news is rife with tragic stories of incidents that, just two generations ago, would have been unheard of. Kids killing kids in school. Kids being brainwashed into jihadism (even American kids). Kids joining violent gangs in ever-increasing numbers. Drive-by shootings. The list goes on and on...

I have a tendancy to try and get to the core of what causes a problem. Not just the symptoms, but the real root cause. And researching this phenomenon, it appeared that the first clue lies in the fact that these atrocities all seemed to start taking shape in the late '60's and early '70's. Before that point, for example, there were no incidents of a child bringing guns into school and killing a bunch of classmates and teachers, even though until that time, it was permissible in country schools for young men to bring their guns, so that they could go hunting after school. I often brought rifles to school for that purpose.

Having determined that the time period had something to do with the drastic, violent changes in society, I then began looking for "turning point" moments during that period, in an attempt to find some correlation.

Understand that there is nothing "scientific" about my research or conclusions. But I must say that two major issues came to the fore in the late '60's and early '70's. One was Madeline O'Hare, who hornswaggled the Supreme Court into removing religion - and therefore the Christian values - from the schools, which began the movement to remove Christianity from any public venue. I could not help but believe that the message this sends to our kids is one of, "leave the antiquated moral values of your parents at the door. They are neither appreciated nor wanted".

The other issue is perhaps the most controversial issue ever to face the Great Republic. Abortion. Now, I am not going to get into my personal beliefs on this issue - I try to remain objective. But I can't help but wonder about the message THAT sends to our children! Prior to Roe vs Wade, America stood fast on the principle of the sanctity of life - nothing was more important. Then suddenly, with the stroke of a pen, the Supreme Court turned that principle on its head. No longer was America a nation dedicated to life. Instead, it started down the road as a nation that no longer found sanctity in human life. Instead, we could now kill the unborn children - as many and as often as we chose. We could shrug off personal responsibility - if you do something, and it does not have the result you desire, you can simply throw it out and call for "do overs". And if you don't believe that this leaves an impression on our kids, think again. Just yesterday, I met a 17 year old boy who made the statement, "Whatever! If mothers can kill their children, what is the value of MY life?" Children learn. And there is no one else to learn from but us. What we do will mold them.

In any case, it seems clear to me that we are teaching our children to escape reality, avoid responsibility, disregard moral values and find little value in human life. Is it any wonder so many go awry. Did you know, for example, that the third leading cause of death among children is suicide? Life has no value to them. So how can we possibly expect them to respect the lives, or even the property of others?

One thing I am certain of - I am determined to teach my daughter moral values, respect and personal responsibility. But more than that, I impress upon her that life is not only unfair, but it is supposed to be unfair. It is nature's way to make things difficult. That is how a species becomes strong - the first law of nature is, after all, survival of the fittest. So, nature slaps us with every conceivable tribulation, for the express purpose of making us stronger.

My daughter has learned that when things get hard, or painful, it is only a test - and it is temporary. She knows that "going without" will make you stronger, if you do not give up. She knows she can have anything she wants, provided she earns it. She understands that loved ones can die, good people can have bad things happen to them, and that there are no guarantees. And she also knows that her ultimate happiness lies in her own hands, for it is whatever we make it.

For her, these understandings mean she will be far less likely to feel depression. She will be far more likely to look forward to trials and hardships, for the value of the things she will learn from them. She knows that success is a product of earlier failures - learning, by trial and error, what does not work.

And I cannot help but wonder what would happen if America were to once again sanctify life, revere personal responsibility, and learn to respect not only others, but ourselves, as well. What would happen if our children were to learn such things from us....

Speaking of taxes...

Some "new" tax breaks:

Beginning in 2008, the tax rate on long-term cap gains drops from 5% to 0% for folks in the 10% or 15% tax brackets. So, if you fall in that category, postpone taking cap gains until 2008.

The expired college tuition deduction has been given new life. The deduction is back, and is set higher at $4000 for those whose AGI is $130K or less on a joint return, or $65K or less on a single return. If your AGI is between $130K and $160K, the deduction is a scant $2000.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you did not take the deduction on your 2006 return because it was not listed (it had expired), you may file for it retroiactively bt filing an amended return, Form 1040X, for 2006.

September Tax Calendar

For those of us with businesses, who must file quarterly, please take note that the third installment for estimated taxes is due on or before September 17 (because the 15th falls on a Saturday).

If you have a corporation (either C or S), and you had filed for an automatic extension last spring, you must file by the 17th, also. No further extensions are permitted for this year.

September 30th is the last day to identify the designated beneficiary of an inherited IRA whose owner died in 2006.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Out of the mouths of babes!

Being a "modern" thinker, I had come to pretty much accept the theory of evolution, not because it makes a certain kind of sense, but because I have always been bombarded by it, by teachers, professors, friends, the media etc.

Then along comes my young, inquisitive daughter. She asks, "If evolution is real, and there was no Creation, where did the first living thing come from? Because if it were the first, it could not have evolved. So, where did that first living cell come from?"

Hm-m-m. She almost had me. I said, "Perhaps a bolt of lightning struck the ocean and somehow (???) gave life to the first living cell."

Unabashed, she asks, "So, where did the lightning, and the ocean, come from? Since they are not living things, they could not possibly have evolved. So, where did they come from?"

"Well," I said, "perhaps they were just there. The universe may have simply created itself (did I say "created"?).

To which she queried, "But the other day in school I learned the first law of physics, that 'matter can neither be created nor destroyed'. If that is true, and science says it is, then the universe could not possibly have created itself."

And then I did what I always do when my little sweetheart gets the better of me - I took two aspirin and went to take a nap.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The "New" Wave of Real Estate

For 7 years I have been hearing the "experts" say that the "bubble" was about to burst. And, as I predicted, it never did. That is not to say that some markets have not softened - many have. But there has been no "bursting" of any "bubble".

But what is new is the pending foreclosures caused by irresponsible lending practices - strange, new schemes developed by lenders to make certain that people would overextend themselves, causing them to default on loans that never should have been made.

And where was the government regulatory banking boys - the ones who are supposed to protect the public from such unscrupulous practices?

If we were to eliminate the foreclosures caused by those poor lending practices, the actual foreclosure rate would not be any higher today than it was over the last 15 years.

The point is, it is not real estate that is in trouble. The trouble is with the unfortunate souls who fell for those lending schemes. Real estate is still sound, as long as sound methods are used, such as those taught in "The Simple Man's Guide to Real Estate" by IntelliBiz.

More important for those who want to profit immensely, many of those foreclosures will become bargains for the investor. We are on the verge of a new wave in real estate. If you do not believe it, consider this - according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the world will double over the next 40 years. Imagine, double the population! Where will they all live? They will need homes, won't they? New businesses, stores, parking lots, roads, schools for all those people will use of land quickly. Those who own that land, or those homes, will be the ones raking in the bucks.

The Fallacy of Ethanol

In an earlier post, I pointed out that the cost to produce ethanol is greater than the value it produces. I also pointed out that by using a basic food (corn) to produce ethanol, we would pay a very dear price.

Now, even though a very small amount of ethanol is being produced, the shortage of corn has raised the price of nearly everything attached to it. Milk is up 35% in the last year, because what little corn is available for feed is now more expensive. Cheese is up almost 70%, and even ice cream is going through the roof. And don't forget that pizza - the higher cost of cheese is raising the price of that favorite food.

Everywhere you look, prices are going through the roof, with increases that are unheard of. Last week I paid $3.69 a gallon for milk. Three days later that same gallon was $3.99, and today it is $4.69. And it is all because we are foolish enough to use a valuable food to produce energy that is neither cheap nor efficient. We use more fossil fuel to produce ethanol than we receive from ethanol in energy. That is just plain stupid! And to do it at the expense of the most basic food is beyond stupid - it is criminal.

That's the trouble with eco-liberals - they rush into something without even looking to see what the consequences will be.

Well, the consequences of using corn to produce ethanol is a food shortage, a money shortage, and we still have the same dependence upon fossil fuels, because what the eco-liberals don't tell you is that the production of ethanol requires the use of more fossil fuel - 1.5 gallons of fossil fuel is needed to produce 1 gallon of ethanol.