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Saturday, November 15, 2014

The MLM Plague in Israel (Continued)


Credit: amazon.com

Are there any "good" MLMs? Rhetorical question, I know, but it is interesting to note how it seems that all of them are using the same stale psychological tricks -- no matter where, no matter in what language.

For example, take the following [Hebrew-language] Facebook page, 'Pro MLM Israel'. Yes, it is in Hebrew... but believe me, it doesn't matter. You can all just guess what's there. On the first page, we have:

- 'A one time offer to learn personally from one of Israel's top marketers!'
- 'Our amazing conference! Be there!'
- 'Why most marketers don't make money in MLM' (dead link -- let me guess, anything but the true reason, i.e., that it's a pyramid scam).
- 'Is there another way except for working for peanuts for 40 years'?

...and so on.

The Facebook page itself is defunct -- its last update was in 2012. Strange. Well, I guess the authors of the page are millionaires by now.

Another page, 'I am MLM', is offering the same sort of pop psychology. It includes posts such as the:

- 'We are only using 10% of our brain' myth,
- 'Getting rich is an exact science' (so buy the book / lecture / whatever that will teach you the "secret"),
- 'Every company is a pyramid, get over it' (sure -- only in MLMs, the "workers" don't actually get paid...),
- 'What you need is MOTIVATION' (every second or third post): i.e., if you didn't succeed in MLM, it was because you were not 'motivated' enough.

Naturally, the web page is full of invitations to register for the seminars that will teach you the 'secrets of success', 'how to make money on Facebook', testimonials such as 'I made $100 today sitting next to the pool, you want to as well, right?', etc.

To be fair, they also have standard-issue 'feel good' videos there for free; of course, if that's what one wants, one can find them just as easily on youtube.

People actually pay money for this?

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

RationalWiki and Tax Protestors

'It's not even a good idea' -- the motto below this "pseudolaw" portal logo on the rational wiki web page. 

The excellent rational wiki page about tax protestors (or protesters) has all the usual -- detailed -- tax protestor nonsense debunked. It is well worth a visit since it deals with all kinds of pseudoscience and debunks it. It is common for tax protestors to also be creationists (like "Dr. Dino" [Kent Hovind]), conspiracy theorists (like - well - most of them), believers in psuedohistory, and even (in the case of the NESARA scammers, which are not technically tax deniers but share many of the same beliefs) in UFOs.

Note: All links go to the "rational wiki" portal, which is well worth pursuing for its own sake.

Naturally all these areas overlap. They all share the same important point, namely, of making the believer in the theory think that he (usually; most women seem to have more common sense) is special, part of a tiny elite which knows THE TRUTH(tm), and everybody else is brainwashed and wrong.

This explains, incidentally, why many of them fight the IRS even if their financial situation is such that they actually don't owe much, or even any, income tax. It really is a matter of principle, or perhaps worldview, for them -- not necessarily the money.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Problem Solved(?)

Photo Credit: dailypicksandflicks.com

Quick note: I just found out why the blog suddenly had a "disappearing image" problem. Hope the problem is solved.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

It's not that Good to be the King after all, I Guess.

Photo credit: latest.com

Apparently, the man above -- Crown Prince Emperor El Bey Bigbay Bagby (badaboom badabam), a.k.a. William McRae -- does not, in fact, posses diplomatic immunity. A rather extreme (in silliness, not violence) case of people considering themselves "sovereigns".

The judge threw out his claim for diplomatic immunity, needless to say, but I noticed something in his titles: it is even logically impossible to be a "crown prince emperor el bey", since one cannot even logically be a crown prince, an emperor, and a bey (roughly, a chieftain or ruler of an area within a country) at the same time.

Not that the man in question is even on nodding terms with this thing called "logic", but still...

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Martian Law Not Declared After All

Photo Credit: Deep Though

Sovereign citizens are not known for their literacy, as this post of the SPLC center notes. A man tried to declare that he is not subject to the laws of the state of Georgia (the US state, not the former Soviet Republic), but rather to the law of the "Moorish Nations", and therefore he wants to be tried by their laws, which, presumably, say he can do anything he feels like.

The judge noted that it may as well be "Martian law", which, presumably, is the law they have on Mars, where the man in question -- Akeem Kwame, the executor of the Akeem Kwame trust, a.k.a., somewhat less grandiosly, as Gregory Ross of Covingron, GA. -- seems to be living.

Kwane seemed bewildered when he was thrown in jail: "You're placing the occupant of the executor office of the Akeem Kwame [trust] in custory?". Why yes, Mr. Kwame. Yes indeed.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

An Excellent Anti-Fraud Web Side

Image credit: Tax Guard Blog

A very good anti-fraud web site is the Fraud Files Blog -- which investigates all sort of frauds and scams. Its most recent (May 2014) emphasis is on divorce fraud (spouses hiding assets from each other using all kinds of illegal means), but there are much more information there. In particular, searching for 'MLM' in that blog leads to a huge list of articles, and looking for specific MLMs -- such as "Amway" -- leads to many others, many of them not likely to have been seen by readers here before. See if your own favorite MLM scammer is there (they likely are).

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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Dennis The Constitutional Peasant in Real Life



Well, it had to happen.

A certain "sovereign citizen", Rory Daniel Hawes, this time from Canada, had claimed -- of course -- that he is not under the jurisdiction of the Canadian courts.

Now, the interesting thing is that he, first, agrees with Dennis the Constitutional Peasant that just because some watery tart threw a sword at someone, that hardly makes them a sovereign. He therefore concludes that people must have voted for Queen Elizabeth II:
Mind control drug needles in his ass! In his ass! All because you voted for Queen Elizabeth II, you bastard Canadians!
What's more, he is -- you guessed it (see the same link) -- convinced that he is being oppressed, and that we all should come and see the violence inherit in the system.

Monty Python comes to life.

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Quick Note

There seems to have been a problem with images on this blog. I have removed the "unavailable" images from the posts (finally)...

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Christianity and MLMs

Credit: Lifechurch
We have already discussed how Judaism sees MLMs, and how Kantians do. What about Christians? An excellent take-down of MLM's problems from a couple who happens to be Christian, What is Wrong with MLMs (2nd article -- but the rest is well worth reading), is well-known among MLM critics on the internet. However, their faith plays no role in that particular article; it is pure economics.

One example of an article which speaks about the Christian's duty concerning MLMs agrees, broadly, with the Jewish view noted in this blog before. To wit, while the Bible (needless to say) does not consider MLMs directly, there are best avoided by good Christians because of their potential, indeed near-certainty, of leading to sin -- such as that of greed, hurting others, etc.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"But I Made a Lot of Money" / "Look at all those Successful People!"

Credit: Wow Blog.
A common argument by MLMers is the argumentum ad populum -- so many people are successful, why won't you be? If they are all successful, can they all be wrong?

There are two reasons. First of all, they are likely simply lying. Statistics show that the average MLMer loses money and only a tiny fraction makes more than a part-time minimum wage job would have made with a lot more security and less effort.

But suppose they are correct? If so, then this is another reason to not join the MLM. As MLMs are pyramid schemes, where money is made by those in the top from those on the bottom, if many people are successful it merely means the pyramid's top -- joining it being the only way to make money -- is already full, so your chances of making money are even smaller than they already were.

I mean, would you buy a scratchcard from someone who told you to buy it because he already had won the grand prize in that batch?  

So the next time someone tells you to join an MLM because they made it big, tell them 'that's why I'm not joining!'.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

MLMs and Jewish Law

What does Jewish law say about MLMs? An interesting answer is given (in Hebrew) by a in an article called 'Slaves of the Pyramid' on Ynet, Israel's most popular news site.

Rabbi Aryeh Wohlander (ph. spelling from the Hebrew), first distinguishes "pyramid MLMs" (where the money is mostly or exclusively from recruiting a downline, not from product sales) from "non-pyramid scheme MLMs". He notes that the latter are legal, but he distrusts 'we are not a pyramid' claims of MLMS (he notes all MLMs make them) and gives a rule of thumb: whether one can make money without recruiting others or having a downline.

In practice -- I add, the Rabbi does not, perhaps due to Ynet's fear of lawsuits -- this means all MLMs are pyramid schemes. As for pyramid schemes, whether with a product ("pyramid MLMs") or not, the Rabbi notes that it is explicitly forbidden -- a form of fraud -- to give a false description of the product (in this case the MLM "opportunity") or to hide flaws in it, e.g. by overemphasizing atypical success stories or blaming failure on the person instead of the rigged system.

What's more, since a person who joins and does know all the facts, and then does not succeed in recruiting others had lost money due to deliberately bad advice by the recruiter, this is a serious sin, hurting others who are in no position to defend themselves, forbidden by the biblical command to 'not put an obstacle in front of a blind man'.

Finally, such "pyramid MLMs" are similar to gambling, an activity that 'is of no use' -- one man's gain being simply another man's loss, which is forbidden by Jewish law (e.g., by the Rambam), even if there is no fraud involved, as a waste of time, to say nothing of its corrupting properties. This is as opposed to genuine economic activity -- buying or selling goods or services -- where both sides gain from the deal, and thus is not a waste of time.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kiyosaki: Don't let Logic Stop you from Getting Rich!

Well, what do you know. Robert Kiyosaki, the world's worst financial adviser (but the world's best self-publicist), gave an interview to an Israeli Financial Newspaper in 2007.

While the above quote doesn't appear literally in the interview, it follows from what he says. The link is in Hebrew, so here are some gems. What is amazing is that just about everything he says is either a logical contradiction, or a tautology, or just plain wrong.

Here are some contradictions from the article:

Rule 8 "for getting rich": "take care of yourself first, of your bills later".
Rule 9: "don't get into debt".

Rule 1: "Real estate is an asset, it creates income".
Rule 2: "Owning a house is a liability, it creates expenses".

"I'm an investor. Real investors always know what will happen".
"Oil will soon reach $200 a barrel".
"I don't see the big deal about the social networks on the Internet".

"People need to invest in real estate and metals."
"You should not listen to investment advisers."

Here are some tautologies, and/or meaningless cliches:

"Want to be rich? Learn from rich people."
"Wise financial and personal management are important for success."
"You need to decide if you want to be rich or poor."
"Rich people let money work for them".

All this -- and there's more -- in a two-page interview.

Sheesh.

People actually pay this guy money to tell them this sort of worthless pap? How about flipping a coin?

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Herbalife "Org" in Israel -- Same Old, Same Old

"I was a kid from Kiryat Ata [a poor town in Israel -- A.P.] Today I drive a car that costs as much as a house... those who bring money to invest here will succeed like I did... don't listen to your parents, they're dream stealers. People outside Herbalife are losers, making pennies, and want you to fail like they failed. Real friends support Herbalife; if they are critical, flush 'em. Haven't got money to invest? Take a loan from the bank..."

Sounds familiar? This, according to Haaretz [page in Hebrew], were common quotes in brain-washing "training seminars" passed by Israel's Herbalife "big man", Tzachi Gozali. If this sounds familiar, it should -- presuming that this is true, it is precisely the same sort of brainwashing technique used by other cults, in particular commercial cults like Amways' "orgs". 

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Redeeming Lawful Money"

Overview.  Among the newer scams to hit the usual sites - schemes which only work in the fevered or avaricious imaginations of those who advocate them - is "redeeming lawful money".  Its proponents begin with a federal statute - 12 USC § 411 - and spin out from there into the ozone.  This entry takes a look at it.  The subject has been discussed in some detail on the Quatloos board, where one of its major proponents has been allowed to expound on it in mind-numbingly repetitive detail.  Neither he nor anyone else has been able to cite a single verifiable instance where "redeeming lawful money" has ever accomplished anything.  It has, on the contrary, repeatedly crashed and burned.  Verifiably.

12 USC § 411.  In relevant part, that statute provides that federal reserve notes "shall be redeemed in lawful money on demand at the Treasury Department of the United States, in the city of Washington, District of Columbia, or at any Federal Reserve bank".  Proponents of "redeeming lawful money" draw two conclusions from this: that FRNs themselves are not "lawful money", and that "redeeming" your paycheck makes it non-taxable.  The first of those conclusions is wrong but understandable; the second is wrong and gibberish.

To understand the current version of the statute, one needs a little history.  The predecessor version of 12 USC § 411 was first enacted as 38 Stat. 265 in 1913. The U.S. was on the gold standard in 1913, "redeem" meant something very different than it does today, and the statute in so many words permitted redemption in gold. In 1934, the Gold Reserve Act nationalized privately-held gold bullion (not, obviously, ornaments and jewelry), and eliminated the provision of § 411 that permitted redemption in gold. However, there were still other forms of lawful money in circulation then - silver certificates, U.S. Notes, and perhaps one or two others (someone else can look it up). Those no longer exist today, but that provision of § 411 remains, basically an anachronism. The law contains many anachronisms. Everyone has seen the compilations of laws still on the books which do things like prohibit herding cattle on Main Street.

So, as to the first contention: proponents take the anachronism "redeem in lawful money" and infer that it means that FRNs are not "lawful money", something not completely illogical.  It's wrong, though.  "Lawful money" is not a phrase with a well defined meaning such as "legal tender".  FRNs are, of course, legal tender.  31 USC § 5103.  It is very difficult to see how, whatever "lawful money" may mean, something which is defined by statute as legal tender isn't also "lawful money".  The law requires a creditor to accept something that isn't money?  That's pretty nuts.

Plenty of courts have specifically held that FRNs are "lawful money".
Defendant argues that the Federal Reserve Notes in which he was paid were not lawful money within the meaning of Art. 1, § 8, United States Constitution. We have held to the contrary. United States v. Ware, 10 Cir., 608 F.2d 400, 402-403. We find no validity in the distinction which defendant draws between "lawful money" and "legal tender." Money is a medium of exchange. Legal tender is money which the law requires a creditor to receive in payment of an obligation.
United States v. Rickman, 638 F.2d 182 (10th Cir. 1980) (emphasis supplied).  There are many, many others.  For a few, see Poe v. C.I.R., T.C. Memo. 1983-312; United States v. Farber, 679 F.2d 733 (8th Cir. 1982); United States v. Ware, 608 F.2d 400 (10th Cir. 1979); Love v. Baldwin United Mortgage Co., 168 Ga.App. 361 (1983); Herald v. State, 107 Idaho 640 (1984); Brand v. State, 828 S.W.2d 824 (Tx App. 1992).  In fairness, there is a case in which the Third Circuit in dicta says differently.  United States v. Thomas, 319 F.3d 640 (3rd Cir. 2003).  A thread in Quatloos discusses that case in some detail.

But, ignoring the history and the law, there is nonetheless some logic in saying that, since FRNs can be redeemed in lawful money, they are not themselves lawful money.  Legally that's wrong, and historically it ignores how parts of statutes can become, through changing times and amendments to related statutes, anachronisms which no longer support that sort of inference.  But, just from the language of the statute, it's not illogical.

It's the next part where they sail off into the cream cheese.  One only arrives at the conclusion that 12 USC § 411 somehow renders otherwise taxable income non-taxable through logical knots of Gordian proportions.  Those knots includes things like monetizing debt, Treasury accounts, public money and private credit (or was that private money and public credit?), the Chinese, the Sanhedrin and logarithmic spirals superimposed on maps.  In other words, nothing that makes any sense.

Epic Fails.  On several occasions, people have actually attempted to make something out of nothing, by arguing "redeeming lawful money" in federal courts.  Below are seven examples.  Five have already crashed and burned.  Two are pending; this author has sufficient confidence in his conclusion that this stuff is nonsense that he posts them while they are still undecided.  It shouldn't be long before they, too, are ex-lawsuits.

(1) Michael David [Cress - these guys don't believe in last names] v. Geithner, 12-cv-3442 (CAND).  The complaint looks a whole lot like the ones in the cases below - virtually identical, in fact, down to the "refused for cause" notice of levy and the insistent "I am not pro se" and signature "Lawful money" on the civil cover sheet.  With no proof that he had even served the summons and complaint, Cress tries to file a "default judgment".  Judge Chesney of course refuses, and sua sponte directs him to show cause why she shouldn't toss the sorry mess into the trash (alright, alright, she said "dismiss").  Cress refuses the Court's order for cause.  Dismissed, sua sponte, about two months after Cress filed the action.  Short and sweet:
By order filed August 9, 2012, the Court directed plaintiff Michael David (“David”) to show cause, in writing and no later than August 31, 2012, why the above-titled action should not be dismissed for failure to state a cognizable claim against defendant Timothy Franz Geithner, the Secretary of the Treasury.

On August 15, 2012, David filed a copy of the Court’s August 9, 2012 order, on which copy David had written “Refused for Cause.” David has not otherwise responded to the Court’s August 9, 2012 order, and, in particular, has not shown cause why the above titled action should not be dismissed.

Accordingly, for the reasons stated in the Court’s order of August 9, 2012, the instant action is hereby DISMISSED without leave to amend.
The Clerk of the Court is DIRECTED to close the file.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Bye.

(2)  Scott Daniel [Macneilage - see above] v. Geithner, 12-cv-1781 (CACD).  Same gibberish complaint and RfCs.  This is a relative biggie - the total (tax, interest, penalties) is $175K.  Macneilage appears to be a cut above the others - at least he actually served Geithner.  Of course, he also RfCs everything in the docket.  Dismissed, July 5, 2012, four months after Macneilage filed it.  Macneilage files eight RfCs after the dismissal.  Maybe they're his grocery lists.

(3)  Jesus Victor [Rodriguez - see above] v. Geithner, 09-cv-1091 (CASD).  I'm not linking to every complaint - they're all the same anyway.  Dismissed April 2, 2010.

(4)  Alvin Ruiz v. Geithner, 09-cv-1332 (CASD).  Dismissed less than four months after filing.

(5)  Patrick Teruo [Walsh - see above] v. Geithner, 09-cv-1644 (CASD).  Dismissed about six months after filing.  In the order, the Court noted that "Mr. Teruo’s complaint is a frivolous, stock complaint that he downloaded from the internet, and that other federal courts have summarily dismissed."  The complaint is just like the others.

(6)  Todd Donald [Weiss - see above] v. Geithner, 12-cv-4493 (CAND).  Same gibberish complaint, same notice of levy refused for cause, only filed a couple of months ago.  Weiss has already "refused for cause" two orders - discovery schedule and referral to M-J.  Nothing more yet.  Maybe Judge Illston's chambers can speak with Judge Chesney's.  Hint to wackos: you don't get to refuse orders, for cause or not for cause.

(7)  Denise Elizabeth [Lam - see above] v. Geithner, 12-cv-7719, CACD.  The complaint is exactly like the others.  It varies between laughable and incomprehensible.  Documents attached to it show that the IRS is threatening her with penalties for frivolous filings.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here we have real-life, unredacted proof that "redeeming lawful money" fails every time.  If anyone tells you otherwise, demand the same.  And then don't hold your breath.

1-9-13 update: Yesterday Judge Illston dismissed Weiss' action.  That's 0 for 6.  Lam's case is still pending, as are the motions to dismiss it.  There is therefore still no evidence that "redeeming lawful money" has ever done anything at all, other than to allow interest and penalties to accrue - and enforcement actions to continue - on unpaid taxes.

2-9-13 update: The last surviving effort at "redeeming lawful money" goes down in flames.  A couple of weeks ago, Judge Snyder dismissed Lam's complaint (see above for link).  Since this is the last case standing, we might as well quote the entire order:
Plaintiff’s complaint is largely incomprehensible and rambling. The Court cannot discern what claims for relief it is attempting to assert, nor on what factual (sic) plaintiff seeks relief. A “complaint that is ‘obviously frivolous’ does not confer subject matter jurisdiction. . . .” [citations omitted]. Dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is proper when the federal claim is “so insubstantial, implausible, foreclosed by prior decisions of this Court, or otherwise completely devoid of merit as not to involve a federal controversy.” [citation omitted].

The manifest insubstantiality of the present complaint deprives this Court of subject matter jurisdiction. This jurisdictional defect could not be cured by amendment.
Accordingly, the Court hereby DISMISSES this action with prejudice.

IT IS SO ORDERED
In other words, Lam's complaint - the one the purveyors of this nonsense provide to "redeem lawful money" - is such gibberish that it does not even give a court jurisdiction to consider the issue.  That's not easy to accomplish.

That's 0 for 7.  Despite numerous requests, those who advocate "redeeming lawful money" have refused to provide verifiable proof of a single success, so we had to find these seven cases on our own.  None left - every single one has been ignominiously dismissed, frequently sua sponte.  Anyone who uses this monumentally silly idea deserves what s/he gets: liens, levies, continuously-accruing interest and penalties, a judicial determination that the position is nonsense, and no relief whatsoever.

Since we began showing how this "process" does nothing but collect penalties, those who push it have come up with a new tack: they knew all along that the cases would be dismissed.  They only told the poor schmucks to file cases in order to provide them with an "evidence repository".  Don't believe them?  Think it's an ad hoc excuse for abject failure?  Au contraire.  It's actually written in stone on a plaque attached to the bridge they want to sell you.

It isn't worth much time debunking "the dog ate my homework".  Still, a couple of points: The only thing filing a document proves is that it existed on the date is was filed.  Period.  It doesn't prove that it does anything; after all, the above seven people filed complaints, all of which were dismissed.  Whether a document existed at a certain time is almost never an issue.  If you have a letter from the IRS, you have a letter from the IRS; if they deny it, they look like idiots.  If you need proof that you served a document outside of litigation, you get either a return receipt (if served by mail) or an acknowledgment or affidavit of service (if served in hand).  Paying to open a court docket just to hold papers serves no useful purpose, and the court may not permit it in the first place.  But yes, lawyers do have "evidence repositories".

They're called "files".

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Business Porn

Credit: Janine Avila

Why do people read all those books about MLMs? Or "how to become a millionaire in business" books -- sold for $19.95, and found in the "half price" bin? (As G. K. Chesterton said, these books about success are written by people who cannot even succeed in writing books.) Michael Kinsley, in Curse of the Giant Muffins and other Washington Maladies, has the right idea. It is business porn.

What is the difference between pornography and erotica (apart from the fact that what I enjoy is tasteful erotica and what they enjoy is dirty porn, I mean)? Well, porn is fake, a simulation. The same is true for business porn: books which explain to you that making money is the only thing that exists and nothing else matters -- not character, not knowledge, not even achievement itself. (As Kinsley notes, "upward failure" -- failing in one venture after another and then still getting bigger and better jobs -- is quite common among American business executives.) People who buy these books think that there is some gimmick that will make them rich, if only they have the correct "attitude", or correct smile and business etiquette, or correct PowerPoint presentation, or correct desk calendar or electronic "time management" gadget. All that really matters in those books is not to actually be successful, but to fake being successful. Just like in porn, it's not love, or even passion, that matters, but faking it.

One example, Kinsley notes, was one Tom Peters, who rode the wave of the "management by excellence" books in the 1980s. Well, excellence is important in business (duh), but this was business porn. It wasn't about actual excellence -- actually doing things that made one's company's achievements better than others -- but about simulating excellence (which is about as much fun as simulated sex or simulated orgasms). It was about management by hugging random employees to show that you care, of management by randomly hanging around the office's water cooler to obey the "management by by wandering around" lesson from the In Search for Excellence course, and above all, having a heavy desk calendar made of leather to show just how busy you are.

Kinsley notes that Peters actually offered at one time an A Year of Excellence 1985 leather-bound calendar, with time marked in light blue for "wandering around" and hugging and congratulating people. On January 30th, 1985, for example, they were supposed to do that from 2 PM until 4 PM. Have you noticed the millions of new millionaires who were instantly created by this method in 1985? Me neither. Perhaps because truly excellent managers didn't just stop whatever they dealt with and started waking around randomly congratulating and hugging co-workers because as desk calendar said so. Or perhaps because, in a less tolerant age, men were wary of setting aside time for prowling around the office looking for Dick and Tom to hug while reeking of leather, which might have given people an entirely wrong idea of their intentions.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kant and MLMs

Immanuel Kant. Credit: Wikipedia.

A quick note this time. Immanuel Kant noted that it is immoral to use people as mere means to an end. For example, murder is wrong since you use the person you kill merely as a means to whatever end you wish to achieve by their death (say, getting away from a crime scene, eliminating a witness, etc.)

Can you think of any business where "we are using you merely as a means to an end" is more true than in an MLM? Not only does nobody care about what happens to those in the "downline" (so long as they keep promoting the upline's goal of making money), but their training material actively encourages you to exploit friendships and personal relationships to get the person in your downline -- that is, to actively turn relationships based on caring to one based on exploitation.


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Saturday, May 26, 2012

The MLM Plague Abroad

Well, MLMs are arriving all over the world. Guess what? As in the USA, they too are dealing mostly with "lotions and potions" which are ludicrously overpriced.

Here, for example, is an Israeli one. It is the usual scam: there are no salesmen or workers, there are only "executives". Which, in this context, is a nice word for "salesmen who work for free". (But hey, you rather be an up-and-coming executive than one of those lousy salesmen or exploited workers, now wouldn't you?). There is tons of talk about "the environment" and "health" (they're doing this to save the world, you see). Of course the web site is full of talk about the "business opportunity".

But, naturally, no mention of the prices of the stuff they sell.

Well, small-minded dream-stealer that I am, I happen to know what the price is, from a personal acquaintance who was propositioned by a new "executive" of this (or perhaps a similar) MLM. A litre (a little more than a quart) of their noni juice is now promoted @ 150 N.I.S. per litre

Currently, the most expensive fruit juice I could find in an Israeli supermarket costs about 20 N.I.S. per litre (link in Hebrew to a site which compares prices). Most cost 10-15 per litre. Soft drinks cost about 5 N.I.S. per litre.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Real Tax Protestors... and Chess

You might know, from my other blog, that I am interested in chess. Well, just for the heck of it, I searched on the Internet for "tax protester AND chess" (yes, yes, I know the "AND" operation here is unnecessary) -- and, quite surprisingly, found something quite enlightening.

I was referred to the Wikipedia page about Ralph Ginzburg. Turns out he conducted a famous 1962 interview with Robert "Bobby" Fischer, who later won the world chess championship, ending Russian domination of the field since the Russian emigre Alexander Alekhine won the title in 1927, or, less dramatically, since the Soviet master Mikhail Botvinnik won the world championship in 1948.

The late Ginzburg, most famous for publishing Eros magazine (link NSFW as it contain some nudity, but is not a porn site), was also a tax protester. Surprising, you say? Well, he was a real tax protester. He protested the war in the Writers and Editors War Tax Protest (scroll down for details, but the web site is well worth reading).

Some major differences between the two groups -- the real tax protesters and the fake ones, the tax deniers who call themselves "protesters":

1). The real protesters didn't deny they have a legal obligation to pay income tax. They knew they were breaking the law and expected to be punished for it. Unlike the tax deniers, who think they aren't legally bound to pay taxes.

2). The real protesters didn't think they shouldn't pay any tax. They specifically limited their protest to refuse the particular share of their taxes that went directly to a purpose -- the Vietnam war -- they thought they cannot morally support. This unlike the tax deniers, who don't actually "protest" anything the government does with the taxes, but simply the fact that they pay tax at all.

3). The real tax protesters didn't think people should get some sort of special veto power and only pay taxes for purposes they like. The correct way to deal with a tax that goes towards a purpose you think is wrong is, they would surely agree, almost always to elect as legislator someone who would repeal that tax. It is only in what they consider a very extreme case (in their view) that the duty to pay taxes is overruled. This as opposed to tax deniers who latch to any annoying or stupid government use of tax money as "proof" one should not pay taxes.

One need not agree with their anti-Vietnam war views to agree that their "yes, we need to pay taxes, but in this particular case we won't and break the law since it's morally important" is quite different than the "don't wanna, don't hafta, not gonna" attitude of the tax deniers.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Zero Income 1040 Nonsense Again

Sometimes, people declare that one can pay no income tax by filing a 1040 "zero income" form. They buy into buy into all kinds of phony baloney nonsense about being able to just magically say one has "no income" on the 1040 and then not pay income tax any more.

(Important notice: People who really have no income, or income below the threshold set by the law, usually do not file a return at all, as they do not have to. Sometimes they file a legitimate 1040 "zero income" return to "be on the safe side" -- say, if they are students who lived at their parents' home and didn't work that year. I am not talking about them now, of course, but about bogus "zero income" filers.)
 
The fact that the most famous promoter of this scheme, Irwin Schiff, is now in jail for filing such returns and actually tried to get off from serving jail time by telling the court his claim that 1040 zero returns work is evidence he is legally insane (scroll down to the Feb. 4th post in the link), might get some people to doubt the validity of the 1040 "zero filing" trick.

That, however, is not the subject of this post. My issue is something else: The IRS sometimes ignores the 1040 "zero income" returns and treats them as if the taxpayer didn't file a return at all, and uses a 6020 assessment (the substitute for return where the IRS files an income tax return instead of the taxpayer who didn't) to estimate their tax liability. Well, naturally, the tax deniers scream and holler the IRS is doing wrong. Unconstitutional! Evil!

This argument, I think, shows very well the kind of magical thinking tax protesters love to engage in -- proof, once more, of their childish, silly nature.

First, like little kids, they ignore the substance, namely, that a bogus 1040 "zero income" is for all intents and purposes the same as not filing at all, and that it's quite legitimate for the IRS to treat it as such.

Second, again like little kids, they think that they are special -- that only they get to try and bend the rules, while it is evil and unconstitutional for the IRS to call them on it. That is, it is OK for them to attempt fraud by filing a bogus "zero income" return, but it is terribly evil for the IRS to treat the attempted fraud as such. Imagine!

Third, like little kids, they are shocked -- shocked! -- by the fact that this happens. Apparently they truly, really believed they found the magic word that will force the IRS to make them not pay taxes. Did I say, "childish"?

Fourth, they don't realize that -- like the man in the picture -- the IRS is actually doing them a favor by "fighting back the wrong way". By ignoring their nonsense and just assessing liability like they do for other non-filers, the IRS is treating them more leniently than it could -- i.e., it doesn't go after them trying to get a criminal conviciton for filing fraudulent documents (unless, like Schiff, you're a real dick about it.)

The IRS workers just ignore these mental children's magic words, tantrums, and screams, and get on with their work -- much like a parent is not likely to take a kid shooting him with a toy gun as attempted murder. The child is deeply insulted: why doesn't dad take me SERIOUSLY?! Well, count your lucky stars he doesn't, pumpkin.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sounds Familiar...

From wikipedia, about zealots: "The zealots were a... sect... founded against Qurinius' tax reform... [they] say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord".

...some things never change. Of course there are differences: the Roman taxes really were highly oppressive and the Romans, who famously did nothing for us, really were a government which, as far as Judea was concerned at any rate, was a government of "taxation without representation".

Is attachment to liberty a bad thing? Certainly not. But the problem is that love of liberty all too often is used merely as an excuse for sheer narcissism. The zealots, as is well known, didn't only fight the Romans; they were also terrorists who assassinated any Jew who they saw as a "traitor", which meant any Jew who considered war against Rome a bad idea. It wasn't "love of liberty" that was their motivation, it seems -- but love of themselves and intoleration to any opposite view. The result was as one would have expected: the zealots brought on the Jews an unmitigated disaster -- a war against the Roman empire, due to the belief that God is on their side and therefore they cannot lose, no matter what the objective facts are.

This sort of magical thinking -- common to many fanatical people throughout history, sometimes resulting in victory due to higher morale but, all too often, leading to catastrophe -- is typical of tax protesters, as well. Neither are real patriots, but narcissists who usually bring disaster on themselves and others, when reality stubbornly refuses to fit their ego-inflating fantasy of being one of the chosen.

Compare both groups to some real patriots, like the American founding fathers. First of all their goal was, however daring, realistic: they could, and did, actually defeat Britain. Second, their goal was liberty, not self-important revenge: no American was ever killed for being a British sympathizer, and after independence a general forgiveness of all those who were neutral or even wanted to remain part of the British Empire was declared. Just because they were relaistic moderates (well, compared to the zealots...) hardly means the American founding fathers were not lovers of liberty!

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