Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Recent Blog Posts

I haven't been posting much over here lately. Most of my recent posts have been over at DailyKos. Click here if you want to see some of my more recent writings.

A Beautiful Model for Fraud

Take a look at this:

A Beautiful Model for Fraud and here is the accompanying article:

The great credit unwind of '08.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sunday Music: Play the Game Tonight

In this Kansas video, a chess game between white and dark-hooded creatures seemingly representing the forces of Life and Death (playing the white and black chess pieces accordingly) is the backdrop to this rock hit video.

Kansas -- Play the Game Tonight

Dancing At the Policeman's Ball

Prior to Mark Heard's final three CDs, Dancing At the Policeman's Ball was Mark's biggest "hit." It was featured in the movie Dakota starring Lou Diamond Phillips. Although not a dance song, it was featured in the scene of a policeman's dance.

As I posted recently, Mark said that:

"Policeman's Ball" is speaking about the isolationism to which I've referred earlier - how we as Christians can get so caught up with our own circles that we again forget about our responsibility to sense what is going on with human beings out there in the "secular world."


Dancing At the Policeman's Ball

You hit the floor at the sound of the band
With a partner in your hand
Restless and breathless you dance the night away
Did I hear you say it is your aim
For every night to be just the same
And you hope the city outside's gonna be okay

Dancing at the Policeman's ball
Dancing at the Policeman's ball
Move your feet while the city sleeps
Dancing at the Policeman's ball

I saw you smile when I heard you say
"A life o' crime just does not pay,
And criminals are heading for a big fall!"
And when I asked to see your badge
You said, "Man, I don't need to flash no badge -
Can't you see I'm dancing at the Policeman's ball?"

Dancing at the Policeman's ball
Dancing at the Policeman's ball
Move your feet while the city sleeps
Dancing at the Policeman's ball

In precinct five, ten people died
In precinct six, it was twenty-five
Nobody taking the law to the streets tonight
Did I hear you say it is your aim
For every night to be just the same
And you hope the city outside's gonna be okay

Dancing at the Policeman's ball
Dancing at the Policeman's ball
Move your feet while the city sleeps
Dancing at the Policeman's ball

Written by Mark Heard © 1982 Bug 'n Bear Music ASCAP

Pastemusic.com is the only place I am aware of that carries the CD.

How To Spot A Scam, Part 6: Roommate Scam



This is the way the scam works:

A person claiming to be a potential roommate sends a check for an amount far above the amount owed (this is a HUGE red flag). They then request that the balance be sent back to them so that they can buy an airline ticket or some other expense (which is bogus). The check they send is fake.

Check the links and instructions I provide in this post.

Also, go to FakeChecks.org and report it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

American World Chess Champion, Bobby Fischer, Has Died

In late breaking news this morning, American World Chess Champion, Bobby Fischer, has died in a Reykjavik hospital, announced by his spokesman Gardar Sverrisson. According to the latest news reports at the time I am writing this, he died of an unspecified illness.

I never met Bobby Fischer, but his 60 Memorable Games was one of the two first chess books I ever owned and studied.

In later years, his greatness at the game of chess sadly became overshadowed by his possible mental illness and anti-Semitic rants. I remember talking to Bruce Pandolfini about the anti-Semitic statements once (Fischer had been saying those types of things for several years, apparently), Bruce told me that it probably came from his first chess coach who himself was anti-Semitic.

However, when it comes to the game of chess, his contributions are incalculable. As the last American World Chess Champion (Paul Morphy -- who was unofficially considered World Champion -- was the only other American that history books record as having the title), Fischer's image looms large over the American chess culture.

Fortunately, Gata Kamsky, who will be playing for the World Chess Championship later this year, may bring the title back to the U.S.

Perhaps American chess players will soon be able to say: "The king is dead, long live the king."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Nothing Is Bothering Me

Here is a satirical Mark Heard song with a serious message. Mark explained what he meant in the liner notes of his Victims of the Age album:


On this album, "Nothing is Bothering Me," "Dancing at the Policeman's Ball," and "Everybody Loves a Holy War" are all satires touching on problems. The first one is about the lie we can live as people by not seeing what's happening in the world around us. We have no right to interpret our complacent experiences as "the way things are" in this world. The other two are dedicated solely to Christian problems. "Policeman's Ball" is speaking about the isolationism to which I've referred earlier - how we as Christians can get so caught up with our own circles that we again forget about our responsibility to sense what is going on with human beings out there in the "secular world," And "Holy War" speaks satirically of the danger of believing that God is the author of our opinions, or our political leanings. Wars are always being fought between the "holy" and the "holy." Neither side realizes he can't win. Each side believes he has won already.


Nothing Is Bothering Me

No news is good news but news is here to stay
Tightening the thumb-screws from day to day
I hear the tale of a distant fray
War is hell but it's half-a-world away

I'm alright
Nothing is bothering me
I'm just trying to keep the weight of this world
From dawning on me
We get the picture from week to week
The rich get richer and inherit the meek
Long since started preying on the weak
Am I the guilty party if I turn the other cheek

I'm alright
Nothing is bothering me
I'm just trying to keep the weight of this world
From dawning on me

Hey now emotion - is that you again
Don'tcha know that warmth and devotion have passed as a trend
Jesus is knocking but don't let him in
He might come like a thief and steal away your sin

I'm alright
Nothing is bothering me
I'm just trying to keep the weight of this world
From dawning on me

Written by Mark Heard
© 1982 Bug 'n Bear Music ASCAP

I have posted Everybody Loves A Holy War before and I will post Dancing at the Policeman's Ball soon.

How To Spot A Scam, Part 5: Tax Scam Update

There is a new phishing e-mail scam going around involving tax "refunds."

The letter says this:

Internal Revenue Service
United States Department of the Treasury

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have
determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $496.23.
Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 3-9 days in order to
process it.

A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons.
For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To access your tax refund, please click here

Best Regards,
Tax Refund Deparment
Internal Revenue Service
---------------------------------------------------

If you get this message, delete it. It is not from the IRS. More information can be obtained at the IRS website.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

How To Spot A Scam, Part 5: Tax Scams

Bankrate.com has a list of the "dirty dozen" tax scams and how to spot them. Here are the list of tax scams covered:

1. Telephone tax refund abuses
2. Abusive Roth IRAs
3. Tax-related identity theft phishing
4. Disguised corporate ownership
5. Zero wage claims
6. Return preparer fraud
7. American Indian employment credit
8. Illegitimate trusts
9. Structured entity credits
10. Improper charitable deductions
11. Form 843 tax abatement
12. Frivolous arguments

Number 12 is the most common one that I am aware of. Here is the entry from Bankrate.com:

12. Frivolous arguments

This is probably the most notorious of scams. Promoters have advocated numerous false claims over the years, including that the 16th Amendment concerning congressional power to lay and collect income taxes was never ratified, wages are not income, filing a return and paying taxes are merely voluntary and being required to file Form 1040 violates the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination or the Fourth Amendment right to privacy. The IRS and courts have consistently held that such arguments are frivolous. Taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, says the IRS, but no one has the right to disobey the law that allows the government to collect the taxes.

...
The absence of a particular scheme from the annual dirty dozen rankings should not be taken as an indication that the IRS is unaware of it or not taking steps to counter it. While some schemes might not be as active this tax season, the IRS says taxpayers should remain wary because old scams often resurface or evolve.

If you encounter any of these schemes, or are approached with a new one, the IRS wants to know. Report suspected tax fraud by calling toll-free (800) 829-3676.

Turn in tax cheats and con artists

You also can report suspected tax fraud by sending in Form 3949-A, Information Referral. The completed form or a letter detailing the alleged fraudulent activity should be addressed to the Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. Include as much information as you can, including who is being reported, the activity being reported, how the activity became known, when the alleged violation took place, the amount of money involved and any other information that might be helpful in an investigation. You don't have to give the IRS your name or address, although it is helpful to do so. The agency says it will keep your information confidential. And if the IRS recovers any tax revenue based on your tip, you might be entitled to a reward. In that case, tax officials will need to know how to get in touch with you.

And remember: If you are ever offered a "surefire" tax-saving opportunity, it never hurts to be a little skeptical.

"When it comes to taxes, everyone has to pay their fair share," says IRS Commissioner Everson. "I urge taxpayers not to be taken in by hucksters who promise to lower or eliminate taxes. Getting caught up in the dirty dozen or similar schemes can lead to big headaches."


And remember the old adage: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." If you have any legitimate tax questions or need help with them, only use a certified state-licensed professional or Certified Public Accountant (CPA). If you feel you cannot afford a professional, there are many tax programs (TaxCut, TurboTax, etc.) available at many retail outlets that are easy to use and they will go through any potential tax credits or breaks you might be entitled to. There are also different versions of each of these products to match your specific need. For instance, the cheapest version can be used if you are merely a wage earner and don't have that many deductions and the more expensive version is for those who may have a business for which they need to use Schedule C. For your convenience (and, potentially, a small monetary gain on my part) I have provided a link to Amazon.com for each of the products I have mentioned.

If you do think you want to do it yourself, give yourself plenty of time (set aside at least a full day; even better: plan an entire weekend to prepare your tax returns, if necessary). You only have to do it once per year; and once it's done, it's done.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Air Car

Talk about environmentally friendly! It only goes 200 kilometers on a tank (about 125 miles), but it is filled up with air. The first video is a BBC news report.



And here is an Australian report:

Thursday, January 03, 2008

New Foreclosure Fraud Scam

Foreclosure Fraud Scam PSA


Don't fall prey to scam artists to promise to "save" your home from foreclosure. The answer they promise will be worse than the disease. If you are having a problem, call your lender or talk to a bankruptcy attorney.

Hat tip: Tanta at Calculated Risk