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Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday




Scientists hailed Tuesday a 47-million-year-old fossil of an ancient "small cat"-sized primate as a possible common ancestor of monkeys, humans and other primates.

"possible" in the loosest sense of the word. Most palaeontologists I've heard from are less hailing and more annoyed with the unnecessary attention this fossil is getting. Sure it's a really good fossil, and has some interesting features, but it's not changed the view of human/primate lineage.


AA is a cultural virus. Susan Blackmore's Meme machine deus ex machina. I am impressed with the Food crusader former surgeon general Kessler, David? If one spits out a tasty morsel one's chewing upon hearing that it is really, say, human flesh: instant loss of appetite, there must be a powerful emotional potential in "the cognitive". Knowing leads to feeling.

"The End of Overeating."

Knowing leads to feeling:

"The End of Alcoholism?."

Can't speak for anyone but myself, but I went into AA as an atheist and have been an active member for 9 years. AA didn't convert me to any faith. All I needed to work the program was hope, which isn't a terribly sinister form of faith. And yes, I'm still an atheist.

I am not a member but know quite a few. My experience is that having a support network of people facing the same issues works just as well with and without giving into a higher power. My guess is that the amount of religion in actual groups is probably highly variable.

The effectiveness is pretty spotty because what folks really need is to be in the care of a doctor to deal with the underlying medical and mental health issues while one deals with the emotions also contributing. Also, the one size fits all method seems ignorant to the diverse reasons for people turning to intoxicating substances.

That credit card article was interesting. I wonder how many of those free-riders are going to send in one last payment and cancel the card. I hope it's in the millions.


I'll be among the millions. The first statement they send where they've charged interest from the date of the purchase is the last one they'll need to send, as far as I'm concerned. I don't understand why Norm thinks this is a good thing. From my understanding, they charge retailers at least 3% on every transaction. If that's not enough to make it worth their while, then I guess it's time to break out the debit card. I didn't ask them for all the "rewards". They give them away to keep me interested. Oh, well, I'm thinking maybe all this scare talk is just a bluff, because I believe there WILL be millions of on-time payers who'll dump their cards if they try to institute such changes.

There are two separate questions here. As you know banks make their money on credit cards sales in two different ways. One, a transaction fee that the "merchant pays" and the other the interest charged for the use of the money. So banks want two things: a high number of transactions and for their money to earn interest. All things being equal a bank makes more from the customer who always has an outstanding balance. They lose interest income whey one pays off the balance because they then have to get the money back out working again. The lag is a cost. So one could reasonably argue that they prefer the customer who keeps a higher balance even when he pays slowly, the money continues to earn interest. If some customers get the free use of money the cost of that will inevitably shift to those paying interest, in higher rates and additional fees. In the case of transaction fees there is also a cost shift, but this time it's between those using credit cards and those paying cash. The cash payers are subsidizing the credit card users. In both cases it is the typical consumer who gets burned, at the expense of those on-time payers. I say justice demands that they no longer get a free ride at the expense of others. In short regulate the bastards or they'll find a way to screw you.


The way I understand it is that there's two separate entities: 1) credit card issuer (e.g., Visa) that charges transaction fees, and 2) Bank (e.g., Citi) that gives you a credit line and charges all associated interest/fees. Thus, the merchant pays the credit card company, and the consumer pays the bank.

However, I believe these two entities are the same with Amex.


All right. Thanks for the explanation, Norm. Though it has always seemed odd to me that one was getting a no-interest loan for a month if you paid off the balance, I didn't quite realize that it made one such a freeloader. Looking at it like that, I guess it's pretty obvious. If having millions less credit cards being used by people who pay off the balance will be better for banks and better for consumers overall, then I suppose I'll get used to the idea.

So I suppose you'd agree charging Smart Car owners an extra fee at the pump is a good idea because they're being subsidized by pick-up truck drivers.


I don't see that as being the same. They've offered me a credit card at no cost to me whatsoever if I pay off the balance. Fine, I find it convenient and have used it, being that it's been free (though, apparently FREE is relative, because everyone ends up being charged more to cover the 3% extra that the merchant has to pay to even accept the card). If Visa or the bank decide it's not worth their while to offer me this deal, I don't think it makes sense for me to think -- "no, you have to give me this option for free". But, if I had to pay a fee for the card, or pay interest from the moment of the charge, then they'll lose me as a customer. I won't like it, but it does seem it's up to them to decide whether there's any benefit to them to have customers like me, or not.


Penn & Teller did a show on 12 step programs. They have their style, some might not like it, but the bottom line is that AA is a big placebo, at best.

If credit card companies start charging me interest from the day of purchase and start levying annual fees, I imagine I'll return to a system closer to that I used to use:

Carry more cash and stop using credit cards for convenience - and that was the only reason I started putting almost all my purchases on cards. I only have a Discover card because it was the only way I could get the lowest price on gas. The card companies sacrifice the transaction fees and my credit union loses the use of the money I used to leave there until I paid my bills.


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