ONE WAY TO KEEP YOUR CUSTOMERS

Joe Cherner: ‘I have a story for you. You won’t believe it, but I swear it’s true. AOL is available in France. Lots of advertising. Lots of free disks … everywhere. If you want to cancel, however, you must call a non-toll-free number. After waiting (and paying), you are then told that there are too many calls in the queue and you should call back. The only problem is that you ALWAYS get this message during the hours that they allow cancellations. The only time the number gets through to someone is after cancellation hours are over. I know you think it’s just me, but I swear everyone knows about it. It’s an ongoing joke in France.’

☞ You’ve got to think outside the box. The way to solve this is to cancel your credit card.

DOLLAR COST AVERAGING VS. BUYING DOWN DOWN DOWN

Neil Allen: ‘In this plummeting bear of a market, am I to be faulted if I can no longer stomach the hopefully deferred pleasure of monthly dollar-cost averaging? In other words, for someone of modest means, can ‘staying invested’ mean just ‘not cashing out’ rather than continuing to put in? I am maintaining the equity holdings I already have and am still committed through my 403(b), but I just stopped my monthly after-tax automatic investment contributions to various mutual funds because I could no longer watch my money shrinking. Am I setting myself up for hair-tearing regret once the bull revives?

☞ Yes. Eventually, you are. (Well, maybe not hair-tearing regret, but still.) Not to say any of this is easy or that I don’t feel for you. But look what you’re saying. When shares were crazy expensive, you had no qualms about buying them. Now that they’re much cheaper, you’re not interested. Of course, it’s absolutely possible – as I’ve been warning here for quite a long time – that we could see the Dow at 4000, or some awful price like that. But if you expect that, why would you hold what you already have?

There’s just no way to know what will happen. Certainly, you could give yourself a breather on buying more shares – but when would you resume buying? When shares got expensive again? I hope what you’d do, with this breather, is accumulate savings you would put in the market if it fell significantly further. But when you play that game, you’re trying to ‘time the market’ (guess when it’s headed up and when it’s headed down) which is notoriously difficult.

The only other point I’d make is to ask whether you have paid off your credit card balances, own your car free and clear, and have a substantial emergency fund. If not, that would be a reason to take a breather while you fix those things. But I wish you had done it when prices were higher.

AUTUMN CAME ON TIME?

Tom Schaefer: ‘You write, ‘Wasn’t it supposed to start September 21? Has the Earth wobbled?’ Hate to break the news, but the earth does ‘wobble.’ Not wobble exactly, but we are closest to sun in January and furthest from the sun in July. As Kepler figured out, being closer to the sun means we travel faster – higher angular velocity. As a result, the trip from the first day of autumn to the first day of spring is always a few days shorter than the trip from the first day of spring to the first day of autumn. Bottom line, our summer in the northern hemisphere is a few days longer than the southern hemisphere summer. Check it out, count the days on a calendar. That’s why you had to wait to 9/23 for the equinox.’

☞ We’re closest to the sun in January and furthest in July. I thought the sun was HOT. I think I have to go back to junior high school and pay more attention to this stuff.

PLEDGE, SWEAR AND AFFIRM

Scott Nicol writes:

As a new American, I have recently read a lot about the history and government of the US, including the constitution (all of it – not just a summary of the amendments). The phrase “oath or affirmation” appears 3 times in the constitution. ‘Oath’ or ‘affirmation’ never appear by themselves. What is the difference between an oath and an affirmation? Both are sworn pledges, but an oath is made ‘with God as my witness.’ and an affirmation is made ‘under penalty of perjury.’ In simpler terms, an oath can be taken by one who believes in God, an affirmation can be taken by anybody.

One of the ‘oath or affirmation’ clauses is:

Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8: Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:–“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

This is, of course, the oath (or affirmation!) of office for the office of the president. You may recall that presidents on inauguration day add “so help me God” – that is tradition, not law.

To make things a bit more clear:

Article 6, Clause 3: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

In short, this means all federal and state representatives, cabinet members, and judges must take an oath or affirmation, and religious belief (or lack thereof) is not a qualification for office. Given the Pledge of Allegiance, as written in law, it is possible that you can have a high official who can take office but cannot in good conscience recite the Pledge of Allegiance. That is irrational.

 

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