Monday, October 5, 2015

Using graphics to see an argument more clearly

Sometimes the only way to check on an argument is by looking at a map or other graphic. On September 25th at the blog for the Idaho Freedom Foundation Wayne Hoffman posted about how the Tax Law Rewrite Should Be Open To The Public. That blog post also appeared as a guest opinion article in the Idaho Press Tribune. He said that:

“....The rewriting of the income tax code is also a topic that deserves absolute transparency and openness. Lewiston Tribune editorial writer Marty Trillhaase noted Friday that’s not what Idahoans are getting from this state Legislature. A group of Idaho lawmakers has been meeting in secret to work through the logistics of what it would take to fix Idaho’s broken tax code. The group includes the chairmen of the House and Senate tax committees as well lawmakers from throughout Idaho, both Republican and Democrat. The non-partisan Legislative Services Office staff is facilitating the meetings, which have also been attended by officials from the governor’s office and the state Department of Commerce. “

I agree the tax code is a topic that deserves transparency, but was confused by why it took Wayne until his third paragraph to get to that main point. He instead began by warning:

“Idaho has a serious problem with its tax system. The state’s income taxes are the highest in the Intermountain Region, with a top marginal income tax rate of 7.4 percent. It’s a deterrent to people wanting to move here and to people wanting to stay. State officials have worked for the last 15 years to bring the rate down from the nosebleed top rate of 8.2 percent to where it is today. At the start of the 2015 legislative session, Gov. Butch Otter unambitiously suggested clipping the current top rate by a tenth of a percent every year for four years, but he never introduced legislation to do it. A proposal to eliminate the sales tax on groceries and get the top rate to 6.5 percent right away passed the House but was denied a vote in the Senate.”

I went to Wikipedia to check on the definition for the Intermountain states, which (as shown above) are the six with land west of the Rockies and east of the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada. Note that only Idaho’s two southern neighbors, Nevada and Utah are included.

Then I went to the Tax Foundation’s web site and downloaded their Facts and Figures publication to check the state income tax rates in Table 12. They are shown in the following bar chart. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version).

Mr. Hoffman is correct about Idaho being highest, but he didn’t bother to mention that Nevada has no income tax (which I’ve shown last as a rate of zero) and also has no sales tax. So, how could we ever hope to compete with them?

We can get a somewhat broader comparison by instead looking at the eight Mountain States (as shown above) that also include Idaho’s two eastern neighbors, Montana and Wyoming. State income tax rates in those eight states are shown in the following bar chart. Wyoming also has no income tax (which I’ve again shown as a rate of zero).

We really also should include Idaho’s two western neighbors, Washington and Oregon in a comparison of tax rates.

As shown above, we can compare with our six neighbors. The following bar chart shows Washington also has no income tax (shown as a rate of zero). Now Idaho  doesn’t have the highest rate. Instead Oregon, which has no sales tax, does.

Mr. Hoffman began his second paragraph by claiming:

“Getting the top income tax rate dramatically lower is an important step in securing the state’s economic vitality. The high tax rate impacts everyone, rich and poor.”

He ended with:

“Unwinding all the special interest breaks to get an income tax rate that is super low and fair to everyone is important work.”

Three of our six neighbors have no income tax. (Four other states without one are Alaska, Florida, South Dakota, and Texas). I can’t see how lowering Idaho’s income rates (to perhaps 4.5% or less) would help us. Becoming fourth out of seven won’t make us win a battle that is already lost. To me it seems transparently silly. 

For another viewpoint, see the Better Idaho blog post on Idaho's Race to the Bottom.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Outline notes are a visual aid for the speaker

On September 16th the web site for Johnson & Hunter, Inc. about Speaking Skills for Lawyers had a web page with an excellent brief article by Marsha Hunter on Notes as Your Visual Aid. Her four rules for a speaking outline are to:

Write big.
Write legibly.
Keep notes simple.
Keep notes handy.

There also is a YouTube video, Notes Are a Visual Aid for the Speaker.

Keep in mind that you could either use a piece of 11”×17″ ledger paper or tape together two 8-1/2” × 11” sheets to create a notes page the size of a restaurant menu.

The Public Speaking Project has a 16-page freely downloadable .pdf Chapter 8 about Organizing and Outlining.

An image of a woman reading a letter was adapted from a painting at Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Should you begin reviewing your speech by watching the video as a silent movie?

On September 28th Fred E. Miller blogged at NO SWEAT Public Speaking about how VIDEO Allows YOU to See and Hear Yourself as...(Others See and Hear You!). I agree with him that video is a powerful tool, but disagree with his suggested review sequence:

First: Watch with the sound off
Second: Listen without watching
Third: Watch and Listen

He said watching with the sound muted should come first since nonverbal trumps verbal. I would suggest instead that you watch and listen first, listen without watching second, and watch with the sound off third. You aren’t a silent film actor (or a mime), so you are not used to conveying a message without words. Why would you start by doing something that probably will be disappointing and knock you down? 

Back in 2012 at Public Words Nick Morgan blogged about Seven ways to rehearse a speech, which were to:

Rehearse the Content
The Logical Structure Rehearsal
Rehearse the Non-verbal Conversation
Rehearse the Emotions
The Walk-Through Rehearsal
The Opening Rehearsal
The Dress Rehearsal

Nick mentions The Babble Exercise, which also could be used for a practice video:

“One really useful exercise for improving your non-verbal performance is the babble exercise. How does this work? You stand up in front of one or two very close colleagues or friends, and give the speech without using recognizable words. Instead, babble, while trying to convey as much of the speech as you can with your facial expressions and gestures.”

A movie poster for Counted Out (1914) came from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Joan of Arc theory again - fear of public speaking comes from being burned in a past life

On Sunday, September 27th, psychic Ainslie MacLeod posted a brief YouTube video titled Fear of Public Speaking: Stage Fright - Your Soul’s Fear of Judgement which ended with a very dogmatic statement that:

“The fear of public speaking always goes back to a past life where judgment resulted in death.”

Back in July 2011 I blogged about a previous statement Ainslie made in his 2009 book, The Instruction: Living the Life Your Soul Intended. On page 126 he said:

“For almost every person who suffers from stage fright, a fear of public speaking, or who goes to pieces when forced to sit an exam, the root cause is a life in which judgment has led to death.”

I’d called that the Joan of Arc Theory, and found it rather incredible since I don’t think much of claims about past life regression. You can find an article about past-life regression therapy by Karen Stollznow on the web site of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

I looked around on Google and found a web page about various phobias including glossophobia titled Past Forward: WHO were YOU in a past life? which had a gruesome list of four ways you might have died: Hanged by the neck, Burned at the stake, Beheaded by blade, and Drowned in the cistern. (It also mentioned having your tongue cut out).

When I searched in Books on Google I quickly found three other claims about past lives and fear of speaking.

In The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Reincarnation by David Hammerman and Lisa Lenard (2000), on page 188 they describe the case of Jane who became terrified every time she thought about public speaking. Regression revealed that, just like Joan of Arc, she was burned at the stake.

In Healing Lost Souls: Releasing Unwanted Spirits from Your Energy Body by William J. Baldwin (2003) he mentions that:

“Burning at the stake or being stoned to death by a crowd can induce a fear of public speaking, the most common phobia.”

In Healing the Present from the Past: The Personal Journey of a Past Life Researcher  by Heather S. Friedman Rivera (2012 on page 48 she discusses how:

“The client was afraid of public speaking and when he was regressed found out he was a Knight.  The cartoon illustrates a Knight losing his life for speaking his mind against the king. After remembering, the client was free from the fear of public speaking. “

I think it’s much more likely that fear of speaking came from something that happened in this life.

The image of a painting of the death of Joan of Arc came from Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

If you knew our company name, then you wouldn’t even open this envelope

In today’s mail I received what at first glance looked like a hand-addressed greeting card from Chris Thomas. (I photoshopped out the street address). When I recognized the return address, I began to laugh. It’s the main address for DirecTV. Last December I blogged about getting a phony greeting card from them, and this was just another.

DirecTV recently merged with AT&T, and has over 20 million subscribers. I’m a bit surprised that they still are trying to sneak up on prospects. In the latest Sunday Idaho Statesman they already had four-page ads both in the SmartSource and Redplum ad inserts.

But DirecTV also included a plain white envelope with just that same return address (and no name whatsoever). I didn’t bother to open that one. It went directly into my recycle bin.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What can you communicate in 20 seconds or less?

More than you might guess. You can concisely answer a question, like What can you do for me?

On August 23rd in her Speak Schmeak blog Lisa Braithwaite posted about Storytelling in 30 seconds - can you do it? and showed a TV commercial as an example. But, there also have been 20-second TV commercials which famously were used back in the 1952 presidential campaign series Eisenhower Answers America. Here is one example:

You can find three more videos on a web page at the Museum of the Moving Image. Look at the line of Republican ones and click on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th (which also is shown above). A web page on 5 Most Effective Campaign Ads mentioned that there was a total of 40 in that series.

Why is there a drawing of a fireman with a hose at the beginning of this post? He is a polite illustration of what that roughly 20-second time interval also represents - the average time it takes for an elephant (or any mammal the size of a house cat or larger) to urinate. This year’s Ig-Nobel Prize for physics was won by a 2014 scientific article by Patricia J. Yang et al in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled Duration of urination does not change with body size.    

In 2011 I blogged about The 99 (or 100) second presentation, and in 2012 I blogged about 101-word stories and 50-second elevator speeches.

How about ten seconds? Back in 2007 in his HELLO my name is blog Scott Ginsberg discussed networking via 10 different approaches for your 10-second commercial. Sodastream had a 10-second TV commercial.

What can you cram into just five seconds? A Glenn Hartzheim Dodge TV commercial said:

“You’re buying a car and you’re worried about financing. Go see Glenn!

At half that or 2-1/2 seconds we finally run out of room for words. About all that will fit is brief song titles like Todd Rundgren’s Hello, It’s Me or Joni Mitchell’s Help Me

Adding the 5, 10, and 20 second TV commercials produces this spectrum of nine brief presentation formats:

The fireman was adapted from this 1858 image at the Library of Congress.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Eight memorable quotations from the late great Yogi Berra

Tuesday the famous catcher (and coach and manager) for the New York Yankees died at age 90. A memorial article in the New York Times was titled Yogi Berra, Yankee who built his stardom 90 percent on skill and half on wit, dies at 90.

Sports Illustrated reported back in 1986 he had protested that:

“I really didn’t say everything I said.”

Seven other of his quotations are:

“You can observe a lot by watchin.’ “

“It gets late early out there.”

“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

“We’re lost, but we’re making good time!”

“It’s déjà vu all over again.”

You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going ‘cause you might not get there.”

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

All eight appear in the Yale Book of Quotations, edited by Fred R. Shapiro (2006). The last quotation was Yogi’s answer to a reporter in July 1973 - when he was managing the New York Mets. At that point they were nine games out from first place, but went on to win the division.  

The 1960 World Series (where Yogi was catcher for the Yankees) provided another demonstration for that quote. The Pittsburgh Pirates won it for their first time in 35 years. The Wikipedia page notes:

“The Yankees, winners of their 10th pennant in 12 years, outscored the Pirates 55–27 in this Series, outhit them 91–60, outbatted them .338 to .256, hit 10 home runs to Pittsburgh's four (three of which came in Game 7), got two complete-game shutouts from Whitey Ford - and lost.”

An Associated Press story provides 20 quotations. The image of Yogi’s Baseball Hall of Fame plaque came from Wikimedia Commons.