Friday, 24 April 2009

Rants

Important: Time to write your Senators


Nanny Alert!

President Obama’s pick to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration raises a few red flags.  If confirmed by the Senate, Chuck Hurley, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, will drive motorists over the cliff with regulation.

The nation’s traffic-safety czar has broad powers to control the roads and road-going habits of Americans.  Mr. Hurley has a history of pushing laws that harass millions of law-abiding citizens to ensnare a few lawbreakers.  He supports returning the 55 mph speed limit to our highways as well as roadblocks and random pullovers to make sure drivers aren't doing anything wrong.  This methodology is based on a presumption of guilt - not innocence - of the average driver who is doing nothing wrong.

Mr. Hurley has promoted a mania of overregulation at MADD.  Absent from his advocacies is the principle that a punishment should fit the crime, or that a crime even needs to be committed to incur a penalty.  Under this influence, MADD has been lobbying to lower the allowable blood-alcohol content (BAC) for drivers to .04 - which means one glass of Pinot can land anyone behind bars... - Washington Times editorial: “MADD about regulation”
From its original, commendable, mission of getting dangerously blotto drivers off the roads, MADD has morphed itself into the Brady.Bunch of auto “safety,” pushing for alcohol abolition and other draconian restrictions on civil liberties with all the zeal of a global warmingist, and the same degree of scientific validity.[1]  Hurley is a principal reason for  MADD’s mission creep, and putting him in charge of the NHTSA would be like putting Code Pink in charge of the Defence Department (or, for that matter, Janet Napolitano in charge of the DHS).

Nothing since prohibition (and I include the “war on (some) drugs”) did more to turn Americans into scofflaws than Jimmy Carter’s Richard Nixon’s[2] stupid federal speed limit restrictions.  And nothing has done more to separate the average citizen from law enforcement than the mostly-federally-driven (and funded) random “safety” checkpoints.  With Hurley in charge, we can expect all of that- doubled.  He is a zealot who has no business in any federal office, let alone one like NHTSA chief.

This weekend, the weather in most parts of the country promises to be beautiful.  Why not take an hour or so, and jump in the car, head out to the nearest interstate, and crank up the speed (and the stereo) for an hour or two.  Lean back and savor the experience.  Think of it going away.

Then, when you get back home, write your Senators.

(And even if cruising along with your favorite tunes at 70 miles per hour isn’t your particular thing, write ’em anyway.  Because Hurley is no friend of freedom– of any sort.)

HT:  Instapundit, and “thanks” for ruining my Friday afternoon.
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[1]  Thank MADD’s agit-prop (and a compliant Congress) for the move to the nationwide must-be-21drinking restriction– which a group of college presidents (!) is now trying to reverse.

[2Correction:  Nixon was the one who implemented it.  Carter just whined at us to please obey it.

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Linkage

“...because kittens and explosives don’t mix”



Via:  SayUncle

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In Passing

Shortage of (political) capital


Thursday’s Wall Street Journal included an editorial (“Political Credit Cards”) that, in anticipation of the forthcoming “little friendly arm-twisting session over their rates and billing practices” with the President, lamented the political reaction to the credit card companies’ recent (and widespread) increases in interest rates and reductions of customers’ credit lines.  The editors reviewed the industry’s problems:  Rising charge-offs and delinquencies, the collapse of the securitization market, and new federal rules that make doing business more expensive and difficult.[1]  Along the way they went after administraton demagoguery (from Larry Summers), and Congressional political opportunism (from the likes of Chris Dodd and Barney Frank) as being unhelpful and dishonest.

It “...isn’t about helping consumers,” the editors say.  “It’s about once again blaming the bankers for what ails the economy, even if the political class is partly responsible.”  Doesn’t the public realize that the politicaians’ meddling may wreck “the best and easiest access to consumer credit anywhere in the world”?

Now this is a difficult position to sell, even under the best of circumstances.  As the editors admit, “Credit card issuers are the companies that consumers love to hate, which makes them an easy populist target.”  But while nobody loves his creditor, might I suggest that the last few weeks’ political bloviating would have had considerably less resonance among the public at large if the card companies had been making the slightest effort to be a bit more customer-friendly.

A quick trip through the archives at The Consumerist yields story after story of stealth due-date changes, proliferating fees and penalty charges, unannounced credit-limit reductions (sometimes to less than a card’s current balance, which then generates overdraft fees), unexplained rate hikes for good customers... the list seems endless.  And something else.  All of these practices carry the aroma of cheating.  Or if not exactly cheating, playing fast and loose with the “rules of the relationship” in ways designed to trap the customer into forking over extra cash.

The card issuers will say that what they’re doing is all legal, and all covered in the cardholder’s Terms and Conditions (i.e., somewhere in those ten pages printed in type only slightly larger than in the image above).  Well maybe.  But although you can do something, there are usually various ways to do it.  And even the legal profession (weasels all!) recognizes the difference between “good faith” and “bad faith.”  Look at the “bad faith” words in that list: “stealth” “unannounced” “unexplained.”  Characteristics of an honest business that values its customers?

Managers used to understand how vital it is to make plain that their company is a businesses, not a scam.  But from the confusopolies of the cable and cellular telephone providers to the “you didn’t read our contract, so you’re screwed” attitude of everyone from consumer-goods manufacturers to retailers, more and more businesses seem to be making their operating principle “Get their Money- By Hook or By Crook!”  Well, if you make screwing your customers your primary goal, don’t be surprised that they wind up hating you.

And when those political demagogues set out to ruin your business, don’t be astonished if your faithful customers set aside their self-interest and instead go for the schadenfreude.


Related:


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[1]  either that, or clamp down on some of the industry’s more abusive practices.  Depends on who is doing the talking.

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Thursday, 23 April 2009

In Passing

How do you say “B*llsh*t!” in Swedish?


The Register:

The judge in The Pirate Bay trial has been accused of bias, after Sweden’s national radio station revealed that Thomas Norström was a member of the same pro-copyright groups as several of the main entertainment industry reps in the case.

Sveriges Radio’s P3 news programme [link in original - o.g.] claimed Norström is signed up to the Swedish Copyright Association (Svenska föreningen för upphovsrätt), which also counts Henrik Pontén, Peter Danowsky and Monique Wadsted as members. All three represented the entertainment industry in the case against BitTorrent tracker site The Pirate Bay.

Additionally, the judge sits on the board of the Swedish Association for the Protection of Industrial Property (Svenska föreningen för industriellt rättsskydd), which is lobbying for tougher copyright laws.

However, Norström insisted to the radio station that his membership of the various copyright protection groups did not “constitute a conflict of interest”.
Oh really???
Unsurprisingly, one of the defendants’ lawyers in the case has disagreed...

Elsewhere:

HT:  For title, and the “elsewhere” links, to genes at DP

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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Press

“If the Times closed... they would have to think for themselves.”


Mark Steyn on the trouble with American newspapers:

The Times is the template for the entire industry: Its ethos dominates the journalism schools; it’s the model for a zillion other mini-me wannabe-Timeses across the continent...  Its priorities determine the agenda of the three nightly network newscasts, also (not coincidentally) flailing badly.  The net result of the industry’s craven abasement before the Times is that American newspapering is dead as dead can be — and certainly far deader than its cousins in Britain, Australia, India, or even Canada.


Via:  “Mætenloch,” in a comment at Ace

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Clipfile

Clipfile - April 22, 2009

“Remember, the Republicans tell you that government is the problem, get elected, and prove themselves right.” - Robb Allen

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In Passing

I did my part. I stopped my subscription.


The Indianapolis Star boosts economic stagnation, more state government spending, expensive and unreliable energy:

INDIANA'S TOP THREE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES[1]
  1. DWINDLING OPEN SPACE, HABITATS
    Indiana's 4 percent of publicly owned land is among the lowest in the country.  He includes opposition to the I-69 expansion in this category, not because he’s against roads but because of what he says is the potential to destroy 2,000 acres of forest.
  2. TOXIC EMISSIONS
    Indiana is third in the nation in toxic emissions, including coal ash and mercury, according to EPA data for 2007.[2]
  3. CARBON FOOTPRINT
    Kharbanda rejects the idea of “clean coal” technology, calling it cleaner coal, and says the costs are “dramatically understated.”  He thinks priority should go to alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar.[3]


(Some previous Gannett-age here, here, here, and here.  Not to mention here.)

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[1]  The source is Jesse Kharbanda, director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.  This is noted on the front page sidebar, but not on the paper’s website.

[2]  Not surprising for a state that gets most of its electricity (a lot of which gets sent eastward) from coal, and had its last nuclear plant halted mid-construction by environmentalists.

[3]  Which works really well on those long, dark, midwinter nights.

(Star front page image via newseum.org.)

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Linkage

Early one morning at the supermarket



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Linkage

Happy 7th, Mark


(What would you do if I sang out of tune?)

“It was seven years ago today[1]
     Mark ’n’ Dolly taught the band to play
They post every time they’ve got a chance.
     And-tho they’ve never had an Instalanche[2]
If Liberty’s[3] what you’re about
     Then you really ought-a check ’em out:
Mark and Dolly’s
BabyTrollBlog
Land!”

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[1] Actually yesterday, but what’s one day in seven years?

[2] Inexplicably, true.

[3] “You may not be able to impose democracy on a country, but you sure as hell can impose socialism. Stop it!” - Dolly

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In Passing

Another WSJ “computer spies” story (UPDATED: More propaganda?)


Wall Street Journal, front page for Tuesday, April 21, 2009Headlined Computer Spies Breach Fighter-Jet Project, this one is largely about security leaks from both Defense Department and contractor-operated networks involving the Joint Strike Fighter project, although there is one mention of penetration of the Air Force’s air traffic control system, and an expert’s warning about the possibility of a similar breach of the civilian ATC system operated by the Federal Aviation Agency.

Compared to the Journal’s previous “cyberespionage” story, this one has more meat to it.  Also, this one does not mention the S.773/S.778 “cybergrab” bills, although it does repeat the earlier article’s claim that “...the U.S. electrical-distribution system, as well as other infrastructure, have been [remotely] infiltrated by spies...”  It also reports that “the Obama adminstration is likely to soon propose creating a senior White House computer-security post to coordinate policy,” i.e., as would be authorized by S.778.

All-in-all, it does reveal some more grounds for monitoring network security (NTTAWWT), at least as far as government-operated installations are concerned.  How applicable this is to private networks, and whether the administration plans to use government-network breaches as a pretext for mandating standards for private networks, as they say, remains to be seen.

LATER:  In an article New Military Command to Focus on Cybersecurity published on the web Tuesday afternoon (and probably slated for appearance in Wednesday’s edition), The Journal says that “multiple [unnamed] military sources” have told it that

The Obama administration plans to create a new military command to coordinate the defense of Pentagon computer networks and improve U.S. offensive capabilities in cyberwarfare...
The afternoon article[1] also notes
A White House team reviewing cybersecurity policy has sent a raft of recommendations to the president for approval, including the creation of a top White House cyberpolicy official. Mr. Obama is expected to announce the contours of his new approach later this month...

A draft of the White House review steps gingerly around the question of how to improve computer security in the private sector, especially key infrastructure such as telecommunications and the electricity grid. The document stresses the importance of working with the private sector and civil-liberties groups to craft a solution, but doesn’t call for a specific government role.
This is considerably different from the sweeping provisions in S.773, and equally different from Senator Rockefeller’s statement, which, when enumerating potential candidates for federal regulation says
...our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records—the list goes on...
Perhaps the administration is trying to choreograph things so it appears the Old Meanie Congress is “forcing” it to assume the wide-ranging powers that S.773 would grant it.[2]

The report’s “ginger steps around the private sector” smells like a sign of developing oppositon; Maybe somebody besides me read the bill and is upset by it.

Previously:
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[1]  which also includes a statement from Lockheed-Martin Corporation, the Joint Strike Fighter project’s lead contracter that “To our knowledge, there has never been any classified information breach” in the program.  The Journal snarks back that, “...[our] story didn’t say the stolen information was classified,” leaving me, for one, even more suspicious that this stream of reports is part of a campaign to get the Senate bills passed with little examination or debate.

[2]  Certainly a similar “just let it happen”scenario has been mooted regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s on-rushing carbon regulations:  “Hey, we didn’t do it... it’s them! (‘Revise the Clean Air Act?’  Shhhh!  Verstummen!)”

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