Shilling at CR?

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Via HBL, I have learned that the Consumers Union has been caught, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, "prostituting itself" to sell Tesla cars and the government policies that make them:

Harder to remedy, even with an overnight overhaul of its website, will be the impression that CR abused its own rating process to inflate the score for the $127,000 Tesla Model S P85D. The magazine claims the pricey Model S is so good, it "broke" CR's rating system. But it looks more like CR broke its own rating system. Hard to reconcile is a perfect score in a review where the words "glaring omission at this price" or some variation are commonplace in reference to everything from sun visors to cup holders to malfunctioning door handles. Plus the car gets only an "average" rating on reliability, which already seems generous in light of complaints from Tesla owners on enthusiast message boards.
In arguing against government regulations, I have in the past mentioned that the tasks of many regulatory agencies could be subsumed by organizations such as the Consumers Union. This incident actually strengthens that argument: That organization hasn't the power that government regulators have to fine or jail me for not following its guidelines. Rather, we can choose other advice on purchases, and the Consumers Union will repair its damaged reputation or it will eventually be supplanted.

-- CAV


What Won't They Regulate?

Monday, August 31, 2015

In the course of researching a possible column, I decided to do a very quick look around for things the EPA regulates, has regulated, or is considering regulating that an ordinary person might not regard as deserving of federal jail time. Here are a few, from the first two pages of results:

I am leaving out hazardous waste disposal (which better protection of property rights and tort law could cover), refrigerant-related "crimes," a plethora of emissions-related regulations excused by AGW hysteria, and who knows what else. Feel free to add any others you know of in the comments, but please provide substantiating links.

-- CAV


8-29-15 Hodgepodge

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"Policiteering"

From an article about a woman who, after six years, finally beat the tickets she received from a ridiculous traffic stop, comes a possibly useful term:

The case shows how easily a traffic stop can lead to someone being jailed -- a scenario that turned tragic one state west, with Sandra Bland in Texas. The case also exemplifies a suspicion that, at times, law enforcement's motive is profit. Mother Jones, in a recent article titled "Police Shootings Won't Stop Unless We Also Stop Shaking Down Black People," suggested a term for this: "policiteering." [minor format edits]
The term is more generally applicable than to stops of blacks, and it is a symptom of a more general need to reform government at the local level. As I once said, "[T]he use of the police as tax collectors is improper." Not only do I oppose taxation, I also oppose government ownership of roads. That said, until we can get the government out of road ownership, we should at least work to make such things as speed limits reasonable. St. Louis, where I live, seems especially ridiculous in this respect, with major thoroughfares often sporting 30 mile-per-hour limits. (That said, following the link in the excerpt will reveal other sources of loot than traffic stops.)

Weekend Reading

"Leaches never cured a fever, and zero interest is not curing the global financial crisis." -- Keith Weiner, in "Move Over Entrepreneurs, Make Way for Speculation!" at SNB & CHF

"Elderly people who thrive with a positive point of view are the most interesting and admirable psychological entrepreneurs." -- Michael Hurd, in "Think Young, Age Gracefully!" at The Delaware Wave

"It's sort of ironic: If you ultimately don't gain enough from the person to enjoy a sustained friendship with them, then this calls into question how sustained a romantic relationship might have been." -- Michael Hurd, in "When Romance Isn't a Two-Way Street" at The Delaware Coast Press

My Two Cents

Michael Hurd elaborates further on his term "psychological entrepreneurism" in the first of his two pieces.

Word to The Wise on Silent Phone Calls

I've mentioned our land line before -- which we have mainly due to my wife's professional obligations: Due to the high volume of robo-calls, I unplug it when my children are napping -- and I keep an eye out for nuggets like this:
Here's an experience some of us have had. The phone rings. You pick it up and say "Hello. Hello. Helloooo." But nobody answers.

It turns out there could be someone on the other end of the line: an automated computer system that's calling your number -- and tens of thousands of others -- to build a list of humans to target for theft.
It doesn't stop there. Other calls build on the information so obtained to ultimately enable an identity theft attempt. Read the whole thing.

-- CAV


Friday Four

Friday, August 28, 2015

1. When I take the kids to the park, I use a small "Pack-It" freezable bag to keep their snacks cool. On our last trip, my four-year-old daughter -- who has recently become enamored of a time and place of maturity and enlightenment known as "high school" -- also took a liking to the bag.

"Daddy, when I'm older, like maybe five or in high school, can I have that bag for my snacks?"

"Maybe, so, Pumpkin."

This makes me want to put the bag aside for a decade and present it to her when she starts high school.

2. We'll set aside the fact that my pocket is being picked, and my time is being wasted; it's still nice to hear the following from my new accountant regarding a crazy letter from the IRS and a fat "refund" check I had the sense not to cash: "This letter makes no sense."

Oh, and, "There's nothing wrong with this return, " was also nice.

3. From a Forbes article titled, "15 Critical Habits of Mentally Strong People," comes the following gem of a Thomas Edison quote:

Thank goodness all our mistakes were burned up. Now we can start fresh again.
This he said after his factory burned to the ground in 1914, "destroying one-of-a-kind prototypes and causing $23 million in damage."

4. At last! Someone has taken the time to debunk that silly eight glasses of water a day rule, as well as its various corollaries:
Many people believe that the source of this myth was a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that said people need about 2.5 liters of water a day. But they ignored the sentence that followed closely behind. It read, "Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods." [link dropped]
More accurately, I am now aware of the debunking, not that I ever believed this. Read the whole thing, especially if you have children: There's an effort afoot to scare you regarding pediatric hydration that this story also addresses.

-- CAV


Lateness Is Destructive

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Except that its author has common misconceptions about the virtue of selfishness, I mainly share the author's annoyance and disgust with the chronically late:

10 people kept waiting in a meeting for 20 minutes, while some selfish [sic] prat who idles his way via the coffee shop, is actually 20 minutes times 10, which is 200 minutes wasted -- while you keep us waiting because you did not catch the earlier bus. That is over 3 hours wasted. By you! How much has that cost the business? Shall I send you an invoice? [minor edits]
Over the past few years, with two very young children to raise, I have had to rethink almost everything I do just to keep writing each day, let alone tackle more difficult projects. As a result, I have found myself becoming increasingly impatient with anything or anyone that wastes my time. I have even been known to complain about things like having to make a trip upstairs for something I could have gotten or done when up there a moment before.

There's a distinct feeling that particularly egregious time-wasters render my penny-wiseness mute with their pound-foolishness. Sometimes, until one has had to put great thought into some matter, one does not realize just how difficult someone else's thoughtlessness about the same matter can make things. To end on a more positive note, I have gained a greatly enhanced appreciation for the value of time over the past few years.

-- CAV


Considering Trump on Immigration

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

George Will writes a must-read column against Donald Trump's insulting, xenophobic, and liberty-threatening proposals regarding illegal immigrants. After correctly noting that, "To will an end is to will the means for the end" (as well as a few of Trump's other anti-liberty positions), Will elaborates on some of these proposals:

Trump evidently plans to deport almost 10 percent of California's workers and 13 percent of that state's K-12 students. He is, however, at his most Republican when he honors family values: He proposes to deport intact families, including children who are citizens. "We have to keep the families together," he says, "but they have to go." Trump would deport everyone, then "have an expedited way of getting them ["the good ones"; "when somebody is terrific"] back." Big Brother government will identify the "good" and "terrific" from among the wretched refuse of other teeming shores.
Will elaborates further on the costs of such policies in more than just monetary terms. Although I think there is a strong case for citizenship reform, I otherwise agree with most of what Will says.

As a bonus, or if you are too pressed for time, I recommend following the link for an accompanying editorial cartoon which I think perfectly sums up the Trump candidacy.

-- CAV


Paranoia Is Not Enough

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Some time ago, The Wall Street Journal interviewed Chris Hadnagy, the CEO of Social-Engineer, Inc., a firm that specializes in improving corporate communication security. Part of Hadagny's job is to obtain sensitive information from his clients' employees as a means of testing their knowledge and practices, and towards formulating recommendations for improvements. His job sounds remarkably easy, thanks to social media, workplace stress, and distraction:

WSJ: What are the signs [of social engineering] you have people look for?

MR. HADNAGY:
That's a harder one. We try to teach critical-thinking skills. Do the questions seem to match the call? Why would HR need to know what operating system you're on? Why wouldn't the IT guy know what antivirus you have?

There also is a very simple fix but really hard to institute. On the intranet you make up a color, say, cyan or yellow. That's the color of the day. Only the people internal to the company should know that. I call you and I'm the tech guy. You ask me what the color is.
It might be tempting to regard improved security as easy, if only more people would think critically. That might be true, but the specialist admits to have been tripped up recently himself. I have trained myself to view requests for certain kinds of information very skeptically, but this interview shows how easy it can be for someone to fake credibility in any moment we might be off-guard. As Hadagny states elsewhere, continual improvement of knowledge is an invaluable complement to critical thinking.

-- CAV