We find something about all our friends to rip on.

Since Subway never responded to my letter, I’m happy to see this story:

It was a situation clerks have faced again and again: customers upset by the discontinuation of rewards programs at franchises. But business owners say the programs simply cannot continue.

The reason: fraud.

In a world of home laser printers and multimedia PCs, counterfeiting has become increasingly easy. With materials available at any office supply store, those with a cursory knowledge of photo-editing software can duplicate the business-card-size rewards cards once punched at Cold Stone Creamery or the stamps once given out at Subway sandwich shops.

People are counterfeiting Subway stamps? And selling them on eBay, as the article points out? Who thinks to search eBay for Subway stamps?

All of that is certainly bizarre, but perhaps it occurred to someone somewhere that maybe a little technology could fix a problem caused by technology. Perhaps Subway executives have even seen it in action in a grocery store or gas station. Those places only try to get me to sign up for their Reward/Frequent Shopper/Super Saver/Generally Swell Guy cards every single time I shop at their establishments. The thought didn’t even have to be original. Observe. It’s such a basic business technique, it’s stunning that Subway missed it. (Cold Stone Creamery is featured in the article, as well, but I don’t hate them, so I’m only picking on them in in this paranthetical aside. Though, they do sell dairy products, so maybe I should… nah, I’m not that type of vegan. Screw Subway.)

And there’s this to consider:

And while the new system’s upfront costs might be high, it may reap larger rewards for the companies in the long run. As grocery stores have learned, the market research gleaned through establishing databases while handing out discounts can turn swipe cards into a winning formula very quickly.

Which is exactly why I never sign up for those cards or give my phone number to cashiers. I understand that I’m losing out on HUGE SAVINGS, but I’ll take my chances. Except at Best Buy. Best Buy is good. Best Buy gives me gift certificates for swiping my Reward Zone card. I like gift certificates. But I hate junk mail and telemarketers and all that useless, invasive crap. I’ll pay three cents extra for my tofu, thanks. I like the capitalistic idea that they’ll give me the best price without a gimmick and I’ll give them money without hesitation. Everything else is a time-waster. How about this sign on the entrance to every store:

We won’t sell you out.

Subway won’t clean a knife before cutting a sandwich. Why would anyone think they’ll respect customers enrolled in the electronic Sub Club?

When given the chance, choose facts

The tide is changing in Japan, too. Consider:

Phimosis is the word used to describe the condition where the foreskin can’t be pulled back over the top of the glans, and it’s long been a topic of discussion in Japan’s weeklies. Common belief here has it that the problem can easily be solved through circumcision, but growing numbers of Japanese physicians are arguing that it’s no longer necessary to inflict the “cruelest cut of all” to solve the condition.

“It’s a big mistake to have made phimosis such a problem in the first place. Medically, there’s absolutely nothing wrong at all,” Eiji Ishikawa, head of the Ishikawa Clinic and one of Japan’s most prominent urologists, tells Shukan Gendai. “Actually, phimosis is more like the natural condition and there’re more health problems involved when lopping off the foreskin. Western views on this condition have changed drastically over the past 30 years.”

Just so you know.

Public policy as birth control

The Indian government is implementing a new policy to change a societal perception. Consider:

The Indian government says it will reward girls from single child families with free education and other benefits.

Under the plan, education for such girls will be made free at secondary level. They will also be given scholarships for postgraduate study.

The government says the policy will apply to all schools and colleges, both government and privately run.

Apparently India is much like other countries in South Asia, with parents feeling strong societal pressure to have male children. Unsurprisingly, this leads to selective abortions and excessive breeding to properly shape families. As the 2001 Indian census shows, its population stands at “933 women per thousand men”. This can’t continue, so it makes sense that the government wants to try something. But I’m not sure this move will be appropriate to achieve a gender balance. It seems this will lead to more selective abortions of boys than anything else. Child-raising as lottery seems wrong-headed, at best.

Obviously, I don’t think something like this would ever work in America, but it did raise an interesting question or two. If we tried something with this level of blatant gender discrimination, how long would it hold up? Would it even pass? I doubt it, but I don’t really see how it’s different than any other legal discrimination preferences we apply to education and jobs and wherever else we’ve identified discrepancies not rooted in merit. I wonder, though, in a hypothetical America where this plan passed, how long it would take the eldest daughter in a family to sue her parents if she could no longer afford school because her free education ended when the parents conceived another child.

Anyone have any better ideas for solving a gender imbalance within a population than this Indian plan?

The quote is all that matters here

A few weeks ago, Danielle and I test drove a Toyota Prius. I prefer Volkswagens but gas mileage is key now that we live further out. More driving equals more fuel and the under-thirty-miles-per-gallon is no longer acceptable. Yet, there’s also the cool technological aspect of hybrids in general and the Prius specifically. I like the idea of staring at the touch-screen in the most feature-laden model, watching a graphical representation of what the engine is doing. I’m not sure I understand how the energy captured from braking recharges the battery if the car drives on the highway, across the country, but the brochures indicate that it happens. I’m a sucker for technological hype. But, again, the fuel savings is most important, which is why I’m turning against the diesel Jetta. That attention to gas mileage is probably more a side-effect of me being an earth-crunchy vegan than a capitalist, but I’m still delaying the decision because of the selfish, non-earth-crunchy vegan part of me that still wants to drive a manual transmission. Toyota doesn’t offer a manual transmission in the Prius.

Instead, they offer this:

Oh, it’s a thing of beauty, but without a clutch, it makes no sense to the untrained driver. With the Prius, the driver pushes start, followed by using that knob to shift the car into gear. When parking the car, the driver, brakes the car to a stop, pushes the park button, and pushes the off button. There is no need to involve the gear knob in the process. This makes no sense to me, of course. I’ve driven cars with manual transmissions since almost the day I received my driver’s license in July 1989. I forget to put automatic transmissions in park when I park them. I stomp the floor trying to find the clutch. The mechanisms of a manual transmission are ingrained into my knowledge of how to drive a car. Without them, I’m lost. So I think I can be forgiven my logical yet incorrect instinct to shift the car out of Drive. I would be wrong, though, for this is what I heard when I did exactly that at the end of the test drive.

No! I told you not to touch that! Hngggggggtt&#185

I sat still, as stunned as a four-year-old caught playing with his toy battleships in the toilet. Did he just yell at me? Would the car blow up because I shifted the gear knob? Perhaps, I concluded. This new-fangled technology was hard, but I wouldn’t be so stupid if they’d built the car correctly, with a manual transmission and a clutch. Granted, most people interested in hybrids for fuel efficiency are too busy talking with Greenpeace on their cell phone to shift gears, but some weird folks like me have control issues, eliminating any potential joy offered by the convenience of an automatic transmission. And I hate cell phones, so the Bluetooth feature is wasteful. Less Bluetooth and more clutch next time. But I digress.

Like I said, I still haven’t decided whether or not to buy a Prius. I like the idea of it, but I’m not sure I’ll enjoy the reality of it. No manual transmission is a poor marketing tool. And don’t get me start on the lack of built-in Sirius. Throw in a snorting, yelling salesman and I don’t know that I’m willing to sign over that many dollars when there will be a greater choice in hybrids within a few years.

Did I mention that the salesman yelled at me?

&#185 – Imagine excess phlegm snorted from the throat into the nose with a sound mimicking snoring. That’s what that is.

Do I earn non-partisan credentials?

Unlike what I do here, this shows what partisanship looks like:

Give ’em hell, Harry.

Hey Dems, here’s an easy one for you: follow the leader.

I’ll pull the plug here before I’ll resort to that sort of blind, non-thinking partisanship, especially when it comes to following someone like Sen. Reid. Why? Because I have enough sense to understand that opposition for the sake of opposition is unwise. In this instance, opposing Judge Roberts because he’s a Bush nominee is counter-productive. President Bush has the votes in Congress to get Judge Roberts confirmed. History dictates that presidents deserve a high barrier to rejection for Court nominees. All that comes into play here.

I expressed reservations about Judge Roberts when President Bush nominated him, but I think he should be confirmed. I’ve seen no giant red flags that he’s going to treat the Constitution as little better than toilet paper, so what would I gain from trying to block him, or even vote against him if I were a senator? If any nominee will face opposition, the president has no incentive to compromise. Playing “follow the leader” on this only enflames the partisan war, forcing a perpetuation of the “hate President Bush” theme on the Left and the perception of that theme on the Right. All Sen. Reid is doing is encouraging President Bush to nominate an extremist to the Court to fill Justice O’Connor’s position. Democrats honestly think this will inspire voters? It may boost fund-raising at Move On, but it doesn’t win elections. I have too much sense to attach myself to symbols instead of ideas. That’s the standard I hold myself to when I write about politics.

Now I’m going Buck&#153

I’ve made numerous suggestions throughout these pages, but here is a summary to accompany my bitching:

  1. Fix the tax code. The flat tax is essential to prevent the continuing madness that is our anti-free market tax system.
  2. Cut pork barrel spending. We don’t need bridges that don’t leave a state and only serve 50 residents. Make it harder to insert pork into future appropriations bills. Hold their representatives accountable for their wastefulness.
  3. End agricultural subsidies for favored products. If the market needs/wants 700 trillion pounds of corn, dairy, meat, and soybeans, let the market dictate that and decide how to pay for it. Central planners deciding what we need only leads to inefficiencies and abuses.
  4. Repeal the prescription drug benefit.
  5. Reform Social Security with private accounts (since mandatory social security contributions aren’t going away – the real answer).
  6. End bailouts of businesses when they make mistakes. If Southwest can run its business profitably, so can US Air and Delta and American and every other behemoth struggling to understand capitalism. Also, stop subsidizing Amtrak on routes that lose money. If no one uses them, that’s the market saying that it doesn’t want the service. Making it acceptable to fail and stay in business only encourages risky, irresponsible behavior. It’s why FDR hated the idea of deposit insurance. It only encouraged the banks to be irresponsible with customers’ money because the government would bail them out.
  7. Implement better management oversight of government agencies. Institute legitimate cost controls. Contracts should not be paid until funds are budgeted and verified available. Once funds are spent, budgets should be reduced.
  8. Get the government out of flood insurance and pension guarantees and every other nonsensical abandonment of free-market policies. If there is risk involved, the private economy will figure out how to properly incentivize responsible behavior. Etc., etc. from #6.
  9. Return education, housing, etc. to the state and local governments. Make the citizens who benefit responsible for paying for those benefits.
  10. Repeal drug laws for low- and moderate-level drugs. Spend the crime fighting dollars on crimes with victims.

Should I go on?

When I post something that is bitching, I don’t do it because I want to score points or I’m devoid of any solutions. I bitch because I see hypocrisy in supporting everything the president or Congress or whoever says without any acknowledgement that something negative might exist. I bitch because we deserve better leaders and we can have them, but the first action is showing that the ones we have are incompetent or unwilling to fix this mess.

I’ve supported the Left in the past because I know the Right is fucking things up, which does not mean I believe the Left is better. But the Left is not in control of the government now. If they were spending us into oblivion or taxing the economy into recession or expanding the federal government as a matter of political giveaway or paternalism, I’d say so, as well.

For what it’s worth, I think they will do the same in 2006 or 2008 or whenever they return to power. but I’m not pointing out their nonsense because it’s so hysterical and lacking in leadership and common sense that it speaks for itself. That’s why I’ve advocated for having a viable third-party candidate in 2008. I want someone who will force the federal government to do what it should (national defense, legal system) and stop doing what it shouldn’t (education, censorship, general paternalism). It may not be spelled out every time I post, but there are enough statements and obvious inferences that I don’t feel the need to list them every time I bitch about some idiot politician or partisan hack.

And I’ll keep doing the same.

The megahorn batteries are dead

How can anyone write this recap of a briefing by Rep. Tom DeLay and not comment on his “ongoing victory” nonsense?:

Raising taxes would kill jobs, choke off investment, and stifle economic growth. That’s not exactly a recipe for the kind of economic renewal that region so desperately needs.

Instead, I hope some of the money can be the product of spending sacrifices elsewhere in the federal budget.

There are programs all over the federal budget that are bloated or wasteful or inefficiently using the funds we provide them, and I’m very interested in identifying them.

We can fund this relief effort without raising taxes or wasteful spending – and it’s up to us to do just that.”

He stated that there are bloated, wasteful, and inefficient programs in the federal budget and this doesn’t warrant even an afterthought about his stupidity? Being a partisan shill must be very relaxing some days since the intellectual lifting is so light.

You fargin sneaky bastage.

Everyone is abuzz over this news about the FBI expanding its porn-fighting, based on Congressional mandate and increased direction from Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and FBI Director Robert Mueller. This is what they’re looking for:

Applicants for the porn squad should therefore have a stomach for the kind of material that tends to be most offensive to local juries. Community standards — along with a prurient purpose and absence of artistic merit — define criminal obscenity under current Supreme Court doctrine.

Ignore for the moment the government’s obvious lack of priorities when this is an issue while we’re trying to protect our country from terrorism. I still don’t understand why the federal government is enforcing “community” standards. Aren’t South Beach and Iowa City two distinct communities? Should the federal government be involved in that? I’m sure, like all federal government activities, there’s a logical explanation for why this is pushed to the federal government instead of local governments, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if I want to know, either, because it’ll probably make my head hurt. I’d rather drink a Slurpee&#174 really fast.

(More thoughts in this earlier post.)

I didn’t eat hot dogs from Wawa

This is all it takes to set a world record?

Suresh Joachim broke the Guinness world record for the longest time spent watching TV. He finished Friday with 69 hours and 48 minutes.

There are so many (lame) jokes inherent in that setup, but I’m not going after any of them. I just want to ask the very real question of how an individual remains awake for almost 70 hours straight and absorbs anything. Shouldn’t there be some criteria stronger than just “constantly looking at the screen”? Any fool can stay awake for 70 hours, but can he be coherent?

I went to Blacksburg to see the Hokies pound Ohio. After driving four hours Friday, staying out until 3:45 am, getting up at 7:30, standing in the sun for ten of the next fourteen hours, and finally driving another four hours home on Saturday evening, I understood a little about insufficient sleep. I assume Mr. Joachim did, too, but I jammed 70 hours of fun into 27. Fifteen miles from home on Saturday night, I had to pull over and let my brother drive because little men ran across the highway. I don’t mean that as an exaggeration, either. I hallucinated little men running across the highway, little men who weren’t there.

But at least I earned my hallucination by doing more than just sitting on my ass, watching beams of light bounce across a television screen. To you, Mr. Joachim, I say “Big whoop.” I saw little men. What did you see?