Friday, April 15, 2011

Len's Law -- If you bother to pass a law, mean it

Happy Friday. Time for another edition of Len's Laws.

Len's Law: If you bother to pass a law, mean it.

The Connecticut General Assembly is again working to put some teeth in the distracted-driving law. It may cost around $500 and you may lose your license for a day if you get caught.

The chances of you getting caught aren't really too good, though. The hands-free driving and no texting while driving are really DUH laws. Nobody should do these things. But they do. I'm not sure how many people are stupid enough to text while driving, but stand on any corner and count the number of people yakking on their phones as they pass. Usually, it's more people talking than not. That's been my experience.

The state is trying to authorize cities and towns to install red-light cameras to catch the two or three drivers who pass through an intersection after the light turns red. Maybe those can be used to catch those yakking on their phones.

While you're at it, why not make eating, reading (no kidding), shaving, putting on make-up and fiddling with the radio illegal while driving. See where that gets you. I'd like to see the public hearing on that law: Ronald McDonald, The Burger King and Rachel Ray for Dunkin Donuts would be waiting to tell who this law is wrong, bad and unconstitutional.

Len's Law: If you bother to pass a law, mean it (Take 2):

Congrats to Congress on the weak-kneed, lily-livered law they are working on to cute the mortgage mess. Again, they are hiding under the desk.

Putting the fox in charge of hen safety has never worked. Putting the mortgage industry in charge of cleaning up the mortgage mess won't either.

Please don't listen to the do-gooders who say everyone deserves to own their own homes. It's what put us on the edge of the next Great Depression. If you can't afford to buy a house, you should not be allowed to buy a house. If you are too addle-brained to know if you can afford to pay $1,000 a month for a house, then someone needs to tell you you can't afford it. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae used to do that. Somebody needs to do it again.

Yes, living in a house with a yard and some trees and grass is nice. But not everyone can afford that. The rest of us shouldn't be sent down the financial rabbit hole because bankers are too greedy to know the difference.

Len's Law: Let's get real on Facebook. It's a great social networking site. We knew our daughter and her now-husband were getting serious, even though we were 5,000 miles away, when they changed their status on Facebook from single to "in a relationship."

But Facebook isn't a substitute for human interaction. Some independent (right!) "All-Facebook) Facebook site says being on Facebook is the same as cuddling. It releases the same chemical into the brain as cuddling.

You know -- maybe that's what's wrong these days. Too much Facebook and not enough cuddling. Facebook certainly has its place, but not between cuddlers.

Have a wonderful weekend. For Christians, have a wonderful Palm Sunday and for those in the Tribe, a great Shabbat and a meaningful Passover

Until next time...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Len's Laws -- a Friday Feature Second Edition

Len's Law: Advertisers must drop the word "available" from their ads.
Don't tout something that costs extra. The car you are talking about, the one that costs less than the competition, doesn't have all those features in it. I love the ad that says, in big, bold type, the car costs $27.900. In baby type, "As shown, $39,800." With "available all-wheel drive" you can laugh at snow. But don't forget next winter that you were too cheap to go for the "available" all-wheel drive and snow is laughing at you. Why not just say how much the car equipped with all the stuff we were touting will cost and let the customer figure out if all those toys are worth it.

Len's Law: Don't say something is free when it's not. Free Credit Report Dot Com. If you have the word "free" in your name, you should be giving something out free. Free Credit Report Dot Com will give you your credit score and credit report free if you pay them $15 a month. Huh? Reports are free with enrollment in some credit watching company's service. That's fine...there are people who need this service. So say so. Don't have people singing and talking about your free credit report and then have the announcer mumble "Free with enrollment in..."

Len's Law: Be careful with people's information. How brain dead do you have to be to collect vital financial statistics and then have some dunderhead take the information out of a secure environment because he wants to work at home? And how brain dead do you have to be to delay letting people know for a month and a half while you conduct an investigation? You don't take your time letting people know that their financial information is at risk. It gets worse because you are not a bank where people voluntarily give you their information but a hospital where you take this information to make sure you get paid.

Len's Law: If you are a news organization, try to be fair and not stupid. First, in fairness, let me say David Avigdor is my friend. That doesn't change what I am about to say.
A certain on-line news site in New Haven was covering the trial of some people who were charged with being part of a mortgage-fraud scheme. Most of the coverage by one reporter was fair. He told both sides and kept the purple prose to a minimum. Then another person, an editor no less, covered final arguments. "When a mortgage scam mastermind was handing out “bags of money,” David Avigdor “did not receive any cash,” his lawyer claimed in a last-gasp attempt to defend the attorney and rabbi’s reputation." Last-gasp attempt to defend? Final arguments are the last bite at the apple for lawyers, but last-gasp has connotations that give an unfair taint to a story. Then a headline saying the jury could not agree. The jury had met for less than a day and send out a note asking for instruction about what to do if they could not agree. They never said they could not agree. Not yet, anyway. If you can't be fair, stay out of federal court, or any court for that matter. And if you think phrases such as "last-gasp attempt to defend" belong in a news story, perhaps you should ride your bike to a shoe store and apply for a job. You don't belong in journalism. You belong selling shoes. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Have a great weekend, y'all, and for those in the Tribe, have a great Shabbat.

Until next time...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

No, it's not free and how 'bout those Huskies

Free credit report isn't free

I do wish Comcast would stop carrying the "Free Credit Score" promos on its main page. It's a lie.

Everybody's getting into the act, including the federal government. Each year, each person is entitled to a free credit report. You need to go to the FTC Web site and request it. Don't go to one of the sites that say they'll show you how to get to your credit report. If the site has a ".com" in it, don't go there.

So, the government, for a change is telling us the truth but not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You can get your credit report there, but if you want your credit score, you have to sign up with a commercial service.

Same thing with those tacky ads on television. Free Credit Report Dot Com does NOT give you a free credit score or free anything else. The announcer in the ad mumbles that you get the score with enrollment in their service. There also is baby type on the screen that says that.

I think the service is $14.95 a month. That's about $180 a year. For some people, that's a lot of money.

Some services, like American Express, will give you access to your credit report and one credit score free. That's part of the service. But AmEx only will give you your score in one of three rating services. If you want to see the other two, yes, you get it. Sign up and pay.

I guess you only get to know for sure when you try to take out a loan or buy a car or mortgage a house. Then you can ask the banker or dealer to run your scores. I'm sure they'll be happy to comply as long as you are serious about buying what they have to sell.

How about those Huskies

Yes, it was a dirty game. Who cares. The Connecticut Huskies are the rulers of the men's basketball world.

I love irony. At the start of the season, the women's basketball team was all it. Moore was three-time all everything and compared to Holdsclaw and Taurasi and Bird and Lieberman. The men's team was picked 10th in the Big East and already had a space reserved at the NIT. They weren't supposed to go anywhere. Rebuilding year.

So, here we are in baseball season with the Final Four down to the Final One, and guess who is cutting down the nets. And guess who just couldn't get it done. Irony.

Yes, the UConn men beat a team who would have lost to the Little Sisters of the Poor, but who cares. They had to play some pretty mean teams to get there: five games in five straight days in the Big East, no bye in the Big Dance. They worked for the chance to beat Butler. Kentucky was supposed to bring them back to reality and send them home.

Didn't turn out that way. More irony. Ms. Moore, Ms. everything didn't come back from Indianapolis with the team. She was off picking up yet another award while her teammates were taking what had to seem like the longest plane ride in history. Bad time to have a bad game.

Speaking of irony, Geno Auriemma was very politic when he talked about the officiating in that game. It was played in Indianapolis and not far from where Notre Dame is. When asked about it, Geno said the refs could have called some fouls one way or another, and they called them against the Huskies. A team that seldom was in foul trouble was called for being near another player. Notre Dame players were giving the UConn players whacks that you could to time for. Refs were like Sgt. Schultz: "I see nothing, nothing."

Geno didn't complain. He just had that face. You know, the one that says, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck" it's bad officiating.

Until next time...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Surprised they fell for it

Happy Monday.

I'm surprised at The New York Times. They fell for yet another Palestinian public relations trick.

Sunday's front page featured a fairly well-researched think piece about how Israel is facing a vote in the United Nations that, the writer concluded, result in the U.N. General Assembly recognizing a Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel may be between a rock and a hard place, the piece concludes.

Fine. It's a legitimate point, if not a terribly realistic one. The United States and some other countries have said that a Palestinian state only can come about through negotiations, not actions by the U.N., which is notoriously anti-Israel.

But the photo that accompanied the story was a complete fabrication. It purported to show Israeli soldiers, armed to the teeth, staring at peace Palestinians praying over a piece of land they said was taken from them illegally by Israel. Arabs praying in the face of armed Israeli soldiers.

The problem is that the shot was obviously taken with a long, long lens. High-powered lenses compress shots. Watch a baseball game. It looks as if the batter is a few feet from the stands when, in fact, he's many yards away. It looks like the on-deck circle is a few feet from home plate when it's not.

Same thing here. The long lens compressed distance in this shot. The Israelis could have been the length of a football field away from the Arabs. And how would the Associated Press photographer know that these people were going out to pray if the Palestinian world-class public relations people hadn't told him and probably told him where to stand.

Now, even if the photographer fell for the PR ploy, I'm surprised the photo desk at the Times did. They know better...or should.

You have to give the Palestinians credit for good PR.

A few things about the story, if you please. First, everyone, including Ethan Bonner, the story's author, mentions the Palestinian position that they will not negotiate with Israel while Israeli building goes on in the West Bank. Bonner knows better about the peace negotiations. The Israelis had agreed to a 10-month moratorium on building in the West Bank to get negotiations going. The Arabs never came to the table for nine months. They showed up for the 10th month and stalled, then called for a continuation of the moratorium.

Never mind the obvious cynicism. Who got hurt by that? The Palestinians who worked on the projects. I know a guy who was one of the builders who had to stop working during the moratorium. He tried to keep his work force, mostly Palestinians, employed but had to let some of them go. The workers were the ones hurt.

Again, half truths and innuendos from Palestinians. And photographers who fall for them.

Until next time...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Len's Laws -- a Friday feature

It's late and there is little time, but you all can look for a Friday feature called Len's Laws. The idea is stolen from New Rules by that other guy on HBO.

This week, we'll pick on television.

Len's Law: Television news people are forbidden to use the word, "actually." They seem unable to give a report without that word. Using the word "actually" signifies that the reporter or anchor is surprised by things like crooks being dumb, druggies robbing donut shops (where the cops are) and mayors trying to curry favor with their bases (in New Haven's case, super liberal bike-riders.)

Len's Law: Television weather people are only allowed to promo their forecasts once. After that, they must give the whole forecast, not ask if there will be a foot of snow and say the answer comes at the bottom of the program. This comes after they promoted the forecast at the top of the news show. One promo per news show.

Len's Law: Stop using Chickenman as a promotion. "He's everywhere, he's everywhere" belongs to Chickenman. Channel 3 is not everywhere.

Len's Law: Television channels and cable providers cannot promo themselves during their shows. I'm watching Law & Order; you don't have to tell me to watch Law & Order. If you can't get legitimate advertising spots, then run public service announcements. You're supposed to run them anyway.

Finally, Len's Law. Jon Stewart has to stop saying he's Jewish. He's not. Maybe he was born Jewish, but he has relinquished his right to tell anybody about this Jewish roots because of his backstabbing of Israel and anything really Jewish. He criticizes Israel for what's going on in the West Bank and Gaza, but says nothing about what's going on in Sudan, Chad, a half-dozen former Soviet republics, just about every Arab country in the Middle East and North Africa (Egypt and Morocco excepted). Jon carps at the United Nations, but acts just like the U.N. Israel is held to a higher standard, the one U.N. member forbidden to join the Security Council, but expected to live by its rules.

Have a great weekend and for those in the Tribe: a great Shabbat.

Until next time...