the Long of it ........

unintended consequences and other musings


The Latest Punishment for Large Companies – Government Fines

Two headlines today of Con-Agra and five global banks being fined over $5b.   In these cases and others, a pattern develops;  the company is found guilty of gross negligence but no specific person is ever charged.   The company pays a hefty fine (which of course is paid by consumers – a hidden tax) and the revenue goes to the federal treasury.  None of the money is ever paid directly to those that were affected by the ‘crimes’ to compensate them.   This smells of a bribe/payoff to make the charges go away.  Of course, the unintended consequence is that the executives will do it again just like my five year old did when there was no personal accountability.


No Parking for the Disabled

wheelchair  Arizona Republic ran an article about the new disability signs; icon now shows a more ‘active’ wheelchair symbol.  Interesting statistics in this article caught my attention;  there is now 600,000 vehicles with disability status in the state – out of 4.2 million registered vehicles.   This is a staggering 14.2% of the vehicles – up from 11% in 2002.   I realize our state is a huge draw to older snowbirds but many of these keep their midwestern plates/disability status.  Doesn’t make sense but regardless –  the real question to ask is where are all these people parking?   In regular spots, because very few parking lots have 14% of their spots reserved for people with disabilities (with the possible exception of the Sun City Recreation Center).  I notice this while taking my father-in-law (Parkinson’s) to various locations in town – there is no spots available!   I must park illegally in front of the door, drop him off to wait alone while I go find a non-disability spot. So the government keeps handing out a permit that does not mean what it says – there is no room in the city for the disabled!

Just reviewed ADA standards – requirement for number of disabled parking spaces varies on lot size but runs from 5% on small lots to 2% on larger ones – definitely no where near 14%.


A Surplus is Good, Right?

Headlines Today:

US Posts Biggest Monthly Budget Surplus in Seven Years, Wall Street Journal

US Records Biggest Budget Surplus in 7 Years, ABC News

Record Revenue Boosts U.S. April Budget Surplus to 7-Year High, Bloomberg

$157 Billion Budget Surplus in April, Treasury Reports, New York Times

US budget projected to post sizable surplus in April, lowering deficit Fox Business

So, reading the headlines, this looks like great news. right?  Well, partly……   The US did take in $157B more than we spent last month so on a monthly basis we took in more than we spent – this was April so we usually have a surplus since all of us must pay our taxes (except some IRS workers).  But, most people confuse a surplus with a deficit – assuming that we do not have a deficit anymore and could spend more money on our favorite projects.  The actual deficit for the year is still $460B, meaning we are spending more than we take in on an annual basis.   Fox Business seems to have gotten the facts right in it’s headline.  In any case, it is partly good news if it continues and lots of those rich people must be paying more in taxes…..


US Police Force is 27% Minority Staffed

black policeLatest stats form the DOJ showed that minorities represent 27.3% of the total 477,000 officers in the country.  Blacks represent 12.2% of police officers while they represent 13.2% of the population – dispelling common belief that the US police departments are mostly white men and blacks are under represented.  Adding 4,770 black men to the officer rank would have them represented at the same share as the population – this would add less than .5 black officers to each police department (12,000) in the US. The real story in the graph is the lack of increase in Black officer recruitment.  While other minorities are increasing recruitment, blacks have remained flat since the mid 1990’s.   Researchers give various reasons; written tests that may be culturally biased, failure to pass extensive background checks, physical checks and the overall opinion that blacks have of police.


Presidents Contempt is Bipartisan

Yesterday, the Senate failed to pass legislation to allow President Obama to have ‘Fast Track’ Trade Authorization in negotiating new deals with other countries.   This was heavily supported by Republicans but his own Democrats did not support him.  While his contempt has usually been reserved for the ornery Republicans, this time he displayed open distaste for his own party – in defending his trade deal, he said that Senator Warren was absolutely wrong and just a politician.   While many on the right has seen this president as one who has no skills in developing any kind of consensus, maybe a few on the left are now seeing the same behavior.


Your Pocket Knife May Be Illegal

belt buckle knifeKnife laws are emblematic with the loss of freedoms we have in this country.  Laws are complex and change sometimes within miles of starting on your journey.   These laws are so complex that many citizens are actually committing crimes in carrying a simple pocket knife which they would consider simply a tool.

I was reviewing the aftermath of the Baltimore arrest of Freddie Gray for carrying an illegal concealed knife.  The fact whether it was an illegal knife or not seems to be in doubt but the States Attorney has said it was a legal knife.  The local police argued with that view and said it may have been legal in the state (Maryland) but was illegal in Baltimore city (the filing paperwork by the police describes the knife as a ‘spring assisted, one hand operated knife’).  BTW, the knife clip was showing on Freddie’s pocket – does this mean concealed – I think so?

Knife laws are very confusing and inconsistent in most places, and have not kept up with advances in gun rights – I use a ‘Knife App’ LegalBlade on my iPhone (available on Android) to determine the various laws.

I looked at my state, Arizona first to see if my 3” long locked blade folding knife (CRKT-M16-01KZ) is legal.   Arizona is a bit easier since there is only a state law that pre-empts any local laws.  Looks like I can possess and carry (open or concealed) any kind/length of knife as long as I am 21 years old.  The exceptions are two that I was not aware of – I cannot carry any knife on the grounds of a public/private school or in an election polling place – I have violated this law many times without knowing.  Also, my knife has a clip that I attach to my pocket – the clip is not concealed so is that defined as open-carry?  Still have not clarified that but in any case not needed in Arizona.  Also have not clarified my responsibilities after being detained by the police while carrying my knife.  To further muddy the Arizona waters, you can often transverse multiple Indian Tribes on public roads without even realizing it – not sure what the specific Indian tribes laws are either?

I then looked up Maryland to view state law – State law does not pre-empt city laws – two cities and multiple counties have specific laws in addition to state ones.  Some counties have age limits – some do not allow a minor carrying one hour after sunset or one hour before sunrise.  No carry is permitted in schools and you cannot SELL a switchblade knife.  It is unclear whether concealed carry of an assisted opening knife meets Maryland’s definition of a ‘switchblade’.   All concealed carry of anything but a no-assist folding knife is illegal with the possible exception of proceeding sentence – are we clear now?

In Baltimore it is illegal to possess or open carry or concealed carry of a switchblade knife. Also, lots of confusion over gravity, assist and switchblade knives.

Texans have a aversion to throwing knives, you can own them but not carry them……for some reason…..

Is your pocket knife legal?

Do you know what all of the types of knives are:  Folding (no assist), Folder (Assist), Single edge fixed blade, double edge, Dagger, Dirk Stilettos, Bowie, Automatic Switchblade, Butterfly, gravity, ballistic, Belt Buckle (see pic above), Sword Cane……..whew….




List: Worst Car Names Ever

Everyone has a list on the web today – most take you to a website that is intended to show you multiple ads and require you to keep hitting <next> to view the next item (to view more ads…).  Mine is a collection of what I believe are the worst car names ever without the Viagra ads – do you have an addition?
Park Ward


It is more probable than not…..

smoking gunThe recent report that the New England Patriots ‘more probably than not’ were involved in a violation of the rules of the NFL by deflating footballs.  As usual with many suspicious news reports this year, critics demanded a ‘smoking gun‘ before believing anything.  Smartphone videos of everything around us are conditioning a new level of proof – we need very specific evidence before believing our heroes are ethically deficient.   A look at the evidence is interesting in the deflategate incident:

  • QB Brady would not allow investigators to review his phone/emails/text records
  • Equipment managers sent text messages to each other detailing the deflating exercise and discussed Brady’s anger with inadequate ball prep
  • Brady spent significant time with one of the equipment managers on the phone after the scandal broke though he had no communications with the same person for the previous 6 months
  • Brady treated the equipment managers to autographed memorabilia to thank them
  • Before the game, the Equipment manager went into a bathroom and locked the door for a few minutes with all of the game balls – said he used the urinal – there was no urinal in that facility.

I am reminded of a jury I sat on once trying a man for murder – a young lady on the jury found all of the circumstantial evidence confusing and kept looking for a ‘smoking gun’.  After a few days of deliberations, she finally agreed on a guilty verdict.  After the verdict was read, the jury was immediately sent back to the jury room to await the judge’s instruction.  After a small wait, we were told that this person had committed a previous murder and we were now going to try him as a habitual criminal.  The before mentioned lady had no issue with convicting him this time!

In other news, ex-President Clinton (‘I Gotta Pay Our Bills’) says nothing is wrong with Nigeria paying him $700K each for two speeches – the most he has ever made.  In his first eight years on the speaking circuit, he had never spoke in Nigeria.  Once his wife, Hillary, had been appointed Secretary of State he booked these speeches.  This is the same secretary of state that used a personal email server and erased all of her emails when Congress started investigating her.

Clinton and Brady supporters believe in the best and keep demanding a ‘smoking gun’ but the more cautious of us look at all of this and believe, ‘they are more probable than not guilty’.  …..we don’t need pictures – our brain/logic works perfectly well, thank you.  But, if you find any evidence that MY hero was less than ethical you had better find a ‘smoking gun’.


Whole Foods Drives up Healthy Food Cost

third street teaAn article in the WSJ (05/07/2015) said what I had often suspected – there were reasons why Whole Foods items were more expensive and out of reach for many poor/middle-income people.  The reasons have to do with the cost of doing business with Whole Foods; mandatory certifications to insure food meets their guidelines can cost at least $10,000 a year.  One company was quoted as saying this represents %15 of their annual revenue.   Someone has to pay this additional cost – the shoppers, since no food producer can absorb this significant sum and stay in business.  Whole Foods has exercised clout over small businesses that can achieve instant success with placement at Whole Food’s over 400 stores.  Whole Foods has an extensive list of over 80 unacceptable ingredients and has even asked companies to change their brand/company name.  One company was even required to change to a pricier version of the preservative citric acid that was LESS chemically processed. Some agreements also require that product placement be exclusive with Whole Foods for a period of time (why you can’t find your favorite Chai Tea at Safeway’s).    In related news, Whole Foods announced plans for a new store concept; a sister chain of smaller stores aimed at younger people with lower prices.   Imagine that…..wonder what costs they are willing to lower to enable their suppliers to provide affordable prices?