URLs du Jour

2022-01-19

[Pun Salad is OSHA Compliant] Another poster from the "D. C. Street Art" series is our Eye Candy du Jour. One more to go tomorrow. I hope the samizdat artist will keep up the good work.

  • Something much on my mind. My libertarian instincts are confirmed multiple times every day when the phone rings with the Caller ID displaying some town in Montana; without answering, I know that it's some slimeball trying to extend my car warranty or "Amazon" informing me of a fraudulent charge on my account.

    This is illegal. Yet it continues. Your Federal Government, despite having trillions of taxpayer dollars to play with, is unable to stop it.

    Why should we trust Uncle Stupid to do anything more complex?

    But that's my uninformed raving. For some informed raving, check out Karl Bode at Techdirt, for his explanation of Why U.S. Robocall Hell Seemingly Never Ends.

    According to the YouMail Robocall Index, there were 3.6 billion U.S. robocalls placed last December, or 115 million robocalls placed every single day. That's 4.8 million calls placed every hour. Despite the periodic grumble, it's wholly bizarre that we've just come to accept the fact that essential communications platforms have been hijacked by conmen, salesmen, and debt collectors, and we're somehow incapable of doing anything about it.

    Every 6-12 months or so the federal government comes out with a "new plan to finally tackle robocalls," yet the efforts only frequently make a small dent in the problem. One reason why is that each time the federal government unveils a new plan, it focuses exclusively on scammers. Said plan (and therefore the entire press coverage of said plan) discusses robocalls as if it's only something velour track suit clad dudes in Florida strip malls are engaging in.

    As you can maybe tell from that excerpt, Bode's article thinks robocalls from "legitimate companies" are a major part of the problem. That's not been my experience. He thinks government's exclusive focus on scammers is a mistake; I think that would be great if it worked. But it clearly does not.

    This goes with Techdirt's usual tedious anti-corporate leftism. But there are some technical details and practical suggestions in the article you might find of interest.


  • If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever. And that future is today at your institutions of higher education! At Cato, Thomas A. Berry says Orwellian "Bias Response Teams" Stifle Free Expression.

    Virginia Tech has instituted a “bias‐related incidents” policy, under which students may be referred to a “Bias Response Team.” Under the policy, students can be referred for violating a standard as vague as “words or actions that contradict the spirit of the Principles of Community.” Students can also run afoul of the policy for “unwelcome jokes” – or even being present when jokes are made and failing to report them. Students are encouraged to report each other while speculating on the “bias” that may have motivated their peers’ opinions. The school has given itself jurisdiction over activities and speech both on and off campus, as well as on students’ social media and other digital platforms.

    Speech First sued Virginia Tech on behalf of several current Tech students, arguing that this policy chilled their freedom to express sincere but controversial views and thus violated the First Amendment. Yet a federal district court declined to enjoin the policy, holding that the students did not suffer any First Amendment injury because the bias response teams could not themselves impose formal discipline. Speech First has now appealed that decision to the Fourth Circuit, and Cato has been invited by the Liberty Justice Center to join an amicus brief supporting Speech First and the students.

    The University Near Here (whose speech code, to its credit, has a Green Light Rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has recently revamped its all-purpose reporting process. I assume this is a partial response to recent ill-mannered protests about UNH's perceived inability to deal with "sexual violence".

    So there's a new form you can fill out. Yay. What's it for?

    This IRF is to be used for the reporting of all incidents of (1) discrimination and discriminatory harassment, (2) bias and/or hate crime, (3) retaliation, and (4) sexual harassment and/or violence that involves any member of the UNH community.

    I kind of wince that the same form is to be used for both reporting crimes and things that are not crimes. Is that really a good idea?

    I also wince at the "hate crimes" thing. Apropos of that:

    Well, that got off-topic quickly.


  • But where? The National Review editors have a demand: Fauci Must Go.

    It is past time for public-health policy to shift to acknowledging that Covid-19 is an endemic disease and, for the most part, a risk for individuals to manage. Fauci stands in the way of executing that shift and communicating it to the public.

    Fauci’s own behavior has undermined public trust in the response to the pandemic: by sitting for celebrity puff profiles and documentaries, by stifling public debate about the origins of Covid-19 and the proper response to it, by responding in lawyerly and evasive fashion to questions about NIH research dollars supporting work at the Wuhan lab. In his nasty spats with Senator Rand Paul and other officeholders, he hasn’t simply parried criticisms but tried to land political blows himself.

    Sure. But the government health bureaucracy will simply cough up someone equally as mendacious to take his place. Maybe it's better to have a known liar in that position.


  • We're not just mandating masks, but also tinfoil hats. Drew Cline points out that Impeding the expansion of new telecom technologies would hurt New Hampshire

    A House bill considered in committee this week would deny much of New Hampshire access to the most advanced telecommunications technologies.

    House Bill 1644 would require “telecommunications antennas” to be placed “at least 1,640 feet from residentially zoned areas, parks, playgrounds, hospitals, nursing homes, day care centers, and schools.”

    The bill’s stated purpose is to protect people from the “significant public health risk associated with the cumulative effects of radio frequency radiation which is growing every day with the proliferation of cell tower transmitters.”

    The weight of scientific evidence doesn't show any harm from 5G technology. However, in interest of equal time, I'll note that the legislation refers to a 2020 report from the "Commission to Study The Environmental and Health Effects of Evolving 5G Technology", which disagreed with that consensus. One of the participants was Kent Chamberlin, who's currently chairing the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University Near Here. Maybe he's become a crank, maybe not.