Changes I can believe in

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

You promised “Change you can believe in“, but failed to articulate precisely what form said change might take; here are some changes I would like to see:

  1. Prohibit gas stations from raising the price by more than 5c in any given 24h period: They raise the prices by 20-40c at a time, but when it is time to lower them, it’s tuppeny-ha’penny time. Enforcement and Punishment is easy: If caught, refund all Credit/Debit fuel sales in that period using automatic reversal. Quick, easy and painful (for the gas stations).
  2. Elimination of the 2% limits for health and work-related tax-deductibility: Why should the corporations get tax deductions that we don’t? And don’t tell me about “Cost to Government”, It isn’t.
  3. Specific laws and punishments for identity theft.  It’s the fastest-growing crime in the country – mostly because the likelihood of getting caught is low and the punishments are paltry – and it will only get worse. This will not change until the punishments are appropriately serious. String ’em up (or deport them if illegal)
  4. Decriminalize “trivial” crimes: Over two million Americans are currently incarcerated (more than China!). The majority of them are there on drugs charges. Unless there is intent to supply (dealers) or a danger to others (DUI), non-custodial sentences are warranted. Again, illegals should be deported without delay.
  5. A serious overhaul of the copyright laws: I could write a book on this one, (and am!). It is ridiculous that 50-year-old movies and 80-year-old books are still under copyright. How does that serve as an incentive to authors (which is, after all, the purpose of copyright)? How is it that downloading a thirty-year-old piece of music is treated as a heinous crime? How one-sided is a law that makes the act of taking my music from my CD and putting it on my iPod a felony? I am all for tightening up protections, but let’s reduce length: say, 5 years for music and TV programs, 10 years for movies, 20 years for books (with the option of one renewal if the author/artist is still alive), but copyright is not ownership, and it never was. Time for a reckoning, methinks.
  6. Say No to Merger Mania: Mergers have robbed the American business landscape of competition and much-needed diversity while the legislators have sat idly by. Where is “competition” when the local Pizza Hut is owned by the same company that owns the KFC next door and the Taco Bell across the road? Why do most of us have only one cable company and one local phone company? It was never meant to be that way. Discourage mergers and acquisitions that reduce competition.
  7. Outlaw restrictive clauses in contracts: Sneakwrap/shrinkwrap/clickwrap licenses should be regarded as non-binding, along with the Arbitration clause (aka the “you-can’t-sue-us-and-we-own-the-arbitrators” clause) that seems to be standard fare in all contracts and agreements these days.
  8. Ban mail-in rebates: Mail-in rebates remind me of Mos Eisley Spaceport: “Never will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy“. The Internet is rife with tales of rebates being lost or wrongly denied for spurious reasons. I have had several denied because I had not attached the correct UPC; when I called up and checked, turned out I had attached the correct info after all. While the majority of my MIRs  have been problem-free, there is simply too much incentive here for fraud; at the very least, the before-rebate price should be displayed in advertising in as-large-or-larger print as the after-rebate price.
  9. Reverse the Bankrupcy Reform Act: Most bankruptcies are caused by Divorce or Medical Bills – not extravagant overspending – but the Bankruptcy Reform Act was written (by the banking industry!) in order to minimize their risk by “securing” their “unsecured” loans. It’s high time to shoot this dawg and put it out of everyone’s misery.
  10. Re-regulate the Financial Industry: The Banks were regulated after the Great Depression to prevent another meltdown. For the past twenty years, however, the Financial Industry has successfully fought and removed most of those regulations… and we have seen the result. And now they have the nerve to go begging for bailouts to subsidize even more stupidity – such as buying up the competition… sheesh! I am all about the free market, but lenders who offer money to people who are clearly and obviously unable to repay should be punished; it’s time that Credit Card companies quit sending out approvals to dead people, dogs, teenagers and penniless students with impunity. Whether we need the exact same regulations or a new set, I cannot say… but it is obvious that these bozos cannot police themselves. A practical definition of usury (say 20%+) would be nice, too.
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  • Wizard Prang  On January 19, 2009 at 11:05 AM

    On Identity theft:

    I have always wondered what would happen if someone beat the crap out of someone who was using their identity.

    Follow my reasoning here: If someone is “you”, is beating “yourself” up illegal?


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