09
Jul
08

Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 10

Didja miss me?

—-

Powerful people are doing momentous — or at least significant — things these days.  Iran’s test-firing long-range missiles capable of striking Israel; this has some people justifiably upset.  The G8’s leaders are talking about emissions cuts and telling Mugabe what a naughty fellow he’s been lately.  Janjaweed troops in Darfur attacked a UN convoy.  And back here in Canada, we’re having a mature and insightful debate about the ethics of abortion sparked by Dr. Morgentaler’s appointment to the Order of Canada.

Just kidding.  In Canada, we’re up in arms over two cell phone companies charging people for receiving text messages:

Cellphone users with Bell and Telus are going to have to fork over a little more to receive incoming text messages under new pricing plans slated to roll out in August.

Under the new plans, customers will be charged 15 cents to receive incoming text messages, including uninvited spam messages. Previously, customers without text plans were only charged for outgoing messages.

Customers with a text messaging rate plan or bundle will not be affected by the new charges.

(Holy shit: there are two sentences in that second paragraph.  CBC must’ve hired someone who passed high-school English.)

As you’d guess, a lot of people think this is an awful idea — something about having to pay for actions outside of one’s own control makes people angry.  I’d bet that if this plan survives the next month, a lot of Bell and Telus customers are going to take their business elsewhere.  That’s what happens in a competitive market: you do something stupid to piss off your customers, and they leave.  It’s not as though these are the only two cell-phone providers in the country.

Wait, wait; back up a second.  Here I go talking about free markets and consumer choice and competition as if this was America (circa 1890) or something.  This is Canada.  We can’t have that.  We need government intervention, dammit!

The Canadian government tried to pre-empt a consumer revolt against two leading phone companies on Wednesday, demanding explanations from the wireless units of BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. on their new pricing policy for text messages.

Both companies announced this week they would begin charging some customers for incoming text messages, which have been free until now.

“I believe this was an ill-thought-out decision,” Industry Minister Jim Prentice said in a statement, adding it is his duty to protect consumer interests.

That’s fine, Prentice.  I also believe it’s an ill-thought-out decision.  Neither one of us has the right to go fucking around in the internal affairs of either Bell or Telus.

It’s as much a waste of time and money for the Canadian government to investigate cell-phone pricing as it is for the American Senate to investigate steroid use in pro sports.  That time and money could be better spent on something that does fall under the federal government’s ægis, like replacing search-and-rescue planes that no longer work properly.  This sort of populist bullshit is counterproductive and ought to be criminal.

—-

While we’re on the subject of government overstepping its authority, let’s visit scenic Victoria, B.C., where property rights and Charter “protections” against illegal search and seizure are quaint relics of the 20th Century:

Suppose you’re a polite and considerate Canadian patriot living in Victoria.  You don’t want to be part of any trouble, so you plan a small Canada Day celebration at home with a few close friends rather than an evening of bar-hopping.  And because you care about the planet, you take the bus to and from the liquor store.  It’s all good, right?

Not so much, no.  You may well be “randomly” targeted and searched by the Victoria police, and the unopened bottles of booze you purchased confiscated.  Not because you’re doing anything wrong, mind you, but because those cops think you might intend that booze for “unlawful purposes”.

Police officers in Victoria exceeded their authority last week when they boarded buses and began randomly searching riders and seizing unopened bottles of alcohol from those they believed were heading for Canada Day celebrations, according to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

[…]

“We acted under the Liquor Control [and] Licensing Act, and basically it allows us to search without warrant any place short of a residence, anywhere where we believe alcohol is possessed for unlawful purposes,” [Const. Derek] Tolmie [of the Victoria Police Department] said.

Fantastic.  This must be one of those “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society” the Charter of Rights and Freedoms mentions, ’cause I could swear that Section 8 of the Charter says that

Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

So much, then, for the Charter.

—-

There’s plenty of government-powered idiocy south of the 49th, too.  You may recall that in Britain, toddlers who don’t like “foreign” food are considered racist; compare and contrast to Dallas, where a glancing familiarity with cosmology is considered racist:

You can see this one coming, right?

Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, who is white, said it seemed that central collections “has become a black hole” because paperwork reportedly has become lost in the office.

Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, interrupted him with a loud “Excuse me!” He then corrected his colleague, saying the office has become a “white hole.”

That prompted Judge Thomas Jones, who is black, to demand an apology from Mayfield for his racially insensitive analogy.

What.  The.  Fuck.

If you don’t recognize that a black hole is an astronomical feature so named because it sucks in light rather than reflecting it (Hawking radiation making an interesting counterpoint for more advanced students), you shouldn’t be permitted to hold public office because you’re a fucking imbecile!

—-

While we’re on the subject of ineffectual idiots in American politics, we notice this milestone:

The percentage of voters who give Congress good or excellent ratings has fallen to single digits for the first time in Rasmussen Reports tracking history. This month, just 9% say Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Most voters (52%) say Congress is doing a poor job, which ties the record high in that dubious category.

Surprise, surprise.  I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that this Congress was elected on a pledge to end the war in Iraq, and has failed spectacularly to do so.  Further, while we’re being sold the idea that a messianic President(ial candidate) can somehow make everything all right again with the power of Hope and Change, it’s refreshing to read that people aren’t buying the myth of benevolent government:

Most voters (72%) think most members of Congress are more interested in furthering their own political careers. Just 14% believe members are genuinely interested in helping people.

That is a hopeful sign.

—-

And finally, it looks like Iran’s middle class has discovered the dubious joys of the caffe latte:

(Emphasis added.)

Nice to see that Starbucks has found a growth market somewhere.


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