Scammed

Whoa.

“Read this and beware,” Liz Arden told me. Follow the link below now. I’ll wait.

He Fell Victim to a Used Lens Scam

This scam is bigger than writer Ziemowit Pierzycki realized.

We already know about fraudulent ordering scams in which the scammer buys something from you with a fake cashier’s check or stolen credit card. Sometimes they pick up the goods but often the victim is expected to ship the merchandise via a fake shipper. If you get an offer for free money, there’s always a catch.

We already know about the very similar overpayment scam. Don’t send money to someone you don’t know.

This one is a biggie because the “Amazon” scam will work for any third-party seller on any mailorder system from Walmart to Sears to eBay to Craigslist and, of course, to Amazon.

Amazon lists more than 10 pages of used Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lenses including one for $1,250 plus $7.49 shipping from Products By Reily. They also have 31 used Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G Nikkor lenses including one for $909 plus $6.99 shipping from LuckyMerchant. “Every purchase on Amazon.com is protected by an A-to-Z guarantee” but now I’m afraid to buy even with that guarantee.

Walmart advertises “Researched. Trusted. Choose from more Every Day Low Prices and get the same great customer care. Shop one of our trusted sellers.” I just found that you can buy Mortal Kombat X (PS4) used for $15.84 from Walmart direct or $19.99 with free shipping from GameJiffy or $26.43 plus $10.06 shipping from UnbeatableSale. Beyond just the prices, now I’m afraid to buy from those “trusted sellers.”

I would hope that the folks at Amazon’s A-to-Z Guarantee department (Mr. Bezos, are you listening?) would be more on top of this but, sadly, Mr. Pierzycki will need a lawyer to make the rocket scientists in that department recognize that the scammer didn’t send the thing to his address in Gilberts.

Back in 1975, a Nordstrom’s customer in Alaska wanted to return a set of snow tires. Nordstrom’s sells a lot of things but the department store chain has never sold auto parts. Not even snow tires in Alaska. Nevertheless, the clerk took back the tires because that’s what the customer wanted.

Of course, these days it is easier to blame the victim (and lose the customer) than to prosecute the criminal.

I wonder if Nordstrom’s sells used lenses?

 

Thank You, John McCain

“Let’s return to regular order,” Mr. McCain said on the floor of the Senate.

Diana Bauer and I mused about accomplishments this morning. “Everybody is yapping,” she said, “but we aren’t accomplishing much.”

“Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people…

We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side…”

Mr. McCain has certainly noticed the same problem.

“You write op-ed every week,” Ms. Bauer said. “Do you think you’ve changed any minds?”

It’s a good question and shows that this writing stuff is the very antithesis of a good engineering job.

“We’re getting nothing done. All we’ve really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Our healthcare insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done. We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet, and I’m not sure we will. All we’ve managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.”

The Neil Gorsuch appointment shows how a job used to work:

Goal:
Fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Steps:
List the best candidates for the job.
Nominate Mr. Gorsuch.
Hold hearings in the U.S. Senate.
Confirm the appointment.
Make good:
Mr. Gorsuch is sworn in.

Back in about 1980, I honchoed the design of an industrial machine that accepted a flow of books or magazines and stacked them in an even pile so the “extra” paper around the edges could be trimmed off. It worked a treat; we installed them around the U.S. and Europe in printing plants to produce everything from Playboy to Reader’s Digest with a stop at TV Guide.

ChecklistIn order to get those magazines into your hands, I looked at the existing stackers on the market and found that they couldn’t keep up with the throughput particularly of the thin, fast moving magazines like the two-up Digest or TVGuide. That defined the problem. A number of people on my team and over in the sales offices researched what the market needed and how many we might sell because there was no way we’d spend a gazillion dollars of design time and tool up for a machine that sold three copies. The requirements came out of that research. We dreamed up and discarded a lot of solutions and homed in on the best. One of my designers at the time was arguably the best, most creative machine guy I’ve met anywhere; he did the layout. The guys in the model shop downstairs built a prototype and we tested it right there in our own plant. I installed the first one in, I think, Offenburg Germany.

That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

The Pilemaker went from defining the problem to making good on the solution — you reading a magazine. Or at least gazing at the foldout.

That’s the way writing op-ed and governing are supposed to work, too.

I want my columns to change the way you think or, better, to get you to take action. That’s my goal. The make good is when you do volunteer for a community group or throw the bums out of Washington.

We want the legislature to complete the tasks we set for them. That’s our goal; it should be every Congress Critters’ goal as well. The make good is when we see a bridge built across the Rock River or a health care system that works.

I have no way other than persuasion to strong arm you into completing my goal but we can force Congress to do so.

We can elect new ones.

Give them a check list.

Remind them that they lose their jobs when they don’t make good.

And then follow through.

Thank you, John McCain. You got us part way there.

 

Monuments

Sunday will be the 50th anniversary of the Detroit race riots.

“Gun battles raged in Detroit’s streets. Snipers clashed with National Guardsmen and police. Many residents huddled for safety in their homes, while others — both black and white — looted businesses. Many of the businesses were then set ablaze.

“The riots engulfed the city beginning July 23, 1967, and continued for five days — one of many to hit the U.S. that summer. The violence prompted President Lyndon Johnson to send in federal troops to quell the upheaval.

“Forty-three people — 33 blacks and 10 whites — were killed. More than 7,000 people were arrested. Over 1,400 buildings were burned. Fifty years later, Detroit is still recovering.”

We’ll see a lot of news coverage this week and next, alongside laudatory prose of how much the country is doing to remember the events and will use them to assure we never repeat those times.

U.S. Flag Flown Upside DownThe Algiers Motel incident, for example, happened one fire-lit night of the racially charged 12th Street Riot. The building itself is gone and grass grows on its lot. There has never been a monument there to the lives lost but there will be soon.

About a century earlier and some 500 miles to the southeast, we made a different kind of history.

July 21, 1861: The Civil War’s first major battle erupted at Manassas, known as Bull Run, Virginia
July 22, 1862: President Lincoln presented the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet
July 23, 1863: A skirmish at Manassas Gap, Virginia
July 24, 1864: The second Battle of Kernstown, Virginia

Today, we are tearing down monuments to that War. I wonder how long it will be before historical revisionists tear down the new monuments in Detroit.

 

Independence Day

“Too often in recent history liberal governments have been wrecked on rocks of loose fiscal policy.”

Here’s a revolutionary idea.

Independence Day commemorates our declaration of independence from the King of England. The revolution officially began two days earlier when the Second Continental Congress approved the legal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain, a resolution proposed by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia in June. After voting for independence on July 2, Congress debated and revised the Declaration itself for two whole days and approved it on July 4.

In the centuries since, only the 111th Congress has moved with anywhere near the speed of that first gathering, since the 111th Congress passed trillions of dollars of spending on millions of pages of bills in less than 100 days. And no one in Washington read any of them.

The Declaration of Independence fits on one page. Everyone in the Continental Congress read the whole thing. Imagine that.

In Peoria just one hundred fifty-seven years ago, the young Rep. Abraham Lincoln said,

Nearly eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning July 4, 1776we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a “sacred right of self-government.” … Our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. … Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it.

Lincoln spoke of the enslavement of persons. Today our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust by a government that would enslave We the Overtaxed People, taking more and more of our rights and our land and our life’s blood to its own purpose.

Just to rekindle our liberal friends, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the “loose fiscal policy” quote.

The second session of the current 115th Congress is back to its usual wiener roasts (they have “worked” 81 days this year and are off for the months of July and August) and Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus is indeed still fiddling in Washington.

Two hundred thirty-six years ago tomorrow, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum and an artillery salute for the soldiers who fought off the foreign monarchy that did enslave us. It is now time to mark July 4 with a double ration of electoral salute to those who would be the modern monarchy of government.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it. Can you do that? Take the test if you dare.



Much of our litigious life today grew out of English Common Law. We abandoned one really good idea in the first Revolution, though. We abandoned the No Confidence vote.

An earlier version of this column first appeared in 2011.

 

For Whom the Toll Tolls, II

“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” Monroe County, Florida’s, commissioners said about adding a toll on U.S. 1 into the Keys.

“Some statutes have changed, tolling mechanisms have changed, a lot of things have changed,” Commissioner Heather Carruthers of Key Weird told the Keynoter. 18-Mile StretchShe introduced a resolution to explore the logistical and legal aspects of a toll at the board meeting on Wednesday. Commissioners endorsed the resolution on a voice vote.

Ms. Carruthers says there are a lot of big-ticket items looming for the Keys and their only recourse is to raise new, um, revenues.

That’s kind of refreshing. Most politicians promise to cut spending when they raise taxes. Our commishes make no such false promises.

Still, riiiight.

In For Whom the Toll Tolls we noted that Monroe County already collects about $700,000 in tolls each year on the Card Sound Bridge and spends about five times that much to keep the bridge up. They are in the midst now of a $2 million “upgrade” to change over from human toll collectors to the Sunpass system.

We can guess that they would install the border crossing^H^H toll booth on a wide spot in the 18-mile stretch that connects Florida City with Key Largo.

FDOT Florida Traffic Online shows 20,500 vehicles traversed the 18-mile stretch on an average day in 2016. At a buck a car (more for boat trailers and 18-wheelers bringing beer) that’s an easy $7.5 million. Ka-ching!

It would cost my neighbor Joe a couple of bucks more to go the Cleveland Clinic.

It would cost Rosie Martin a couple of bucks more to come to work. Rosie is a cashier at Kmart in Marathon. Like many store employees who work in the Keys, she can’t afford to live in the Keys so she commutes from Homestead.

It would cost the Borden Dairy delivery driver more than a couple of bucks extra to get to Walgreens with a truckload of milk. Guess where I get my milk?

And it would cost every tourist a couple of bucks more to visit.

A record 5,466,937 million visitors traveled to the Florida Keys in 2015. About one million of them were day trippers.

What do you bet the toll will have to be two bucks or more?

What do you bet the toll will cut the number of day visitors in half?

I have to put a new roof on my little house, rebuild my seawall, buy flood and wind and fire insurance, and build the not-so-Perfect-Travel-Trailer. A new toll will raise the prices on every bit of material that goes into each of those projects.

I can’t raise taxes or charge a toll on my driveway to cover those looming “big-ticket items.” I guarantee I can’t do them all in a single year, either. Imagine that.