March 2, 2007

Somebody Hide the Printers, the Ink, and the Postage Machines

The credit-card solicitors went absolutely nuts last year:

U.S. consumers received nearly 8.0 billion direct mail credit card solicitations last year, a 30% increase over the prior year. The gain was about double the growth rate of 2005 even though response rates are hovering at 0.3%,

The graph at the link shows that the number of solicitations was “only” about 2.5 billion in 1999, just seven short years ago, and just a bit over 4 billion back in 2003. Since the graph only relates to credit cards, you can add in the additional billions of home-equity, insurance, and other offers that usually originate from “prescreened” information provided by the credit bureaus to the pile.

The “Do Not Call” Registry established a few years ago has no doubt contributed to the tsunami-like increase in direct mail. But there’s also more than a little sloppiness involved:

A new survey has found that 88% of financial consumers claim to receive regular communications for products and services that are not directly relevant to them and their circumstances and 58% claim to regularly receive communications selling them products and services they already have with that company. The research also discovered that 64% of financial consumers claim they are more likely to stop using companies that regularly send them inaccurate or irrelevant communications material and 65% of financial consumers don’t feel like they are being treated as an individual with regard to the communications they receive.

Human nature being what it is, a grain of salt is in order when considering the info just excerpted, because it’s the mistakes companies make that tend to get remembered. Having said that, it seems that financial services firms could do a better job screening out existing customers from repeat offers.

The latest available information from the Federal Trade Commission on how to opt out of “Prescreened Offers of Credit and Insurance” is here. Doing what is suggested there is a good idea for cutting down mail clutter, so someone else can be the lucky recipient of those nearly 8 billion pre-approved offers.

Selective Oaths of Office: Very, Very Dangerous

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:58 am

If you care about the rule of law, it’s hard not to be deeply troubled by the recent development in Wisconsin noted by Maureen Martin in a Saturday subscription-only Wall Street Journal op-ed — no matter where you stand on the issue involved:

Cafeteria Constitutionalism
February 24, 2007

GREEN LAKE, Wis. — For the past few years, some judges in Wisconsin have been rewriting state law from the bench. Now it’s possible that they soon may go even further by rewriting the Wisconsin constitution.

Wisconsin’s capital, Madison, is already doing exactly that. Appointees to Madison’s boards and commissions must take an oath of office to uphold the U.S. and Wisconsin constitutions. But last month the city council approved a measure allowing them to refuse to swear to uphold a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage if they disagree with it. And where Madison leads, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is usually not far behind.

There’s a pretty simple thing that needs to be understood about an oath of office that Madison’s city fathers clearly don’t get. An oath is not a ceremonial nicety; it is a prerequisite for taking office.

If you don’t agree with the contents of the oath you are taking in their entirety, you simply cannot be allowed to take the position. It doesn’t matter whether you have just run for elective office and won. It doesn’t matter if you have been nominated and confirmed for political, administrative, or judicial office. If you don’t swear to comply by the terms of the oath, you go home. Permitting such a person to take or hold office is a prelude to chaos.

After-the-fact “yeah, buts” are no different. Madison Council members who won’t uphold the oaths they took to become members in their entirety should no longer be members — End, Of, Discussion. They are of course free to devote their hearts, souls, and minds to CHANGING the constitutions they have sworn to uphold, but unless and until they are changed, they must do what they have previously sworn they will do — uphold the constitutions as they are currently written.

What if officeholders in the Deep South in the 1950s and 1960s had adopted a similar tactic, swearing to uphold the Constitution except for, say, the 14th Amendment, or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? The reaction from the rest of the country would of course have been properly swift and furious. The fact that the selective carve-out being attempted by Madison’s city council relates to a more politically-correct cause doesn’t make the tactic any less outrageous.

From the ‘Can’t Make This Stuff Up’ Department

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:35 am

George Soros (actually George Soros’s fund, Soros Fund Management LLC) bought $62 million worth of Halliburton stock in the fourth quarter of 2006.

No, really (American Thinker used as primary link because original was inaccessible at post time).


UPDATE: Here’s the original blog link, and a link to the original Reuters story.

UPDATE 2: A reminder (first item at link) that Michael Moore “hearted” (and perhaps still does) Halliburton.

February Vehicle Sales: Different Month, Mostly the Same Tune

Filed under: Business Moves — Tom @ 6:20 am

- General Motors — up a modest pretty decent 3.4% (in the context of the others).
- Ford — down 13.5% (8% after excluding fleet sales).
- Daimler Chrysler — down 7.7%.
- Honda — up 3.2%.

Filling out with Bloomberg, as of when this post was prepared:
- Nissan — up 1.2%.
- Toyota — estimated increase of 10%

How much longer are the geniuses in Dearborn going to stop pretending that this doesn’t matter?

Hackers: All Your Hardware Are Belong to Us?

Filed under: Business Moves,Privacy/ID Theft — Tom @ 6:15 am

This account of a demo by security firm Black Hat would make you seriously wonder.

This account of how Black Hat was “bullied into silence” only makes those concerns more serious.

I’m Sorry; Sarbanes Oxley Should NOT Automatically Apply to Every Business Endeavor on Earth

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:10 am

Apparently next in line to receive the annual Sarbanes Oxley anal exam: Credit Unions.

Why? Where are the credit union Enrons? The problem, of course is that if the stampede begins, every credit union will be advised by their lawyers to comply with SOX to protect themselves, because if they don’t, any hint of scandal will lead to a suit claiming that failure to apply SOX was the cause of the problem.

Next up: Lemonade stands.

Congrats to Andy and Lindsay at Buckeye Ag Radio Network

Filed under: Business Moves,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 6:05 am

It would appear that they are turning into radio impresarios before our eyes. Watch out, Clear Channel.

Positivity: Car-crash survivor goes home a walking miracle

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Kalamazoo, Michigan, a remarkable story of recovery:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Jonathan Pettigrew and his mother, Sue, watched with pleasure Monday afternoon as the Borgess Medical Center nurse removed the intravenous access line from the young man’s arm.

Once it was out, the 19-year-old Galesburg man was finally free of the tubes and lines that have been used to keep him alive since he was critically injured in one-car crash last year on G Avenue near 38th Street.

Not long after he got the IV line taken out, Pettigrew put on his coat, said goodbye to medical-care workers who have become his friends and left for home.

He has been at either Borgess or Borgess-Pipp Health Center in Plainwell undergoing treatments and rehabilitation since his car ran off the side of the road about 4:20 a.m. on Oct. 1 and struck a tree.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to walk. They told me I might only be able to blink my eyes,” said Pettigrew before leaving the hospital. “I’ve had my down moments, but I didn’t quit,”

Doctors and nurses and members of his family are calling Pettigrew, a graduate of Galesburg High School, a walking miracle.

“One of the first things someone told me after the accident is that my son’s head was no longer attached to his spine,” said his mother. “He was very, very sick. He spent 47 days in the neuro-intensive-care unit.”

Pettigrew was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. He had been coming back from a party and bonfire at a friend’s house. His family said he had an undiagnosed heart condition that contributed to the accident. Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s deputies said they are still investigating the accident.

After being brought back to life, Pettigrew was rushed to the emergency room at Borgess. They didn’t know it at the time, but his spinal cord was not entirely severed, meaning that he had a fighting chance to move his arms and legs and walk again.

In subsequent weeks, he ended up undergoing a series of surgeries. Doctors had to fuse bones in his neck and spine and repair a seriously broken leg, a shattered jaw and broken sternum. They also had to perform open-heart surgery in order to fix a leaking mitral valve.

A former football player at Galesburg High School, Pettigrew had attended a party for Justin Mitchell, one of his former teammates, on the night of the accident. Mitchell, who was about to leave to attend college at Ferris State University, said he got a call soon after the accident.

He rushed to the hospital, only to see his friend hovering near death, his hospital bed surrounded by machines, his body bruised and bloated. “He was a wreck,” Mitchell said.

But Pettigrew, a student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, began to slowly turn the corner. “From what he was like then and now, it is nothing short of amazing,” Mitchell said.

“Absolutely, he has made very good progress and has a very good prognosis,” said Dr. Igor Kaps, medical director of the rehabilitation unit at Borgess.

After he was released from intensive care, Pettigrew was sent to Pipp so he could be weaned from the machine that was helping him breathe.

Dale Pettigrew, Jonathan’s uncle, said family members have been at his nephew’s side since the accident. Someone stayed every night in the room with Jonathan.

Once he stabilized at Pipp and started to undergo rehabilitation, he returned to Borgess, where in recent weeks therapists have helped him to re-learn many every day skills, especially walking.

“He’s a whole different guy than when he got here,” said Eric Birko, a recreation therapist.

After helping Jonathan walk down the hospital hallway on Monday in preparation for his release from the hospital, Birko said, “This is why we do what we do. None of us will be millionaires in this job. This is our reward.”