Waking Up in the Land of the Free
If you subscribe to dozens of local, national and international news sources, you don’t only deal with more than 1,000 emails in your inbox daily, you also learn to “headline hunt” for the real stuff and have direct access to a bottle of headache relief. From last week’s valiant effort to save the Rhino from extinction by ruthless poachers, to the idiot who got caught carrying some 300 turtles on his body and travel gear to illegally import exotic species into Canada this week, where they reportedly fetch an insane $1,300 to $1,500 each, I shake my head so often that I’m afraid I will soon need neck braces for support.
So in an effort to,-as objectively as possible-, share some of the information that comes across my desktop, I will make selections of this far obscure news bits, that over time, at least in my opinion (and yes I know that is not very objective), will become mainstream news, affecting primarily the freedom we were once so proudly proclaiming.
Here are just a handful of superficially non related topics in a very connected world at the beginning of their journey to notoriety when one day they will directly affect you and your family and your way of life.
Subprime Auto Loan Risks
Auto loans to borrowers considered subprime, those with CREDIT SCORES at or below 640, have spiked in the last five years with roughly 25 percent of all new auto loans made last year subprime, a volume of $145 billion in the first three months of this year. Now the New York Times reports that before they can drive off the lot, many subprime borrowers must have their car outfitted with a so-called starter interrupt device, which allows lenders to remotely disable the ignition. By simply clicking a mouse or tapping a smartphone, lenders retain the ultimate control. Borrowers must stay current with their payments, or lose access to their vehicle and a leading device maker, PassTime of Littleton, Colo., says ITS TECHNOLOGY has reduced late payments to roughly 7 percent from nearly 29 percent. “The devices are reshaping the dynamics of auto lending by making timely payments as vital to driving a car as gasoline.”
Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 CHRYSLER VAN would not start. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March. “I felt absolutely helpless,” said Bolender, a single mother who stopped working to care for her sick daughter. Some borrowers say their cars were disabled when they were only a few days behind on their payments, leaving them stranded in dangerous neighborhoods. Others said their cars were shut down while idling at stoplights.Some described how they could not take their children to school or to doctor’s appointments. One woman in Nevada said her car was shut down while she was driving on the freeway. Attorney Robert Swearingen says there’s an old common law principle that a lender can’t “breach the peace” in a repossession. That means they can’t put a person in harm’s way. To Swearingen, that would mean “turning off a car in a bad neighborhood, or for a SINGLE FEMALE at night.”
My Comment: There is work in the wings for another 10,000 lawyers freshly out of law school.
More from the Automotive Front
In the meantime federal lobbyist The National Automobile Dealers Assocation (NADA) continues to fuel the conflict between state governments and Tesla motors. Latest development “Iowa joined a growing list of states tussling with Tesla Motors’ business model when it told the company to cut short three days of test drives earlier this month in West Des Moines. The Iowa Department of Transportation said the test drives were illegal for two reasons: Tesla isn’t licensed as an auto dealer in Iowa and state law prohibits carmakers from selling directly to the public.” While the action touches on the legal restrictions on selling cars in Iowa, it seems that Tesla was only providing test drives.
My Prediction: Tesla represents the world of the future and therefore will win
Seattle Passes Law To Keep Residents From Wasting Food
The new rules allow garbage collectors, yes garbage collectors as law enforcement?!, to inspect trash cans and ticket offending parties if food and compostable material makes up 10 percent or more of the trash. The fines will begin at $1 for residents and $50 for businesses and apartment buildings. “SPU doesn’t expect to collect many fines, says Tim Croll, the agency’s solid-waste director. The city outlawed recyclable items from the trash nine years ago, but SPU has collected less than $2,000 in fines since then, Croll says. ‘The point isn’t to raise revenue,’ he said. ‘We care more about reminding people to separate their materials.”
My Assessment: Garbage collectors with the power of the law behind them, looks a lot like another gun-toting TSA in the making
Microsoft Puts Immigration Laws under Labor Force pressure
Even as it cuts about 14% of its workforce, Microsoft is complaining that the company might be denied some of the “roughly” 1,000 H-1B visas for foreign workers it intends to seek, and made it clear that the company could shift some work to Canada or overseas if it can’t get talent on its terms. “If I need to move 400 people to Canada or Northern Ireland or Hyderabad or Shanghai, we can do that,” said William Kamela, a senior federal policy lead at Microsoft, who later explained that about 60% of Microsoft’s workforce is in the U.S., yet it makes 68% of its profits overseas (where it also stashes its cash out of IRS reach). Kamela made the statements on a panel at a two-day conference on high-skilled immigration policy, where he sat next toFelicia Escobar, special assistant to President Barack Obama on immigration. The day before the conference, Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us PAC — which counts Bill Gates as a Founder and Steve Ballmer and Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith as Major Contributors — posted its “MythBusters” video on H-1B visas.
FBI Director says Apple and Google facilitate customers to operate beyond the Law
The FBI is concerned about moves by Apple and Google to include encryption on smartphones. “I like and believe very much that we should have to obtain a warrant from an independent judge to be able to take the contents,” FBI Director James Comey told reporters. “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.” From the article: “Comey cited child-kidnapping and terrorism cases as two examples of situations where quick access by authorities to information on cellphones can save lives. Comey did not cite specific past cases that would have been more difficult for the FBI to investigate under the new policies, which only involve physical access to a suspect’s or victim’s phone when the owner is unable or unwilling to unlock it for authorities.”
Comment: Looks like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and other Internet giants are picking up the gloves for a good fight. Chinese Alibaba’s IPO on Wall Street last week should be seen in that light as well.
Governments are Getting Desperate for Funds
Interesting is also that just weeks after the Spanish government’s announcement to start charging solar panel consumers for sunshine, a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory comes out to predict that distributed rooftop solar panel installations will grow from 0.2% market penetration today to 10% by 2022, during which time they’re likely to cut utility profits at least 15%. Using those same metrics, electricity rates for utility customers will grow only by as much as 2.7% over the next eight years. By comparison, the cost of electricity on average rose 3.1% from 2013 to 2014. Never mind that FPU just charged us with a 4.5% hike. The study was performed for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under the U.S. Department of Energy. One of the main purposes of the study was to evaluate measures that could be pursued by utilities and regulators to reduce the financial impacts of distributed photovoltaics. If you’re interested, here is the report in PDF format.
And in closing here is another idea for our government to copy cat.
The Argentine government has used drones to reveal 200 homes and 100 pools in an upper class area about ten miles south of Buenos Aires that had not been detailed on tax returns. Tax officials said the drones took pictures of luxury houses standing on lots registered as empty. The tax evasions found by the drones amounted to missing tax payments of more than $2 million and owners of the properties have been warned they now face large fines.
My take on this: It only just began 6 years ago as it is now slowly perfecting
Have a great week and send me some of the incredulous stories you hear or receive, I just got a fresh bottle of Advil.