Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Manipulation and Subversion

I ran across the following video link after perusing the CalculatedRisk blog.. I was surprised at how angry Jim Cramer was. But he's also right. The government is not doing its job. The SEC isn't doing its job. Treasury isn't doing its job. Some wealthy people are taking advantage of the situation and the taxpayers may end up paying for this lack of oversight and market manipulation. Lack of oversight was part of the problem with the dot.bomb crash and the small investors suffered then as well while Wall Street profited handsomely. Cramer also blames the ethanol mandate on grain commodity inflation. Archer Daniels Midland lobbied for corn to ethanol production for biofuel. It's just dumb to convert a grain we eat and use for animal feeds into fuel for our cars, but some corn producers and ADM have profited handsomely and Washington fell for their sales pitch. Then there's the Web2.0 Fraud Series at Brian Kreb's Security Fix blog, whereby crooks fleece everyone through their insecure computers and banks through remote manipulation and subversion of people's computers. The only difference is scale. The computer crooks are small time compared to the Wall Street and corporate crooks.

I suppose what really gets my goat is when cities actually decrease public safety in the name of increasing public safety with red light cameras. People are likely being injured and killed due to the light cycles being manipulated to increase fines. Of course, the only people for such cameras are the insurance companies who profit from them. Everyone else says that such cameras are bad public policy. In two of these examples, industries and bad public policy are being supported by the current government. Perhaps all three are really bad public policy because only a few cyber crooks will ever be caught because there is no uniform International Code of Justice for web theft and banks don't want people to know how bad their Internet Security really is. All of these examples are about manipulation and subversion of either machines, governments, or public officials so that a minority will gain from the majority. When did it become okay to steal from the poor to give to the rich, or has that always been the normal human condition?


Chicago has been pretty successful with the cameras. They are selective about their targets - picking intersections where people running lights or blocking the intersection tends to be a problem. It can help.

We also have pretty short yellows around here. I get into the suburbs and stop like it's the city... end up stopped while the light is still yellow.

The way ours work, there are multiple photos showing that the vehicle entered the intersection after the red, and proceeded through it. If you're in the intersection when the light turns red, you're responsible for clearing the intersection. So, for example, sitting there until the light turns so you can make a left turn... is completely kosher.

But if you told me that many people aren't aware of the above (their legal responsibility, much less the documentation), I wouldn't argue.

Some intersections in Chicago also have countdown timers on the crosswalks... so motorists also know when the light's going to go to yellow. IMO it's a lot easier... people can speed up to make the light, or let off the gas because they won't get there. Nice for when I'm biking, too; a few lights have a thirty-second green in one direction.

All that said, I certainly believe that unscrupulous cities are skewing the situation to their benefit.
If a city implements a public safety policy correctly, I have no problem with it. I have no problem with any public policy that serves the greater good. I have a problem with public policy that serves special interests and select groups and it seems that government has been coopted and subverted to serve only special interests and select groups of wealthy individuals. We have the best government money can buy, but not the best government of the people.
Not directly touching on red light cameras. Here in Australia police documents have occasionally been located that set a budget for the amount of revenue police are meant to raise in future through traffic fines. If there is a revenue shortfall one week - the city requires cops to get out there and book-em many drivers the next week.
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