Checkpoints: More MADDness we can’t afford

As regular as clockwork, with the beginning of a new legislative session in Texas, we see the introduction of yet another “sobriety” checkpoint bill (HB439, introduced by Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless).

And, as always, the usual people come out of the woodwork in support of it:

Sobriety checkpoints: Checkpoints such as those used in 38 other states have been illegal in Texas since 1994, when the courts ruled that they were unconstitutional because there were no uniform guidelines. Legislators have tried for years to reinstate them.

“In 2008, Texas led the nation in DWI fatality deaths,” Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said. “That is a focus for us … to stop that kind of carnage on our roadways and our highways and to really get serious about this issue of driving while intoxicated and DWI fatalities.”

The Senate approved a bill in 2009, but it didn’t reach the House floor.

Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, has filed a bill to let the Texas Department of Public Safety set up checkpoints in counties where more than 250,000 live.

Read more:

I wrote a fairly lengthy post on the constitutionality and effectiveness of checkpoints in late 2008 relating to SB 298, which was filed for the 2009 session.

Ultimately, aside from being an infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens, checkpoints commit the cardinal sin of being ineffective at their supposed purpose: catching drunk drivers.  Even the proponents of checkpoints admit that their effectiveness is limited, but that they serve instead as a warning that drunk drivers will be caught (Behold the awesome power of the state, peon!).

So what really works?  Putting police on the street looking for drunk drivers. Amazing!  Good, old fashioned, police work beats sending a message.  From the conclusion of my 2008 post:

This style of policing keeps our officers out on the streets where they can observe other activities and help prevent other types of crime at the same time.  Further, it helps target the worst offenders, the habitual drunks, who will drive drunk regardless of what the law says.  Finally, it respects individual rights by only stopping people when there is some reasonable suspicion that the individual may be impaired.

Checkpoints do just the opposite.  They tie up police resources at a well-known stationary position, allowing drunk drivers to avoid them and giving other criminals more chances to attempt crimes in the absence of the regular police presence.  Further, they corrode respect of the police by the average innocent citizen who is caught up in them.

Let’s continue to respect the freedom of our citizens here in Texas by saying “No!” to any attempts to enable checkpoints in our state.  Our resources can be better used by aggressively pursuing criminal drunk drivers rather than sitting around waiting for them to come to us.

It’s unfortunate that we have to fight this nonsense every legislative session, but the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Let’s all remember to just say NO to checkpoints and YES to liberty.

Quickie: Implosion of the Republic

I have come to suspect that the death of our republic will not be accompanied by a thunderous KABOOM but instead by a plaintive whine of it’s for the children (or perhaps its hoary cousin if it saves just one life).

All Of The PR Finesse of Stalin

In a move that could not be more tone deaf than if Stalin himself had made it, Greek support company Systemgraph has sued one of its customers after he had the chutzpa to complain about their service.  Systemgraph is an authorized Apple reseller and service provider in Greece.

From the linked article:

He claims Systemgraph refused because the iMac wasn’t bought there. Papadimitriadis insisted he had followed the procedures set out at And he says he took his case to the consumer ombudsman, although that is a lengthy process. Clearly, there wasn’t going to be accord here. But it was what transpired next that has captured Greece’s imagination.

Papadimitriadis posted his story on a forum, something that seems to have upset Systemgraph. For the company has sued him for 200,000 euros (about $267,000), claiming he damaged its reputation.

His post, as translated by Google, does not seem to offer harsh or emotive language. The most anyone who has reported on the case claims is that Papadimitriadis described Systemgraph as “dodgy.”

Of course this is all through the lens of automated Greek-to-English translation, so perhaps something has been lost.  But if the facts are even remotely the same as my understanding, this is a case where discretion is the better part of valor and where it’s best to just let things be.  Systemgraph’s attempt to silence this customer for his supposed ‘slander and insult’ has simply brought the case into the glare of a world-wide spotlight.  Nothing good can come of this for Systemgraph, even if they unilaterally drop the lawsuit now.

Happy 2011!

Happy New Year, from me and the canines (sleeping at my feet) here in mission control.

Here’s hoping 2011 is better than 2010.

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No Good Deed Unpunished

While I was at the ATM this evening I noticed someone pull up behind me just as I was finishing.  Rather than hold them up I pulled forward enough to let them access the machine while I put away my card, cash, and receipt.  But no sooner than I’d pulled forward and folded the receipt the asshole pulled up and started honking.  He hadn’t even tried to use the ATM.

So I went ahead and finished putting stuff away and started to put the truck into gear when this guy started honking again along with the addition of yelling something or other that I couldn’t make out.  It was bad enough that he’d honked at all, so his escalating bad manners tripped my passive-aggressive frack with assholes gene.  I put the truck into reverse and held it there for a few seconds, then put it into drive and waited a purposely languid five-count.  This sent Mr. Impatient Rage-Head off the deep end and he really started losing it so I went ahead and moved forward, but at the slowest possible speed that an Avalanche can attain (so slow as to be unreadable on the speedometer).

I think what really happened here is that Mr. Impatient Rage-Head was trying to drive through instead of going to the ATM and misinterpreted my moving forward as being done rather than as doing him the favor of allowing access to the machine.  I say this because he immediately went to one of the nearby parking spots and someone got out.  Frankly, though, if you’re going to get into the ATM lane, you should expect some sort of delay.

I get a real kick out of annoying assholes, especially inconsiderate ones.  I think I need a bumper-sticker to that effect.  Although that might take some of the fun out of it.  Anyhow, the more you push, the more I resist and dawdle and delay.  It’s a natural and ingrained reaction.  But assholes never learn, so I seem to have a never-ending source for amusement.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

And… something which needs no additional verbiage from me: Celtic Woman’s rendition of O Holy Night:

Four Hour Windows Suck

I’ll just have to admit up front that I hate it when companies give you a “four hour window” for a service appointment or a delivery.  I suppose it’s a small improvement over the way it used to be when they gave you a whole day to spend cooling your heels waiting on a call (and woe betide the person who missed that call).  This is directly related to the fact that I cannot recall *EVER* having any company actually show up during the window (either all day or ‘four hours’).

Yesterday I was scheduled to take delivery of a new electric range from Home Depot.  On Sunday an automated system called me to tell me that my window would be between noon and 4:00pm.  Frankly, the tone of the call left me cold, as it actually said that this was “not changeable” (although you could call to schedule another day).  So, basically, they’re telling you they reserve the right to waste at least four hours of your time, if not more and your only choice is what day it happens on.  This did not sit well with me.  If someone at Home Depot actually cares about the customer experience they could at least find someone else to record the message or perhaps find a way to script it differently.  It comes off as rude.

So… I began waiting at noon yesterday.   By 3:00pm I was still waiting and I was thinking about calling them to see what the problem was (the previous call specified that I would get a call between one hour and 30 minutes before delivery, so they’re starting to get into the ‘critical’ period where they will miss the delivery window).  At 3:02pm (per Caller ID) I got an automated call to tell me that the delivery team was on the way and would be here in approximately 30 minutes.  At 3:42pm I got a call from the delivery team to tell me they had started on their way and that it would take them 30-45 minutes to arrive, depending on traffic.  You will note that this is 40 minutes after the automated system told me they would have been here.   They finally arrived at approximately 4:15pm.

Once they arrived they were courteous, efficient, and friendly, and they had the new range installed and operational in about 15 minutes.  They told me that they had gotten hung up on a previous job installing a dish washer.

Once they were done there was a survey to fill out.  It was very short, but I was told that if I rated them a 9 (on a scale of 1-10) on anything that they got punished (I think he said they would lose a work day or something like that).  I was a bit wary of that explanation (thinking maybe he’s trying to deflect me from dinging him on the survey for being late), yet I know that some idiotic processes end up treating people that way (viz eBay’s seller ratings*).   He didn’t have much to worry about, as most of the survey was about their actions and didn’t cover the problem of bad information being passed to me by Home Depot on the phone.

And that, frankly, was the main reason I was angry about the whole experience.  I understand that sometimes things take longer than expected.  But the most important part of that is managing customer expectations.  Don’t call me and tell me that it’ll be 30 minutes when the delivery team hasn’t even left the previous location yet.

Before I end there is one further irritant in the process, though, that I will comment on.  The last call that I got from Home Depot (the ’30 minute’ call) also told me to ‘put away’ any dogs or cats.  That irritated the living hell out of me.  As a general rule, I do not ‘put away’ the dogs for anyone.  This is their home.  Anyone coming here needs to understand that (and as a general rule, delivery people should be pet aware).  In fact, I almost sent my cleaning crew away last week when one of them suggested I put the dogs outside because the new person was afraid of dogs.  It clearly states on my record with the cleaning company that I have dogs.  They shouldn’t have sent a phobic person.  But I digress…  this is about Home Depot.

So… what could Home Depot have done better (staying within the ‘four hour’ rule)?  First, they could have made the initial contact less confrontational by recording a less rude message.  Second, they could have coordinated the actual arrival time of the delivery team with the automated phone message so that I wouldn’t have been expecting them earlier.  Third, they can be less rude about pets in their phone messaging.

But the above presupposes that the ‘four hour window’ is a valid way to do business.  I have come to conclude that the ‘four hour window’ is a terrible way to do business, because everyone knows that they won’t be there when they say they will and we end up wasting hours waiting.  Someone at Home Depot needs to put the logistics boffins into a room and lock them there until they come up with a viable delivery model.

* If you’ve bought anything from eBay in the past couple of years, you probably know that if you rate a seller anything less than 5 stars on any of the extended questions that the seller ends up being punished with higher listing fees.

Holiday, Hyundai, Pomplamoose

For those who might be wondering, the Hyundai Christmas commercials feature a group called Pomplamoose, which consists of Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn.

Here’s another of their versions of Deck the Halls:

Pomplamoose Deck the Halls

And… We’re Back

What? You thought you were rid of me?

No such luck.

While I may have taken an unscheduled sabbatical, I found I just couldn’t stay away. There’s too much to say and Facebook just isn’t cut out for anything longer than about two lines.

The signal continues… (just as soon as I figure out how to operate the rest of this shiny new WordPress install).

Testing FB integration

If everything works, this entry will be Tweeted and sent to Facebook.