Stupid Government Tricks: Airline On-Time Percentages

DOT requires airlines provide shoppers with broad data about the performance of a particular flight, by number: what percentage of the time it arrived on-time, was delayed by 30+ minutes, or flat-out cancelled. The airline is required to provide the most recent month of data to you that it has reported to the U.S. DOT — meaning the data is several weeks stale. Most do it such that if you’re shopping online, you just click the flight number to see the data. The catch is, you shouldn’t click. You will waste moments of your life you can never get back, reading data that is, almost certainly, completely useless to you, said uselessness only clarified very vaguely in fine print*. Continue reading

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Net Neutrality Is A Regressive Internet Service Tax

Treating the internet as a public utility will entrench the billing practices of today, with ISPs billing lower-end users for the cost of infrastructure that only higher-end users benefit from. By denying ISPs and their backbone peers the right to discriminate against bandwidth-hog content providers like Netflix, the President’s Net Neutrality Plan encourages them to discriminate against America’s hardest-working families instead. Low-level internet users, for whom internet access is a basic lifeline they use to find or keep jobs or compete in school, will pay more for access so wealthier families can stream Netflix in full quality without paying bandwidth surcharges. If this is innovation, Americans are better off having no part of it.

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NSA, DEA, IRS Lie About Fact That Americans Are Routinely Spied On By Our Government

Jennifer Granick and Chris Jon Sprigman shred the Obama administration’s assurances on NSA surveillance:

The Obama Administration repeatedly has assured us that the NSA does not collect the private information of ordinary Americans. Those statements simply are not true. We now know that the agency regularly intercepts and inspects Americans’ phone calls, emails, and other communications, and it shares this information with other federal agencies that use it to investigate drug trafficking and tax evasion. Worse, DEA and IRS agents are told to lie to judges and defense attorneys about their use of NSA data, and about the very existence of the SOD, and to make up stories about how these investigations started so that no one will know information is coming from the NSA’s top secret surveillance programs.

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SF Weekly on Central Subway: “The Canary is Dead”

Joe Eskenazi of SF Weekly blasts the SFMTA’s Chinatown Central Subway project as a budget-busting (and foot-busting) nightmare:

A map and chart obtained from Muni via a public records request breaks down this journey into what may well be the world’s longest transfer — from Union Square/Market Street to Powell… This trip, Muni calculated, will take an able-bodied person seven minutes and six seconds.

The one piece of the project that has come in under-budget? The art in the proposed subway tunnel’s concourses. Don’t celebrate too loudly, though, until you hear the reason why.

Eskenazi continues:

Finding artists to decorate the Central Subway project has been a project of its own. In 2011, a furor erupted when it was revealed that sculptor Tom Otterness — recipient of a $750,000 contract to create art for San Francisco General Hospital and the Central Subway — shot a dog to death on film as a work of “art” in 1977…

In San Francisco, you can ram through a logistically nightmarish transit project of questionable worth even as the estimated ridership and price tags cross each other headed in the wrong directions. But you’re not going to decorate it with the work of someone who did something awful to a dog in the 1970s.

Eskenazi’s piece is a fantastic read, and a great overall analysis of the sad state of urban politics in San Francisco.

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My Response to Rand Paul’s Anti-Abortion Push

Earlier today, Rand Paul sent a form letter from what he’s calling the ‘Pro-Life Alliance’. I found the letter so alarming that I had to publicize its existence more widely and share my response.

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The Metadata Surveillance State

The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald broke a massive story this week by publishing a blatantly unconstitutional, secret court order that directed Verizon Wireless to disclose daily records of every phone call made by every single one of its customers. The administration has responded, claiming that it has the need and the right to monitor everything you do for no reason at all, so long as the government’s own secret courts agree it might prevent a terrorist attack. A lot of the reporting since has focused on the distinction between phone records (“metadata”) and calls themselves (“content”). That distinction isn’t worth the (classified) paper it’s printed on.

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The Fed is Killing Small Banks

Today, four years since the official bottom of the 2007-2009 recession and financial crisis, you can add a surprising voice to the list of those still waiting for a recovery: America’s small banks. As CNNMoney’s Stephen Gandel notes, the banking recovery has been uneven; small lenders are still in trouble, and some continue to fail even as loan quality at larger institutions has rebounded sharply. The U.S. banking sector is becoming a two-class system: big banks are getting bigger, and small local banks are dying. Large banks are driving a Wal-Martization of the banking sector. As with Wal-Mart, the implications for Americans’ standard of living are not good.

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