Bad Ideas: September Edition


Why is lunacy so rampant? Here's another installment of head-scratching stuff.

And a sleeping driver accomplishes both.
1. Topping the list is the Trump administration's decision to cancel an Obama executive order that would require periodic sleep apnea testing for people involved in mass transit and long-distance trucking. The same rule would apply to pilots and railways engineers. Call me crazy, but somehow or other it seems like a good idea to make sure that the person behind the wheel of a loaded 70,000 pound truck isn't likely to fall asleep at the wheel. This shouldn't be a political issue—it's just commonsense. That's the position taken by the National Transportation Safety Board, the folks whose recommendation Obama took. But not Trump.

Such reflexive aversion to all regulations is bereft of logic, morally bankrupt, and dangerous. I expect no less from the Snollygoster in Chief, but are there any other adults in the room? Apparently not in the American Trucking Association, which lobbied hard to have Obama's order reversed despite the fact that one in eight fatal accidents involves a long-distance truck. The ATA is the last group that ought to oppose this—unless it simply sees drivers as single servings of meat. Somehow I don't foresee a lot of sympathy coming their way in the very immediate future when self-driving vehicles and investment in light rail decimates trucking as we know it.

Not on this planet!
2. A close runner-up was the decision of K A Design to market the New Swastika shirt. The 5-watt light bulb went off somewhere in the firm that made it think it could reclaim the swastika's ancient Sanskrit meaning of good luck and prosperity. While it's true that the symbol has appeared in many cultures, including ancient Babylonia, India, and early Christianity, can we just say that the ship has sailed on how just about everybody in the world who doesn't work for K A Design perceives it now? I wonder if the firm will even survive this harebrained scheme. Whether or not it's true, it really looks like a backdoor effort to legitimize fascist genocide.

Can you find sexism with Google glasss?
3. There have been mishandled rumblings inside Google and Facebook . Google stumbled in firing the author of a long internal sexist memo that justified the testosterone-fueled culture of Google. I'm not defending the little oinker who wrote it, but there are two PR problems here. First, it was not supposed to be a public document, so there's a bigger security problem inside HQ. The bigger issue, though, is that it's one of the worst kept secrets in the world that Google has a severe gender problem. Unless a comprehensive program to redress sexism inside Google swiftly accompanies this firing, it will smack of tokenism and add fuel to smoldering resentments about to flame.

That's the official story!
It comes as little shock to hear charges that Mark Zuckerberg stands accused of manipulating algorithms that push conservative content to the top of Facebook postings. Some think he's positioning himself for a run for something, though he's just 33, and would just meet the constitutional age threshold in 2020. Besides, most indications suggest he's prone to libertarianism of  its more paranoid permutation. If the allegations are in any way true, his decision is a weird one. If any company's business plan is dependent upon not pissing off people, it's Facebook's. It allegedly has two billion subscribers and I'm pretty sure not all of them are conservative or libertarian. Put another way, angering FB users might actually create a real challenge to its dominance. At present Google+ and upstarts like Diaspora and Ello are mere pretenders, but that reckless disregard for users could change that. These days people are quite testy when it comes to politics.

And therein lies a tale.
4. This is not a defense of the Teamsters per se, but if you've followed the Top Chef trial in which union leaders are accused of trying to extort jobs from the show's producers by harassing some of its personalities, you've got to wonder why the TV crew thought it could go into a union town like Boston without negotiating with the pro-labor mayor, the Teamsters, or other organized bodies. It concerns me that rough language is now lawsuit material. Again, this isn't a defense of violence or for-real threats, but I worry we've lost our ability to distinguish between anger and actual threats It's basic: If you hone in on people's livelihood, they are going to take offense. I've been on a few picket lines, and I know that tempers rise. Lots of "we oughta" scenarios arise—almost none of which are more than blowing off steam.

A jury decided the case in favor of the Teamsters, though a civil suit remains. However it comes out in the end, I think it's time that we realize that bullying and unpleasantness are what happens in a society in which organized labor doesn't have many other resources at its command. We have stripped away the very idea of countervailing forces and have given moneyed interests the upper hand. That's a bad idea.

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