Thursday, June 26, 2014

Biometrics and commerce

As an employee of a biometric software provider [DISCLOSURE: I AM AN EMPLOYEE OF A BIOMETRIC SOFTWARE PROVIDER], I'm used to seeing a whole bunch of people speak about biometrics. Law enforcement. Immigration experts. Privacy experts. Lawyers. More lawyers. But as I was perusing one of my information sources, I ran across a piece by Rich Cooper, the Vice President of Research & Emerging Issues for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Hmm...the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I haven't run across them weighing in on these issues.

But it makes sense. While a lot of the attention within my country focuses on government use of biometrics, other parts of the world are looking at biometrics from a business perspective.

Japanese companies Hitachi and Fujitsu have separately developed vein-scanning systems that are already being used by major banks around the world, such as in Brazil, Poland and Turkey....

South Africa has used fingerprint scanning at ATM machines since 1996. Brazil uses similar biometric technology at more than 55,000 ATMs....

While there are similar moves here, including incorporation of biometrics into mobile phones and Google's efforts to profit from its Neven Vision acquisition, things aren't moving as rapidly in the U.S. as they are in other countries. Cooper attributes this to a "widespread cultural concern" in the United States - the same thing not only makes us resist biometrics, but also makes us resist using Social Security Numbers as identification numbers, converting drivers' licenses to robust identification devices [DISCLOSURE: A SISTER COMPANY TO MY EMPLOYER PROVIDES DRIVERS' LICENSES], and telling the government every time that we buy a gun.

It appears that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is concerned that the U.S. is getting (if I may borrow another U.S. cultural term) left behind. The think piece by Cooper was entitled "Unlocking the Promise of Biometrics," and concludes as follows:

While we are not yet at a point where biometrics are a fool-proof method of authentication, the potential these technologies present for innovation and advancement are huge. Just one more example of how data and technology are changing the world for the better.

And we, with our guns and our insecure drivers' licenses and our chipless credit cards, are yielding ground to the Japanese and the others. Maybe.

Or, as the libertarians and the moralists may contend, the rest of the world is heading off a cliff while The Greatest Nation In The History Of Civilization is remaining as a shining city on a hill.

Who's right?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bob .@Lohfeld on why you SHOULDN'T create a best of breed, one size fits all presentation

I could go on and on about this, but I'll confine myself to one sentence that Bob Lohfeld wrote.

[I]f you are five minutes into your briefing and you are still explaining your company’s org chart, the meeting is pretty much over, and the only person in the room who doesn’t know it is the person doing the briefing.

Remember - it's NOT all about you.

Friday, June 20, 2014

GoFundMe and Free Jeremy (Meeks) - the end of civilization, or the empowerment of the individual?

(The views in this post are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer or any forensic organization.)

In case you haven't heard, a particular mugshot has received a lot of attention after its public posting.

Why are mugshots publicly posted? For two reasons. First, the posting of mugshots is intended to be a public shaming that deters crime - if you're going to be a criminal, we're going to let everyone know when you're arrested. (It is appropriate to note, as the sites often do, that arrested persons are considered innocent until proven guilty.) Second, the posting of mugshots is intended to be a warning to the citizens. If person X is arrested for robbery, then perhaps you may want to keep an eye on the person if he or she shows up in your store.

Regardless of the intent of posting of mugshots, the Stockton Police Department received a whole other reaction when they posted a mugshot recently. First, here's the text that accompanied the mugshot:


Due to a recent increase of shootings and robberies in the Weston Ranch area, the Stockton Police Department just completed a multi-agency Operation Ceasefire enforcement mission. Through an Operation Ceasefire analysis of the recent shootings, we identified a new active group in the Weston Ranch Area.

In response during these challenging times, this type of collaborative response through the use of allied resources is an invaluable tool to reducing crime in the City of Stockton. The Stockton Police Department would like to thank the following participating agencies:

Members of the Stockton PD Gang Violence Suppression Unit, Community Response Team, County Wide Gang Task Force, San Joaquin County Sheriff’s SWAT, Lodi Police Department’s SWAT, Manteca Police Department, Lodi Police Department, County Wide METRO Narcotics Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Marshal’s Task Force, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the AB109 Task Force.

The enforcement groups served search warrants at the following locations:

1300 block of Kimiyo St.
2400 block of Laguna Ct.
1200 block of Lloyd Thayer Cir.
4100 block of Degas Ct.
1900 block of Flatboat St.
16800 block of Shady Mill Wy, Lathrop
4100 block of Seurat Ct.
4900 block of Tiller Ct.
1700 block Bartlett Ct.
1809 Dominion St.
4100 Kassady Ct.

The enforcement groups served search warrants at the following locations:

Felony Arrest: 4
Firearms Confiscated: 4
Traffic Stops: 1
Ceasefire Custom Notification Admonishments: 5

Arrests from the today’s mission:

• Jeremy Meeks, a 30 year old man, convicted felon, arrested for felony weapon charges.
• Terry Bailey, a 22 year old man, convicted felon, arrested for felony weapon charges.
• Juzri Coleman, an 18 year old man, arrested for felony weapon charges.
• Joelin Coleman, a 44 year old man, arrested for felony weapon charges.

Note the first name on that list of arrested individuals, Jeremy Meeks. It was Meeks' picture that accompanied the Facebook posting...and it was Meeks' picture that received a lot of attention. One sample:

Joyforlife Dawson Tear may mean he killed someone but he killed the camera on that day.

Joyforlife was not alone. This single Facebook post from the Stockton Police Department has been liked over 69,000 times.

But not everyone believes that Meeks is dreamy. In fact, some are offended by the fact that Meeks is receiving tons of attention, while others are not. Loren Feldman's comment:

Welcome to social media.

I disagree with Feldman, to a point. While social media certainly facilitates the ability for lovestruck people to fall in love with felons, there is nothing inherent in social media that causes this. I'm sure that people went gaga over John Wilkes Booth back in the day - he was a celebrity, after all.

But social media doesn't only facilitate love of felons - it also facilitates crowdfunding for felons. See the GoFundMe page for Free Jeremy, which is attempting to raise $25,000 for - well, I'm not sure what for, since his bail is much higher than $25,000. Anyway, the site was started by Meeks' mom, who comments:

He has a job and ... He was on his way to work. With no gang affiliations as per two of the charges. He has old tattoos..which causes him to be sterotyped. He's my son and he is so sweet. Please help him to get a fair trial or else he'll be railroaded.

Now I'll grant that I am not a mother, but if I were, I would think that I would be a little uncomfortable that the people who are donating to your son's cause ($865 last I checked) are writing things like this:

Jaclyn Schneider
59 mins ago
marry me?

Frances White
1 hour ago
Get this behind you. Get an agent and training. I want to see you in the movies.

katja steinhaugen
4 hours ago
I can see in your eyes that you are a warm and loving person. I hope you can hire a good lawer and get a fair trile. I wish you and your family the best! Love from Norway

A Carter
6 hours ago
Hit me up when u get out daddy, I got a list of naughty things I wanna do to you ..

Yet at the same time, it's important to remember that social media is not CAUSING this. Human nature is what it is, whether we're using carrier pigeons or Facebook likes.

Manufacturing consensus - what Sylvan Goldman had to do to make the supermarket super

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Dr. Matt Barney is a business disciple of Dr. Robert Cialdini. He has cited Dr. Cialdini in his previous publications, and I recently attended a webinar at which Dr. Barney presented on behalf of Influence at Work. The topic of the webinar was consensus, and Dr. Barney emphasized that as social beings, we respond to (and exhibit consensus with) people who are like us.

As an aside, Dr. Barney shared the story of how Sylvan Goldman achieved consensus, and made a lot of money in the process.

I have previously talked about the rise and fall of the supermarkets - how they wiped out the markets, and how they in turn are being wiped out by the hypermarkets and the virtual markets. A supermarket, by definition, is larger than an old fashioned market, which means that you have the potential to buy more things at a supermarket. But if you buy more things, how do you get them out of the door? After all, you only have two hands, and two hands can only carry so much.

Sylvan Goldman, a supermarket owner in Oklahoma, was pondering this problem in the 1930s, and came up with the idea of a cart that could be used while shopping. You could simply place everything in the cart, and would therefore be able to buy more things. After a false start, he worked out the mechanics of this cart - we now know it as a shopping cart - and was ready to take over the world and make a ton of money as people bought more stuff in his stores.

Only one problem, according to birgit lohmann (who, as you will see, doesn't care for upper case letters). People refused to use the shopping carts.

men found them effeminate (you mean, with my big strong arm
that I can’t carry a darn little basket like that?);
women found them suggestive of a baby carriage
( I have been pushing enough baby carriages.
I don’t want to push any more...).

So Goldman had to lure the people into using these shopping carts, despite the social consensus that they were unacceptable. The first thing that he tried was marketing, via a series of posters that emphasized the benefits (not the features) of the gizmo. While his visuals were certainly creative, and while they were clearly customer focused, they were not enough to overcome the social consensus against supermarkets.

So what did Goldman do? He manufactured a new consensus.

but only after hiring several male and female models to push
his new invention around his store and demonstrate their utility,
shopping carts became extremely popular, and supermarkets were
redesigned to accommodate them.

Yes, that's right. If the people around you aren't supportive of shopping carts, bring in new people. Even though Goldman was not a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer (CMCT), he still knew that people can be influenced by people who are like them. So his models included both men and women - men to demonstrate to the male shoppers that shopping carts were manly, and women to demonstrate to the female shoppers that while baby carriages bring joy during infancy, pushing shopping carts brings lifelong joy.

Hey, you can't argue with success. Shopping carts are now standard in all supermarkets, and Goldman's original design with two small baskets has been redesigned to be bigger and to allow shoppers to buy hundreds of dollars worth of stuff.

But without the shopping cart - and without the effort that was made to promote its adoption - would supermarkets have become as super as they did?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Unintended consequences - look for a flood of offensive Redskins products, thanks to the opponents to the Redskins' name

Isaac Garcia shared a Politico article that details a recent court ruling.

In a major blow to the Washington Redskins, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday canceled six federal trademarks of the Washington Redskins team name because it was found to be “disparaging” to Native Americans.

“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the patent office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board wrote in a 2-1 decision.

From previous items that I have read, I know that the "at the respective times they were registered" point is key. The Politico article doesn't detail the exact years of registration of the relevant trademarks, but apparently the Patent and Trademark Office felt that even then, the name "redskins" was derogatory to Native Americans.

Let me briefly interrupt myself for a relevant disclosure.


For those who haven't followed this particular story, there has been a decades-long debate over whether the "Redskins" name (derived from the time that the team was in Boston) is a hallowed historical name, or an offensive slur that does not belong in the National Football League. (As opponents have noted, the name "Redskins" has connotations that other sports team names do not have - Indians? Braves?) Opponents argue that Native Americans and others oppose the name. Proponents argue that only a minority of activists are getting fired up over the name.

But for the moment, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has spoken, although the ruling can be appealed.

But if the ruling sticks, there's an interesting little unintended consequence of the ruling, at least in the short term.

Of course, the move to remove trademark protection from the name "Redskins" is an effort to get the Redskins - legally, an entity known as Pro Football, Inc. - to come up with some other name. However, there's nothing to prevent the team from continuing to use the name, as Politico notes:

Critics of the Washington Redskins name who had turned to the trademark office note that the ruling against the team by the patent office does not stop the organization from continuing to use the term. But it could potentially devalue the name because anyone would be able to use the unprotected name, meaning that companies not affiliated with the team could, for instance, print and sell t-shirts, posters and whatever other products they wanted without having to share any revenues with the Redskins’ owners.

Now take a moment and think about the ramifications of THAT.

In essence, if the ruling sticks, this means that anyone can produce Washington Redskins products without having to pay a license fee to the NFL or to Daniel Snyder. With the removal of the license fee restriction, more people will enter the market and produce Washington Redskins products. Ironically, efforts by opponents to suppress the name will, at least in the short term (until Snyder caves) result in the name being used a lot more.

But wait, it gets better.

While the trademark was under the control of Pro Football, Inc. and the NFL, Washington Redskins licensed products needed to conform to certain minimum standards of taste. As a multi-billion dollar corporate entity or group of corporate entities (take your pick), the National Football League could not afford to be associated with anything that would anger its advertisers.

But now that this restriction has been removed, all sorts of Redskins products are possible. I was not old enough to remember the days when the Washington Redskins were the NFL's southernmost team, and coincidentally the last team to add a black player to its roster, but you can bet that businessmen in the South (and yes, in Boston) will take the opportunity to produce products that proclaim the Redskins are the best, the Cowboys [expletive deleted], and that those who don't like it can [expletive deleted]. I don't think Roger Goodell will be happy.

Oh, and the danged foreigners and organized crime won't be happy either, as new people muscle in on the market for unauthorized Redskins products. Consider Robert M. Tyler's description of the situation in 2013, back when the Redskins trademark was protected like any other:

Just before this year’s “big game” (in another article, we’ll talk about the use of “Super Bowl” in advertising), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it had led a nationwide enforcement operation netting almost 200,000 fake or counterfeit NFL souvenirs valued at over $17 million. The investigation targeted not only international shipments but also warehouses, stores, flea markets, online vendors and street vendors. Forty-one people were arrested.

So, by now, perhaps you’re thinking, “Fine, Rob, my business should think twice before selling unlicensed NFL merchandise. But what’s the harm if I buy my kid a fake jersey online and save some money?” Granted, you’re not going to get sued for buying a counterfeit product. But it may trouble you to hear of increasing evidence tying organized crime to counterfeit sports merchandise.

Obviously the opponents of the name hope that Snyder and the NFL will cave quickly and change the name. But as Redskins/Skins/Rednecks fans well know, Daniel Snyder marches to his own drummer, and he may very well continue to use the Redskins name, despite the loss in revenue, and despite the fact that we're going to see a flood of offensive unlicensed material that would even make Bill Watterson cry.

Amazon, unit pricing, and other recess hijinks

Unlike others, I do not believe that the tech world is just a very rich version of a high school, with all of its petty gossip, frenemies, and hurt feelings.

I believe that the tech world is like an elementary school.

Except that there are no recess monitors to keep you from hitting others, and there are no lunch ladies to force you to eat your vegetables.

The latest example? For better or worse, the New York State Attorney General has brokered an agreement between six online retailers to provide unit prices on their websites.

The six companies? Walmart, Costco, Walgreens, FreshDirect, CVS, and

Amazon is missing from the list, despite the fact that they provide unit prices for some items, and despite the fact that their unit prices tend to be low.

So why didn't they participate? Gartner's Bob Hetu speculates:

I think it's just that they don't like to be pooled in with the other retailers.

Amazon had better watch out, or else it won't be invited to Walmart's house for the cool pool party and sleepover. (Of course, there will be a fight over whether to serve Kirkland hot dogs or Sam's hot dogs, but that's part of the fun.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On de facto industry regulation of industry - nowhere to run, nowhere to hide...and no indication that you should be running

Whether you like it or not, deadly pathogens are traveling all around the world. And if we're not going to combat them (per my previous post on Boston's opposition to research on Biosafety Level 4 agents), then the only thing that we can do is to warn people when they show up, so that people can kinda sorta take precautions. I say "kinda sorta" because I don't write sometimes good, and also because in such situations, you can only hope that you are able to avoid the pathogen.

But what if you're never warned that the deadly pathogen is out there?

Antibiotic-resistant germs continue to plague hospitals across the United States. In Florida, several hospitals handled antibiotic-resistant germ outbreaks without alerting the public. A Palm Beach Post investigation found that since 2008, twelve outbreaks have affected at least 490 people statewide, and the Florida Department of Health (FDH) did little to inform the public....

FDH has not released the name of hospitals involved in the twelve CRE outbreaks, and state lawyers have denied public disclosure requests, pointing to an exemption in the open-records law for epidemiological investigations. Hospitals themselves are not motivated to publish that they have highly resistant germs in their facilities, and the state law which requires outbreaks of any germ to be reported have been enforced loosely. In the past five years, Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration, which licenses and inspects hospitals, has cited only one hospital for failing to report an outbreak, said agency spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman.

Obviously part of the issue is that regulators are not motivated to regulate. William Sanjour explains the problem from his perspective as a 30-year employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

After some catastrophe or new technology, Congress creates a new regulatory agency in a wave of enthusiasm, giving it money and following the same pattern of broad, vague discretionary authority to control the richest and most politically savvy forces on Earth. But the interest of Congress, the press and the public can only be maintained for a few months or years. There are a lot of other things going on. But there is one group whose interest never wanes or wavers. The life, the existence, the future of the regulated industry depends on the pressure it can exert on the regulatory agency. At least that’s what the special interests believe.

The regulated community constantly deals with regulatory agencies through congressional committees, the courts, and meetings with top government officials. This is what the public sees, but it does not stop there. Industry also constantly interacts with individual agency employees at every level, working directly with the field inspectors and permit writers responsible for making regulatory decisions.

What kind of, um, "interacting" takes place?

[T]he inspector general of the Minerals Management Service concluded that officials in the agency had frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.

But this case isn't about oil, but about hospitals. As noted above, hospital inspections in Florida are performed by the Agency for Healthcare Administration. This agency is headed by Elizabeth Dudek. She was appointed to her position by the Governor of Florida; while this ensures that she is in alignment with the Governor's views, critics could argue that political appointees may not always have the best interests of their agencies at heart.

Dudek actually worked within the Agency for Healthcare Administration prior to heading it, and at one point was "a registered lobbyist providing testimony before the Legislature on behalf of the Agency." Yes, you read that right - the government had an official lobbyist to lobby the government.

Before this, did Dudek acquire the necessary experience to regulate hospitals? Well...

Ms. Dudek has over thirty years of health care experience; ranging from direct care work with developmentally disabled individuals in a state institution to testifying for the Agency as an expert in health planning.

Yup...she came right out of the industry that she is mandated to regulate.

On the other hand, critics would argue, you need to have people from the industry to regulate the industry, because people from outside the industry wouldn't understand the issues involved.

And therein lies the problem.


I intentionally began this post with the words "whether you like it or not," and wanted to find an appropriate link to Gavin Newsom's original comments. Well, I found this link:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom may have sealed the fate of marriage equality in California with his triumphant — and misjudged — cry celebrating the legality of gay and lesbian family rights “whether you like it or not,” writes John Diaz, the editor for the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial page.

Wrote Diaz in an Oct. 14 story that appeared in the Chronicle, “Like it or not, Mayor Gavin Newsom is proving to be the gift that keeps on giving for the campaign to deprive same-sex couples of their right to marry.”

Californians will recall that Newsom's quote was played, over and over, by opponents of gay marriage. Kilian Melloy was convinced that this would be disastrous for gay marriage proponents.

Those TV spots, paid for by a torrent of money that has rushed into Calif. –l argely from Mormons and Catholics nationwide, whose church leaders have instructed them to promote the anti-gay legislation — are fueling a ballot initiative to rewrite California law from the ground up in a way that will build discrimination against gay and lesbian families into the vary fabric of law.

Of course, we know what happened after that - opponents of gay marriage DID win the proposition battle, gay marriage was outlawed in California, Gavin Newsom was reduced to obscurity, and Brendan Eich led Mozilla out of its terrible financial state.

Well, the position of Lieutenant Governor of California is relatively obscure...

Monday, June 16, 2014

List the sovereign states that can issue Western Hemisphere Travel Initiate-compliant cards. Whoops, you missed one.

When I last renewed my passport, I had the opportunity to not only obtain a traditional passport book, but also to obtain a special card that I could use for selected international travel. I can't use it to board a plane to Finland, but I can use it to drive a car into Canada or Mexico.

It turns out that these cards are part of something called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. I happened to go to the U.S. Department of State to obtain my WHTI-compliant card.

But certain people wouldn't go to the U.S. Department of State. They would instead go to...the Seneca Nation.

"The Seneca Nation?" you may asked. "Aren't they like Indians or Native Americans or something? Why don't they go to the U.S. Department of State?"

Well, as its name implies, the Seneca Nation is a nation. Or as they explain it:

The relationship between the Seneca Nation and the United States is one of a sovereign government to another sovereign government. This principle has shaped the entire history of dealings between the federal government, the states, and the tribes. The United States government entered into treaties with tribal governments that exchanged tribal lands for federal protection and services. These treaties still form the basis of much of the Tribal-Federal relationship.

In that spirit, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reached an agreement with the Seneca Nation that allowed the Seneca Nation to issue its own WHTI-compliant cards, referred to as "Enhanced Tribal Cards." These can be used for travel between the U.S., Canada, and certain other countries, just like my Department of State-issued card can.

[DISCLOSURE: The cards themselves will be produced by MorphoTrust, a sister company of my employer.]

Speaking for myself personally, I often forget that when people are talking about Federal, state, and local governments, we need to remember the tribal governments also. After all, there are 566 of them, managing nations that are as large as 16 million acres (the Navajo Nation). And nations can be national - the Navajo Nation, for example, uses Daylight Saving Time, unlike Arizona. (And yes, this means that the Navajos are more advanced than the rest of Arizona...)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#whoyouknow Mike Malone is better than George Station - according to Malone's criteria

George Station probably won't be applying for a particular job that requires the applicant to have authored 25 books:

Only 24 books to go and I'm eligible! ...Oh... make it 25...

One of the hashtags that Station used in this Google+ post was #whoyouknow. And there's a reason for this, because the job requirements are somewhat unusual:

The successful applicant will have at least 25 books on topics ranging from the history of Silicon Valley to the biography of microprocessing to interviews with entrepreneurs to the history of human and mechanical memory; will have been published by presses such as Harper/Collins, Doubleday, Random House, St. Martin’s, and SUNY Press; will also have e-books on topics such as home life in the US, home life in the UK, and water conservation; will have worked as both a journalist for a print newspaper and for magazines; will have hosted television and radio productions for PBS, cable television, and ABC; will have worked in electronic media such as being editor of Forbes ASAP or a weekly columnist for; will have founded or co-founded at least two start-ups; will have professional connections to Oxford University in the UK as well as to numerous media (print, electronic, and television) in the SF Bay Area and beyond.

Now where is Santa Clara University going to find someone who meets ALL of these bizarre qualifications? Inside Higher Ed explains:

This litany of qualifications seemed staggering for a position that, although competitively compensated at $6,000 per course, was far from an endowed professorship. In fact, only one person meets these requirements: the internal candidate Santa Clara had already planned to rehire.

Mike Malone – a self-described “Silicon Valley guy” who holds two degrees from Santa Clara – had been teaching writing at the Jesuit university for the past three years. He really has written 25 books, he said.

“I had no idea what the standard operating procedure was on this,” Malone said. “They wanted me to teach the class because I created the class. Then they threw my short bio into the application.”

It appears that the university has (surprise!) found a candidate to fill the position, because the job listing is no longer active. But Malone is lucky that the applicant didn't have to satisfy one additional requirement:

I don’t even know where the copying machine is.

The real reason why ISO is so interesting in controlling counterfeiting

I recently wrote about how businesses respond to economic restrictions by working around them. And it's not just minimum wages that keep company executives up at night. Some companies have to deal with little intellectual property restrictions that restrict them from issuing their own name-brand jeans or medications. So they counterfeit.

I've been employed by software companies for the majority of my working life, so I obviously don't have a high regard for counterfeiting and other forms of intellectual theft. But if you want to know who REALLY hates counterfeiting, you have to look to ISO.

ISO doesn't just say that counterfeiting is bad. They author standards that battle counterfeiters.

But why would ISO be so interested in setting standards in this area?

Prof. Hyeonho Park, Director of the Institute of Crime Science at Yongin University, Republic of Korea, says that the health risks associated with counterfeiting are diverse.

Examples include lethal amounts of melanin in infant formula, carcinogenic Sudan Red food dye, medicines with little or no active ingredients, aircraft replacement parts that fail, and substandard electrical cords that catch fire.

One of the most harmful forms of counterfeit goods is fraudulent medicines. In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the manufacturing, trade and consumption of these products – often with harmful, and at times fatal, results.

Actually, that's not the reason why ISO is so gung-ho about battling counterfeiters.

The sheer size of the counterfeit industry is staggering. A report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) put the value of counterfeit goods that crossed international borders at over USD 250 billion in 2007. That’s far larger than other scourges of the underworld economy, such as weapons smuggling and human trafficking. It even rivals the international trade in illegal drugs.

It's not that either.

[C]ounterfeiting can significantly reduce the profitability of legitimate businesses. Internationally, the trade in counterfeit products is estimated to cause economic loss to legitimate companies in the range of USD 500 to USD 700 billion annually.

Getting warmer, but that's not the real reason.

Where’s the harm, you might ask ? The truth of the matter is quite startling. Counterfeits create an underground trade that deprives governments of revenue for vital public services and imposes greater burdens on taxpayers.


As you can see, not only are the counterfeiters economically motivated, but the people who battle the counterfeiters are economically motivated also. You don't mess with the tax man, as Al Capone discovered.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Economies are like the Internet - SeaTac businesses work their way around restrictions

Those who champion freedom and occupy and other kewl wUrdz often marvel at the capabilities of people to get around Internet restrictions. If an oppressive government locks down the Internet to prevent people from getting to child porn - whoops, I mean information about Tiananmen Square, there are ways to work around the firewalls and get to the information that you need to get.

However, the champions often neglect the fact that economies work the same way. Throw up a roadblock to a business, and the business will simply work around it.

Let me acknowledge at the beginning that there is no such thing as a "free market" - a totally free market requires all people to have access to all information, and that just doesn't happen today. However, there are clearly gradations of a free market, where you can work for anyone for whom you wish to work provided your views are not deemed offensive, and you can live anywhere you can afford unless the neighbors don't like you.

At the same time, governments impose restrictions that affect the economy. Taxes, insider trading bans, and zoning restrictions are but a few examples, but one example that everyone likes to talk about is the minimum wage. For proponents, a minimum wage potentially helps to ensure that citizens do not depend upon governments for other types of assistance - if the wage is high enough, people can take care of themselves. Opponents state that artificially high wages depress the local economy, as companies do not hire, and jobs move to other cities or perhaps other countries.

Right now, a lot of these opponents are looking at the town of SeaTac, Washington. Why? Because the much better-known town of Seattle just passed a $15 minimum wage - a minimum wage that is already being implemented in the Seattle suburb of SeaTac. SeaTac happens to be right next to Seattle's airport (while not including the airport itself), so a lot of hotel employees and parking lot attendants are now making $15 an hour.

According to the opponents, SeaTac is now going to hell in a very expensive handbasket.

When I see claims such as this, I want to verify the claims to see if they are true. Here are some of the things that I've found over the past few days. From a February Seattle Times article:

At the Clarion Hotel off International Boulevard, a sit-down restaurant has been shuttered, though it might soon be replaced by a less-labor-intensive cafe....

To be sure, SeaTac’s $15 minimum wage has claimed some casualties.

The 215-room Clarion Hotel closed its full-service restaurant in December, laying off 15 people, said general manager Perry Wall. The hotel also let go a night desk clerk and maintenance employee and is considering a 10 percent increase in room rates for the spring travel season, Wall said.

He estimates that without a reduction in head count, the hotel’s annual payroll costs would have increased $300,000. It still employs about 30 people for jobs Wall describes as more in-demand than ever.

“I just think unskilled workers are going to have a harder time finding jobs,” he said. “You’re going to have people from as far away as Bellevue or Tacoma wanting these jobs, and they’re going to come with skills and experience. For $15 an hour, they’ll go that extra distance.”

But, on the other hand:

Even management at the Cedarbrook Lodge, which had been a vocal opponent of the minimum-wage measure, went quiet after breaking ground in December on a project to add new rooms and a luxury day spa.

Cedarbrook general manager Scott Ostrander, a former co-chairman of the campaign against Proposition 1, said when announcing the expansion that it would generate additional revenue to help pay for higher wages.

One of the companies mentioned in the February article is a parking lot known as MasterPark.

The new surcharge of 50 cents a day at MasterPark in SeaTac is an attempt to recoup some costs of the $15 minimum wage, said managing partner Roger McCracken.

He said he also is considering cuts to MasterPark’s advertising budget, but he called layoffs “foolish” and rejected the notion that cashiers soon would be replaced by automation.

“Whatever we do, service is key,” he said. “We want an employee answering our phones, and anytime someone pulls into one of our lots, they’re greeted by a human being.

“That’s great news for our employees,” he added. “They’re pretty happy campers right now.”

Well, MasterPark is making the news again in June, because that 50 cent per day surcharge has increased.

Consumers are also picking up the tab, in the form of increased prices. Many SeaTac businesses have tacked on an additional fee to mitigate the increased cost of labor. On the receipt below, a $6.93 "living wage surchage" was added to a $84.00 parking charge....

Incidentally, the article above claims that "(m)any SeaTac businesses" have added additional fees, but the only evidence that's been presented is the MasterPark surcharge. Minimum wage opponents, your arguments would make more sense if "many" were greater than 1.

The surcharge works out to 99 cents a day, which is what MasterPark is currently advertising on its website.

MasterPark charges, taxes, and fees include a 'Living Wage' surcharge of 99 cents per day. This is due to the new $15 per hour minimum wage requirement for certain businesses in SeaTac. The surcharge covers a portion of the resulting increase in operating costs.

There's another thing that needs to be clarified - the living wage in and of itself does not necessarily REQUIRE that affected businesses raise their prices. After all, price SHOULD be set by the market, not by costs. If all of the other parking garages in SeaTac suddenly reduced their prices, for whatever reason, you can get that MasterPark would discontinue this surcharge in a second - or perhaps MasterPark would do the things that they said in February they wouldn't do, such as firing employees.

In essence, SeaTac's living wage is just another market condition. While some businesses are affected by frosts in Florida or war in the Middle East, SeaTac businesses are affected by government regulations.

And MasterPark, the Clarion Hotel, the Cedarbrook Lodge, and other SeaTac businesses have the freedom - within limits - to decide how to respond to these market conditions.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

#empoblognov03 See Nothing At All Any More Method

Back when I started blogging, something called the "See Clearly Method" was all the rage. It was being heavily advertised, and promoted by celebrity spokesperson Mariette Hartley.

In a November 2003 post, I did something that I've done on many occasions since - look at the fine print regarding a particular product or service. In this case, I looked at the fine print for the See Clearly Method, and the fine print painted a different picture than what was painted in the advertising.

..The See Clearly Method (tm) is an educational tool that teaches the user how to see more clearly, comfortably, and efficiently. It is not a medical or assistive device, nor is it a substitute for diagnosis or treatment by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

By the way, the abbreviation "tm" in that excerpt above may not have anything to do with trademarks, because the company that marketed the See Clearly Method, Vision Improvement Technologies, was based in Fairfield, Iowa.

Which is why the Iowa Attorney General got involved in 2005, and made the following announcement in November 2006:

The Polk County District Court has ordered Vision Improvement Technologies, Inc., to stop all sales immediately of its so-called natural vision improvement kit called the "See Clearly Method." The Court also ordered the Fairfield company to pay $200,000 for consumer restitution.(Copy of the Consent Judgment.)

The Court order resolves a consumer fraud lawsuit filed last year by Attorney General Tom Miller, which alleged that the company could not substantiate claims that the "See Clearly Method" improved people's vision so much that they would no longer need glasses or contact lenses. (Copy of the lawsuit.)

The "See Clearly Method" was a kit of manuals, charts, videos and audio-tapes demonstrating eye exercises and other techniques, such as focusing eyes using special charts or props, facing a bright light with eyes closed at a distance of a few inches, covering eyes with hands for sustained periods, and applying hot and cold wash cloths over closed eyes. The company sold tens of thousands of the kits for about $350 apiece.

"The company made dramatic claims for its product that it could not substantiate," Miller said. "They represented that consumers who used the method could quickly and easily free themselves of having to wear glasses or contact lenses. They used illegal tactics including exaggerated claims of effectiveness, false implications of scientific validity, and misleading consumer testimonials in advertising," he said.

"We also alleged that a so-called 'risk-free' 30-day trial period was deceptively presented and ended up forcing many consumers to pay hundreds of dollars apiece for a product that they wanted to return because it did not help them," Miller said.

Polk County District Court Judge Don C. Nickerson entered a Consent Judgment on Wednesday resolving the Attorney General's lawsuit. The order was agreed-to by Vision Improvement Technologies, Inc. (VIT) and the individual defendants: Cliff Rose, David E. Sykes, David W. Muris, and Gary Korf. The defendants denied violations of the Consumer Fraud Act.

VIT and all defendants must comply with numerous orders under the Consent Judgment:

VIT must stop all sales of the "See Clearly Method" as of Nov.1, and cease business altogether by December 22, 2006, or as soon thereafter as possible. (VIT's web site now,, says: "See Clearly Method No Longer Offered for Sale," and it provides only contact information for inquiries or returns.)

VIT paid $200,000 yesterday into a fund the Attorney General can use for restitution to consumers, and paid $20,000 to Iowa's Consumer Fraud Elderly Victim Fund.

VIT must remove all negative credit reports lodged against consumers since the marketing of the "See Clearly Method" began about six years ago.

VIT and all defendants are prohibited from numerous deceptive practices alleged by the Attorney General, including failing to substantiate claims, abusing testimonials in advertising, and making misleading claims.

Oddly enough, Mariette Hartley's website fails to mention her work for the See Clearly Method. However, her blog shows that she has a solid grasp of the Latin language.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

#empoblognov03 Remember the Furby threat?

Looking back over my posts from November 2003, I found a post that exhibited extreme paranoia.

In this post, I linked to a BBC article (still present 10+ years later) that documented a really silly threat to our National Security Agency.

The Furby, a highly sought-after Christmas toy in 1998, is now a high-ranking public enemy and has been banned from National Security Agency premises in Maryland....

Because of its ability to repeat what it hears, Security Agency officials were worried "that people would take them home and they'd start talking classified,'' according to one anonymous Capitol Hill source.

Boy, those NSA people are paranoid, somehow getting all worried about people being recorded by innocent little devices like toys.

Where would they get an idea like that?

Monday, June 2, 2014

In support of time travel #apmp

"Hey, boss, I got that email ready for you...yeah, the one for the follow-up to the APMP Bid & Proposal Con last week. Yeah, I sent you a copy of the draft."

"What's that? Add a graphic to it? Let me...yeah, I know. Graphics add comprehension to communications...I know, I know....How about if I just throw the conference logo graphic thing in there? OK, I'll do that."

(Two minutes later.)

"Yeah, boss, I sent that email out with the graphic, but after I sent it out, I noticed something."

"Uh, look at the bottom right. We created the graphic before the conference, and we put 'REGISTER NOW' in big letters. But now we're sending this email out AFTER the conference, and we still got that 'REGISTER NOW' message there."

"What's that, boss? You say proposal people, because of deadlines, will pioneer time travel?"

"Well, um, yeah, boss, if they time travel back to register, we COULD get 10,000 conference attendees."

Efficiency, over-maximized #apmp


During the APMP Bid & Proposal Con that I attended last week, there was obviously a lot of talk about process. Proposals are projects, and as I've noted previously, a number of people and other resources need to be coordinated when a large proposal must be shipped.

But other people have to follow processes also, including the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. This was the host hotel for Bid & Proposal Con, and one of the hotel's tasks was to coordinate the lunches on Tuesday and Wednesday. Since there were 800 attendees at the conference, this was no small undertaking, and the hotel staff had to figure out how to feed 800 people in an efficient manner in 90 minutes.

Apparently, "efficient" was a key priority of the hotel.

Now I wasn't irritated at how the hotel staff responded to the challenge - this was nothing like the manhandling that took place when I attended a Hewlett Packard sales conference a decade ago - but I was somewhat amused at how the process was executed.

The hotel staff clearly had instructions. When the attendees arrived at 11:30, they were to be provided with a salad, along with rolls and water. After each attendee finished salad, the staff would provide the main course. After an attendee finished the main course, dessert would be provided.

On Tuesday, I arrived at lunch at 11:30 and got to observe the efficient way in which the hotel staff handled the challenge. They obviously followed a detailed set of instructions - for example, when a person's salad plate was removed, the staff also removed the person's salad fork and salad knife. Everything went according to plan, and the waiter at my Tuesday table was able to handle exceptions; for example, one person arrived while the main course was being served, but the waiter was able to provide a salad, then the main course, then the dessert.

Come Wednesday, I got to observe the exception process first hand. You see, on Wednesday I didn't get to lunch until 11:45. (I had to call my office at 9:30 Pacific time.)

I found an unoccupied chair at a table, and there was even a salad sitting at that place. Perfect timing, I thought.

Not exactly.

About one minute later, the waiter came to serve me the main course. He told me that he was not taking my salad away, but he did move the salad toward the center of the table so that he could put the main course where it was supposed to go.

Unfortunately, the waiter's process conflicted with my own. According to the Bredehoft Fine Restaurant Lunch Process (May 2014 update), paragraph 2.1 clearly states that I should eat salad before I eat the main course.

So, after the waiter left, I switched the places of my salad and main course, placing the main course at the center of the table while I ate my salad.

We'll return to my lunch placement in a minute. In the meantime, the waiter obviously had a task to perform, since the main course had already been served. There was still an unoccupied seat at the table with a salad sitting there, so the waiter removed the salad and the place settings.

You can guess what happened a few minutes later. Yes, another person arrived to lunch late and sat at a chair with no salad and no utensils. The waiter picked up on this, and provided utensils and a main course. (Unlike my waiter on Tuesday, this waiter apparently chose not to exercise the "serve latecomers a salad first" exception.)

As I previously noted, I was not angry at how the waiter followed process, because his following of process provided me with a great potential benefit. After a few minutes, the waiter realized that I had finished my salad, so he came to remove my salad plate. (I had thoughtfully placed both my salad fork and my unused salad knife on the salad plate to make his removal task easier.) So now that the salad had been removed, and there was an empty spot in front of me, the waiter automatically proceeded to the next step in the process, and provided me with a main course.

I had to point out to the waiter that he had already provided me with a main course, that I had moved to the center of the table. Since I didn't want to eat two main courses for lunch (I didn't want to be sleepy that afternoon), he removed the new main course that he had placed there, and allowed me to eat the old main course that he had previously provided.

My amusement continued throughout the meal. For example, after the waiter had served dessert, the process obviously dictated that the bread from the salad course had to be removed from the table. (Maybe this is in Leviticus, but I don't recall that particular verse.) So the waiter removed the bread...and the butter...and the half-eaten piece of bread from one person who hadn't finished her bread yet.

This is especially amusing because of the way that I approach meals.


Because of working for an international company, and because of my family's involvement in Youth for Understanding, I have obviously met a number of Europeans. And some of my French and Swiss co-workers and friends have observed that my dining habits pretty much consist of eating, and that's it. Other cultures make the dining experience more of a social experience, and meals that last several hours are not uncommon in those cultures.

So on the face of it, I should have enjoyed the efficiency of last Wednesday's lunch, but I'll admit that it was a bit TOO efficient for me.

This is something that I'm going to try to remember as I work on my processes and my company's processes, most of which do not revolve around lunch. Do my processes allow the flexibility for exceptions, while still allowing the overall goal to be realized?

#empoblognov03 So what is the Obama Doctrine? And what will Obama's successor take from the White House?

On November 16, 2003 (back when my Sunday posts were more frequent), I wrote a post that explained...well, it's easier to just quote it:

I have discovered a pattern in our U.S. presidents that appears to indicate that George W. Bush, our 43rd president, will only be succeeded by five other individuals.

First a look back at some of our presidents in history.

Our sixth president, John Quincy Adams, was the first (and for many years the only) president who was the son of a former president (in this case, his father John Adams).

He was followed by Andrew Jackson, a charismatic, controversial Democrat.

He was succeeded by New Yorker Martin Van Buren, Jackson's former vice president (and, for many years, the only vice president who was elected to the presidential office immediately after serving as vice president).

Our next president? The old William Henry Harrison.

Our tenth president was the southerner John Tyler, who was not re-elected.

Fast forward over a century, and meet some of our more recent presidents:

Number 39: Jimmy Carter, a southerner who was not re-elected.

Number 40: The old Ronald Reagan, who was older than Harrison.

Number 41: The former vice president George H.W. Bush, famous for breaking the Van Buren curse.

Number 42: The charismatic, controversial Democrat William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton.

Number 43: George W. Bush, son of a former president.

Interesting pattern in reverse, and you don't have to take off your shoes to determine that if the pattern holds, the next five presidents will share characteristics with Monroe, Madison, Jefferson, Adams senior, and Washington. After that, what do we get? An ineffective government? A mad king? No one knows....

Sometimes I wonder how my brain works.

Of course, back in 2003, we didn't know who the next President would be.


There was a possibility that the next President could be whoever became the 2004 Democratic nominee. At various times, the people vying for that spot included John Kerry (the eventual nominee), Dick Gephardt, Wesley Clark, John Edwards, Howard Dean, and Al Sharpton.

None of them won the Presidency in 2004, although Dean became immortalized (perhaps unfairly) by a recorded audio scream.

The guy who eventually succeeded George W. Bush as President was someone who didn't even run for President in 2004. In fact, it was a guy who was a virtually unknown Illinois state senator in 2004, trying to get a seat in the U.S. Senate - and who was immensely helped in that endeavor by a speech he gave at the 2004 Democratic Convention - the one that nominated Kerry, who eventually became Secretary of State under Barack Obama (replacing Hillary Clinton).

Now if my theory holds true, Barack Obama (George W. Bush's successor) is supposed to be a parallel of James Monroe (John Quincy Adam's predecessor). Now Monroe is known for two things. One of these is the "Era of Good Feelings," in which the Federalist Party ceased to be effective and there was a one-party system in the country. Although a case could be made that there is only one party that rules today - the "government party" - most people see our current government as subject to Democratic vs. Republican gridlock. No Era of Good Feelings here.

But perhaps there's a parallel in Monroe's other claim to fame - the Monroe Doctrine. At its most basic level, the Monroe Doctrine was an assertion that the United States has the authority to intervene in the affairs of other countries when those affairs affect us.

Yawn, you say. That's not unique to Obama. Every President since Truman, and several before Truman, have maintained that the U.S. has the power to intervene anywhere in the world. And we've done so, sending forces or equivalents to Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Chile, Afghanistan, Grenada, Kuwait, and a whole bunch of other places.

But perhaps Obama crossed a line here, since he was caught spying on an ally - German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Notice that I say "was caught," since spying on Germany's leaders predated Obama. But by the time of the Obama Administration, we had turned the Monroe Doctrine on its ear. Rather than warning Europe not to interfere in the affairs of the American nations, the Obama Doctrine warned Europe that we would interfere in their affairs.


Unless a calamity occurs beforehand, we will have a new President on January 20, 2017. And if my model continues to be predictive, this new President will be the parallel to Monroe's predecessor, James Madison. While Madison is remembered as one of the leading forces behind the Constitution, his Presidency is primarily remembered for the humiliating defeat at Washington, DC during the War of 1812 - a defeat that forced the First Family to evacuate the White House. Now we've never had such a threat to our national government since 1814 - even during the Civil War, Washington itself was never invaded by Confederate troops. But if you believe either the right-wing wackos of the left-wing wackos who are convinced that Washington is going to hell in a handbasket, is it too far-fetched to believe that Washington DC may find itself under attack at some point between 2017 and 2025?

Perhaps the President and the President's spouse may be forced to evacuate the White House. (Or, if true marriage equality becomes law, the President and the President's spouses.) If so, what will the President's spouse(s) take during the evacuation? A picture of George Washington? A one petabyte storage device? A Coca-Cola?


Which brings us to the President after the President after Obama. Now Jefferson, despite being known as a small government guy, is probably most famous for doubling the size of our country via the Louisiana Purchase. I don't think that our forty-sixth President is going to double the size of our country - I don't think Canada or Mexico are suddenly going to become red, white, and blue. But if the country is truly going downhill, then perhaps President number 46, instead of doubling the size of the country, will actually cut it in half.

An argument could be made that we're already well on the way to such a divide. For the last couple of decades, talk of red states and blue states has replaced talk of other country divisions, such as the "solid South." In the red state/blue state theory, the coasts are blue (Democratic) while the middle of the country is red (Republican).

What if such a division of the country were actually formalized?

Maybe President 46 will be so, um, "progressive" that the good folks of Texas and other areas will withdraw from the United States. Or, conversely, President 46 may be so "patriotic" that the coasts may split off and form the Inclusive States of America Unless You're a Bigot That We Don't Like.

Impossible, one may say. Yet Czechoslovakia split up (without bloodshed). The Soviet Union split up. The Netherlands Antilles split up. Scotland may split off from the rest of the United Kingdom. And you have those countries that split up due to war, such as Korea and (for a time) Germany and Vietnam. Within the United States itself, individual states have split up and created new states such as Vermont, Maine, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.


I've predicted enough disasters for one day. If Washington gets invaded and our country splits in two, who knows what will happen during the reigns of the last Presidents of the United States.

And afterwards. Articles of Confederation? A reunion with the (non-Scots) England? Giving the whole thing back to the Native Americans and heading back to Europe, Africa, and Asia?

Stranger things have happened.