California Is at It Again

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Here are two more reasons why I can never move to California. One, state Sen. Liz Figueroa's amendment to SB 1822, which, among other things, would "forbid companies from scanning the actual content of e-mails for the purpose of placing targeted direct marketing ads." Basically, she wants to "stop Google from secretly 'oogling' private e-mails." However, there is no secret here. Google has been very upfront with its plans.


Figueroa's legislation would require Google to obtain the consent of every individual before their e-mails are scanned. OK, how about this, Liz? Anyone sending an e-mail to a Gmail account would get an automatic reply message saying: "Google's computers are about to scan the e-mail you just sent in order for us to include some advertising to the person you're sending it to so we can pay for the free e-mail service he or she is using. If you're really, really sure you want to send it, click here. If not, do nothing and have a nice day, but your e-mail will not be sent." A better solution? Bury the bill in Figueroa's back yard and forget about it.


The other reason? AB 21666, which would require mailers sending unsolicited CDs and DVDs to include a postage-paid return mailer. The bill passed the California Assembly Natural Resources Committee last week, and the bill's sponsor expects it to pass the Assembly next month. What's next? Requiring catalogers to include a postage-paid envelope for people who didn't request a catalog?


Congress' Hidden Tax


Even though a postal reform bill will be introduced any day now, I'm not holding my breath for Congress to pass anything this year. What lawmaker would want to talk about the possibility of closing unprofitable postal facilities in an election year? However, Congress needs to address the $27 billion in military service retirement liability costs of USPS employees. Requiring it to pay pension costs for employees who served in the military before they joined the postal service is nothing but a hidden tax on its customers.


No other federal agency has a similar burden. As postmaster general John Potter, Sen. Susan Collins, Reps. John McHugh and Henry Waxman, the General Accounting Office and President Bush's handpicked postal commission have said, this responsibility should be shouldered by the taxpayer, not the ratepayer. Who doesn't agree? The Bush administration. If this problem isn't fixed, the postal service says it will have to raise rates even more next time to pay for it.


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