A quandry for Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless has a foolish policy in which it charges for text messages sent and received. For my plan, it charges 15 cents per message – what a rip! And it is those 15 cent charges for receiving text message that will come back to haunt Verizon for years to come.

Text messages are essentially emails ([phone number]@vtext.com). It is no secret that spam is a scourge that effects regular email and the Internet in epidemic proportions. And it is only a matter of time before spammers all set their sites on sending text messages indiscriminately to any and all phone numbers a generator can spit out. It seems they already have started in sufficient quantity that my wife received one this evening.

New Text Msg

Message from Royce@dutlru.tudelft.nl

(hey) hey, i seen your profile wondering if ya wanted to chat on msn hit me up at realhotjane1@hotmail.com

1/24 10:13p

For that message I was charged 15 cents. To wipe out the charge, I was forced to call Verizon customer service and request it reverse the charge. In the end, that one text message cost Verizon $3, or whatever it costs to handle one call. I was told it now has an option to blacklist certain email addresses and turn off text messaging but I refuse to bother using either option since it really doesn’t resolve the problem or my issue. As such, each future spam message will cost Verizon another $3+, since I will call to complain then as well. When I called, the customer service rep told me I’m not the only person complaining about receiving spam and requesting a charge be reversed. Verizon needs to stop charging customers to receive text messages before spam becomes more costly than it already has.

It was only a matter of time

It was only a matter of time before the credit crunch and mortgage foreclosure mania became fodder for spammers and joined the likes of Ci@lis, V!@gra, and Peni$ enlargements in the inbox of wary readers. I received this email this evening:

—– Original Message —-
From: John Cummuta <John_Cummuta@****.com>
To: ****@yahoo.com
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 3:16:55 PM
Subject: A unique way out of debt

Your Debts Could Make You Rich!

Your debts disappear (even your house is paid off) in 5-7 years, and you retire debt-free… using nothing more than the money you’re currently earning plus one of today’s best-kept secrets: Does my story sound too familiar?I should’ve seen it, because each day I dressed myself in clothes paid for by credit cards, walked on financed carpet in our mortgaged house, and drove a leased car.

But even when the company I worked for went under and I found myself scrambling to keep from losing the house, cars, furniture, and our good name, I still didn’t see it. Then, a couple of days later, when I was forced to sell my gold Corvette and my wife’s Olds Regency, it hit me: I was a prisoner of debt.

As long as I owed people money, they owned me! At that moment, I made myself a promise: “I will never be this vulnerable again!” I had to find a way out of debt. And that’s exactly what I did. But in the process, I developed a unique method that transforms debt into wealth. So much wealth, that almost anyone who uses it can be a millionaire by the time he or she retires. And best of all … you can accumulate your $1 million nest egg using nothing more than the money you’re currently earning.

And it’s easy: One year after I explained my method to Jan and Jerrel Herron (both in their 50s), their credit cards and two cars were paid off. In the second year, they paid off the mortgage. Then they showed my method to their 32-year-old twin sons. One son quickly paid off his house. The other paid his off one year later.

The same happened to Ruth DeHaven of Santee, CA: “We were over $125,000 in debt. Today, just 3 years later, we are completely debt-free, including no mortgage on our house, and my husband and I have just retir ed at at age 55.”

And Dale Prull, from San Jose, CA, says, “After only 8 months all my credit cards were paid off. Ten months later my car was paid off. The value of my home is over $400,000 and will be paid off in 3 years and 4 months. Following your plan, I’ll retire 12 years later with almost $1 million.”

Over half a million people have used my method, and now it’s your turn.

Stop being a prisoner of debt today! Discover how good it feels to wake up each morning knowing you own your car, house, and everything you have, and you don’t owe a penny to anyone. No more bills in the mailbox.

My method transforms your debt into wealth – growing to $1 million – using nothing more than the money you’re currently earning. Thanks to the best-kept secret of the investment industry, you’re in control of your life: free, financially independent – enjoying peace of mind, knowing your family is safe and you’re set for life!

See how it works today.

John Cummuta

P.S. Don’t make another payment on your home, car, or credit card until you hear the truth of today’s 5 biggest rip-offs – from some of America’s largest, most-trusted names. Stop making others rich, while they keep you poor – a prisoner of debt. Break free today … and transform your debt into wealth.

This is a commercial message from ********. To stop receiving commercial messages promoting John Cummuta and **********, please visit http://www.************.com/remove/ You may also email your unsubscribe request to remove@************.com or mail your request with a copy of this original email to: *********, 2710 Thomas Ave. Suite 334, Cheyenne, WY 82001.

*********.com Compliance:
You are subscribed with the email address ********@yahoo.com. We respect your privacy. In our effort to keep up with good business practices, we now offer two ways To unsubscribe from our email lists
If you do not wish to receive any more emails from
*********.com read below:
To Unsubscribe on the web Click Here! and follow the instructions. or write us to the address below with a written request.
Once we have received your submission, you will be removed automatically from our subscribers list.
If you feel that you have received this message in error You may contact us at at ********@gmail.com or at our mailling address.
mailing address for *********.com:
*********.com Customer Care
5314 16th avenue
Suite 442
Brooklyn NY 11204

Some sap who is down on their luck will respond to this email and the avalanche will begin. This scammer is preying on desperate people. I expect the FTC will continue to do its job and look the other way.

Change is the only constant

The winds of change are blowing again and my direction in life has shifted again, if only slightly. I begin working at Yahoo! on Wednesday, returning to the small team responsible for the privacy policy. I’ll work 30-35 hours a week. I also downshifted to part-time status at school and am taking nine units this semester: Tax, Privacy Law, and Copyrights. I can still graduate in May 2009, although I may take my time now that Sprout will join us in June. I need to average just under nine units over four semesters to finish. 🙂

I’m just glad these changes don’t involve a move in any way. We’re keeping our little one bedroom apartment. 😀

Fall semester, a recap

What a wild and crazy ride.

For no good reason, I took 17 units during the fall semester. I don’t recommend it to anyone else. I had five classes total: Constitutional Law II (Con Law), Evidence, Business Organizations (Biz Orgs), Mass Communications (Mass Comm), and International Law. I also enrolled in the Advanced Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) clinic.

Con Law, Evidence, and Biz Orgs are called bar classes. That means they are considered essential because the subjects are tested on the bar exam. International Law is not required but I’m very intrigued by the subject matter. All four of these classes had exams which ended in December. Grades have been trickling in for the past week.

I took Mass Comm because I intend to be a communications attorney, or at the very least be involved in communications policy. Mass Comm. was a paper class, meaning no test was given but a 30 page paper was required. I posted about my paper previously (see: Book Closed)

NCIP, I posted about previously (see: FresnoBee.com: Fresnanâ??s murder conviction reversed).

So far, I’m enjoying my best semester since high school with an A- in each: Con Law, Evidence, and International Law. I say that as I knock on wood with crossed fingers. I’m still waiting for Biz Orgs, Mass Comm, and NCIP. Much better than last year’s grades (2.89 g.p.a.) thus far .

Update: I now have all my grades. I don’t think I’ve had a better semester before now in terms of grades. I have three A- grades, two A grades, and one B grade (Biz Orgs). To celebrate, I’m sticking my nose into research for my privacy law class paper. 🙂

Something is rotten in the State of California

It is no secret California housing prices have gone to the moon over the past several years. It is so expensive in California that only a small percentage truly can afford a home. But the bubble has popped, prices have stopped increasing, and foreclosures, although minimal, have climbed up. Three things that will happen as a result: (1) prices will come back to earth; or (2) inflation eventually will catch up to home prices; or (3) a little bit of both.

Merced, California is in the Great Central Valley near Yosemite. It is also home to the newest University of California (UC). And it has been a hot bed of property investing by people who thought a new UC would bring boom to the town and quick profits. Unfortunately for them, it’ll take fifteen to twenty years before the UC is fully built out. For now, it has about 1,800 students.

Today, Merced has 988 houses for sale, according to Realtor.com. Trulia shows 1,269 homes for sale in Merced, of which 938 (74%) are in some stage of foreclosure. That means only 331 homes (26%) are not officially distressed sales. RealtyTrac, a company that tracks foreclosure activity says 1577 properties are in some stage of the foreclosure process: 716 in pre-foreclosure, 240 at auction, 548 bank-owned, and a smattering of others in other foreclosure categories. That is a huge, huge number in relation to the number of homes for sale. The RealtyTrac number is likely a harbinger of things to come. There are 25,000 housing units in Merced, according to the Census Bureau fact finder, thus approximately 6.3% of all homes in Merced are in some stage of foreclosure right now. Also, according to the Census Bureau median household income is $31,000 and the median home price is $344,000. Note: In the three days it took me to compile this post (between all the other things I’m working on) the number of homes for sale and in foreclosure on Trulia increased by about 10 each and the percentage of homes for sale in some stage of foreclosure ticked up a percentage point. In those same three days, the RealtyTrac numbers also increased: (a) homes in some stage of foreclosure: +48; (b) homes at auction: +23; and (c) bank owned: +23.

Compare Merced with Rancho Cucamonga, a sprawling city east of Los Angeles. Rancho Cucamonga sprung up as a bedroom community to house the many commuters and their families over the past decade.

Today, Rancho Cucamonga has 931 houses for sale, according to Realtor.com. Trulia shows 1,272 homes for sale in Rancho Cucamonga, of which 754 (59%) are in some stage of foreclosure. That means only 518 homes (41%) are not officially distressed sales. RealtyTrac, a company that tracks foreclosure activity says 1,451 properties are in some stage of the foreclosure process: 703 in pre-foreclosure, 252 at auction, 423 bank-owned, and a smattering of others in other foreclosure categories. The RealtyTrac number is likely a harbinger of things to come. There are 52,000 housing units in Rancho Cucamonga, according to the Census Bureau fact finder, thus approximately 2.8% of all homes in Rancho Cucamonga are in some stage of foreclosure right now. Also, according to the Census Bureau median household income is $75,000 and the median home price is $525,000.

Now compare Merced and Rancho Cucamonga with San Jose, heart of the Silicon Valley which is in turn the heart of the technology and information economies. There are some who say prices never go down in the Silicon Valley.

San Jose has 3,100 houses for sale, according to Realtor.com. Trulia shows 4,000 homes for sale of which 2,500 (63%) are in some stage of foreclosure. That means, only 1,500 homes are not officially distressed sales. RealtyTrac says 4,200 properties are in some stage of foreclosure: 2100 are in pre-foreclosure, 820 are up at auction, 1150 are bank owned. San Jose has 310,000 housing units according to the Census Bureau, in which case approximately 1.3% of homes are in some stage in the foreclosure process. Median household income is $89,000 and median home price is $683,000.

I know I’m relying upon web site listings of homes for sale which may not accurately reflect the true situation, but I think it is good enough to show a snapshot in time and the current trend. I’m not an economist but even I can tell this spells trouble. I dare say it is likely to spell trouble for the state as a whole if most every other community is facing numbers.

I wish I had more time to gather more of this information and plug the numbers into a spreadsheet, to research and forecast housing prices for when we’re ready to buy. Without much more, I dare say this is just the beginning. If there is a recession, subsequent lay offs are likely to push the housing market further toward a precipice. In the end, I think prices will return to a level that the average person with an average income in an area will be able to afford the monthly payments for, including San Jose.

Book closed

The book for the fall semester is now closed. It was brutal but I’m finally done with it.

I turned in my Mass Communications paper at 4:55 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 10), with five minutes to spare. I had intended to finish it a few days earlier but was knocked out with the flu last weekend. Who am I kidding? I would have still turned it in Thursday afternoon, regardless. 😉

My paper argues for Congress and federal regulators to scrap the current communications regulatory regime.

Traditionally, the federal government has taken a silo approach to communications regulation. In other words, each mode of communication is considered and regulated differently.

Think of grain silos rising above the plains like a row of overseers. Each silo holds and isolates a specific type of grain, protects it from the elements, and prevents mixing with the other grains. Similarly, traditional communications regulatory silos isolate individual forms of communication â?? as well as their respective sets of regulations â?? from each other. There are silos for broadcast television and radio, cable television, satellite television, cable Internet access, digital subscriber line (DSL) Internet access over a copper telephone line, telephone service over a copper line, and so forth.

As a result of the silo approach, each mode of communication is controlled by a separate set of regulations, even those that carry the same, exact content. For example, broadcast television and cable television both show audio/visual content on a television set, yet each is governed by different content regulations. Those content regulations in turn receive different standards of review by courts, which allow the government to continue its disparate treatment of the two. That’s why swearing is more allowable on cable television but not on broadcast television.

In the same way, the current regulatory approach also isolates and provides differential treatment of communications services using the same physical conduit. For example, one set of regulations govern cable television while a separate set of regulations govern cable Internet access, even though both media forms utilize the same physical cables.

In contrast to the silo approach to regulations, a layered regulatory framework would raze distinctions between the types of communication and instead focus on the functional portions of a communications network used to transfer content. Such a layered regulatory approach would treat similar content similarly, independent of source, service type, and destination. The model that works best contains four layers: content, application, logical, and physical. If you need a visual analogy, think of the layers stacked like pancakes.

By creating regulatory layers based on functions of a network, the regulatory process would better take into consideration the similarities and differences between the different modes of communication and the technology platforms that underlie each and thus eliminate the disparate â??siloâ? regulations that arbitrarily govern identical content differently.

The argument is very wonkish. If you’re geek enough and wish to read all 39 pages, including footnotes, please do. Razing the Silos: An Argument For A Layered Communications Regulatory Framework (PDF). It is just a term paper, but I intend to keep working on it over the next several years and eventually submit it to law journals for publication.