Month: May 2020

Update: Garden Expansion

We had a few extra large blocks left over, so we expanded the first bed — now there are a few extra feet of growing space.

We used the smaller blocks to build a second bed to the south of the first one.

And filled both the new bed and the extra space in the first bed with dirt.

Today, we finished assembling the third bed. We’ll get the fourth bed together and fill them both with dirt.

One giant leap for profiteering

I cannot help but see NASA’s use of private companies for space travel as a giant leap for profiteering. I’ve never thought government should be run like a business — businesses are, quite often, run quite terribly and the entire point is to make money. Government should be run like a non-profit. Farming out government functionality to non-profits makes a modicum of sense, but for-profit prisons?! For-profit health insurance!? For-profit military equipment/manpower?! Any of these seem to ensure some powerful lobby wants to expand demand — more people in prison, more sick people (don’t cure something, develop a drug that costs a couple hundred bucks a month), and INVADE!!! Reusable first stage rockets are a great advance in space travel — but there’s no reason NASA couldn’t have designed one. The only “progress” we made today is that some private company can profit from my tax dollars going toward space travel and research.

Private Prisons

I wonder how much privatization of prisons has contributed to police violence. The American health care system optimizes profit by creating take-two-a-day-forever pills to manage symptoms rather than curing people. Many years ago, Scott’s annual check-up revealed high cholesterol. Lipitor, the doctor said, would fix that right up. And it’s cheap — especially if insurance covers it — so why not try it? The doctor went on to tell him that lifestyle changes might produce a slight reduction, but the drug would work miracles. Give it a month or two, you’ll see. Instead of taking the medication, we spent some time researching which lifestyle components would most significantly increase his cholesterol. Identified one and changed it. I’m certain the drug would have worked faster, but his cholesterol level at the next annual checkup was in the healthy range. No medication required.

Creating a profit motive for increasing prison populations could encourage a criminal justice response — respond to mental health issues with incarceration, respond to poverty with incarceration. In fairness, though, there’s a long history of incarceration-instead-of-social-changes — Jean Valjean. It’s an easy solution — just like popping Lipitor would have been an easy solution. And people (individuals, businesses, governments) like easy solutions. But there seems to be a logical correlation between for-profit prison systems, campaign finance, and high levels of incarceration. Just like we’re seeing stories about drug companies encouraging doctors to write prescriptions for their medication. Not just their as opposed to another brand (especially since there are a decent number of drugs without competitors), but writing prescriptions for *medication* at the slightest provocation.

That didn’t take long

Today, Trump managed to run up against the ramifications of his EO that I predicted yesterday. He quoted some police chief who was on the wrong side of the race riots back in the late 60’s. While his message was first just locked so others couldn’t interact with it (censorship, but not censoring him), my understanding is that the thing is now hidden. Which is censorship. Censorship that is more or less required if the Section 230 exception doesn’t apply to Twitter.

Twitter isn’t responsible for the content users post on their site. The social media business model becomes untenable if they’ve got to employ people and technology to police content sufficiently to minimize legal risk. If they are responsible for content posted on their site, then, yeah, they need to hide/delete posts inciting violence, libelous information, and a whole lot of other data they’ve been allowing to fly. Content that makes up a good bit of Trump’s Twitter usage.

On Censorship

Trump finally issued his Executive Order retaliation against Twitter “censoring” his free speech online. Now I know people who use “talk to the lawyer” as a threat — a lot of people don’t have a decent understanding of the law, and many more people don’t have the time and/or money to deal with litigation. The times I’ve been threatened with “the lawyer”, the person had no legal case against me. I was, I expect, not meant to realize they had no case and cave immediately because lawyer = scary? Trump’s EO seems like the same kind of “empty threat”. Why? The implication of the order harms Trump. He’s a huge abuser of Twitter’s ability to ignore content based on Section 230. A great deal of his campaign strategy hinges on continuing to use Twitter as a platform to spread misinformation and hatred.

I’m not sure he can start regulating Twitter – he can try, and it will move through the courts. A publisher has control over their content — when the Hinckley Record includes letters to the editor on its website or print magazine, someone read through them and decided to include the letter in the publication. All of the comments on my blog are held in a moderation queue. This is sustainable because I get a few hundred visitors a day and a few comments per month. Is it feasible for the Hinckley Record to moderate all comments before they are posted? For a small paper, maybe. Is it feasible for Slate to moderate each comment before it is visible on the site? Is it feasible for Facebook to have someone read every single post before it goes live?! Even if courts decide he can remove Section 230 protections for social media companies … can he regulate the social media platforms that he dislikes while not regulating those who give him more leeway? Twitter loses the protection because they inform us that mail-voting isn’t rife with fraud, but Facebook removes all sorts of content too.

The legal basis for suspending Section 230 protection aside … Twitter hasn’t censored him. Slapping a label on free speech indicating said speech is factually inaccurate isn’t censoring. It could be considered editorializing. Or it could be considered fair warning. And I’m certain there’s a party-line divide on opinions there.

Future Idea — Anya Job

Scott had a business idea for Anya — mobile concession stand at the park next door. To me, it seems an easy sell in their off-season — have thermoses of hot cocoa and mulled cider. But he was thinking in the summer, selling their ice cream and bottled water.

Reasonable Doubt

America need an org that identifies police misconduct instead of DNA testing and will file motions for new trials to present the perfectly reasonable argument that flagrant misconduct is likely not an isolated incident. Somewhat like Project Innocence, but with a different basis for their requests. 

There were some cops in Philly (well, I’m sure this isn’t unique to Philly) who got fed up with not finding evidence on people who they “knew” were clockin … so they planted what they needed to find, ignored search and seizure laws, etc. The city had to go back through a whole lot of cases because, hey, that’s reasonable doubt as Bob has been saying for three years that it wasn’t his crack. If memory serves, the city also had to fork over a bunch of money in restitution.
Would an officer who is willing to kill someone take the mindset of the Philly cops? ‘Knows’ the person is guilty, frustrated that no evidence can be found. Even without extrapolating additional misconduct, how many *other* people were ‘resisting’ like Mr. Floyd? People who ended up incarcerated for resisting arrest and/or assaulting an officer. The actions of the individuals in Minnesota seems like new evidence that would create reasonable doubt in other cases where the officers involved claim someone was resisting. Bob says he wasn’t resisting arrest. Officer Fred, who has demonstrably lied saying a compliant person was resisting, says Bob was resisting. That’s a far different assertion than Bob says he wasn’t resisting, Officer Fred, who is an upstanding officer with a decade of service, says Bob was resisting.

Knowing the Law

We had some chap in the back yard on Saturday afternoon. Memorial Day weekend Saturday. He’s a surveyor, and the pins on the property he’s trying to survey aren’t there. So he’s getting other pins for reference. But he didn’t want to provide his name or the name of his company. Which … yeah, dodgy. Scott ended up calling the police out, and they claim that surveyors can just wander on your property whenever they want. But the chap said he didn’t actually need to be on our property and took off.

Turns out he actually does work for a survey/engineering company. The prospective buyer who engaged the survey company stopped by to chat a bit. It’s amazing what a little customer service knowledge would get you — providing your name, license number (you know, something we could look up), and a business card with your company’s info is a lot less suspect than “no, I don’t need to give you my name or the company’s name. I can just wander around your property any time I want”. Honey v/s vinegar. At that, why in the world would the company’s policy not be driving up to the neighboring property, ringing the bell, and asking first?! That’s just polite.

Funniest part of the whole thing, though? We looked up the actual laws for Ohio. ORC 163.03yes, a surveyor can wander onto your property. 48 hours after they notify you of their intention. They are not, however, allowed to randomly decide to wander around your property on Saturday afternoon with no notice. And, if you want to be a real jerk about it, you could still deny them access and adjudicate whether the pins in question are ‘necessary or proper for the purpose of the agency’.

Just because a law enforcement officer tells you something is the law doesn’t mean it’s the law.

Bad Apples

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ‘few bad apples’ thing people like to say whenever police violence is reported. That’s not the whole saying. The rest is *spoils the whole bunch”. We grow potatoes. An actual job at my house is going through the bins of harvested potatoes every week or so and pulling out the bad ones. All year long.
My point? Well, if I left those few bad potatoes in the bin … after a few weeks, I’d have nothing but rotted potatoes in that bin. What if I let my potatoes move around between bins without keeping track of rotted ones? By mid-January, I’d have a lot of bins full of rotted potatoes.