Bernie doesn’t understand the drug market

I’ll say this up front: if you’re complaining about the cost of something today compared to several decades ago, and your explanation doesn’t include change in demand and the FDA, you’re out of touch with how things work.

Enter Senator Bernie Sanders.

So how can we explain this? Let’s start with inflation. Now inflation alone doesn’t account for a 14-fold increase in price. 21 USD in 1996 is equivalent to about 37 USD today. So that’s only about 16 USD of the nearly 300 USD increase. Hmm…

So what about change in demand? Across the last 25 years, how has the demand for insulin changed? A. Fucking. Lot. But enough to account for a 14-fold increase in price?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 10.5% of the population in 2018 has diabetes – about 34.2 million people – and about 1.5 million people are newly diagnosed each year. And the prevalence of diabetes has gone up significantly over the last 20 years among adults, from about 9.5% to 12%.

Now that alone also doesn’t account for a 14-fold increase. According to the United States Census Bureau, there were approximately 209 million adults in 2000, compared to 258 million in 2020. That means the total number of diabetics increased from shy of 20 million in 2000 to almost 31 million in 2020. A greater than 50% increase.

Okay so change in demand plus inflation should mean the price of insulin should be… about 55 USD, right? Not quite. Because there are a ton of other factors that determine the price of insulin.

First is the capability to meet that demand. Making insulin isn’t easy. Just like… really any drug that needs to be synthesized in mass. Drug makers, just like all manufacturers, have only so much manufacturing capacity. I mean it isn’t like we can just conjure it via a Star Trek replicator. (Boy wouldn’t that solve a lot of problems!) The price they charge to buyers acts as a valve on that demand. So it becomes a balancing act.

So if drug makers cannot meet demand, we just need more insulin makers, right? Well yes, that’s the easy answer. But reality isn’t so simple.

Enter the United States Food and Drug Administration – the FDA. They are the gatekeepers to the drug market in the United States and one of the primary gatekeepers to the health care market. Anyone who wants to make insulin or a vaccine or anything to be offered as a treatment for anything must go through them. First to be licensed as a drug maker (along with any State licensing) with periodic renewal fees, then the insulin you do make has to be licensed before it can be offered for sale.

Insurance definitely doesn’t help here either. And the effect insurance has on the price of everything in health care is pretty well established. (Hint: it’s one of the leading reasons health care costs so much.)

So why is insulin up 14-fold over 25 years ago? A combination of factors.

  1. Substantially increased demand
  2. FDA preventing new insulin makers from entering market
  3. Insurance hiding the cost of insulin allowing drug makers to inflate the price merely because they can

So greed is a factor, but it isn’t the ONLY factor. And I wouldn’t consider it a substantial factor either. Especially since the drug makers also have programs wherein they give away drugs to those who need them (with a proper prescription, of course) if they are low-income and meet other qualifications. And the cost of those programs is passed onto everyone else.

Then there’s the cost of what is needed to produce insulin. And not just the components, but the labor and machinery. I’ve already mentioned the FDA, but regulatory compliance is also another hidden cost. And all costs of business get passed onto the customers. Meaning the cost of the product goes up with the cost of production.

So there are a ton of factors going into why the cost of insulin – and really everything in health care – is higher compared to 25 years ago.

Yeah I get snarky at times

This was an email I recently received:

Hi,

My name is [REDACTED] and I’m an account manager at [REDACTED].

One of our clients has shown interest in being featured on an article on  your website.

Is that something you are able to accommodate?

We have a great inhouse team of writers and we can provide the content, or if you prefer, you can also write it and feature our client.

Can you please send me a price quote for an article? Please keep in mind we are an agency and require competitive pricing as we resell them to our clients.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Best regards,

[REDACTED]

Account Manager

And with that, I decided to send this as a response:

With all due respect, do you walk into a car dealership and, without any preamble, say “Quote me a price for a car…”? Not anything specific. Not providing any details of whether you’ve got a specific make or model in mind. Not listing out your needs. Just “a car”.

So care to tell me the name of your client and how they’re expecting to be featured on my site? Are they looking for me to review a product? A mention in an article relevant to their primary market? (On which knowing their name would allow me to research.) It would’ve been very helpful having that information up front, since that’s what I need to provide a price quote.

Thanks.

That was 5 days ago. Not expecting to hear from them.

And I’ll state this again: no one should be asking me about paid custom content given the very few hits per day my site gets. Which tells me the email they sent me is just another form email that gets cast out into the void to a mailing list.

Quieting the MikroTik CRS317

I actually never thought I’d be writing this article. Almost three years ago when I wrote my review of the MikroTik CRS317, I said it’s “quiet”. Even with SFP modules for GbE connections, since SFP modules do run hotter than optical modules.

Once I put the CSS610 into service, the fans on the CRS317 came on very infrequently.

So what changed?

Internet Upgrade

The whole 10GbE project started back in late 2016. Google Fiber came to Kansas City in 2015, and my apartment complex was part of the early rollout. Since having Google Fiber, with Gigabit up and down, it was the feature we looked for when shopping for another apartment with W/D hookups, and eventually our house.

Plus Google Fiber came with the benefit of it being locked at $70/mo. And that rate NEVER went up.

They recently introduced 2Gb service. (It’s 2Gb down, 1Gb up.) Having a 10GbE switch as the backbone on my home network meant taking advantage of that service bump was easy since one of the connectors on the new router is 10GbE RJ45. (I wish it also had an SFP+ cage so I could use optical fiber, but oh well.)

The switch being SFP+ with no 10GbE RJ45 port meant I just needed to buy an SFP+ RJ45 module. Specifically I bought MikroTik’s S+RJ10. Just plug and play with a Cat6A or Cat7 cable.

So what’s the issue?

It’s hot!

Pretty much all 10GbE RJ45 SFP+ modules run hot. There really isn’t any getting around since they also consume far more power. It takes more power to modulate a signal across a copper wire than through fiber. And more energy consumption means more heat. Active cooling on the SFP modules is the only way to counter this. Which I don’t know of a switch that actually does that.

So it was no surprise, then, that the fans were screaming as the module ran at 70°C or hotter. And with the linen closet where I have the networking equipment being right outside my office door, you can probably imagine how annoying that got. Even with good headphones.

Rigging for silent running

My MikroTik switch has two Chiefly Choice CC4020B12M fans. The manufacturer rates them at around 28.5dB/A on noise, pushing shy of 9 cfm at 7000 rpm. The CRS317 uses two 4-pin fan headers as well, but these are 3-pin fans. So up front these are nowhere near as bad as the fans in the Quanta LB6M.

And they were running at max RPM pretty much all the time after installing the SFP+ module.

Only one name came to mind for replacing the fans: Noctua. Against which I compared other 40mm fans for both airflow and noise. Despite the premium, Noctua had the best balance of both noise and airflow. (In my opinion as of this writing.)

The Noctua NF-A4x20 FLX is rated at around 15dB/A and pushes about 5.5 cfm at 5000 rpm. Much less airflow, which is the unfortunate tradeoff in trying to reduce noise by replacing these small fans. At even just 60mm or 80mm, the tradeoff isn’t nearly as steep, and you can easily find quiet 80mm fans with good airflow. One such fan with an adapter would easily replace both 40mm fans.

But the switch is now much more tolerable compared to the stock fans. And this is still a good upgrade to make even if the fans don’t run all the time. It’ll just mean the switch is virtually inaudible when they do. Which is perfect if the switch is being used as a desktop switch near workstations or in a home office.

So what about that active cooling on the SFP+ module?

Cooling things down

There’s about 20mm of space between the SFP cages and the switch’s lid. So no clearance for typical fans you’d find on the market. And I again wanted a quiet fan. So back to Noctua and the 10mm thick NF-A4x10 FLX. I used VHB tape to hold it in place over the SFP+ module, taping it to the front side of the switch blowing down.

A splitter cable connected the two rear fans to one of the fan connectors – there are only two on the mainboard. And the SFP+ fan is plugged into the second fan connector. With the three 40mm fans, even running at full blast, it is not audible from my office. The stock fans absolutely were.

And that dropped the operating temperature of the SFP+ module by about 15°C. It still runs hot, but the reported temperature is in the low 60s as opposed to the mid to high 70s.

Deleting their wedding

We all love a little petty or nuclear revenge. But what happens when that nuclear revenge comes in the form of formatting memory card(s) in front of a groom? You have a post that has recently been going viral in which a photographer did just that: “AITA for deleting my friend’s wedding photos in front of them?” This one’s a doozy.

I’m not really a photographer, I’m a dog groomer. I take lots of photos of dogs all day to put on my Facebook and Instagram, it’s “my thing” if that makes sense. A cut and a photo with every appointment. I very seldom shoot things other than dogs even if I have a nice set up.

A friend got married a few days ago and wanting to save money, asked if I’d shoot it for them. I told him it’s not really my forte but he convinced me by saying he didn’t care if they were perfect: they were on a shoestring budget and I agreed to shoot it for $250, which is nothing for a 10 hour event.

On the day of, I’m driving around following the bride as she goes from appointment to appointment before the ceremony, taking photos along the way. I shoot the ceremony itself, and during the reception I’m shooting speeches and people mingling.

I started around 11am and was due to finish around 7:30pm. Around 5pm, food is being served and I was told I cannot stop to eat because I need to be photographer; in fact, they didn’t save me a spot at any table. I’m getting tired and at this point kinda regretting doing this for next to nothing. It’s also unbelievably hot: the venue is in an old veteran’s legion and it’s like 110F and there’s no AC.

I told the groom I need to take off for 20min to get something to eat and drink. There’s no open bar or anything, I can’t even get water and my two water bottles are long empty. He tells me I need to either be photographer, or leave without pay. With the heat, being hungry, being generally annoyed at the circumstances, I asked if he was sure, and he said yes, so I deleted all the photos I took in front of him and took off saying I’m not his photographer anymore. If I was to be paid $250, honestly at that point I would have paid $250 just for a glass of cold water and somewhere to sit for 5min.

Was I the asshole? They went right on their honeymoon and they’ve all been off of social media, but a lot of people have been posting on their wall asking about photos with zero responses.

And unsurprisingly, the consensus is Not the Asshole (NTA). And it’s telling that consensus was reached purely through emotion. Well time to dissent from the majority.

In the comments one person pointed out that the “Am I The Asshole” forum isn’t about asking whether someone’s actions are justified. Several have also said the poster should have not deleted the photos but, instead, should have demanded more money for them given the slave-like treatment they endured.

My opinion is quite simple. YTA. The poster is the asshole for deleting the photos. And if you think by saying such I’m somehow dismissing, diminishing, or excusing the groom’s actions here, a basic study in logic will be to your benefit.

So let’s start with the groom.

Yes, the groom is an asshole

The groom talking a dog groomer into being the photographer at his wedding was purely a money move. Wedding photographers normally charge several thousand dollars to photograph a wedding. And with good reason. I’ll let UK photographer Dave McKeegen do the explaining:

There’s a LOT that goes into wedding photography. There’s a LOT that goes into any photo shoot. A lot more than is readily apparent, which is why a lot of people try to undercut what a photographer charges for their services. As the saying goes, we charge what we do because the years of experience you have not seen is what provides the results you do see. And that goes not just for photographers.

And when it comes to photography, while it might look like we’re just pointing our cameras and pressing a shutter, there’s a bit more that goes on before that shutter button is pressed. And with weddings, the shots to take and how to take them is something really only learned through experience. Either as a second photographer or by just shooting a lot of weddings.

So if you think you can get away with hiring just anyone with a camera to photograph your wedding, and doing so for only $250, don’t expect stellar results. Actually, don’t expect really much of anything.

And don’t threaten to not pay them in order to get them to comply with your demands. Even if their agreement was entirely verbal, it’s still fully enforceable with the photos as evidence an agreement existed. If I was in that photographer’s position, I would’ve just up and left, sent them an invoice, and told them I wouldn’t even consider editing what I did take till they paid up.

Your wedding photographer is just as much a part of your wedding as you are. Probably more so. If a wedding was a television or movie production, your photographer is literally the camera crew. Without them, you just have a bunch of people going through the motions and largely… nothing to show for it. As such, treat them the same way you’d treat one of your groomsmen or bridesmaids.

Actually, no. Treat them better than you’d treat anyone in your wedding party. You want good results? Keep them happy.

This also means not denying them breaks and chances for food and drink.

But so is the photographer

So why is the photographer an asshole? Well… the agreement, for starters.

The agreement was to take photographs in exchange for being paid. Your obligations under that agreement begin when you show up. So by deleting the photos that have already been taken – in front of the groom, no less – they became in breach of contract. And could be sued for such. The groom could sue for an injunction forcing the photographer to produce whatever photos were taken. Which would then obligate the photographer to confess under oath that they were destroyed. Intentionally.

Now one could say that since no money changed hands, then the groom wouldn’t be able to get anything. And that’s where “punitive damages” comes in. While not normally awarded in a breach of contract claim, the circumstances here are extenuating.

But there’s a lot more.

I mentioned “collateral damage” in a previous article talking about an employee who quit on the spot after her manager refused to accept her resignation. The photographer didn’t screw over just the groom. They also screwed over the bride and the families of the bride and groom.

Yes, the groom was an asshole without doubt. But that doesn’t justify denying photos to everyone who would’ve expected them.

Had they merely walked away early, I would’ve had zero trouble siding with the photographer. That they went “nuclear”, to borrow Internet parlance, was so far beyond “too far” that they’re no longer in the same galaxy. Exhaustion and hunger got the better of them and they acted without thinking. Which is why they ended up second guessing their actions and went to the Internet in hopes of hearing they did the right thing.

And Reddit, also responding purely emotionally instead of actually thinking through the totality of the circumstance, caved. How predictable.

Trouble clients

Anyone who has worked anywhere knows that trouble clients and customers are just part and parcel. So what, then, if you’re the wedding photographer who is on the receiving end of a groom or bride’s assholery? There’s unfortunately not much you can do about it except stand up for yourself.

If the bride or groom isn’t letting you eat or take any kind of break – e.g. the restroom – then you need to stand your ground. Telling them you will be taking breaks as needed, including for food and water, and that not paying will be met with photos being withheld until they do pay as agreed, with a lawsuit to follow if they don’t pay.

And when that fails, you always have the option to just cut your losses and walk away.

Yes, seriously, that is what it requires. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t have that kind of mindset. This photographer included. Since they didn’t cut their losses. They scorched the earth.

About that trillion dollar coin

Something you may or may not have seen in the news is the “trillion-dollar coin”. Basically the idea is the Treasury would order the United States Mint to create a $1 Trillion coin from platinum. The first time the idea was conjured, it didn’t really gain a lot of traction. So is this really an end-run around the debt ceiling, or is there more to this than people seem to realize?

Let’s do a deep dive into what people are talking about.

Creating coins and seigniorage

Coins are different from the Federal Reserve Notes, which are the paper currency of the United States. Both are created by the United States government and “bought” by the Federal Reserve, and made only by order of the Federal Reserve. Federal Reserve Notes, though, are created by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (who prints more than just the Federal Reserve Notes), and coins are struck by the United States Mint.

31 USC § 5111 is the statute that describes, more or less, how all this happens with regard to coins. Specifically section (b) discusses two funds: a coinage metal fund and coinage profit fund.

The coinage metal fund is exactly as it sounds: it is the money the Treasury (likely the several Mints, directly) uses to buy the metal needed to create new coins. The coinage profit fund is a little different. I’ll quote the statute directly:

The Department of the Treasury has a coinage metal fund and a coinage profit fund. The Secretary may use the coinage metal fund to buy metal to mint coins. The Secretary shall credit the coinage profit fund with the amount by which the nominal value of the coins minted from the metal exceeds the cost of the metal. The Secretary shall charge the coinage profit fund with waste incurred in minting coins and the cost of distributing the coins, including the cost of coin bags and pallets. The Secretary shall deposit in the Treasury as miscellaneous receipts excess amounts in the coinage profit fund.

If you’re familiar with the concept of “seigniorage”, that is the “coinage profit fund” in a nutshell. The face value of each coin minus its cost of production and distribution. But that profit is only applied when the Federal Reserve actually buys the coins, just as stores only record the profit on an item in inventory when it sells. Contrary to the assertions of many, the concept doesn’t apply to the Federal Reserve Notes because, unlike coins, the Federal Reserve Notes aren’t sold to the Federal Reserve at face value.

It’s an interesting catch in how money is created in the United States. The United States creates and sells bonds, some of which are bought by the Federal Reserve on the open market. Then the Federal Reserve uses some of the money it creates to buy Federal Reserve Notes and coins from the United States government. And any operating profit from the Federal Reserve is also deposited into the Treasury.

But that doesn’t offset the national debt. Because what backs the Federal Reserve’s ability to buy coins is United States Treasury securities. So some of the debt the Federal Reserve owns is “cashed out”, so to speak, to buy coins.

The Constitution authorizes Congress the power to “coin Money, and regulate the Value thereof”. “Coin” being the key word here. As such, when the Treasury mints coins, they are creating money from the metal they bought. The Federal Reserve buys the coins at face value plus any overhead, and the Treasury credits to the “coinage profit fund” only occur when that happens.

Which is where the idea of the Trillion-Dollar coin comes into play.

Trillion-dollar coin

Most of the proposals I’ve seen talk about creating a special Trillion-Dollar coin in platinum. The Mint would likely use its current platinum stock to strike the coin, meaning the cost for the platinum to the Mint was far less than its current price on the open market (a little under $1,000/tr.oz. as of this writing). So the “seigniorage” or “coinage profit” on just that one coin would be only a tiny bit less than $1 Trillion.

So what about this “loophole” everyone is talking about, and why the focus on platinum? That comes from 31 USC § 5112(k):

The Secretary may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary’s discretion, may prescribe from time to time.

Currently the only platinum coins the United States Mint produces are the American Platinum Eagle. Like the American Gold Eagle, it’s available in 1 troy ounce and lesser denominations with the 1 tr.oz. coin having a face value of $100. (As of this writing, platinum bullion trades on the open market at slightly under $1,000 per troy ounce.)

So could the United States Mint create a $1 Trillion platinum coin? Yes, if the Treasury Secretary makes such an authorization.

But could they then just “deposit” the coin with the Federal Reserve? Not quite, since the Federal Reserve is a reserve bank, not a depository institution. Yes, that actually matters. To allow the government to deposit any money it creates with the Federal Reserve would require explicit authorization of Congress. And I don’t believe such exists.

Entering circulation

So to actually get the newly-minted Trillion Dollar coin into the economy requires handing it over to a depository institution – e.g. a bank or credit union. From there, the coin would eventually make its way to the Federal Reserve (because no bank would want to keep something like that just sitting around), where it would back $1 Trillion in reserves.

This is actually worse than if Congress did grant the Federal Reserve the power to accept deposits from the Treasury. How so?

Depository institutions have one power the reserve banks do not: fractional reserve banking. They lend out their deposits up to a particular reserve requirement, with the “money multiplier” effect causing that $1 Trillion deposit to turn into nearly $10 Trillion in new liquidity in the monetary system that did not previously exist.

In other words: inflation. Massive inflation.

But even if that $1 Trillion were deposited directly with the Federal Reserve – which does not have the power of fractional reserve banking – that is still another $1 Trillion injected into the money supply. It will still dilute the money supply, and the effect, the result, is still inflation. Just not to the same degree we’d see with fractional reserve banking.

Attempting to shortcut around the debt ceiling by minting a $1 Trillion platinum coin doesn’t change that. It’s still $1 Trillion created out of thin air and backed by… nothing.

Not a solution

Whether Congress votes to extend the debt ceiling or the Treasury creates the $1 Trillion coin, the problem is still the amount of waste and spending at the Federal government. That there are so-called “non-essential” employees that are continually brought up whenever there is a government “shutdown”, or the threat thereof, shows this. As there should not be anything “non-essential” about what the government does.

Creating $1 Trillion out of thin air, whether by minting a coin or the Federal Reserve creating it by buying the Treasury’s debt, without controlling spending is akin to running up your credit card, paying only the assessed interest, and then expecting the issuer to always boost your credit limit rather than you controlling your spending to get your debt under control.

At the same time, the risk here is pretty extreme. And it’s the future risk no one is talking about. Because never expect the Federal government to do anything just once. What you can expect, though, is leftists and Democrats to suddenly become “experts” in inflation if a Republican administration ever brought up the idea to do this.

Thankfully, though, at least as of the time of this writing, this idea is not one the Biden administration is lending any credence.

Charity “tax write off”

The title of this post kind of rubbed me wrong. It’s from a list article derived from a Reddit post called “What screams ‘pretending to be upper class’?

Here’s the question: do the wealthy donate money because of the tax write off, or would they still donate money to charities even if that write-off was not available?

The charitable deduction requires someone to itemize. This means that to actually get the benefit of itemized deductions, you need to have enough deductible expenses to overtake the standard deduction. (Under the CARES Act of 2020, everyone can write off $300 in charitable giving directly, with any remaining charitable requiring itemizing to deduct.)

Now that’s easy for the wealthy. The standard deduction for married filing joint, the highest standard deduction, is about $25,000 (as of this writing). The donation need not be cash either. Donating stock to a hospital to give them residual income from dividends is allowable and comes with additional tax benefits beyond the itemized deduction. Plus charitable expenses are not added back in to calculate the alternative minimum tax either. So there are plenty of tax benefits for the wealthy to make charitable donations.

It’s one of the reasons the United States is, bar none, the most charitable country in the world, and has been for years. When tax policies incentivize giving away money, people will give money to whatever cause(s) they want to support. And the benefit of charities versus the government is simply that the charities have to convince people to hand over money while the government can just take whatever it wants, and print bonds to cover whatever doesn’t pay the bills.

But note as well that this is a tax deduction, not a tax credit. This means it’s used to reduce a person’s adjusted gross income (AGI) and doesn’t directly offset their overall tax liability for the calendar year. And the limit, currently suspended under the CARES Act, on how much can be deducted is 50% of the person’s adjusted gross income in general, with the limit being 30% for gifts to certain categories of organizations. So for a wealthy person with an AGI of $1 million, the most they can generally deduct is $500,000.

But one stupid obvious point about the charitable deduction many seem to forget: it requires the wealthy to give up some of their wealth! I’m actually surprised how many people seem to not understand this! Along with the idea that everyone tries to minimize their tax liability where they can, or at least scoffing at it only when talking about the wealthy doing that, calling it “dodging taxes” or even “tax evasion”, which has a specific definition in Federal law, so basically alleging that the wealthy are all felons.

I’ve pointed this out in a previous article talking about several tax deduction options for the working class. And in talking about the adoption tax credit, I said this:

But the tax benefits only occur after you’ve shelled out who-knows-how-much money to adopt the child, meaning they do not and cannot make the process more affordable. Again, it is analogous to a friend or family member saying they’ll help you out by reimbursing part of your out-of-pocket expenses after you’ve already incurred them.

Tax deductions are a huge catch-22. Reducing your tax liability requires you to give up some of your money or wealth. Under the current limit suspension on the charitable tax deduction, a person would need to give away enough money or wealth to completely offset their AGI to eliminate their tax liability.

Which is rather strange that people complain when the wealthy actually make tax write-offs.

It’s as if people don’t realize that the wealth being given away to make the tax write off is MORE than the amount of money they’re saving on taxes! Going on the example above, if a person with an annual income of $1 million gives away half that, thereby cutting their tax bill effectively in half, the amount they save on taxes is only about 25% of what they gave away.

It’s almost like people think giving money to the government is a nobler cause than giving it to a charity that will directly help people. But given the left’s disdain for charity, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if that is the actual thought process.

When a drive dies

Build Log:

I first built Nasira and put it into operation in early 2016. The initial build-out was a pair of 4TB WD Red drives. And based on an article I read at the time, I made a mental note to buy Seagate drives when purchasing the next pair of 4TB drives. That was in early March 2016.

On September 6, I got an alert from Nasira that one of those Seagate 4TB drives was showing errors and the drive was knocked offline. So that was about 5 1/2 years in service before a drive died.

So why am I writing about this? To go over what I should’ve been doing before the drive died to make the replacement process a little smoother, while discussing a few other things I’ve discovered or realized over the years I’ve had the NAS.

Drive inventory

This was the first mistake I made. Nasira is currently in a 4U chassis with 12 hot-swap drive bays. Now when you have that many drives, or just more than two, it’s a good idea to have a chart or spreadsheet saved off that looks somewhat like this:

BayNameDriveSerial No.
1da0WD Red 4TBWD-WCC4XXXXXXXX
2da1WD Red 4TB WD-WCC4XXXXXXXX
3da2WD Red 4TB WD-WCC4XXXXXXXX
4da3WD Red 4TB WD-WCC4XXXXXXXX

Noting the drive bay and connection name is important for immediate reference. That’ll prevent you from having to do what I did: shut down the NAS to pull drives to find the one to be replaced. Though shutting it down was a good idea anyway to mitigate the risk of another drive failure before I could get the dead one replaced.

Even if all your connections are in the same order as your drive bays – e.g. da0 is drive bay 1 – it’s still a good idea to do this. If you need to replace a drive, pulling up this chart and comparing it against the drive list in TrueNAS (or your NAS software of choice) should tell you at a glance which drive you need to replace.

Speaking of replacement drives…

Have drive replacements on hand

This was the second mistake I corrected. Well, in part.

In my instance, this isn’t nearly as crucial. Living in Kansas City, thankfully Micro Center has a nearby store where I readily picked up a replacement 4TB NAS drive. And I didn’t buy just one to replace the dead one. I bought two. The reason is twofold.

First, the Seagate 4TB drives were bought as a pair in the same order. This means they’re similar in age and probably from the same lot, so the chance of the second 4TB drive dying in the next couple months is substantially higher than for the WD Red 4TB drives. And having the second drive on hand also means that, when that happens, I already have the replacement on hand.

If you don’t live somewhere where you can just buy a new drive the same day, you should have replacements on hand. And even if you do, you should have drive replacements on hand just in case the place where you normally would be able to get ahold of one is out of stock the day you need it.

For mirrored pairs, ideally you should have at least 1 drive for each pair. If all your drives are the same capacity, then just keep a few spares on hand. If you have a setup like mine, with a mixture of drive capacities, try to keep one of each capacity on hand. For my setup, this would mean one each of 4TB, 6TB, 10TB, and 12TB.

For RAID-Zx configurations, the minimum you should keep on hand is the minimum number of drives you can safely lose based on your configuration. So if your drives are configured in a RAID-Z2 configuration (e.g. RAID-6), have at minimum 2 spares on hand for each Z2 you have. And the need to have this on hand is even more critical if all your drives are similar age or came from the same lot. Since once one drive dies, the likelihood of another going with it within a short period of time goes up exponentially.

Resilvering time

I said in my first article that rebuild time was the primary reason to go with mirrored pairs. When you lose a drive, obviously you want your array back online as fast as possible, if for nothing more than getting it online before another drive fails. Since the amount of time it takes to rebuild a dead drive will depend on the read and write speeds of all drives in the pool and the pool’s topology.

As SSDs come down in price more and more, they will displace HDDs in a NAS for this reason. (As of this writing, 4TB 2.5″ SSDs are about 380 USD, about the same price of a 10TB or 12TB HDD.)

With any RAID-Zx configuration, parity data needs to be recalculated and blocks need to be rebuilt from parity. This will slow down the resilver a lot simply due to the amount of data that must be read per block that will be written back out. More drives or more data = more time required.

With mirrored pairs, it’s just a straight copy. Read and write.

The 4TB drive I replaced is near full. The resilver took over 10 hours to copy about 3.59TiB of data. (For reference, TrueNAS reports 3.64 TiB as the drive capacity.) That works out to an average rebuild speed of about 102MiB per second, or about what could be expected for platter HDDs.

Hardware choices

But it’s with resilvering and scrub times that hardware choices in your NAS will make all the difference. Regardless of what HDDs you use, don’t expect more than about 100MB/s on average for read and write speeds. This means your performance differences will come down to how those drives are connected.

So rule #1 with a DIY NAS: avoid using the SATA connections on your mainboard. Instead just buy a SAS-to-SATA HBA controller and connect everything up to it. Your cabling will be cleaner as it replaces 4 individual SATA cables with 1 SAS to SATA cable.

And the processor onboard the controller card will also take some of the load off the CPU. This will mitigate the read penalty that comes with scrubbing and resilvering RAID-Zx pools. The read portion is more important for resilvering RAID-Zx pools more so than the write. Since the faster the system can read data in parallel from each drive in the pool, the faster it can calculate whatever it needs to write out to the drive being rebuilt.

It won’t be anywhere near what you could expect for mirrored pairs, but it’ll still give you the best resilver and scrub times.

And rule #2 is to use hot-swap bays and ensure your system is properly configured for them. If you’re using an HBA card, you should already be set on this. If you’re using your mainboard’s SATA connections (again, avoid doing this), you will need to go into your BIOS to ensure the hotswap is enabled for each port. This way you don’t need to shut down your NAS to replace a drive.

Tenant’s rights and social media

A lot of people know quite a bit about tenancy law, better known as “renter’s rights” or “tenant’s rights”, even though there’s also plenty of misinformation about it. Basically they are laws that limit how landlords can treat tenants. Prior to buying a house, I lived in four (4) apartments in three (3) States across 14 years. And I lived in one of those apartments for over 7 years. So I’ve got a pretty substantial renter history.

The landlord is the property owner. As the property owner, the landlord or property management company has certain rights over the property. But they sign away a lot of those rights when they enter into a lease with a tenant, even if the lease is silent on that. And in general all of a tenant’s rights that are common among all States can be boiled down to, simply, quiet enjoyment of the leased property free from unreasonable interference by the landlord.

For example, your landlord is allowed to keep a key to the house or apartment (and you must remit a key if you change the locks unless the lease explicitly states otherwise), but does not have general right of entry. Instead when a residence lease agreement is signed, the property owner transfers that right to the tenant.

In short the right of the tenants to the property they keep on and within the premises of the rented property abrogates the landlord’s rights to the property they are renting. And with some of those rights, e.g. general right to come and go as you please, they are transferred in whole cloth to the tenant.

Social media is analogous to an apartment complex in many ways.

The overall social media platform – e.g. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. – is like the apartment complex property. Built by someone else, owned by someone else, and individuals are generally able to set up or close accounts as they please in a manner analogous to leasing property – though there is perceptively an unlimited amount of “vacancy” since your “apartment” is little more than a database table entry. The account does not give you any ownership claim in any part to the platform, just as a property lease does not give the tenant any ownership claim to the leased property.

And like with social media, tenants also have rules to which they are to abide. But the rules the landlord is allowed to put in place are limited by the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of the home. Any rules that infringe on that right are unenforceable, and any attempt to evict for violating such rules will be tossed out of Court.

And tenant’s rights also mean that any rules must be objective. There is no allowance for any subjectivity with regard to the rules, since any subjectivity could infringe on the tenant’s rights. This is obviously very, very different from social media where people have been banned even when a rule violation has not been demonstrated or alleged.

Which means the primary difference between social media and tenancy is what happens when you do break the rules. (Or even not.)

While eviction is the general remedy in such instance, landlords aren’t allowed to jump right at it. Just like people perceived to have been wronged in some way aren’t typically allowed to just jump right into a lawsuit. Instead the tenant must be given a chance to make right on the lease, to correct the rule or lease violation to a reasonable degree. For example, if you’re behind on your rent payment, you must be given a reasonable opportunity to catch up. The landlord can’t just knock on your door the day after rent is due and say “You didn’t pay your rent on time, so you gotta move out.”

If the landlord violates the lease or the tenant’s rights, the tenant is entitled to a “constructive eviction“. But again, just as the landlord must give the tenant reasonable opportunity to correct any breach, so too the tenant must give reasonable opportunity to the landlord. The tenant can’t just move out at the first sign of trouble and expect such to be without any kind of penalty. If the HVAC system malfunctions, for example, the tenant can’t just call up the landlord and say “Well the AC isn’t working, so we’re moving out,” unless that’s, say, the third time the AC has stopped working in a short period of time.

In general, though, the law very severely limits how landlords can interact with tenants. The landlord also has the “implied warranty of habitability” over the property, which is a common law requirement on the landlord that the property will be “habitable”, and empowers the tenant to withhold rent or vacate the premises (i.e. constructive eviction) if the landlord refuses to make needed repairs or corrective actions to ensure the property is habitable.

And “constructive eviction” aside, the tenant also has the right to vacate the premises early for any reason or none. This is typically called “abandonment” and the tenant is said to have “abandoned” the property if they do this. And the landlord cannot fight that. The landlord cannot go to Court and get an injunction barring a tenant from moving out. But if the tenant moves out early, the lease will specify some “remedy” (usually one or two month’s rent) to which the landlord is entitled unless the tenant is exercising a “constructive eviction”. If the lease is silent on that, the landlord is entitled to keep the entire security deposit plus demand reimbursement of any cost to get the property back into condition for renting out.

But, while the tenant generally has the right to vacate when they want, the landlord does not have the right to just kick tenants out whenever he/she pleases. The landlord can generally only attempt to evict a tenant for breach of contract and must have demonstrable cause for the eviction. But, as mentioned above, the landlord must give the tenant reasonable opportunity to correct any breach before trying to evict. And the landlord must give the tenant a reasonable amount of time to move out. (Typically 10 to 14 calendar days is what I’ve seen, but it can be as short as 7 calendar days.)

The tenant has the option of fighting that eviction, going to Court to get an order staying the eviction pending a hearing, or staying it for a period of time, while still occupying the property in question. This also means that if a tenant refuses to vacate at the end of the lease, and refuses to pay anything in addition for occupying the property, the landlord’s only option is getting a court order that can be enforced by local or county law enforcement.

There is a lot of protection in common and statutory law for tenants, since society typically doesn’t want to see people kicked out of their homes without very good reason. There is a significant power disparity in the tenant/landlord relationship in favor of the tenant. I know to a lot of tenants out there it doesn’t feel like that, but that’s also because a lot of people are not aware of how broad their rights generally are.

So why don’t we have the same protections with social media?

On social media, we generally have subjective “community guidelines” that are not evenly enforced, with accounts banned for a period of time or permanently for even the slightest violation with zero opportunity to correct.

If a landlord could do to tenants what social media companies can do with their members, there’d be no end to the protest. There is no “well they’re a private company so they can do what they want” when it comes to property management companies and landlords. But, yet, that argument is thrown around left and right when discussing social media.

Or, rather, it’s thrown around by individuals whenever someone that individual doesn’t like is banned by a social media platform – e.g. leftists when Trump was banned from Twitter.

Note that I’m not referring to individual posts being removed from the platform because they clearly violate the rules to which we all agree to be bound when using a platform – e.g. Chelsea Handler complaining about a topless photo being removed from Instagram in 2014. I’m talking about accounts being banned in whole cloth with no recourse or appeal (except perhaps in name only).

Tenants in rental properties have the chance to defend themselves against an eviction, before the Court if it must come to that. On social media, there is no opportunity to defend yourself against your account being banned. Decisions are unilateral and there is, again, no chance of raising a defense or appealing the ban.

Again, if landlords had the same power over their tenants that social media companies have over their members, there’d be no end to the protest. So we need to see the same kind of “tenants rights” protections for social media, with those protections including the principle of free speech.

It isn’t “white nationalism”

Article: “Caller blasts Iowa rep for requiring ‘White nationalist’ Pledge of Allegiance in schools

I have to wonder if, to the left, “white nationalism” is the only form of nationalism possible. The pledge of allegiance is nationalist. I’ve argued such very thoroughly here on this blog. But it isn’t “white nationalist”.

For one, the pledge was written by a professed socialist and Christian minister who preached about the “evils of capitalism” from the pulpit. In other words, the kind of person the left would now readily embrace. Look up Francis Bellamy if you don’t believe me.

While you’re at it, find pictures or video of the original pledge salute, also called the “Bellamy salute“. You’ll find it looks rather… familiar.

Bellamy salute 1915.jpg
By New-York tribune – New-York tribune (via LOC), Public Domain, Link

Plus Iowa’s attempt to require the pledge in public schools is going to fail. The Supreme Court has already ruled – in 1943 – that the First Amendment precludes any attempt by States to require students to recite it. The case to look for is West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, which overturned Minersville v. Gobitis, which initially upheld a law requiring the pledge to be recited – thankfully more logical heads ultimately prevailed.

Stop feeding the trolls

Given some reports I’ve seen recently, I’m really starting to wonder how intelligent the masses have become. Let’s take the recent reports of “body shaming” and headlines where certain people, most recently Jessie James Decker, post pictures of themselves to “silence the body shamers” or some crap like that.

I wonder how much longer it’ll take till these people realize that… you’re basically giving the “shamers” what they want! They’re largely trolling knowing that you’ll respond with pictures of a certain variety to “silence” them.

And Internet parlance has the phrase “don’t feed the trolls” for good reason. In this instance, it’s a matter of trolling a celeb or group about their body and seeing if they respond by… posting pictures of said body in revealing attire to “silence” the troll.

And people wonder why the apparent incidence of these forms of online “harassment” appears to be increasing.