Table power outlet

This was a relatively quick project I’d been wanting to do for a while. I have a small table next to the couch that faces my television in my entertainment room. When I work from home, I typically sit on the couch and use that table. For powering my work laptop, my only option was to run the power cable to a wall outlet or to the entertainment center. The couch and table are in the middle of the room.

So I had an idea in mind to make a power outlet for that table. That way I could plug in my work laptop without having to run the cable. The couch itself is immediately in front of the tables where mine and my wife’s computers sit. So the power cable would run under the couch and behind to reach one of the surge suppressors.

Simple enough. Here’s the parts list for what I used:

And then to hold it to the table, I just used 3M VHB double-sided tape.

The NMW2-D is a surface mount box with a slim profile, so it doesn’t stand up far from the table – only about 1.25″. And it’s serving as a glorified extension cable, allowing me to power my laptop while working, and also allowing us to use USB charging plugs for charging devices and portable chargers as well. I’m already planning to change out the outlet for one that has USB plugs.

It’s also simple and inexpensive. Everything altogether cost about 25 USD plus tax for my setup, everything coming from Home Depot, only because I paid a little extra to get a right-angle 5-15P plug. So you can save a few dollars going with a straight plug if you don’t need the right-angle.

So why do this? It’s a quick project to add power plugs in a useful spot where a power strip or something similar wouldn’t make sense. And if you’re new to wiring up power outlets – which I was – then it’s a quick learning project as well: black to brass, white to silver, and exposed or green to green. And that’s true on both the plug and outlet. It should work fine so long as you keep the color coding straight and secure everything in both the plug and outlet. If you fry something or trip a circuit breaker while testing this, you didn’t wire up the outlet properly. So check everything after verifying you don’t need a fire extinguisher.

At the same time, this served as a quick proof of concept. As I’m considering this as a new way of powering my home entertainment center to reduce some of the wiring bulk.

Unfortunately some of that is just… unavoidable – the A/V cables and network cables in particular (I don’t want to change everything over to wireless). But the power delivery can be split by daisy-chaining outlets in whatever configuration you think will best cover everything. A single-gang outlet per shelf, or two-gang outlets every several shelves. Or a combination thereof.

This will leave just one plug running to the surge suppressor. Making it trivial to swap that out for a UPS later. The A/V receiver and television won’t be plugged into the chain of outlets.

Overall, it’s a simple project that simplified things just a little bit in our entertainment room. And it’s already proven its worth when I worked from home a few days after making this outlet. The picture above is from that morning. Next up is to create something similar for an RJ45 cable after swapping the outlet for one with USB ports.

Credit card lawsuits

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve addressed debt collections. There really isn’t a whole lot to say, though. Things are pretty straightforward, and I often end up repeating myself whenever I respond to an article I’ve seen online. A lot of the articles tend to be written by people who have never been through collections, so there’s plenty of misinformation and wishful thinking in many of these articles.

Though the most egregious misinformation I’ve seen came from the United States government. Seriously. Egregious only because they, of all people, should’ve known better.

Lawsuits, though, tend to not get covered much when talking about debt collection. For one, collections lawsuits are not much different than any other breach of contract lawsuit. No, seriously, they aren’t. This also means that responding to one will be within the laws of your State of residence, and the rules of the applicable Court.

And unless you’re an attorney or you’ve actually been sued by one of your creditors, you really should NOT be trying to write about a collections lawsuit. And if you do, you’d better have your information verified by an attorney to make sure it’s accurate.

But over at US News and World Report, contributing writer Ben Luthi decided to take up the challenge. There is no indication on his profile that he has ever been through a lawsuit, let alone collections, nor is there any indication he’s a practicing debt or bankruptcy attorney. So no surprise, then, that the article he wrote has… issues. Meaning he definitely didn’t put his article back in front of the attorney he quoted in it.

Or otherwise she, hopefully, would’ve told him there’s no point in mentioning… jail.

In most cases, you don’t have to worry about going to jail over your credit card debt. “We don’t have debtors prisons anymore,” says Ashley F. Morgan, a Virginia-based bankruptcy attorney at Ashley F. Morgan Law. “But if you don’t respond to a court order appropriately, you can be in contempt, and that can put you into jail.”

For example, if you fail to follow a court order to appear or to make a payment, you can be held in civil contempt of court, and the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.

Once you’re served with a lawsuit, don’t ignore it. It won’t go away, it will lead to a default judgment if you try to ignore it, and things only get worse from there. The judgment is merely the Court ordering you to pay the amount owed to the creditor – called “monetary relief” in legal parlance. The specifics of that payment, including whether you lump sum pay it, or pay it off in installations, is between you and the creditor.

But if you refuse to pay on the judgment, will you be held in contempt of Court and put in jail? No. Instead the petitioner will seek enforcement through the Court via post-trial motions. Attempting to or actually interfering with that enforcement can get you thrown in jail.

Failing to appear for a civil court date, though, will also not result in being held in contempt. Civil cases are very, very different from criminal cases in which the government can compel you to appear, and arrest you if you don’t. The Court cannot compel you to appear on a civil court matter. You just automatically lose the case if you don’t appear as scheduled, and you also surrender any right of appeal when that happens. Unless your failure to appear is due to a very good reason.

The credit card company may not initiate a lawsuit as soon as you default on a debt. Morgan says creditors may try to collect debts for up to a year and a half before they sue. But she has also seen some companies notify customers of a lawsuit after as little as six months.

A credit card company cannot initiate a lawsuit as soon as they charge off the account. They have to exhaust all other options for collecting the balance before turning to the Court.

And I wonder if the “six months” means six months after the charge-off, meaning the account had actually been in default for 12 months. Under the FDIC policy known as the Uniform Retail Credit Classification and Account Management Policy, open-ended (“revolving”) credit accounts cannot be charged off sooner than 180 days delinquency. (65 FR 36903 at 36904, June 12, 2000)

In the case where one of my creditors sued me, they filed suit about 15 months after the account went delinquent, so about 9 months after it was charged off.

First, verify the debt. While your liability should be clear if your credit card company sues you directly, sometimes it’s not that straightforward. Debt collectors you’ve never heard of can purchase your debt and sue you for it, and the debt may be inflated by fees and penalties. Mistakes or outright fraud can happen. So even if you know you owe the debt, request documentation of it if you’re being sued by a debt collector.

By the time a lawsuit rolls around, it’s too late to validate the debt. And the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act offers no protection unless a debt collector filed the lawsuit before you had a chance to exercise your rights, since such isn’t allowed under Federal law.

The complaint will also include some evidence backing their claim, providing virtually everything they’d be required to provide for validation anyway, making validation a waste of effort. In a foreclosure lawsuit in which I was erroneously involved, the complaint I was served included a copy of the mortgage note. This showed that it was all a case of mistaken identity. More on that later.

And when I was served in a lawsuit by Capital One, that complaint also included a copy of the agreement I signed and the last credit card statement before the account was charged off into collections.

Now sure, a debt buyer can purchase the debt from the original creditor and sue you, though they must still act in good faith, meaning they can’t just sue you after they buy the debt. But with debt buyers, debt validation is not an enforceable option. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies only to debt collectors. Debt buyers are exempt from it. And original creditors are generally exempt from it as well since 15 USC § 1692g specifically mentions “debt collectors” (as defined at § 1692a) and doesn’t mention “creditor” (also as defined at the same).

But let’s say the lawsuit is being handled by an organization meeting the statutory definition of “debt collector”. Can you still validate the debt under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act after they’ve filed a lawsuit and served you? Well you can try.

Disputing the debt under § 1692g only applies to the first communication from a debt collector. Which if they’ve filed a lawsuit, you are well past that stage unless they’re acting in bad faith and not giving you adequate notice so you can exercise your rights under Federal law. Now if you ignored the mailing, that’s on you.

So again, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act doesn’t really apply at all once you’ve gotten to the lawsuit stage. Unless the petitioner is a debt collector. And you can show the petitioner has been acting in bad faith. But in general your relief will come under State law, not Federal law. If you want relief under Federal law, you must file a separate lawsuit in Federal Court.

Remember, once the lawsuit is filed and you’re served, everything now goes through the Court. So don’t miss your Court date.

* * * * *

In general you should not try to fight the lawsuit unless you are certain you can beat the lawsuit. Instead try to negotiate a settlement or pay it in full before the first hearing. Then at that first hearing, inform the Court of the settlement or that the matter has already been resolved. There will be a follow-up hearing scheduled pending additional motions.

There are only three scenarios in which you should fight the lawsuit. And basically those are scenarios where you, under a rational interpretation of the law, cannot be held responsible for it. These are the three which Ben readily provides:

  1. The statute of limitations ran out.
  2. You weren’t properly notified of your obligations.
  3. You don’t actually owe the debt.

I’ve written before on the statute of limitations. His extra advice of making sure what you think is the last payment on the debt “really [is] your most recent payment” is spot on. I don’t think it’s been adjudicated through the Court whether the limitation applies only to payments you make, or whether it can also apply to payments made on your behalf – e.g. a gift payment by friend or family.

If the debt is time barred, you need to make that claim to the Court. It is an affirmative defense. You can’t just ignore the Court service.

And he’s also correct that creditors generally need to act in good faith with their customers and the obligations they have. They can’t just sue you out of the blue. What constitutes “bad faith” is going to vary on jurisdiction, but generally it means they weren’t doing what they could, within reason, to keep you informed about your obligations to them – balances, interest rates, fees, etc. This isn’t enough to get rid of the debt, but it could get a lawsuit dismissed without prejudice.

But what if you don’t actually owe the debt?

If you have proof that you paid the debt or you don’t recognize it, you can send a debt verification letter to the credit card company to confirm that the debt belongs to you and that the company owns the debt.

Again, by the time you get served by the Court, validation isn’t an option.

Now there are three reasons you’re being served on a debt you don’t actually owe: mistaken identity, you’re paying the debt or have paid off the debt, or the account was fraudulent.

Mistaken identity

With mistaken identity, you need to file an affidavit with the Court asserting your identity and that you’re not the debtor they’re looking for. (And no, I’m not making a Star Wars meme from that.) The specifics on this are governed by the rules of the Court in question, so you’ll need to contact the Clerk for that Court to find out what you need to do.

Merely filing the affidavit doesn’t release you from the lawsuit, though. That affidavit instead serves as your response. Which means the petitioner will have the opportunity to respond, or advance the case further. If the petitioner files a response acknowledging they served the wrong person, effectively invalidating the service, you should be considered released once a copy of that is provided to you (could take a couple weeks) depending on the Court rules.

This may not be as easy as it sounds, and it all depends on how your name compares to the named respondent. In the case of the aforementioned foreclosure, my middle name differed from that of the named respondent, so a notarized affidavit showing my full name was enough to get me released.

If you have the exact same name as the respondent, you may need to appear in Court in order to provide additional identifying documents. Since the affidavit may only allow you to provide your full name. Now the initial hearing after you’ve been served is kind of like an arraignment. It isn’t where you argue the merits of the petition, only whether you agree or disagree with it. But it is where you can assert your identity since you need to show more than just your full name.

Depending on what is needed to show you’re not the same person, a new hearing might be scheduled, or the petitioner may talk with you after the hearing. Or you might be able to settle it right there if the Court allows for it – e.g. your name recently changed to that matching the respondent only due to you recently getting married, and you have a certified copy of your marriage license.

A lawsuit should not proceed against the wrong person, but the Court will generally presume the right person has been served until you can prove otherwise. And if it does proceed, it’s possible the account may have been fraudulently opened in your name. But the case generally needs to proceed into discovery to figure that out.

Paying or paid

If you’re paying within the terms of an agreed-upon settlement, that alone will be enough to get the suit dismissed. They can’t file a Court action unless there is an actual breach of contract that has not yet been remedied. And a settlement agreement is a remedy in the eyes of the law.

Paying the settlement in full is the same, legally speaking, as paying the debt. It releases you from any additional obligation.

In both instances, you just need to provide documentation through a response to the Court. In both instances, it’s possible the lawsuit was filed by mistake. But once it’s filed with the Court, you must still work with the Court to get it dismissed.

Fraudulent account

If you find a discrepancy between records or the account is fraudulent, you can dispute the lawsuit.

In the event of a records discrepancy, you’re not going to be able to get the suit dismissed. Instead you’ll just end up with a smaller judgment. But you likely won’t be able to make this determination until the lawsuit enters discovery.

In the case of a fraudulent account, though, you’ll need to show up to the initial hearing to state that you dispute the petition, request a continuance stating you believe the debt to be the result of fraud, then work to produce evidence that the account is fraudulent. As already mentioned, though, you may not be able to obtain this evidence until you’ve entered discovery.

Bear in mind, too, that once the lawsuit begins, everything typically needs to go through the Court. This means that even if you produce that evidence, you still need to file a motion with the Court to dismiss the lawsuit.

* * * * *

The rest of Ben’s article goes beyond a collections lawsuit, so I’ll just end it here.

Atheism and leftism, replying to Allie Stuckey

A little over seven (7) years ago, I wrote an article called “Trading one religion for another” in which I described an observation I had been making. That being teenagers who shed their religion also becoming ultra-liberal. And seemingly overnight.

It seems they must be associating political and economic concepts that have no ties to religion with religion, and so start to take on entirely opposite political and economic points of view without any consideration of the evidence behind those points of view.

Then the following year, when the social justice spores had grown and grabbed hold of many prominent atheists, some of whom I’d actually respected, is when I wrote about Atheism+, saying the fledgling group was “becoming those [they] despise“:

After all atheists are already called so much by Christians and Christian conservatives merely because we don’t subscribe to any religious ideology, and they make many assumptions about our political views or aspirations, including assuming that atheism means believing everything that is the exact opposite of what Christian conservatives believe.

Allie Stuckey over at plays into this in her article called “The Religion of Leftism“. She makes similar observations to me, that leftists have traded one god for another, but with entirely different reasons.

My theory is this: the country hasn’t actually become less religious. Many people have simply replaced traditional religion with leftism. Rather than associating with Christianity, for example, which demands repentance and promises persecution, they have opted for a religion that conveniently offers a sense of righteousness but denies the need to take responsibility for their own actions.

In other words, “you’re only an atheist so you can sin”.

Before going further, let’s clarify something that Ms Stuckey (and a lot of other conservatives) may not already be aware of: leftism =/= political left. Leftism is a subset of the political left, much like how communism is a subset of the greater body of socialist theory, but she is insinuating that leftism and the left are the same.

The word “liberal” used to be used to describe the left. That word is slowly being reclaimed by libertarians and libertarian-leaning individuals — i.e. the “classical liberals”. And the word is once again being given its proper context.

“Leftism”, and by extension “leftist”, is what used to be called the “far left”. But she early on insinuates that leftists and the left are one in the same, in large part because of how she links it to secularism and atheism.

For which I’ll offer another clarification: secularism is not atheism. Yet in her article, Ms Stuckey clearly means “atheism” when she says “secularism”. Atheism merely means not accepting of any theology – meaning, by extension, not accepting the existence of any deities, since theology, by definition, requires deities. By the way, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are philosophies, not theologies.

Secularism merely means separation of church and state, such that the government does not favor any one particular religion, but also doesn’t act to suppress any religion either. While atheists are typically secularists, not all of them are, merely because there are some atheists who do want the government to suppress religion.

And to further clarify – yes, there is a LOT of misconception abound about atheists (more on that later, I’m sure) – someone who is anti-theist is not necessarily someone trying to actively suppress religion, but actively confront it with contrary or correcting statements.

On a personal level, unlike Christianity, leftism doesn’t worry its adherents with sin and life-change. The only sin is to say there’s sin. The only wrong is to say there’s wrong. The highest virtue is one’s own happiness, and the only truth is that which one finds in themselves.

And she’s cloaking old arguments in new language. So how did she come to her “theory”?

At the same time, America has grown more secular. According to Pew, “religious nones” are rapidly growing in number. These “nones” are most concentrated among millennials: 36% of millennials are religiously unaffiliated. Millennials happen to also be America’s most politically progressive generation.

This probably isn’t a coincidence, especially since the same trends have occurred in a similar way in other parts of the world, such as Europe. While correlation doesn’t prove causation, politics and religion are so closely related that it’s hard to believe the simultaneous popularization of extreme leftism and secularism is insignificant.

Yes, America has grown more secular. But it has also become more religiously diverse. The decline of Christianity in the United States correlates with an increase in atheists, agnostics, and deists – the “nones” in the poll. But we also have more Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. A lot of that is due to a lot of immigration from India, but also from the Middle East in the case of Islam. Buddhism has also seen a rise courtesy of immigration from India and the Far East.

It’s a far cry today from when Christianity had an overwhelming majority among the population.

But even at that time, there were secular Christians. Recall again that secularism means separating church and State. And these secular Christians did not want the government declaring when and how someone, especially their children, shall make specific religions expressions. This was the subject of numerous lawsuits against local and State governments once it became clear the Supreme Court would be holding States to the same Bill of Rights as the Federal government by way of incorporation. All of which has been misrepresented by conservative Christians as “taking God out of our public schools”.

“Secularism” — i.e. atheism — and “extreme leftism” didn’t come about at the same time, as she implies, telling me her exposure to this is not all that much. Atheism has existed for a long time. It has seen significant growth in recent years thanks in whole to the Internet, with YouTube accelerating that growth.

Nor did atheism lead to leftism. Many atheists do say their atheism “informed” their politics, such that they’re now leftist (though they won’t use that word directly, as they consider it a pejorative) and say that everyone who is an atheist must also be leftist. Such thinking is what led to the development of Atheism+. Thankfully that “movement” never got far off the ground, despite attempts by prominent atheist speakers and the leaders of prominent organizations.

Atheism isn’t capable of informing politics. No, seriously, it isn’t. Instead when any atheist says that, what they actually mean is they were a former Christian, typically, who has come to despise Christianity, and so has adopted political views that are the polar opposite of mainstream and conservative Christians. Which ignores the fact that even Christians are largely very politically diverse as well. Which a lot of conservative Christians also either ignore or outright dismiss with the “they’re not real Christians” rhetoric.

The far left among atheists are a minority. They’re very vocal, yes, but they don’t speak for all atheists. They absolutely do not speak for me or represent my views. And I’ve let that be known numerous times directly to several of those individuals. Atheists are a very politically diverse group, contrary to what many conservative Christians believe, along with leftist atheists. Most atheists are more toward the center than is often let on, and a not-insignificant number of us are libertarian or anarchist. Skeptical of both god and government.

This was something a lot of prominent atheists learned the hard way when the 2016 Reason Rally focused heavily on social justice and identity politics. And saw an attendance that was a small fraction of the 2012 Reason Rally that focused on science and secularism, and also had Adam Savage as a speaker.

So with that out of the way, let’s turn to the idea that leftism is itself a religion.

While leftism may not require personal responsibility, generosity or morality, it does demand everything of its devotees. It aims to conform the mind, the heart and the soul fully to its agenda. There is no room in leftism for disagreement on abortion, gender, sexuality, immigration, race or economics. All reasoning must be guided by intersectionality. All thoughts must be centered on some vague notion of social justice. There is no tolerance for defection.

This isn’t leftism. This is identity politics. What’s the difference? The far left has always existed. Identity politics is a newly-evolved beast. “Identity politics” isn’t about politics, though, so the name is misleading. Or at least it no longer is about politics.

At its core “identity politics” is about pushing for political change based on someone’s identity. In the United States, this started, arguably, with abolition, though there was a war where political change failed. And then came the first wave of feminism, the civil rights movements, and so on.

Those movements, abolition included, all had one thing in common: removing State-imposed limitations on individual liberty. And it saw monumental success through the 20th century. While abolition was followed up with racist policies like segregation, the 20th century saw the end of segregation, a brief flirtation with alcohol prohibition, and the expanded application of the incorporation doctrine and everything that brought with it.

But the tearing down of State-mandated limitations on individual liberty were soon replaced by calls for, and implementation of State-mandated outcomes. And unfortunately that has only grown. Since once you start mandating particular outcomes, you have to erode individual liberties and cast basic principles to the wind. Things only grew from there.

Now instead of identity politics, we have “victim politics”. It is in this we have, as Allie has observed, an abrogation of personal responsibility and the demands for equality of outcome.

When someone is a victim of some detrimental action through no fault of their own, they largely want to be “made right”. Automobile collisions are an unfortunately common example. If the collision is not your fault, you want your car repaired and any additional and medical expenses covered without you having to pay anything out of pocket. And for that, I suggest always filing claims through your own insurance and then letting the insurance companies duke it out via subrogation, but I digress. So this is an easy example we can all agree on. Hopefully…

But what about when the “detrimental action” isn’t so cut and dry, like with… “micro-aggressions”? This is where identity politics comes into play and the assertion that systemic bigotry of some kind is the reason a person’s station in life isn’t all that great. And so they seek State-mandated outcomes to make them right. Things like universal healthcare, affirmative action programs, identity-targeted government welfare programs and tax credits, and the like.

And all of this started coming to a rolling boil in 2008 into 2009 and the election of Barack Obama as the first bi-racial President of the United States. His election didn’t come about because of identity politics, though many would say such. Instead identity politics started taking hold in the US in the wake of his election. The left started using his race to counter any opposition to Obama’s agenda.

Barack Obama being the first bi-racial President, a lot of Democrats conflated any opposition to the President and his agenda with racism. Basically stating that racism, “hating a black man” as Janeane Garofalo would state, is the only reason the “tea party” protests gained any traction, and the only reason to oppose Obama’s agenda.

In short, you either support Obama and everything he wanted to enact, or you’re a racist. Doesn’t take a genius to see how that idea could spread and be applied to more than just Obama’s agenda.

But identity politics out in the open didn’t progress much beyond that during Obama’s first term. Instead it was festering online and in academia. We saw glimpses of that during the various Occupy movements that occurred during the second half of Obama’s first term. But it largely didn’t have much in the way of national attention, though allegedly it was starting to gains some ground.

It wasn’t until Obama became a “lame duck” that identity politics started taking hold. Several key events helped drive this. Two in particular stand out: the George Zimmerman acquittal in 2013, and the Michael Brown shooting in 2014. And later in 2016 was the Philando Castile shooting.

These incidents, among others, galvanized the perception of blacks being continually under threat in the United States at the hands of whites, and that the United States had made little, if any, societal progress since the 1960s. Eventually it was largely promulgated that anyone who is not a white, cisgender, heter-normative, upper-middle or higher class male is oppressed and competing in the “oppression olympics”.

But, none of this had anything to do with atheism. No, seriously, it didn’t. Remember, atheism cannot inform politics, and the political diversity among atheists shows this.

Along with the fact we’ve been pushing back against identity politics within our communities and organizations.

Atheism+ was the prominent manifestation of that when it tried to gain traction in late 2012 following a series of events, more or less starting with what became known as “Elevatorgate”. That event didn’t lead to Atheism+, but started everything rolling down that hill. What pushed it off the cliff at the bottom was the leak of messages from a confidential e-mail feed by one of its members.

I’ll let Peach Braxton’s commentary from back in 2012 provide the timeline.

Identity politics was starting to gain traction, and many of us were having to fight back against it in our own communities. And with a lot of us, it wasn’t just in atheist communities where we were having to push back. A lot of atheists are also gamers, and we’ve had to push back in that sphere as well.

Yes, I’m talking about GamerGate. Contrary to popular belief and its continual misrepresentation as a hate campaign, what sparked off GamerGate – the word being coined by actor Adam Baldwin – was the simultaneous publication on August 28, 2014, of articles by several major gaming publications declaring that “gamers are dead“. And the revelation around that time of the incestuous nature of gaming journalism.

Preceding GamerGate, and leading to the identity politic infiltration of gaming culture, was Anita Sarkeesian (i.e. Feminist Frequency) and her “Tropes vs. Women” series and the pushback to that series on YouTube and elsewhere.

But again, none of this had anything to do with atheism. And the increasing prominence of “leftism” in the United States also has nothing to do with atheism. And there has been a push back against this by atheists as well.

The Lion King (2019) – I’m hopeful, but skeptical

To me the remake of Beauty and the Beast starring, of all people, Emma Watson was nothing more than a cash grab. The various political correctness controversies around the movie killed any possible hype I may have had – the idea of making a character “gay” just to have a “gay” character was just… hollow.

Then there was the attempt by John Legend and Ariana Grande at the titular “Beauty and the Beast”. I’m sorry, but Grande and Legend just do not have the vocal power that allowed Dion and Bryson to give that song what it needed (though some have said Dion should’ve performed it solo).

Even Angela Lansbury had more feeling behind the lyrics, even if she couldn’t put much power behind it.

So the fact that Disney in many respects ruined a very well-respected classic movie only because they knew the movie title alone would put butts in seats at the box office, to the tune of $1.25 billion, it’s no surprise that Disney is attempting the same with Aladdin and The Lion King. And Mulan.

To say I’m skeptical about the new The Lion King would be an understatement.

We’re talking about a movie with an unrivaled reputation. It pulled in more at the box office than Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. Combined. Earning short of $1 billion. Virtually unheard of for a film in 1994, let alone an animated film. Only Jurassic Park did better at the time.

Its soundtrack won Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and Grammies. Its songs are still recognized today, almost 25 years later. Largely recognized as some of the best music to come from Disney, and some of the best to come from Sirs Elton John and Tim Rice.

So Disney is working against one hell of a reputation. And I’m not the only one who is skeptical.

That 87 year-old James Earl Jones was able to reprise his role as Mufasa has me hopeful. The movie would not have been the same without him. That they did not bring back Nathan Lane (Timon), Whoopi Goldberg (Shenzi), and Jeremy Irons (Scar) has me disappointed.

But the trailer for the movie again has me hopeful.

The original saw James Earl Jones working alongside the late Madge Sinclair as Sarabi, who had previously worked together in the Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America. This time Jones is working alongside Alfre Woodard, who played the queen mother in Black Panther. Making me wonder if they could’ve found anyone any more perfect for that role. Also coming from Black Panther are Florence Kasumba as Shenzi (previously played by Whoopi Goldberg), and John Kani as Rafiki (previously voiced by the late Robert Guillaume).

The film also introduces JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph as young Simba and Nala, respectively, with Donald Glover and Beyoncé Knowles voicing the adult Simba and Nala, respectively.

Disney has a lot riding on this. A lot of us grew up with the Renaissance, or were parents through it. And The Lion King alone holds a special place in a lot of hearts for the story and music that was able to drive emotion like nothing else.

But, done right, Disney has the potential to bring The Lion King to life. Not bring it new life. Bring it to life in a way not thought possible in 1994. Done right, it could become the new classic.

Let us all hope Disney does not disappoint on this. Again, I’m skeptical. But hopeful.

Lying about the US and Australia

Harper’s Bazaar: “How can we stop mass shootings?

Okay, let’s get into this…

There have been 316 mass shootings this year in America. There have only been 314 days thus far in the year. There should not be a mass shooting for each day in America.

The source I’ve been going to readily for mass shootings in the United States is Mother Jones. Not normally a source I readily recommend, but they have a spreadsheet they’ve been keeping up to date cataloging all the mass shootings since 1982.

So how many mass shootings have there been in 2018? Including the most recent shootings at the Pittsburgh synagogue and Mercy Hospital in south side Chicago, there have been only 12 mass shootings in 2018, one per month average.

Now the definition of mass shooting varies. Not including the shooter, some say that there should be 3 or more deaths, while others say 4 or more. Rarely I’ve seen some try to define it at 5 or more deaths, but I think I’ve only seen that once or twice. So if we strike the mass shootings in which only 3 were killed, the number falls to 8 for the year. If we go the very rare route and also strike all in which 4 or fewer were killed, the number falls to 6 mass shootings in the United States.

So while the author says “We don’t have to live this way”, I guess she doesn’t realize that we don’t live this way. Period. Which means her idea of “let’s take away the guns” is based on a faulty premise. Which every time I’ve seen that idea, it often is.

For one, there are several hundred million firearms in the United States. Yet how many homicides in the United States by firearm? According to the latest CDC numbers for 2016: 14,925. Out of several hundred million firearms.

So good luck rounding all of those up. You can’t “just pass a law” here. You have to actually enforce it. Which requires… guns. Wielded by the government.

Not to mention the fact that law enforcement agencies across the country would not enforce it and probably do everything in their power to stop the Federal government from enforcing it.

And if war were to erupt over this, you’d see a massive number of defections from the military and officers refusing to obey orders. Something I’m sure that Representative Swalwell [D-CA(15)] never bothered considering before making this asinine statement:

To think our military officers would obey an order to use nuclear weapons on the citizens and residents of the United States… Disgusting.

In 2012, guns killed 48 people in Japan, eight in Great Britain, 34 in Switzerland, 52 in Canada—and 10,728 in the United States.

And do you know why there are so many homicides? And, more importantly, who is responsible?

In other words, the vast majority of gun owners aren’t the problem. This is why I’ve called gun control “punishing the innocent“. And unless you’re willing to actually shine light on this problem with regard to gun violence in the United States, your calls for gun control ring hollow.

Especially since, do you honestly think the groups most likely to commit murder in the United States will just… give up their firearms willingly? And let’s also not forget that the vast majority of homicides in the United States are also crimes of passion. Meaning, take away the gun, and they’ll just use something else.

After all, more people are beaten to death than killed with rifles in the United States.

It’s commonly understood that the founders included that clause because they could not accurately anticipate the needs of the populace, say, 250 years in the future. Given that the constitution is intended to provide people with “domestic tranquility”— which no one can experience when our schools, our movie theaters, our concert halls and our yoga studios are places where we might have to contend with a mass shooter—it would be a pretty great time to make use of that elastic clause.

The Constitution doesn’t provide anything except a framework for the Federal government, defining what powers it has and how it’ll conduct business. The Second Amendment is a restriction on all levels of government, applied to the States by way of incorporation.

The Elastic Clause doesn’t apply here.

Nor does the Elastic Clause mean what you think it does, since it applies only to the powers enumerated for Congress. For one, the proper name for the Elastic Clause, which you conveniently omit, is the Necessary and Proper Clause. It basically means “these are the enumerated powers, and we also grant to Congress the power to enact whatever legislation is necessary and proper for the purposes of carrying out these powers”.

Quoting McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 US 316 (1819):

We admit, as all must admit, that the powers of the Government are limited, and that its limits are not to be transcended. But we think the sound construction of the Constitution must allow to the national legislature that discretion with respect to the means by which the powers it confers are to be carried into execution which will enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to it in the manner most beneficial to the people. Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, are constitutional.

And the Supreme Court has already explicitly said that banning firearms “in common use” is not within the scope of any government’s authority.

But kudos on actually trying to read the Constitution. If only more gun control advocates would do that.

There have been no mass shootings in Australia for 20 years.

It’s rather odd that you’d say this while also saying there have been over 300 just this year in the United States. What definition are you using for mass shooting? Because you’re clearly NOT using the same standard here.

Remember when I said that some define a “mass shooting” as 4 or more victims? That’s to avoid having to acknowledge the Hectorville Seige in 2011 in Australia. Thus far, that is the only random mass shooting since 1996 where 3 or more individuals were killed, not including the shooter. There was a spree shooting at Monash University in 2002, but only two were killed there with 5 injured. And a Hell’s Angels feud in 1999 as well that left 3 dead and 3 more injured, but that is not a spree shooting as it’s commonly defined.

If you add in family murders, things are a bit more bleak.

And if you add in mass murders not involving a firearm, things don’t look good for Australia, whether you include family murders or not. The first mass homicide after Port Arthur was a fire at the Childers Palace hostel that left 15 dead.

All in all, Wikipedia lists…. 17 incidents since Port Arthur, excluding Monash University and a hostage situation in Sydney in 2014. So things aren’t as golden in Australia as they’re often made out to be.

But that’s since Port Arthur. Mass shootings had to have been a common occurrence before then, right? Nope.

The last spree shooting in Australia prior to Port Arthur was in 1992. Then 1 each in 1991, 1990, and 1988. There were three in 1987. Prior to 1987, I don’t see any spree shootings listed.

So what do you notice about these numbers compared to the United States? Two things: 1. not much change after Port Arthur as before, and 2. Australia never had a problem with mass shootings. Or even firearm homicides for that matter.

Whereas the United States has always had a firearm homicide problem. But it peaked in 1993 and hasn’t been that high since.

Seriously things are safer today than ever when it comes to the risk of being killed by a firearm. Unless you’re black, that is, as already shown above. But for some reason, gun control advocates never point out that nuance.

They also don’t want to accept that banning firearms in the United States won’t stop them from coming into the United States illegally. It’ll just leave the citizenry powerless against those who will still, somehow, get their hands on them.

Slight detour

Trying to find a place in Kansas City where I can rent a spray booth without having to buy a guild membership is becoming rather arduous. I did find a place out toward Lawrence that I need to check out, but we’re talking about a spray booth large enough to fit a car. Still, if it’s my only option, again, without buying a guild membership, then so be it.

But this slight update isn’t about that. Instead it’s about a problem we recently had with the system. Or rather the pump.

It’s an AlphaCool VPP655 pump, which is AlphaCool’s D5 Vario. And recall from previous that we tried for UV purple coolant. And I tried for it by adding drops of the PrimoChill UV Purple dye to the coolant in the system, letting it mix and come up to the color we wanted. Unbeknownst to me, though, the coolant wasn’t entirely mixing. And eventually the UV effect and color would be so diminished I’d… add more dye.

After a few months of doing that, this was the result:

This buildup eventually caused the pump to start grinding. So I tore down the system and got the pump out of the housing and replaced it with a spare D5 pump. Then I rinsed the inside of the system with distilled water. Wasn’t concerned with getting it perfect, but I needed to get as much of the old stuff out as I could.

For the new coolant, I still went with PrimoChill Liquid Utopia with the UV Purple dye. The small bottle of Liquid Utopia is to be diluted into a gallon of distilled water. And an entire bottle of UV Purple dye is also perfect for… a gallon of distilled water. So I dumped the entire bottle of dye into the gallon jug of coolant and mixed it up. Shaking it periodically and letting it sit, rinse and repeat.

The result? A much, much more vibrant purple than I’d ever gotten. A much more vibrant UV effect as well. The purple color in the GPU block is still a little… duller than the rest of the loop, but that’s due to it being just an exposed copper plate.

But the color is also what my wife was initially hoping for.

Presume Michael Avenatti innocent

Since I get a lot of flak from those I know about not bashing the right “enough”, I’m going to take this opportunity to do just that. One of the beauties of being a libertarian.

Recently, celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti was arrested on domestic violence charges. Avenatti is not only famous for being the attorney representing Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit attempt against President Trump, but also for trying to locate additional accusers against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And, predictably, Avenatti has proclaimed innocence:

Recently I said that we should presume Kavanaugh innocent in the face of the numerous allegations that are, let’s be realistic, impossible to prove. Yet many presumed the allegations true and demanded Kavanaugh withdraw his nomination or for Trump to pull it himself. The allegation was all they needed.

Amazing as well how no one seems to be mentioning Kavanaugh or any of his accusers much anymore. But, back to Avenatti.

It would be supremely hypocritical of me to defend due process and the presumption of innocence for everyone else and not do the same for Avenatti. I’ve said before that if you’re not willing to defend it for everyone else, why should everyone else defend it for you. So I’m going to take the high ground that conservatives appear to have so willingly abandoned and do just that: Michael Avenatti should be presumed innocent unless and until the charges against him are proven.

So why are conservatives basically presuming him guilty, in rather disgusting fashion?

In short because the Democrats were doing that with Kavanaugh. And there are numerous other cases wherein impossible-to-prove allegations have been made against other men as part of this whole “me too” fiasco. This certainly doesn’t excuse what conservatives have been doing with Avenatti. But the pattern put in motion by the left and Democrats is going to be adopted by the right and Republicans. Anything the Democrats does will become fair game.

Principles, however, should never be sacrificed on the altar of politics. Yet all too often they are. And this time conservatives are doing it.

Teenagers are NOT being locked up for trick-or-treating in Hampton Roads

This has to be one of the more insidious things to hit my news feeds lately: outrage over ordinances that exist in Hampton Roads that set a legal age limit at 13 years-old for trick-or-treating on Halloween. And what’s all the more infuriating is EVERY place discussing these laws implying these laws are a recent incarnation.

They aren’t.

The laws have been around since the late 1960s. And they were enacted after there were several crimes that occurred on Halloween night by teenagers who weren’t simply begging for candy.

I grew up in Virginia Beach. If I remember correctly, the last year I went trick-or-treating was 6th grade, 11 years old. It was the same with most of my neighbors as well. In general kids stop going out trick-or-treating once they reach middle school, and it’s generally rare that kids continue doing so at that point. And it is generally accepted among parents that middle school is the appropriate cut-off.

But in all the time the laws have been in place in Hampton Roads – again, it’s been almost 50 years these laws have existed – how many have actually been arrested just for violating that law? It’s so few we might as well say none. Residents aren’t turning in teenagers who trick-or-treat, and most kids stop going out on beggar’s night before they reach the age cut-off.

And the number of teens actually out trick-or-treating is so low the police generally ignore them unless problems arise. In which case they’ll intervene. This is similar to the laws regarding lemonade stands in which police and the city generally ignore the fact they exist, in violation of standing laws and ordinances, unless someone complains or other concerns come up.

That’s why you’ve probably not seen this story picked up by the mainstream media. I’ve not seen one mainstream media outlet actually discuss this. Because a simple fact check would reveal the laws are long-standing and not recent developments. And virtually no one in the affected cities has actually called for their repeal. Since virtually no one has been arrested just for violating those laws, and very few people become subject to them.

So why do these laws stipulate jail time and fines for teens actually charged with violating the law? For the same reason most petty offenses also stipulate jail time: in case there are accompanying charges that warrant a greater detention. Police have discretion over whether to actually arrest teens who are caught – and that’s so rare an occurrence we can say it virtually never happens – and the Courts have discretion over how to sentence any teens who are convicted or plead guilty.

This whole backlash about these laws ignores the fact they have been around for 50 years, and the residents of those cities don’t care these laws exist. Beyond that, it ignores the fact the law rarely is enforced, because it very, very rarely needs to be enforced.

It’s making a volcano out of an ant hill, and then flipping its lid like Mount St. Helens did in 1980. Which seems to be par for the course when it comes to the Internet.

Blackmail scam

There are some tell-tale signs that an e-mail is a phishing or scam attempt. I’ve received “Your account has been compromised” e-mails bearing the hallmark of… Bank of America and American Express. I’ve never been customers of either. So whenever I see those, I just forward them off to their respective security contacts and delete them.

But one e-mail I received this morning was… rather interesting. Based on my research, this isn’t anything new. It’s a modified version of e-mails that have been circulating for a while. And given how much e-mail I have to filter through every day – even after the spam filter gets ahold of it – I’ve gotten my share of scam e-mails over the years. If it’s a phishing attempt, I forward it off to the relevant company.

In this instance, I’m posting the scam attempt publicly, to let the search engines pick up on it. And it appears to have been recycled (Reddit post, Democratic Underground post), just with a different Bitcoin address.

I guess you’re wondering why you’re receiving this email right?

It would be highly beneficial to your privacy if you didn’t ignore it.

I have placed a Malware on an adult website (…P…0…r…n site) and as you visited and watched the video your device has been affected, placing a spyware on your machine. Which has recorded you both with webcam and screen capture while you had your “fun Time” allowing me to see exactly what you see.

This has also affected your smartphone via an exploit. So do not think for one minute you can circumvent this by reinstalling your OS. You have already been recorded.

After that my malware collected all your messengers, emails and social networks contacts.

I guess this isn’t good news right?
But don’t worry too much, there’s a way we can fix this privacy issue. All i require is a Bitcoin payment of £ 850 which i think is a fair price considering the circumstances.

The address to make the payment is: 333vDCcYipberH4wKgMnXppaBeauRPoNH7

If you don’t understand bitcoin, go on youtube and search for “how to buy bitcoin” or google for “localbitcoins”, its pretty easy to do it.

You have only 48 hours after reading this e-mail to send payment (Be warned i know when you have opened and read this email, i have placed a pixel image inside it. Which enables me to know when you have opened the messaged on exactly what day and time)

If you decide to ignore this email, i will have no choice but to forward the video to all the collected contacts you have on your email account, as well as post on your social media accounts, and send as a personal message to all Facebook contacts. and of course make the video publicly available on internet, via you-tube and adult websites. considering your reputation, i highly doubt you want to be exposed to your family/friends/coworkers during this current time.

You can actually go to the police, but these people will not likely do anything, the most significant stuff they can do is lock my wallet and you will deprive other people from the opportunity to pay me. So think twice before doing foolish things.

If i receive payment all the material will be destroyed and you will never hear from me again. If i do not get my funds for virtually any reason, such as the inability to send cash to a blacklisted wallet – your reputation is going to be wrecked. So make it fast.

Do not try to make contact with me because am using a victim email that was hacked and exposed.

If you don’t believe and want proof just reply to this email with “PROOF” and i will send your video to 5 of your contacts via email, and post on your Facebook wall. In which you will be able to remove it once, not forever.

Here are some resources talking about this scam:

And it’s apparently been picked up by the mainstream media as well. Just search for “blackmail e-mail scam” or something like that and you’ll find it.

Revisiting Amethyst – More color testing

Recall in the previous article on this that I’d purchased touch-up paint, specifically Mopar Deep Amethyst Pearl, which was a paint used on Dodge Neons and some other cars for a brief period of time. Not long after the paint arrived, I also bought Rust-Oleum Self-Etching Primer and another aluminum panel, along with mineral spirits for “proper” surface preparation.

The touch-up paint is lacquer-based. This is only a color test. I won’t be using it for actually painting the 750D.

So since this is about a color test, how does the color look?

The shade of purple is about spot on to what I wanted – ignore the lighter areas as I was spraying onto this inside a small Amazon shipping box. The pearl, however, isn’t as prominent as I would like. So after I was sure the lacquer paint had (nearly) completely cured, overnight, I went over it with the Rust-Oleum Frosted Pearl clear coat.

My wife wasn’t really fond of this outcome. And I can understand as the frosted color and pearl make it look a little… too pearly. But she thought it too dark. And part of that could be the fact the automotive self-etching primer I used is dark green – according to Rust-Oleum.

So redo with white primer? Not yet.

Krylon Metallic Shimmer with Rust-Oleum Universal Clear Gloss

The Candy Purple specifically – no. 3928.

Yes, Krylon also has a clear coat, but I already had the Rust-Oleum can. The only issue is the Krylon paint is not a paint+primer, meaning I needed to use primer under it. So I went with Rust-Oleum again and the 2x White Primer. The 24-hour wait between primer and paint is the only downside given the temperature has not been as warm as previously.

This met her approval. The color, not the quality of this test paint job.

So the question that you may be considering: why did I not do this in the first place? This particular Krylon paint is only available at craft stores in my area. Home Depot doesn’t carry Krylon in spray cans, only Rust-Oleum. And Lowe’s doesn’t have the Metallic Shimmer lineup. Wal-Mart carries both Rust-Oleum and Krylon, but I don’t recall seeing the Metallic Shimmer there, as of this article going live.

Michael’s is the only place in KC I could find this before considering ordering it in through Amazon. And I don’t exactly go to Michael’s much.

Though I would recommend checking out Wal-Mart first for spray cans since they have much lower prices compared to Lowe’s and Home Depot.

* * * * *

So now to convince my wife to be without her system for a week. And figure out what to do with the rest of the paint I’ve bought for the color testing. Perhaps custom paint several of the panels in my rack, or the rack frame?

I’m not painting the entire chassis purple either. Only the outer panels, though I will paint both the inside and outside of those panels. Perhaps excluding the front fascia – not sure yet. I might repaint it gloss black with the pearl clear coat. The inside of the chassis, motherboard tray, etc, will be white pearl – likely white paint with the frosted pearl. This mix should have it looking like white quartz and amethyst. And the white internal will blend well with her white mainboard.

This should also brighten the system quite a bit, especially with the white LEDs on the fans and adding additional white LED lighting to replace the UV cathodes.

And there’s also still the plan of replacing the tubing with copper tubing that is also painted to match the chassis. Though keeping the clear pump housing and reservoir.