MikroTik CRS317 10GbE switch

For the last two years I’ve been using the Quanta LB6M as the backbone of my home network. A 24 port SFP+ switch with four (4) GbE RJ45 ports connecting two Gigabit switches and my Internet router. So everything came to the LB6M and was routed accordingly.

It works quite well, too. Provided you can live with the noise. The first thing I did when I received it, before putting it into service, was swap the rear 40mm fans on the fan sled with much quieter fans. This quieted down the system, but it also caused the switch to run very hot. Two things helped me counter this: I cut out the fan grills on the fan sled, and did some maintenance on the thermal paste inside it. And I also had a fan blowing onto the underside.

But replacing the fans didn’t entirely eliminate the noise since I was not going to replace the fans in the power supplies. I’d been looking around for better options since.

And that’s where this comes in: the MikroTik CRS317. (Buy it at Amazon or EuroDK) It comes at a slight premium. 400 USD MSRP compared to the about 240 USD I paid for the Quanta LB6M in January 2017. Though you can get it for less through different suppliers. Just pay attention to shipping costs.

And I jumped for it for three reasons:

  1. Passively cooled. Mostly. It has two 40mm fans, which should not be running all the time.
  2. SFP+. It should be drop-in to my current setup.
  3. GbE SFP module support. And it should just be plug and play.

That third point means this switch will be replacing two: the LB6M and a TP-Link 8-port GbE switch. Getting the LB6M working with GbE SFP modules is… it’s definitely NOT just plug and play and requires flashing a different firmware to the switch to get it to work. No thanks.

SFP modules

I’ve had no issues with Fiber Store’s 10GBase-SR SFP+ modules. They happily worked with the Quanta LB6M, and I fully expected them to work with the MikroTik switch. I returned to Fiber Store for their SFP RJ-45 modules (Generic), since they were also about 30+% less expensive than any price I could find for MikroTik’s SFP module. I ordered one for each GbE connection I had to the LB6M.

Using SFP modules to consolidate GbE connections is only cost and value-effective if you’re consolidating a few. Four or five at most. Beyond that, and it’s a better value acquiring a GbE switch with a 10GbE uplink to avoid having a significant number of 10GbE ports occupied by GbE connections.

Initial setup and SwOS

The initial setup was interesting. I’ll spare the details here, but getting it swapped over to SwOS and away from RouterOS was a little cumbersome at first.

Only because I discovered something the online documentation omits as of this writing: after changing it over to boot to SwOS, shutdown the switch (System->Shutdown) and unplug it. Don’t just simply reboot it. Then when you plug it back in, it should boot into SwOS and everything should work.

SwOS by default will automatically attempt to acquire an IP address via DHCP and only fall back to its default if it’s unable to. This means you should be able to switch it over to SwOS, shut it down, and then add it into your network like any other switch. The IP address determines how easily you can access the web UI, and is a good check on whether the switch is configured properly.

Racking it up

I initially thought I wouldn’t be able to pull the TP-Link switch for lack of SFP modules. But I realized later that the IP-KVM and the UPS SNMP module are the only two devices connected to it. The SNMP module doesn’t need a lot of bandwidth. It’d probably be perfectly happy on a 10Mb connection. The IP-KVM? It really needs the GbE connection with as little contention as possible, so it’s getting hooked into the 10GbE switch.

So I connected the SNMP directly to the router, and connected the KVM to the 10GbE switch, allowing me to pull the GbE switch from the rack. If I really feel like doing so, I can order another SFP module to connect the SNMP into the 10GbE switch.

All the other 10GbE connections just worked with the Fiber Store SFP+ modules I’d been using. One thing I also realized in hindsight: I likely could’ve used the ETH/BOOT port (the RJ45 port with lights) as the uplink to the router, opening up a connection for the SNMP module. I’ll look at that later, though. For now, everything works.

Impressions and comments

This switch is very, very quiet compared to the rest of the hardware in the rack. The Quanta switch easily overpowered everything else on noise, even with the quieter fans and just one power supply plugged in. The Mikrotik switch, however, is easily overpowered by the NAS and virtualization server. This is a nice change. Unplugging the Quanta switch to pull it out of the rack… it’s amazing what you become accustomed to over time.

The MikroTik CRS317 is also very lightweight. It’s about the size and weight of a 1U GbE switch, like a 16-port TrendNet switch I have in my den.

So it’s compact, quiet, lightweight, and supports up to (16) 10GbE SFP+ or GbE SFP connections. All brand new it’s significantly less than the cost of a brand new RJ45 10GbE switch. And it’s easy to get set up for SwOS, once you account for the one slight detail I provided above.

This is the much, much better option in my opinion over the Quanta LB6M. The noise aside, the fact the LB6M doesn’t support GbE SFP out of the box means you can’t really use that switch to its full potential in a smaller setup. But it was never meant for a smaller setup. That it has 24 ports shows this. That it’s louder than a 747 during take-off with the stock fans also shows this. It’s meant to be in a server room or networking closet.

The 16 ports on the MikroTik CRS317 shows it’s not exactly meant for a “small” setup either. But it’s a hell of lot better suited to a setup like mine than the Quanta. And it’s working as expected.

No, there is no such thing as an “accidental discharge”

Let’s lay out a scenario.

A firearm owner decides they want a different trigger on their Glock 34. So they purchase the parts and attempt the installation themselves. Thinking they got it right. During drills, the firearm is misfiring. Then when they holster the firearm with a round chambered, the firearm discharges in the holster.

Accidental discharge? KR Training would like you to think so. The scenario above was reproduced from their description:

The student who experienced the accidental discharge was using a Gen 4 Glock 34 with an aftermarket trigger installed (Pyramid Trigger) and an OWB paddle holster. During the drill, he had several misfires occur, which he cleared and continued with the drill. When he holstered, with finger off the trigger, the pistol discharged in the holster.

There’s a reason many of us say “there is no such thing as an accidental discharge, only negligent discharges”. If a firearm goes off on its own with no manipulation of the trigger, something about the firearm is defective. In the above scenario, it’s the trigger assembly.

If a firearm discharges without any manipulation of the trigger, someone is to blame for that. If the firearm is brand new and such a discharge occurs when the owner is putting the first magazines through it, the negligence is on the part of the manufacturer. If it’s used, then it’ll depend on the chain of custody for the firearm to determine who should have known the firearm was defective – e.g. the prior owner, the shop trying to sell it, etc. And during continued ownership, if the firearm malfunctions, it’s the owner’s liability for failure to properly maintain it.

Accident means there is no one to blame.

But there is ALWAYS someone to blame when a firearm malfunctions and discharges, whether the trigger is manipulated or not. In the above scenario, that would be the firearm owner. If a gun armorer performed the trigger swap, liability would rest with them.

And that there is always someone to blame is why we say “there is no such thing as an accidental discharge”.

Your concealed carry permit is not a badge

Back when I was first learning about firearms and concealed carry, I came across a video – since removed, unfortunately – called “Your concealed carry permit is not a badge”, or something along those lines. And recently I’m reminded of that sentiment with a story out of Marysville, Washington:

Authorities say two men were surrounded by customers with guns while attempting to steal tools from a Washington store.

The Daily Herald reports the men, ages 22 and 23, allegedly took four nail guns, each worth more than $400, from the Coastal Farm & Ranch store Saturday in Marysville.

The men walked out of the store and got into a Honda Civic, only to be surrounded by about six customers with guns raised.

There is NOTHING under the law that gives anyone with a concealed carry permit the legal ability or privilege to stop a criminal fleeing a crime scene. Someone’s life being in danger, whether yours or someone else’s, is the only justifiable reason you have to pull your firearm.

A friend of mine shared the above story on his Facebook wall, and he said this in response to a comment where I said you should not (indeed, you cannot) use your firearm to stop property theft:

I agree this isn’t a situation for a firearm, but by the same token it can’t be easy to stand on the sidelines watching people doing this.

Which is certainly a sentiment I understand. I’ve written about it on this blog. But that is an instinct that must be fought. Since, as I said to the friend, sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is that doing nothing is often the best response to a situation.

You may want to help, but your desire to help could land you in hot water. You could misinterpret a situation, meaning you’re not responding to it appropriately, or even make it worse.

Let me give you an idea from my recent past. A couple months ago, while driving down Santa Fe Trail Drive through Lenexa, KS, we came upon a nasty car accident outside the Lenexa UPS sorting facility. SUV on its side in about the middle of the road, and another truck off on the side of the road. Head-on collision from the looks of things. I pull over and decide to offer help. Several other civilians were already on scene doing the same. 911 had already been called by the time I arrived.

We leave the truck occupant alone since we could not ascertain the degree of his injuries. He was not in any obvious immediate danger. Moving him would’ve been the worst thing to do. Lenexa Police arrived first. EMTs and Lenexa Fire followed not long thereafter.

But car accidents are an easy situation to ascertain: figure out who is injured, get everyone out of harm’s way if necessary, make sure anyone with severe injuries doesn’t move, and get the hell out of the way of EMTs when they arrive. What about a situation that isn’t so cut and dry?

In CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (also known as “CSI: Las Vegas”), Season 3, episode 9 called “Blood Lust“, a taxi driver accidentally runs over a teenager who dies at the scene. The driver gets out to initially investigate, but then gets back into the car. A group of men see this and, thinking the driver is going to flee the scene, swarm the car, pull out the driver, and beat him to death.

There is one key detail the men didn’t slow down to actually consider: the taxi driver has a radio (episode aired in 2002, when cell phones weren’t yet as ubiquitous as they are now), and he was going to radio in to get an ambulance to his location.

What the men in Washington did was of similar vein to what is portrayed in the noted CSI episode. They saw something happen, and decided they needed to respond. Sure, no one died in the Washington incident. But that’s beside the point. A group of six men surrounded a car occupied and driven by fleeing thieves and drew their firearms. They saw fleeing thieves and used a threat of deadly force to detain suspects who, based on the immediate observable details, posed no threat to anyone.

So let’s drive the point home.

Your concealed carry permit is not a badge. It does not make you law enforcement, nor grant upon you any law enforcement authority, including the authority to detain a suspect at a scene.

Do not use your firearm to stop property theft. Do not use your firearm to prevent someone fleeing a crime scene. Do not attempt to pursue someone fleeing a crime scene.

Only employ and deploy your firearm when you can clearly see and articulate that you or someone is in danger of great bodily harm or death.

Unless you are law enforcement, you have zero authority under the law to use your firearm in any other manner. Taking the law into your own hands makes you a vigilante. And I have no respect for vigilantes.

Fix this, SunTrust Bank

I have a page up top for listing contact information for reporting phishing e-mails. SunTrust Bank, however, has their e-mail server set up in a rather weird way. I’ve tried forwarding an e-mail to them numerous times and keep getting this in response:

554 Unfortunately your access to this mail system has been rejected due to the sending MTA’s poor reputation and e-mail hygiene on the Internet. Please reference the following URL for more information: http://www.senderbase.org

When I took to Twitter to figure out an alternate way of forwarding them the phishing e-mail, they subscribed to me and said to forward screenshots of it via DM. Screenshots. Yeah, no. Thankfully I was actually able to forward the e-mail to them from a yahoo.com account. Let that sink in for a little bit…

So if someone from SunTrust happens upon this article, please have your IT department do something about your mail server. You cannot publicly advertise an e-mail address for forwarding phishing e-mails that rejects good faith attempts to provide said e-mails to you. I’ve never had an e-mail rejected due to some arbitrary “reputation” score.

At the least, set up a contact form that allows attachments with instructions on how someone can export an e-mail to a .eml file so the entire e-mail can be sent to you intact. Forwarding takes away a lot of potentially useful information, such as the originating mail servers. And screenshots are basically useless. Including screenshots of the raw e-mail unless you have an OCR program at the ready or are willing to manually recreate the e-mail by hand from the screenshots.

To everyone else seeing this, a quick reminder: your bank will almost NEVER contact you via e-mail if there is a problem with your account. They will instead call you since they have your phone number on file. And if you notice anything odd about your account, call in or visit a bank branch in person.

I am not leaving Patreon

I have a Patreon account through which, as of this writing, I support six channels. Four have nothing to do with politics, though one does touch on politics periodically, but not through any of their actual content. Mostly. I’ve also supported two of these channels via Kickstarter campaigns. And where it has been relevant, I’ve mentioned that I do support Singularity Computers through Patreon, and continue to do so as of this writing.

I joined Patreon when Singularity Computers announced they’d be creating one. And I’ve supported other channels beyond the ones I do now, and only later withdrew support for lack of content (e.g. Julie Borowski) or other reasons.

Patreon gives those who wish to support content creators a convenient means of doing so. Along with other income sources, it has helped many content creators focus more on their content without having to worry nearly as much about paying the bills.

Since the outset, Patreon should have always been politically neutral. And initially they were, only going after accounts for egregious actions or content. Acting merely as a gateway for content patrons to support content creators. But over the last two years they’ve made it clear that aren’t going to be remain neutral, courtesy of their “Trust and Safety Council”. Taking activities outside Patreon and not connected to Patreon and using it to determine whether content creators will be able to use Patreon. Or caving to lobbying efforts and shutting down accounts without getting a full idea of what’s going on.

In other words, taking the attacks on income streams for right-leaning commentators that leftists have been doing for at least the last 10 years and continuing that by attacking Patreon accounts.

Lauren Southern was one. Her Patreon account was terminated in 2017 when she participated in an attempt to deflect migrant boats as part of an operation called “Defend Europe”, going on intelligence that apparently never made it to mainstream media headlines. I’ll let her words provide the details:

This was open evidence that Patreon would use what someone does unconnected to Patreon as a factor in whether to terminate someone’s account.

And recently Patreon has started purging their system of accounts linked to other individuals who’ve been merely labeled “alt-right” or “far right”, individuals who are in actuality liberal or libertarian. One of the more prominent accounts to be banned (again!) is Carl Benjamin, colloquially known as “Sargon of Akkad”. His crime? Using the n-word in a livestream on YouTube that was never posted to his channel nor his Patreon page. Yet Patreon decided to use that against him. Context: Benjamin never use that word in relation to blacks.

In response to these purges, many have decided to cut ties with Patreon. One of the more prominent examples I received in my e-mail recently, and it’s also on his Twitter account, is from Dr Sam Harris, who cut ties with Patreon as a content creator:

I will not be following suit. And if you are a content supporter, I urge you to also not follow suit. Now if you’re a content creator who wants to cut ties, as Dr Harris and others have, by all means go ahead and do so. But if you’re a content supporter, I urge you to stick around.

Closing your Patreon account in protest will serve only to deprive the content creators you currently support of a stream of income. Not all content creators will be able to weather losing their Patreon support. The majority, likely vast majority, of content creators on Patreon don’t touch politics at all. This means closing your Patreon account will deprive these content creators of potentially a significant portion of their income for something completely outside their control.

Content creators who likely have no idea what is going on suddenly losing part of their income because some content patrons decided to turn self-righteous.

This is about the same as protesting tipping of waiters and waitresses by not tipping. In other words, knowingly depriving someone who has no say in any of that of part of their income in a bid to feel self-righteous.

So for the time being I’m sticking around on Patreon. If you want to close your Patreon account in light of what’s been going on, at least determine first if there are alternate means of supporting those content creators. Because a lot of them turned to Patreon and haven’t (yet) set up alternate methods of accepting donations. Closing your Patreon account in protest is going to hurt people with no dog in the fight. And that’s grossly unfair to them all so you could feel self-righteous or “send Patreon a message”.

Now I’m not ignoring the fact that Patreon has a near-monopoly in this market space. We badly need alternatives to Patreon. But as those banned from Patreon will quickly flock to those alternatives, they will be quickly labeled havens for “alt right” content creators. SubscribeStar has suffered similar fate, and has seen some impairments from that – such as a “request” from PayPal that they not use PayPal as a payment gateway.

But does that warrant withdrawing your support from other content creators with no dog in the fight? In my opinion, no. So I’m not joining in on any of that.

Update: On December 17, Patreon issued a statement regarding banning Carl Benjamin (“Sargon of Akkad”) for “hate speech”.

Amending: YouTube channel Design Prototype Test has released a statement about their decline in Patreon subscriptions despite his channel having nothing to do with politics. It’s entirely due to Patreon contributors deciding to leave the platform.

Again, it is for the content creators I support who don’t talk about politics that I’ve remained on the platform. It is not fair to them for me to leave merely because I don’t like Patreon’s decisions.

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 Townhall.com 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.