The –Criminal– Justice System


Julie Martinelli / WPLN

This is a tragic story. Matthew got out of prison, built a life for himself, volunteered, and became a productive member of his community.

When a Nashville man named Matthew Charles was released from prison early in 2016 after a sentence reduction, he’d spent almost half his life behind bars. But in a rare move, a federal court ruled his term was reduced in error and ordered him back behind bars to finish his sentence.

This is just one example of a criminal justice system that continues to needlessly destroy lives and communities. It needs serious reform.

Just uninstall the Facebook app

Facebook scraped call, text message data for years from Android phones says Sean Gallagher, writing for Ars Technica:

This past week, a New Zealand man was looking through the data Facebook had collected from him in an archive he had pulled down from the social networking site. While scanning the information Facebook had stored about his contacts, Dylan McKay discovered something distressing: Facebook also had about two years’ worth of phone call metadata from his Android phone, including names, phone numbers, and the length of each call made or received.

I can, maybe, understand storing contact information, but storing phone call history, metadata, names, and phone numbers seems negligent at best and despicable at its worst. More so, it seems it’s not obvious to users that the Facebook app reads, uploads, and stores this information. Earlier versions of Android made stuff like this way too easy. In those days, apps could grab tons of permissions to access things like contacts, phone, location, and storage. The user was presented with a badly designed wall of text with brief explanations of that each permission entailed. Once the user, hits accept, the app was free to do anything it wanted, within the scope of accepted permissions.

This explainer is pretty bad

The only solution here is to uninstall the Facebook app. I uninstalled the Facebook app for Android years ago, when it was a pretty terrible wrapper for their mobile site. It also turned out to be pretty hard on phone performance and battery life as well. This latest discovery should be the 3rd strike for many Facebook users. If you need to use anything on Facebook, log in using an incognito or private browser tab or Firefox Focus and log out once you’re done.

In the very least, you’ll have a little bit more privacy and time for more important things.

// The Comment #13

The Comment is a weekly digest of the stuff that grabbed my attention or occupied some part my mind during the past week. Normally, it’ll be one thing that’s really been on my mind, followed by a handful of things that I found interesting. The Comment will be published each Monday at 10:30AM EST.

Thanks for reading.

// Pixel 2, Four Months In

I’ve had my Pixel 2 XL for 4 months. My experience with it has been mostly good, though there were some issues, some self-inflicted.

I dropped my Pixel on a sidewalk in Boston and cracked the screen. It was in a MNML “case”. The touch screen worked, but the crack was too much to bear every day so I paid the ~$200 to get it fixed at UBreakifix. A few weeks later, with the replacement screen installed, I noticed some weird fringing on the right side of the screen. It looked almost like there was ink spilled inside the phone. UBreakifix took care of this issue at no charge to me.

Sometime in late December or January, after the Android 8.1 update, my proximity sensor stopped working. When the proximity sensor stops working, the Always On Display turns off after 10 seconds and squeeze for Assistant stops working as well. On phone calls, the only way to revive the phone is if the party on the other end of the call hangs up. When the proximity sensor stops working, the phone thinks its in my pocket or flipped over on its screen all of the the time. Nonetheless, it was annoying. The issue has been reported to Google for sometime. I wasn’t confident that a software fix would resolve the issue so I requested a RMA for my device.

The replacement (2nd Pixel) showed up without the proximity sensor issues. However, out of the box, the vibration motor sounded like a box of marbles. I lived with the replacement for a few weeks before coming to the conclusion that I shouldn’t. I RMA’d the device.

The replacement (now my 3rd Pixel) arrived and it’s perfect. Let’s hope it stays that way. It’s still fast, the camera is still superb, battery life is great, and software updates come very quickly. Other than the inconsistent hardware, I have no complaints 4 months into my Pixel 2 purchase.

# Roadblocks to home ownership

Aaron Glantz and Emmanuel Martinez of Reveal writing about the barriers to home ownership for people of color:

The disproportionate denials and limited anti-discrimination enforcement help explain why the homeownership gap between whites and African Americans is now wider than it was during the Jim Crow era.

In the United States, “wealth and financial stability are inextricably linked to housing opportunity and homeownership,” said Lisa Rice, executive vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance, an advocacy group. “For a typical family, the largest share of their wealth emanates from homeownership and home equity.”

The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show the median net worth for an African American family is now $9,000, compared with $132,000 for a white family. Latino families did not fare much better at $12,000.

More:

Philadelphia was one of the largest cities in America where African Americans were disproportionately turned away when they tried to buy a home. African Americans and non-Hispanic whites make up a similar share of the population there, but the data showed whites received 10 times as many conventional mortgage loans in 2015 and 2016.

Banks also focused on serving the white parts of town, placing nearly three-quarters of all branches in white-majority neighborhoods, compared with 10 percent for black neighborhoods. Reveal’s analysis also showed that the greater the number of African Americans or Latinos in a neighborhood there, the more likely a loan application there would be denied – even after accounting for income and other factors.

The fact that this is happening is not surprising, but eye opening. Home ownership is avenue used by many families to move into the middle class. Homeowners benefit from favorable tax policy, housing stability, and hopefully, increasing equity / net worth. This is just one of many obstacles for people of color experience attempting to make a better life.

# Raising money to see Black Panther

A heartwarming story:

The 100 Black Men Triangle East Chapter exceeded its fundraising goal, raising nearly $6,000 to bring mentees and children from other organizations to the IMAX theater at Marbles Kids Museum to see the film.

As the group stepped up with their tickets, their excited and hopeful energy blended with those who had just left the theater following a previous showing of the film.

“The cast being black that way, I think that was miraculous and it set a tone for not only entertainment, but just in our own world that we live in,” Mitch Summerfield, a pastor who took men in his church to see the movie.

The hope is that the children who saw the movie Sunday night will walk away with a message that transcends their childhood.

# New Kooley High

Kooley High just released a single, “Ceiling” off their upcoming album “Never Come Down”. I’m a fan.

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// The Comment #8: Happy New Year

The Comment is a weekly digest of the stuff that grabbed my attention or occupied some part my mind during the past week. Normally, it’ll be one thing that’s really been on my mind, followed by a handful of things that I found interesting. The Comment will be published each Monday at 10:30AM EST. 

Thanks for reading.

# A few favorites

Here are just a few things that stood out for me in all of 2017.

Travel

Kente cloth making in Juaben, Ghana

I traveled to Ghana in March 2017 with my family.  We spent some time in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, and a few places in between.  We toured two former slave castles, walked the canopy bridge, and had dinner at a hydroelectric dam.  It was a fantastic trip with a lot of great people, food, experiences, and provided me with a different perspective and worldview.  I look forward to making a few more trips to Ghana.

Book

I read a handful of books in 2017, but my favorite was definitely The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran. Mehrsa documents the numerous economic systems and policies that contributed to the wealth gap between black and white families (and banks) including slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow, The New Deal, and more.  I will write more on this in the future, but it’s a good, eye-opening read, especially in light of our regressive tax policies going into effect today.

Runner Up: The New Jim Crow

Podcast

“Mic check, one, two, one, two!”

The Joe Budden Podcast easily turned into my favorite podcast in all of 2017. It’s a hip hop based podcast where Joe, Rory, and Mal chat about news and events in the culture.  It’s hilarious.  Warning: It’s definitely NSFW.

Runner Up: Uncivil

Internet Reading

I’ve been reading James Clear for a couple years now.  2017 is the year where I put some of his lessons into practice.   JamesClear.com presents an infrastructure for achieving your goals and desires for a better personal life by showing you how establish and consistently follow through on your habits.  All of his recommendations and tips are backed by science.  I found that just buying into a system to be critical, for me, for moving the ball forward in 2017.

Tech

Source: CNET

There were a few things here that I could have chose, but the one thing that has had a effect on my life is the camera on the Pixel XL & Pixel 2 XL.  I take a lot of pictures, most of them being of my family.  I used to take “good” pictures with a Sony NEX-6 digital SLR camera.  The NEX-6 takes great pictures, but its big, bulky, and has middling battery life.  Starting with the Pixel, and now the Pixel 2, I’ve begun capturing some of life’s most precious experiences with these devices because the camera is that good.

Album

“Laila’s Wisdom” by Rapsody.  Laila’s Wisdom is the entire package, great production, great lyricism and storytelling, great features, and great artwork.

// Bitcoin vs. LiteCoin vs. Ethereum

Here is a good explainer on the differences between Bitcoin, LiteCoin, and Ethereum.

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