📰 Police are holy and untouchable

“The suspect was captured alive, but the home was utterly destroyed, eventually condemned by the City of Greenwood Village.

That left Leo Lech’s son, John Lech — who lived there with his girlfriend and her 9-year-old son — without a home. The city refused to compensate the Lech family for their losses but offered $5,000 in temporary rental assistance and for the insurance deductible.

Now, after the Leches sued, a federal appeals court has decided what else the city owes the Lech family for destroying their house more than four years ago: nothing.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit unanimously ruled that the city is not required to compensate the Lech family for their lost home because it was destroyed by police while they were trying to enforce the law, rather than taken by eminent domain.”

In the United States, the police can do anything they want and are not responsible for their actions. They can kill people, they can take your possessions, or they can destroy your property without consequence. The situation described in this article is a classic example. The police completely destroyed a family’s home through no fault of the family and yet the “justice” system has proclaimed that the police who destroyed the home are in no way responsible for their actions. This is sickening. Fuck the people who enable this behavior.

“Protect and serve”??? Yeah, that’s a fucking lie.

Police blew up an innocent man’s house in search of an armed shoplifter. Too bad, court rules. [Washington Post]

📰 We need more homes

By John Lisovsky

One is an instance. Two may be a coincidence. Three annual fire seasons? In a row?

Climate change has given us this grim new time of year, and its rhythm warns us that it will not operate on a leisurely schedule. George Carlin quipped that it’s called the American Dream because you’ve got to be asleep to believe it. The smoke that approaches for a third straight year should wake us all from the California Dream of urban homesteads, endless tracts of single-family homes, and the urban/rural interface.

We paved over paradise, perched endless dwellings on hills and intermingled with forestry. We demanded power grids serve not a network of dense, well-contained cities, but sprawling suburbs flowing one into another. As our commutes into town warmed our climate one tank of gasoline at a time, the tinder got hotter and drier. When people live around things that easily catch fire, they will cause more fires. When we allow housing to be built where we know there’s an extreme fire risk — and draw people there with apartment bans in job centers — we do not merely stand by as tragedies like Paradise unfold. We are complicit.

West Los Angeles, where I grew up, is complicit. San Francisco, which bans apartments in over two-thirds of its residential land, is complicit. Palo Alto and Beverly Hills are complicit. People who complain about blocked views, shadows, traffic, noise, neighborhood character — those who worry about poor people moving in — are complicit. People who deny the past hundred years of empirical data about supply and demand, who have turned “developer” into a four-letter word, are complicit. Every community which said no to new housing because “we’re full,” because apartments would “destroy our charm,” has pushed people out into areas far from urban centers and closer to the wilderness, where fires are more easily ignited and less easily extinguished.

Our land-use patterns of the past 75 years, where the car is king and the carbon above our heads is not discussed, are a drunken bender in our civilizational life. We stand in 2019 at an inflection point. Suburban and exurban sprawl, particularly the intermingling with the wild frontier up and down California’s many mountains and hills, endanger actual human beings today. They also entrench fossil fuel emissions, which worsen tomorrow’s fires, floods, and sea level rise — for California, yes, but for regions the world over which share and exceed the risk we see here.

The ocean threatens the beach towns; the wildfires threaten the hills. There is only one direction to go, and it is up. Dense, infill development within cities puts people where they can be defended by municipal fire departments and where buses, bicycles and walking can replace cars and carbon emissions.

Earlier this year, state Sen. Scott Wiener’s clarion reimagining of what California should look like, and how it can embody the sustainable values it espouses, was stalled in committee. The year’s delay was petty, selfish and small-minded, but the More Homes Act will return in January. Our climate emergency has been underlined thrice by as many seasons of air so bad that children are taught the macabre California version of a snow day — the smoke day. Nostalgia of white picket fences and craftsman homes can only blow proverbial smoke in our faces for so long before the real thing shakes us out of imagination and into deathly reality.

We do not have another legislative session to waste in public comment about whether four-story apartment buildings next to subway and commuter rail stations constitute “Manhattanization.” We do not have another two years to waste wondering whether the only possible solution to our climate/wildfire emergency imposes too much on wealthy communities that have made a cottage industry of finding reasons to kill apartments. We do not have another election cycle to waste watching the mayor of Cupertino promise to build a wall around his city and have San Jose pay for it, or to watch the man’s constituents decry thousands of new units in Silicon Valley because they might bring “uneducated” people to town.

California is burning. Climate refugees will not come only from third-world countries; they were made last year in Paradise and will be made right here again — by us and our decisions about where to build housing. Infill development is no longer an aesthetic preference or a lifestyle choice. It’s no longer about being near amenities. It’s a question of which communities are safe from fire risk, and which go to bed wondering whether a mandatory evacuation order might come before morning. It’s a question, equally, of which communities reach net zero emissions, and which guzzle gas and cook our planet.

Building more housing is the moral question, and the moral imperative, of our time. We need more homes.

California’s intense fire seasons expose poor planning decisions [SF Chronicle]

👍 Companies I’ve Kickstarted

Back when Kickstarter.com was a new website, I was stoked about what the service enabled. It felt awesome to contribute to interesting products and help the companies making them get started. While most of the Kickstarter projects I backed never ended up being useful, there have been a few projects which have been so successful that they have changed how I live my life:

Dark Sky – This was the first majorly successful Kickstarter project I ever backed. Dark Sky’s original project was to create a hyper-local rain forecasting app for iPhone and boy oh boy did they succeed. Since Dark Sky launched, it has been the only weather service I use up until recently. (Windy.com recently became my go-to source for wind forecasting.) I continue to check Dark Sky on both my phone and computer every single day.

Amazingly, I backed the next three projects in direct succession. Talk about a run of selecting good projects!

SmartThings – SmartThings originally launched as an internet of things (IoT) service which promised to make your home smart. They provided you with a hub which allowed various small devices to connect to the internet so you could control them remotely. These small devices included a door sensor, motion sensor, and outlet. Since launching, SmartThings was acquired by a little Korean company called Samsung. Maybe you’ve heard of them? Unfortunately, Samsung is a company that is clueless about how to design good products and they made changes to SmartThings that were so bad I had to abandon the service. However, this forced me to switch to using Hubitat Elevation as my IoT hub which was a blessing in disguise. Nevertheless, SmartThings got me hooked on the IoT revolution and I am now a true home automation enthusiast.

Boosted Boards – The Boosted Board was my most anticipated project. I was late to the game when it came to riding skateboards. I did not learn how to ride one until attending college. However, I made up for this lost time by practically living on my board. I used it to go everywhere. Unfortunately, halfway through college I severely injured my back which made kick pushing a board very difficult. When I first saw that the Boosted Board was an electric skateboard you didn’t have to push, I immediately threw down my money. I had seen electric skateboards before the Boosted Board, but none of them came anywhere close to comparing in terms of price, capabilities, and packaging. When the board finally shipped, it was even better than I had anticipated. Since receiving my Kickstarter board in 2014, I have traveled around 4,000 miles across three different Boosted Boards. While riding a motorcycle remains more fun, there are no other vehicles quite as easy and enjoyable to ride as a Boosted Board.

LIFX – Pronounced “lie eff ex”, as in lighting effects, LIFX is a Redwood City, California based company that produces smart lighting products. My original backing gave me two smart bulbs and I have since expanded to owning 5 different LIFX lighting products. While not the best in the world, along with SmartThings LIFX pushed me into the world of home automation and I’ve never looked back. Being able to control the lights in my apartment from anywhere in the world is extremely useful. While I’ve enjoyed my LIFX lights, unfortunately I will not be purchasing any future products from them unless they begin to use the Zigbee or Z-Wave standards.

Packed Pixels – You’ve likely never heard of Packed Pixels, but I use their computer monitors every day. Packed Pixels is a company that produces small computer monitors designed to attach to MacBook Pros and other laptops. They provide laptop users with a multi-screen setup without requiring the amount of space three full-size monitors would require. I no longer travel with my Packed Pixels monitors, but they are small enough to reasonably take on trips. While I’d love to own a desktop computer with a full-size multi-monitor setup, the Packed Pixels monitors do a great job of making life on a laptop much better.

While it might look like I am talented at selecting incredibly successful and useful Kickstarter projects, that is not the case. I have backed 170 successful projects on Kickstarter and only 5 of them have been successful enough to use on a daily, or even weekly, basis. That’s not a good hit rate. Given the number of projects I backed but never received the reward I was promised, I no longer back anything on Kickstarter.