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  • Last modified 9 days ago (Oct. 14, 2021)

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Thinking inside the box

Forget water-boarding and extra-loud hip-hop blaring from stadium-size speakers in solitary cells. If you’re looking for torture even more cruel and inhumane, try moving.

As you read this, your intrepid editor is likely to be confined for hours — no applause, please — to a dark hole so cramped it’s impossible to crawl more than a few inches at once on hands and knees.

Tearing up kneecaps and palms on rough gravel, cushioned only by a sheet of plastic, I’ll be banging every part of my head — a familiar pastime — on maze-like intrusions as I tack up loose cables in a crawlspace in Champaign, Illinois.

According to a Mike Holmes wannabe hired by the buyer of my home there, the crawlspace is fatally flawed by “unsecured wiring laying on the ground.”

The inspector obviously never had Hannah Kruse to teach him the difference between “lie” and “lay.” But that’s not all. He went on to write: “This is an undesirable condition due to the possibility of moisture entering the wiring if the sheathing is damaged.”

He also never learned that moisture entering wiring is no big deal if wires aren’t connected to anything. All the wires in question are abandoned telephone and cable TV lines, long ago cut off from receptacles in the house and from no-longer-used feeds entering the house.

He also noted uncovered junction boxes but conveniently failed to add that every last one of the wires going to and from each uncovered box had been cut off an inch from the box.

All are relics of days gone by, like the notion of elected officials, not bureaucrats, controlling what government does.

Still, if a homeowner wants to sell a house without having to negotiate a price reduction to pay for an electrician (the inspector’s cousin, perhaps), such “deficiencies” have to be “repaired” before a sale can be closed.

They’re kind of like a deficiency the inspector noted with the cover to the house’s breaker box. The inspector removed the cover’s screws and looked inside — something the homeowner had never done since a licensed rewiring project — and reported afterward that one of the screws was missing.

It was found, sitting inside the box, right where the inspector apparently had left it when he removed the screws.

“Inoperative foyer light observed,” he also wrote. “The wall switch did not operate the light when tested.” He went on to suggest bringing in an electrician — his cousin must be short on cash this month — to check the circuit. As it turns out, the only problem was a burned-out bulb. Potential buyers touring the unoccupied house weeks earlier had left it on.

Minor travails like these, more common perhaps in corruptible Illinois than in hospitable Kansas, have been the perfect addition to the already abundant joy of packing box after box of precious junk you simply can’t throw away but know will remain unopened in storage until your heirs have to figure out what to do with them after you’re long gone.

It’s kind of like all the COVID relief the federal government wants to pay for. Yeah, our hearts are in the right place, but what we’re doing is unlikely to change anything except create a humongous box of debt future generations will have to clean out.

Punctuating the pleasurable pastime of packing has been a richly repulsive yet robustly recurring round of robocalls — all from different spoofed numbers, sometimes just two or three minutes apart.

Government needs to put a stop to this — banning from the Internet and the phone network any company that allows its services to be used unethically and illegally. It’s not possible. China bans all sorts of things.

Our faith in Congress to do the right thing is shaken by the fact that among the most prominent robocallers and email and text spammers are both political parties.

Each apparently has the very mistaken belief that your editor is an unconditional supporter, ready, willing, and able to contribute big bucks they will fritter away on half-truth campaigns on social media.

Our state’s lone sane U.S. senator, Jerry Moran, is at least looking into last week’s devastating allegations from a Facebook whistleblower about how the not-so-gentle giant has purposefully tried to hook people, as securely as they might be hooked on meth, to ever-more-divisive claptrap dividing the nation into dangerously misinformed camps.

In the end, moving is about having the courage to discard things you don’t really need. For all its pleasurable moments of seeing grandkids and kittens waterskiing, social media may be one of those things we all should think about transferring to one of our discard piles.

The devil doesn’t come at you with horns and a pitchfork. He pretends to be an angel. You have to look at his motivation, not his deceptive appearance.

It’s like city officials who want to move public notices to where a huge portion of the public can’t find them and where others won’t know to look. Once they’re there, they also can change them anytime they want, with no permanent, independent record to verify, for example, how Marion’s city website was suspended by its hosting company for part of a day last week and how Hillsboro’s couldn’t be reached because of security concerns that arose if you typed “www.” as part of its address.

Both problems were corrected within a day after we pointed them out, but both cities initially denied there was any problem. One continues to do so even though the problem was obvious and obviously has been fixed.

A medium that allows avoidance of responsibility isn’t exactly where we want to fulfill the most basic of democratic responsibilities — to keep the public informed — unless, of course, you happen to have a cousin in the website business who needs a few extra dollars this month.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Oct. 14, 2021

 

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