Right To Repair Act - Grandparent Tire Time

Since we are on the subject of passing big laws to save our soldiers, African children, or UK's circular eddy current economy from lost strategic metals, here's a reminder of another big law out there.  EFF and IFixit remain the champions of protecting consumers from "copyright" and "patent" laws taking away their right to tinker with their cars, electronics, and other stuff.

This was a major battleground - in my mind - in the 1990s.  I was raised (here in the Ozarks, where I'm visiting for an unrelated EOL issue with a relative) that the smartest farmers knew how to fix stuff, and could save their family a lot of money by buying broke stuff from rich people who didn't know how to repair (or just wanted "elective upgrade").  Every summer my grandpa had me under a car or truck, showing me how they were making the spark plugs harder and harder to replace.  "Why in the world would they design this motor so that you need hydraulic motor hoist to change he spark plugs!?!?"  His suspicion was that they did it on purpose.

Copyright and patent laws entered into a gray area with software.  The right to own and copy some software that an author wrote was protected by different laws than protect the consumer's property rights and warranty rights under the Magnusum - Moss Act of 1975. Below is a rare "5-mod-up" comment of mine on the subject of Right to Repair on Slashdot /. which is a forum I started following at MassDEP when the internet was new, and I was researching electronics repair.

I've written about that law because when I first went to college and  Minnesota PIRG had a negative-check-off to add a fee to my Carleton College tuition bill, I wanted to know who PIRG was.  I read up on it at the library (nothing online then), and saw they were associated with consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader, who I learned about in high school when "planned obsolescence" and Vance Packard came up in class.

Anyway, here's my theme.  If you spend a lot of time with your parents and grandparents, people of a past generation, and you actually have lots of discussions with them as you grow up, you will see links and connections and contexts that most people lack.  That has been how I was raised, that's how I raised my kids.  When I lived in Africa in my early-mid 20s, I also made friends with elderly African people, and particularly with a French gold miner who arrived in Africa in the 1920s and never returned to Europe.

As I get older, I'm very aware that 'old people' are now not all that much older than I am.  I'm here to deal with a DNR for my father, who has reached a point in his life where "repair costs" are higher than elective upgrade.  He's like a tire that can be patched and reinflated, but there's no tread left, and each patch and inflation lasts a shorter and shorter time.

That will introduce me to a set of posts I started in Ghana, about tires.

Environmental policy researchers would do well to study tires.  Because for 20 years, on the subject of e-waste, they have been doing the equivalent of photographing junk tires in Africa and China, and never doing a stitch of secondary data research on sale or use of tires.  It's like Africans are swinging in trees, eating bananas, and Chinese are knee deep in rice paddies, and there's never film of automobile traffic in cities like Lagos, Nairobi, Accra, etc... so everyone thinks the way to save Agbogbloshie from burning tires is to arrest Joe "Michelin" Benson.  It is exactly that incompetent.  I am a career environmentalist, and this is batshit stupid and borderline narcissistic disorder crazy that we are writing all these papers about "circular economy" which assume that the entire economy for tires and electronics is in Europe and America.

Burning tires have the nastiest smoke, and the most amazing flames, where the Agbogbloshie slumdwellers use them to burn wires... while taking a break to film themselves doing it on refurbished iphone 4s.  And I began to pay attention to all the piles of tires being resold in Ghana.  It looks like Grandpa Fisher's garage, where he kept tires and old inner tubes for patching after they'd no longer pass vehicle inspection or were inappropriate to use on a tractor.  He used them for spares, he used them to cut patches.

I took a lot of pictures of tires, the people who patch them in Ghana, the repair and maintenance econmy.  Because it seems like a good way to tell European photojournalists that tires being burned at Agbogbloshie are related to the enormous traffic jams they are sitting in, and not from illegal tire import.   There are used tires imported, I saw them in Tema, but the cost of transporting them only makes sense when they are for reuse - when someone in a rich country electively upgraded the tire when it still had tread.

I could write a book on tires in my retirement.

But seriously, if NGOs cannot write a R2 or E-Steward certification on when to allow tires to be purchased, and can't figure out that the massive piles of tires at Agbogbloshie are not related to sham tire recyclers in America, and would never mount a poster child campaign showing African kids with tires to raise money to spend on something having nothing to do with the African or the tire.... And that's my hypothesis, that Basel and  BAN and EPA could NOT write a PACE flow chart for tires that improved anything at all in Agbobgloshie or touched peoples lives there in any way.,.

If my hypothesis is correct, then the only way the do-gooders and white-savior-complex charity industrial complex got THIS far with SO many journalist about used electronics is that electronics are complicated, involve software and warranties and subcontractors and parts and circuit boards that obfuscate journalists, who then print things like "CRTs are full of poisonous gases" (I contacted the writer at Motherboard and convinced him to remove that - he initially defended his source, which he disclosed was an employee of one of the CAER Big Shred companies funding SEERA).

Tires need to be regulated. We need warranty laws to protect consumers from shoddy tires.  It makes a certain amount of sense for Africans to buy tires in countries which have those laws, and it's quite possible that some new tires sold in Africa are rejects that fail the Quality Controls required of manufacturers who are bound by laws in wealthy countries, or who would face massive Firestone lawsuits under the liability laws there.

But the best people to write the policy for tires in Africa would be great grandparents from the Ozarks, who knew added value could increase the standard of living for their children, who they managed to get into college in rare cases.  My mom and Dad were each the only members of their graduating high school classes (7 years apart) to attend university.  And they took us kids every holiday down to visit the relatives in Taney County.  In fact every summer they sent us kids to live with our grandparents for the whole summer - sometimes missing weeks of school if they sent us early or brought us back late.

And I learned about tires and repair economies and reuse markets, and didn't forget that stuff when I became a college student hanging out with environmentalists who never rode a mule.

When I read Yuzo Takahashi's history of Japan, "A Network of Tinkerers", I could see that radio and TV culture in Japan during my grandparents time also explained a whole lot about Asian imports of used electronics, and the parting out and reuse of good heat sinks, video cards, chips and capacitors.  It wasn't something my grandfather did, but what I know from the Ozarks and Africa and Mexico and postwar Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, is that poor people don't throw away value, and don't need #whitesaviorbarbie and ken dolls to save them.

Here's a mind blowing video.  Laurel and Hardy were as old a reference to me (late 1920-mid1940s) as Carlos Santana is to my own kids.  When my kids listen to Santana, it's as old and quaint as when I  listened to a record of Laurel and Hardy I owned in Junior High School in the 1970s.

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