Thieves and Pirates

Nick Heer tells the story of Spotify and Apple Music’s predecessors:

In 2019, paid subscriptions brought in nearly $6 billion dollars in the U.S. and, for the first time, consumed over half of all spending in the country.

But paid streaming services are not the product of record industry brilliance. In fact, the most clear lineage can be traced back to websites that were repeatedly accused of destroying the possibility of artists making a living. Ironically, the world’s greatest libraries of digital music were created by loose groups of thieves and pirates.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to Oink’s Pink Palace by a friend.

It. Was. Awesome.

You could find high quality rips of anything that had ever been recorded. Out of print jazz LP’s. Rare classical recordings in lossless format. Live concerts. Multiple releases of the same album. All meticulously indexed and carefully curated by the community. By fans for fans. Thieves and pirates built the music store that no company would or could, and it was a fantastic community. Most importantly, it made me feel like I was part of something.

Three defining characteristics made it better than any streaming service:

  1. The music I downloaded had no restrictions. It played in any app on any device. I could change apps or computers with no fuss.
  2. Everything was available in high quality; blockbuster hits, multiple versions of the same album, rare releases, and small town bands.
  3. Fans organically formed communities around their favorite artists.

No music service since has nailed more than one of the three. YouTube works everywhere, but the quality is often suspect. SoundCloud works for the small artists, but the mega hits and rare releases aren’t there. Spotify and Apple Music have apps, but they aren’t great and suffer from many infuriating flaws. Their admittedly impressive catalogs mostly come from the big labels, and I’ve never seen multiple versions of an album on either service.

Despite many attempts, no company has been able to recreate the sense of community we enjoyed at Oink’s Pink Palance, or it’s successor What.cd.

Unauthorized Remote Nest Camera Access

Stephen Hacket relays a Google/Nest email to customers:

In response to community issues caused by COVID-19, we’re temporarily adjusting your camera quality and bandwidth in an effort to conserve internet resources.

The fact that Google has the technical capability to do this is why I don’t own any smart home devices. That they would choose to do it tells you everything you need to know about their ethics and morals.

Google retains access to and control of the physical devices they have sold. Imagine if I bought a car and a couple years later Honda sent me an email informing me that 5th and 6th gear would no longer work. Lawyers would be knocking on my door begging to help me sue Honda into oblivion.

Google isn’t the only unscrupulous camera manufacturer. Amazon testified to congress that they sell footage from Ring cameras to law enforcement, and their camera owning customers can’t do anything about it.

I will never purchase one of these so-called smart cameras, because it’s very clear that it wouldn’t really be mine.

A New Greatest Generation?

Lawyer and professor Jonathan Turley departs from his typical writing to wonder if the Millenials and their successors, Gen Z, are the new Greatest Generation:

Those people on the front lines of this pandemic are members of the much maligned generations of millennials and Gen Z. They have been stepping forward by the thousands to answer a call in what may be their finest moment.

Rather than playing beer pong on South Padre Island, these young people are showing up to the front lines, some wearing garbage bags rather than personal protective equipment, to hold the line against one of the most contagious diseases in history.

New Site, No Trackers

For the last 10 years this site has run on WordPress. I started out pretty happy with WordPress. But it’s not slim and it has way more stuff than I really need. You have to add JetPack in order to write in Markdown. I didn’t like it when they replaced the traditional editor with the new Gutenberg block editor. I tried to like it but it broke writing in Markdown, and while I’m sure it’s great for most people, I found it atrocious to use.

Over the last few days, I’ve rebuilt this site. It no longer uses a self-hosted WordPress instance; instead it’s static html created by jekyll. Everything is in a git repository, which builds and deploys the site when I push to the master branch.

I’ll miss using MarsEdit, a fantastic Mac app which I used frequently to post here. I’ll need to build new Shortcuts on my iPad to post using Working Copy.

It’s worth it because everything these pages load is now hosted on this domain. Google Analytics, jQuery, JetPack, and a bunch of other cruft are all gone. There are no trackers and no third party scripts. I would say there is no javascript but I need it to do infinite scroll. That isn’t built yet but it’s coming.

And it’s fast. Page Speed = 100.

Impeachment Drama and Divisiveness

The impeachment proceedings in the Senate are in full swing, and John Bolton's conveniently timed leak of allegedly new evidence from his book which is still under review by the National Security Council has stirred more enthusiasm for the Senate to call witnesses.

John Healy writes in the LA Times:

Still, if the Senate decides to not call witnesses, it is a reminder of the short-term thinking that pervades even such consequential issues as impeachment. Because even if they don’t think Trump should be removed from office, they shouldn’t buy the argument that a president can flatly withhold documents and witnesses from Congress unless the House conducts an impeachment process by the president’s rules. They’re setting a precedent here that will provide a road map for future obstruction.

Senators are only asked to "buy the argument that a president can flatly withhold documents and witnesses from Congress" because the Democrats who control the House chose not to wait for the judicial proceedings to compel those documents and witnesses.

In 1792, President George Washington declared that he didn’t have to provide internal documents demanded for a congressional investigation into a disastrous military loss by Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair to Native Americans. Since that time, there has been tension between the legislative and executive branches and their respective duties of oversight and faithful execution.

We have a well established system for litigating executive privilege. This process allows for considered weighing of facts within a fair legal system, and it works. But it isn't fast.

Reagan asserted executive privilege during the Iran Contra Affair, the documents were still tied up in court 3 years later during Oliver North's criminal trial, and were not released until 1993, seven years after the events in question. It took seven years to litigate Obama's assertion of executive privilege over the documents associated with the "Fast and Furious" gun tracking program. Having the truth 3 years after Obama left office was not politically advantageous, but its difficult to argue that it wasn't fair.

Trump's call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, during which the alleged offenses occurred, took place on July 25, 2019. The whistleblower complaint came in August. The only precedent set by the Trump impeachment is the shallowness of the evidence, testimony, and legal record of the case.

Back to John Healy:

As Philbin argued Thursday, “If there’s both some personal motive but also some legitimate public interest motive, it can’t possibly be an impeachable offense.... There’s always some personal interest in the electoral outcome of policy decision, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

The hole in that argument is the notion that there can be any legitimate public purpose in a president asking a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen who is that president’s political rival.

If this impeachment was about discovering a "legitimate public purpose", then the Congress should be just as anxious to discover whether a prominent political figure was seeking personal enrichment from a foreign country in exchange for future political favors as they are to determine whether another prominent political figure used his current political position to compel a foreign power to investigate one of his opponents.

If there was corruption in the Biden's dealings with Ukraine, then Trump's actions serve a legitimate public purpose. If not, then Trump is guilty as charged.

However, the current impeachment circus has nothing to do with discovering the truth, it's a circus with every player grasping for political and/or personal gain.