Home Assistant

Open source home automation that puts local control and privacy first.

Source: Home Assistant

I’ve been through MythTV, Plex, Zimba, and OwnCloud, and eventually just given up on each of these self-hosting categories, and fallen back to using established service providers. This whole field of self-hosted home automation looks very cool, but even if I decide to go down this road, at this point, I’m just going to get into bed with HomeKit.

It’s kind of scary how much of my life now revolves around Apple. They do a lot of messaging about respecting the vast trust we users put in them. I know that doesn’t necessarily prove anything on its own, but they unquestionably have the best track record for trustworthiness among the big tech firms. They are certainly the most financially-aligned with user rights and privacy, and that’s really the only metric that matters. As long as Apple primarily makes money selling hardware, and their services are fundamentally just icing on that cake, then I think we’ll continue to get along just fine.

The Biden administration has already done a lot of interesting things to put a check on big tech and monopoly power, though we’ll see how this plays out over the next couple of years. I think some new laws should be written to codify these executive orders to direct regulatory agencies, once they’re proven in practice and tweaked. Otherwise, the next President can just reverse these things, which we’ve already seen through Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden. It’s become a game.

Anyway, I hope Apple — like other monstrous companies — can read the prevailing winds, look at their balance sheet, and decide to let a little profit slip through their fingers in the name of giving users a little more privacy, a little more respect, and a little more freedom.

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Ads, ads, and more ads

I read that Matt Damon’s new movie is generating Oscar buzz, so I moseyed over to IMDB to watch the trailer, but it won’t play because of my ad blocker. Let me get this straight. I’m TRYING to watch an ADVERTISEMENT, but I can’t, because I won’t let them show me another ad for something else before I watch the ad. Got it. The internet sucks.

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Biden’s Lawless Bombing of Iraq and Syria Only Serves the Weapons Industry Funding Both Parties – by Glenn Greenwald – Glenn Greenwald

Indeed, anyone invested in endless war in the Middle East — including the entire U.S. intelligence community and the weapons industry which feeds off of it — must be thrilled by all of this. Each time the U.S. “retaliates” against Iran or Iraqi militias or Syrian fighters, it causes them to “retaliate” back, which in turn is cited as the reason the U.S. can never leave but must instead keep retaliating, ensuring this cycle never ends. It also creates a never-ending supply of angry people in that region who hate the U.S. for bringing death and destruction to their countries with bombs that never stop falling and therefore want to strike back: what we are all supposed to call “terrorism.” That is what endless war means: a war that is designed never to terminate, one that is as far removed as possible from actual matters of self-defense and manufactures its own internal rationale to continue it.

Source: Biden’s Lawless Bombing of Iraq and Syria Only Serves the Weapons Industry Funding Both Parties – by Glenn Greenwald – Glenn Greenwald

If you draw a logical line between President Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex speech and the revelation of the Pentagon Papers, it intersects perfectly with JFK’s assassination. And the extrapolation of this line extends straight through the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tangentially, the infamous Zapruder film was confiscated on the day of the assassination, before it was developed. Once it emerged from the hands of the Secret Service, it had been doctored to make it seem as though the fatal shot came from behind JFK, despite his head jerking backwards, and Jackie picking up pieces of skull from the trunk lid. Someone at the agency did fantastic work on this for 1963, and I’m still waiting for him/them to make a deathbed confession. It occurs to me that someone, somewhere has to have a pre-doctored, original copy. I’d give my eye teeth to see it, if I still had them.

Anyway, it would be less sad that we are in a state of endless war in the Middle East if George Orwell hadn’t predicted it so perfectly as a tool of the State to maintain its power in 1949.

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The Death of the Episcopal Church is Near

By Ryan P. Burge, Eastern Illinois University

Last November, I wrote a post for Religion in Public with the title, “The Data is Clear – Episcopalians are in Trouble.” In it, I used survey data to paint a portrait of a denomination that was on the brink of collapse. One of the most troubling things about the future of the Episcopal Church is that the average member is incredibly old. The median age of an Episcopalian in 2019 was sixty-nine years old. With life expectancy around 80, we can easily expect at least a third of the current membership of the denomination to be gone in the next fifteen or twenty years. That’s problematic when membership has already been plummeting for decades.

Source: The Death of the Episcopal Church is Near

It’s not just Episcopals. Every mainline protestant denomination in America is facing exactly the same graphical prediction of doom: Methodists, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc. In most cities, these churches are sitting on prime spots in the cityscape. In big cities, they are modern-day castles, occupying entire blocks of downtown. Like I’ve been saying for awhile: in 10 years, there will be a national bonanza on a lot of interesting real estate. I imagine that it’s already begun.

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Stephen Fry brilliantly sums up importance of monarchy – ‘Happiest countries in the world’ | Royal | News | Express.co.uk

Mr Fry told the podcast: “I look at America and I think if only Donald Trump and now Biden, if every week they had to walk up the hill and go into a mansion in Washington and there was uncle Sam in a top hat and striped trousers.”

Mr Fry added: “More important than they were that’s the key.

“And that personification, uncle Sam can’t tell him what to do, uncle Sam can’t say ‘pass this Act and don’t pass that Act and free these people, give them a pardon’.

“All he can do is say ‘tell me young fella what you done this week’ and he’ll bow and say ‘well uncle Sam’.”

He added how uncle Sam might reply “oh you think that’s the right thing for my country”.

Mr Fry concluded: “Well that’s what a constitutional monarchy is and of course it’s absurd but the fact that Churchill and Thatcher and everyone had to bow every week in front of this something.”

Source: Stephen Fry brilliantly sums up importance of monarchy – ‘Happiest countries in the world’ | Royal | News | Express.co.uk

Since watching The Crown on Netflix, I’ve thought a bit about the role of a constitutional monarch in the modern world. I concluded that the system is doomed. However, Fry makes a good point here, which I overlooked, which will probably extend the life of the system far longer than I predicted, and that is: A proper constitutional monarch can hold the government accountable for actual results.

By comparison, in the US, there is no accountability for results. Our elected representatives faff about, floating on the winds of the popular press. Whatever laws they might manage to pass are purposely bent, in the small print, towards benefitting their benefactors, and ensuring their reelection. And, if the winds change, a new crop of faffing faffers gets put in office to faff about some more. No one can hold anyone accountable for failing to deliver on promises of change.

I’ve ridiculed the nearly obscene amount of wealth wielded by the English monarchy, but Fry’s comments leads me to see that this is actually required in such a system of government. The monarch’s wealth, and influence it affords, places them above the system they head, and makes them much less susceptible to the corrupting power of graft.

A US senator makes $174,000/yr, with a per diem for expenses. That’s a solid upper-middle-class income for the interior of the country, though it’s a lot less impressive in the high-rent district of the Beltway. In any case, it’s certainly not above influence of a relatively small amount of money. If you, the reader, were making that kind of money, and someone offered you 10, 20, or 50 thousand dollars (or especially part ownership in a financial instrument with those kinds of annual returns) in order to push an agenda, that would be pretty tempting. If someone offered to donate enough money through a PAC to your campaign fund in order to outspend your rival in advertising by 2 to 1 in the next election cycle, that would also be tempting.

The UK monarchy is above such influence. The family has so much wealth, it places them well above the level of petty graft in the American system. I’ve often said that the truly pathetic reality of the US political system isn’t that it can be bought; it’s that it can be bought so cheaply. The kind of money it takes to swing elections and votes in the US wouldn’t even count for lunch money to the Queen of England. She wouldn’t even stoop to pick it up off the sidewalk. So, rather than an extravagance, the wealth of a monarch can be seen as an advantage of the system. It’s a buffer against undue influence. The kind of money it would take to sway a constitutional monarch would be noticeable to everyone, everywhere. You wouldn’t be able to hide it.

Unfortunately, after setting out this surprising (to me) insight, there are two caveats that must accompany it. First, the UK monarchy has worked because Elizabeth has been an exceptional regent. If we give credence to the Crown’s depiction of her interactions with Churchill in his old age, she has performed her role precisely, even when it was difficult to do. Even if we ignore that whole episode as fan service to the Crown, I think her 70 years as regent, taken as a whole, prove that she has been a model monarch. I don’t know how other monarchs stack up against her in this regard, but I think her overall record speaks for itself. It’s not that she hasn’t generated controversy, but I feel she’s been on the right side of history far more often than not.

The second caveat is that a monarchy is established by fiat, and passed down through heredity. I have a hard time with that. Going back to England and France’s histories, we can see there were some real problems with the gene pools at times. This is the untenable part of a royal line. Again, other countries might have a different way of “crowning” a regent, but this aspect of the UK’s system is why I think people will demand reform. When Elizabeth dies, Charles will be crowned king, and, well, why? Just because he was born first to Elizabeth. I think modern society is going to have a bigger and bigger problem with this.

In the US system, I can imagine a scenario where we appoint a watcher over the government, to make sure that the “three ring circus” works as it was intended. A “ring master,” above each. Appointed for life, like a Supreme Court judge, recallable, yes, but with no power over the people; only the government. The power of such a position could and would only be used to make sure that the various branches did their job, and stayed true to the ideals of The Constitution, with powers to censure government representatives if they didn’t.

You can say that this role is in the hands of the people, but I’m just not clear that this is working as intended. Maybe it could be made to work again if we “get money out of politics,” but even if we repeal Citizen’s United, I don’t think it will completely solve the problem. It will get rid of a lot of undue influence, sure, but it will also drive some of it back under the table.

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Pee Wee Herman: SubGenius

So I was reminiscing, and watched the opening theme song from Pee Wee’s Playhouse, as one does, and noticed something interesting.

Very clearly, we see J. R. “Bob” Dobbs, of the Church of the SubGenius. A search turns up this retrospective, and they note:

Somehow, against all odds, the Church of the SubGenius became a real thing, if not exactly a real religion. It spread well beyond Dallas, capturing the imaginations of a number of important counterculture figures of the era. Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh, actor Paul Reubens (known for his role as Pee-wee Herman), Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, cartoonist R. Crumb, gonzo bluesman Mojo Nixon, and more all claimed a SubGenius affiliation. All of them sought Slack, an unspecified philosophical state that the church maintained as its answer to enlightenment.

So I guess it’s not a curious random thing. Apparently there was an actual connection. But this only makes me wonder about the picture in the upper right of the photo. Who is that? What was the connection there?

I also note that a standard, half-hour show in the US is 22 minutes of air time, allowing for commercials. The intro and outro takes up 3:43, leaving just 18 minutes of programming time. No wonder I was always surprised and sad when the show would jump cut — apropos of nothing, since it was stock — to the scooter ending.

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Jeff Bezos’ $500M real estate portfolio: See all his luxury houses

Get a peek inside the good life of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who has a home for each climate.

Source: Jeff Bezos’ $500M real estate portfolio: See all his luxury houses

At some level of wealth, it must become really aggravating to the 1% that they can’t do anything about the fact that they have a physical body, and can only occupy about 2 cubic feet of space, like the rest of us slovenly plebeians.

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Windows 11 screenshots leak, show new Start menu and more

Screenshots reveal new Start menu and taskbar design.

Source: Windows 11 screenshots leak, show new Start menu and more

All I can say is, gosh, that Taskbar looks an awful lot like the one in macOS.

Also — and I’m just guessing, but — this new version will continue to have weekly, root-level, 0-day exploit patches.

Again, I posit that Windows is almost completely irrelevant to anyone, personally, other than PC gamers at this point. (And that demographic is getting hammered by bitcoin mining sucking up all the available gaming video cards.) The only reason that Windows continues to exert its influence on the computer market is company desktops. I have a feeling that, if you could factor corporate licenses out of the data, the computer operating system ecosystem would look completely different than any Ziff-Davis publication would have you believe. I wish I could find sales numbers for “PC” products versus Apple products from a company like Best Buy. Only then could we get a fair picture of what the market for operating systems looks like for actual people.

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New York State to Revolutionize Antitrust

The Amazon H2Q fight in 2019 woke up the anti-monopolists in New York. Now they are moving forward with a new stronger trust-busting law.

“Too Much Power in Too Few Hands” – An Interview with Senator Michael Gianaris:

Senator, first of all, thanks for talking to me. I’ll start with a simple question. Do we have a monopoly problem? And if so, can you frame the issue in terms that anybody could understand?

Sen. Gianaris: The best way I can put it is that there is too much power in too few hands. This concentration of power creates the opportunity for corruption, and not just corruption in the traditional sense, although it creates that opportunity as well. But it just corrupts the way the marketplace is supposed to work. It diminishes competition, and it squashes small and medium sized players, who can’t compete with not just the size of the biggest players, but the tactics that they’re using and their reach into multiple aspects of economic life.

For goodness sake, they are reaching into multiple aspects of governmental life, and they’re trying to dictate to governments how we should be making our decisions. And we saw it, of course, with Amazon’s second headquarters situation. They created a bidding war amongst local governments! And you saw it again, with Amazon trying to change the makeup of Seattle City Council because they weren’t happy with a proposal to help homeless people.

This power is changing the very nature of our democracy and our economic democracy, to have so few people making all the decisions.

Source: New York State to Revolutionize Antitrust (emphasis mine)

This is the key to the issue. As a theme, in my writing, I’ve complained that government regulatory power has been “captured” by corporations through campaign contributions. But here’s a guy who’s campaign doesn’t need the kind of money that Amazon can give him through a PAC. He’s a state senator, with a very comfortable seat. He can speak up. And he’s asking the right question: who’s in control?

People who seek office presumably have a mind to, you know, govern. And the money that Amazon throws around is routinely taking that power out of their hands. We need more people like Senator Gianaris who stop this bribery for control, and tell the people running Amazon, “No.” No, you can’t have this, if it means that we have to set aside ethical concerns. No, you can’t have this, if you intend to abandon your implied social responsibility to the people you employ or the city in which you run your business.

If we are going to avoid the currently-predictable, grim meathook cyberpunk future of a world of corporate states, this and this alone is the motivation that can put a stop to the trend: elected representatives with a long-term view who act like adults, and tell whining, spoiled toddlers no.

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I miss the old internet | Science Fiction and Fantasy World

I could say that Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and Google helped ruin the internet, but really it was that everyone started using it. The internet used to be a haven for nerds, geeks, artists, and bohemian misfits until the cool kids crashed it. Now the internet is dull and stale and overly commercialized.

Source: I miss the old internet | Science Fiction and Fantasy World

Me too, random internet dude. Me too.

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