18 August 2018

Clearly, Self Driving Cars are Just Around the Corner

It appears that the latest break-through for self driving cars is a proposal to outlaw pedestrians:

You’re crossing the street wrong.

That is essentially the argument some self-driving car boosters have fallen back on in the months after the first pedestrian death attributed to an autonomous vehicle and amid growing concerns that artificial intelligence capable of real-world driving is further away than many predicted just a few years ago.

In a line reminiscent of Steve Jobs’s famous defense of the iPhone 4’s flawed antennae—“Don't hold it like that”—these technologists say the problem isn’t that self-driving cars don’t work, it’s that people act unpredictably.

“What we tell people is, ‘Please be lawful and please be considerate,’” says Andrew Ng, a well-known machine learning researcher who runs a venture fund that invests in AI-enabled companies, including self-driving startup Drive.AI. In other words: no jaywalking.

Whether self-driving cars can correctly identify and avoid pedestrians crossing streets has become a burning issue since March after an Uber self-driving car killed a woman in Arizona who was walking a bicycle across the street at night outside a designated crosswalk. The incident is still under investigation, but a preliminary report from federal safety regulators said the car’s sensors had detected the woman but its decision-making software discounted the sensor data, concluding it was likely a false positive.


With these timelines slipping, driverless proponents like Ng say there’s one surefire shortcut to getting self-driving cars on the streets sooner: persuade pedestrians to behave less erratically. If they use crosswalks, where there are contextual clues—pavement markings and stop lights—the software is more likely to identify them.

But to others the very fact that Ng is suggesting such a thing is a sign that today’s technology simply can’t deliver self-driving cars as originally envisioned. “The AI we would really need hasn't yet arrived,” says Gary Marcus, a New York University professor of psychology who researches both human and artificial intelligence. He says Ng is “just redefining the goalposts to make the job easier,” and that if the only way we can achieve safe self-driving cars is to completely segregate them from human drivers and pedestrians, we already had such technology: trains.

Rodney Brooks, a well-known robotics researcher and an emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in a blog post critical of Ng’s sentiments that “the great promise of self-driving cars has been that they will eliminate traffic deaths. Now [Ng] is saying that they will eliminate traffic deaths as long as all humans are trained to change their behavior? What just happened?”
We can now add hypocrisy to the other short comings of self driving car advocates.

The Ukraine is Being the Ukraine Again

In news that will surprise no one who knows the history, the Ukrainian army has adapted the salute used by Nazi collaborators as its official greeting:
August 24th, Ukrainian Independence Day, will see a ceremony introducing the country's new official army salute, as prescribed by Ukraine’s Presidential decree: Glory to Ukraine! - Glory to the Heroes!

"We have consulted with the Minister of Defense, National Security and Defense Council, Government and I have decided that starting from August 24 these words will be heard for the first time as part of the official military parade ceremony on the Independence Day of Ukraine," Petro Poroshenko was quoted saying on the Ukraine President's official site.

Glory to Ukraine! - Glory to the Heroes! is a slogan of the UPA, the Ukraine Rebel Army who fought on the side of the Nazis. The slogans, their origin, and history are well known in Ukraine, although the President's website does not make mention of these. Present neo-Nazi Ukrainian military formations established by order of the Ukrainian authorities appropriated the slogan from the end of 2013 onward. Now, the Ukrainian Nazi collaborator's greeting will become the official salute in that country's army.


"If a country adopts pro-Nazi slogans of criminal forces, murderers who committed numerous crimes of genocide, that country is doomed," said co-founder and President of the Rogatchi Foundation Dr. Inna Rogatchi. "But the world shouldn't turn a blind eye to this, as it repeatedly does with regard to Ukraine."
This is not a surprise, particularly given the nature of the coup that put the current government in power.

The US State Department actively supported and cultivated right wing nationalists, and this is the foreseeable result.

17 August 2018

More #MeToo

Only this time, the accused is a female feminist academic who is widely acclaimed in her community, and people who have previously espoused zero tolerance are calling for restraint and further investigation.

As the saying goes, where you stand depends upon where you sit:
The case seems like a familiar story turned on its head: Avital Ronell, a world-renowned female professor of German and Comparative Literature at New York University, was found responsible for sexually harassing a male former graduate student, Nimrod Reitman.

An 11-month Title IX investigation found Professor Ronell, described by a colleague as “one of the very few philosopher-stars of this world,” responsible for sexual harassment, both physical and verbal, to the extent that her behavior was “sufficiently pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of Mr. Reitman’s learning environment.” The university has suspended Professor Ronell for the coming academic year.

In the Title IX final report, excerpts of which were obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Reitman said that she had sexually harassed him for three years, and shared dozens of emails in which she referred to him as “my most adored one,” “Sweet cuddly Baby,” “cock-er spaniel,” and “my astounding and beautiful Nimrod.”

Coming in the middle of the #MeToo movement’s reckoning over sexual misconduct, it raised a challenge for feminists — how to respond when one of their own behaved badly. And the response has roiled a corner of academia.

Soon after the university made its final, confidential determination this spring, a group of scholars from around the world, including prominent feminists, sent a letter to N.Y.U. in defense of Professor Ronell. Judith Butler, the author of the book “Gender Trouble” and one of the most influential feminist scholars today, was first on the list.

“Although we have no access to the confidential dossier, we have all worked for many years in close proximity to Professor Ronell,” the professors wrote in a draft letter posted on a philosophy blog in June. “We have all seen her relationship with students, and some of us know the individual who has waged this malicious campaign against her.”

Critics saw the letter, with its focus on the potential damage to Professor Ronell’s reputation and the force of her personality, as echoing past defenses of powerful men.

“We testify to the grace, the keen wit, and the intellectual commitment of Professor Ronell and ask that she be accorded the dignity rightly deserved by someone of her international standing and reputation,” the professors wrote.
And Harvey Weinstein produced some critically acclaimed movies.

Skepticism by friends and colleagues upon hearing the news is to be expected, but this response is literally the response to every episode of harassment from a top performer basically ever.

It's the same thing.

Let me repeat that, It's ……… the ……… Same ……… Thing.

Also the response from her peers, who dismiss the alleged victim as, "The individual who has waged this malicious campaign against her," is a classic circling of the wagons.

They are basically saying, "Bitches be crazy."

It's not acceptable.

It is never acceptable.

Shame on them.

There is Nothing that Big Finance Cannot make Worse

As Matt Stoller noted on Twitter:


The Dead Kennedys have the song for the season:

16 August 2018

Baseball is Magic

If you don't follow baseball, you might not understand, but the Mets just beat the Phillies by 24-4.

The kicker? This score includes Eleven unearned runs:
The New York Mets are the greatest baseball team of the past two days. Following up on a 16-5 drubbing of the Orioles on Wednesday night, one of the biggest laughingstocks in baseball took down the Phillies this afternoon by a staggeringly competent score of 24-4. Those 24 runs today are a Mets franchise record.

The Phillies, meanwhile, paid tribute to the slapstick Mets we all remember from, uh, last week, by running down some of their greatest hits. Were there throwing errors? Reader, there were throwing errors, part of four total miscues by the Phillies that led to eleven(!) unearned runs.
The kicker is that this was a double header, and the Phillies won the 2nd game.

This is remarkable

Break Up Facebook: Reason LVLMMXCII

Facebook's "Head of news partnerships", the contemptible Campbell Brown (Charter School shenanigans) has threatened media organizations that choose not to partner with the social media company:
A senior Facebook executive told Australian media companies that if they didn’t cooperate with the social network, their businesses would die.

According to a report by The Australian, Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, told a group of more than 20 broadcasters and publishers that she wanted to help media companies develop sustainable business models through the platform.

“We will help you revitalise journalism … in a few years the ­reverse looks like I’ll be holding your hands with your dying ­business like in a hospice,” she said, in comments corroborated by five people who attended the meeting in Sydney on Tuesday.

The Australian also reported that Brown said that Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, “doesn’t care about publishers but is giving me a lot of leeway and concessions to make these changes”, although both Facebook and Brown vehemently deny this comment was made, referring to a transcript they have from the meeting.

Facebook would not release the transcript from the meeting.
Yes, this is a reason to break up the company.  This is way too much power for a private actor to have.

Also, I will note something that Yves Smith has said frequently, "If your business depends on a platform, your business is already dead."  (The media graveyard is littered with the remnants of companies that have come to depend on a 3rd party platform.)

Oh, Snap!

The SEC has served Tesla with a subpoena in response to Musk's "Going Private" tweet.

Meanwhile, his board of directors are desperately trying to get Elon to stop tweeting.

As my son put it:
Huh ……… Major public figure f%$#ing things up over Twitter ……… That's rare.

A Shande Far Di Goyim

There is an investigation in New York state over allegations that Orthodox Yeshivas (Jewish religious schools) are not providing an adequate education.

Specifically, there are allegations that these schools are not providing an adequate education on required secular subjects like math, science, history, English, etc.

About half of the Yeshivas have refused entry to inspectors:
Three years after the city launched an investigation into whether certain ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools were providing an adequate education in secular subjects, it revealed on Thursday that it had made little progress. In a letter to the state’s Education Department seeking guidance, Richard A. Carranza, New York City schools chancellor, acknowledged that investigators had managed to visit only half the schools involved.

The inquiry began in the summer of 2015, when a group of parents, former students and former teachers at yeshivas told the city that 39 schools were not sufficiently teaching subjects, like math, science, and English, leaving students ill-prepared for adulthood. The Education Department then launched an investigation of 30 of the schools, after determining the others were either no longer operating or did not fall under its jurisdiction.

As part of its investigation, the Education Department interviewed some of the parents and students who brought the complaint, who had experience at 11 schools. Most of those interviewed said the boys schools taught math and English for at most 90 minutes a day until boys turned 13, at which point secular instruction stopped. Some said attendance during secular instruction was voluntary. And while occasional science experiments might be done in class, they said there was no science curriculum. New York state law requires that nonpublic schools provide an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools.

Education officials also made announced visits to the schools, but, they said, 15 yeshivas did not allow them inside. “The D.O.E. has made repeated attempts to gain access to the schools,” Mr. Carranza said in the letter. “The long delay in scheduling visits to this group of 15 schools is a serious concern.”

Naftuli Moster, founder of Young Advocates for Fair Education, a vocal critic of secular education at the yeshivas, said in a statement, “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that nearly half of the schools to be investigated refused entry to the Department of Education. Reading between the lines, it’s hard not to conclude there is both a lack of secular instruction going on in these schools and that these schools believe they are above the law.”

Fifteen of the schools, he [NY Mayor Bill de Blasio] said, “welcomed us in, participated in an ongoing dialogue, made a number of changes, and according to our educational leaders, are doing well, and/or are making additional changes to do better. There’s another 15 that would not allow D.O.E. officials in the door and that, to me, is not an acceptable state of affairs.”
Let me leave you with Pirkei Avot 4:7, "Rabbi Tzadok used to say: Do not make the Torah a crown with which to aggrandize yourself, nor use it as a spade with which to dig."


Aretha Franklin has died.

A big voice has left the world:

15 August 2018

I Just Had a Minor Epiphany

We were having a discussion of politics at the Stellar Parthenon BBS, and JR noted that his wife was a big fan of Corey Booker until he voted against drug re-importation from Canada, and now he is politically dead to her.

This developed into a discussion of what I call the, "political event horizon," that point where a politician you are vaguely positive towards does something so hacktacular that that you wash your hands of them.

In the course of discussion, I realized that my two major downgrades of major Democratic Party figures from vaguely promising to weasels, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, were both about the same thing:  Throwing the LGBT community under the bus.

In Clinton's case, it was "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and in the case of Barack Obama, it was his embrace of homophobe Donny McClurkin in late 2007 to appeal to socially conservative South Carolina primary voters.

LGBT rights are a moral stance, and when people throw them over for ephemeral political benefit, it says something profound about their profound lack of ethics.

Trump Revokes Ex-C.I.A. Director John Brennan’s Security Clearance - The New York Times

Trumps stated justifications for this are valid, but that's not why he did this
Donald Trump has pulled John Brennan’s Security Clearance.

To be sure, after Brennan spied on a Senate investigation of the CIA, and lied about it, he should have been fired and jailed by Barack Obama, but this is not why his clearance was revoked happened 3 weeks ago (it was revealed today).  This was political retribution.

It's kind of like seeing your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your brand new car though, and the same would apply to former DNI James Clapper, who committed perjury before Congress, and former CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden whose trail of illegal domestic surveillance is legion.

If all of them hat their tickets pulled, it would be a good thing, but not this way:
In a remarkable attack on a political opponent, President Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama, citing what he called Mr. Brennan’s “erratic” behavior.

The White House had threatened last month to strip Mr. Brennan and other Obama administration officials — including Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser; and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence — of their security clearances. At the time, Ms. Sanders said that Mr. Trump was considering doing it because “they politicized, and in some cases monetized, their public service and security clearances.”

Mr. Trump has questioned the loyalties of national security and law enforcement officials and dismissed some of their findings — particularly the conclusion that Moscow intervened in the 2016 election — as attacks against him.

Mr. Brennan has become a frequent critic of Mr. Trump since the 2016 presidential election, often taking to Twitter to question the president’s ability to serve in the Oval Office.

Tweet of the Day

This guy is apparently the Boaty McBoatface of the fossile fuel industry.