Uber is now literally trying to murder me.

Uber self-driving car running red light in SF

Uber launched a fleet of its much anticipated self-driving cars in San Francisco on Wednesday, and by late morning the effort already hit a bad-driver milestone: running a red light. [...]

Annie Gaus, a freelance writer and producer in San Francisco, tweeted Wednesday morning that she "Just passed a 'self-driving' Uber that lurched into the intersection on Van Ness [Avenue], on a red, nearly hitting my Lyft." [...] "It was close enough that both myself and the driver reacted and were like, 'Shit,'" she said. "It stopped suddenly and stayed like that, as you see in the photo."

SFPD traffic division unaware of self-driving Uber fleet on city streets

With Uber's self-driving cars now on the streets of San Francisco, the enforcement of traffic violations is in the hands of The City's Police Traffic Company, which was unaware Wednesday morning that the vehicles began roaming city streets that day. [...]

"I was unaware the cars have been released in the wild," said San Francisco Police Traffic Company Sgt. Will Murray. "Isn't that like the headless horsemen?"

"They are required to have someone seated in the front driver's portion of the vehicle," said Murray, who added that, "If they were committing flagrant violations, if they were not obeying the laws" then traffic officers will pull them over and ticket them.

He did not say if that had yet occurred or how one goes about ticketing a car driven by a computer.

Uber ordered to halt self-driving cars on SF streets

Uber's action is illegal, California DMV Deputy Director Brian G. Soublet wrote in a letter to Uber late Wednesday, which was also sent to press. Soublet added that the ride-hail behemoth was required to obtain an autonomous vehicle testing permit before operating self-driving vehicles on city streets.

"If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action," the DMV wrote, "including, but not limited to, seeking injunctive relief."

Uber Blames Its Drivers As More Reports Of Self-Driving Cars Running Red Lights Surface

Suggesting that this was more than first day jitters, KRON 4 got its hands on a set of photos that the channel says show an autonomous Uber driving through a red light on Harrison at 4th Street. The pictures were taken on Sunday morning, which means that the car was likely being used for testing or mapping purposes and did not carry a paying passenger. Still, it would suggest that the software piloting the autonomous vehicles had problems as recently as three days before the much publicized launch of the autonomous ride-hail service. That is, unless these incidents are all the result of human error -- a.k.a. Uber drivers.

"These incidents were due to human error," an Uber spokesperson told the Guardian about the both the Van Ness incident and the 3rd Street incident. "This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. The drivers involved have been suspended while we continue to investigate."

Isn't that neat? It's the humans, not the un-permitted software, that is at fault according to Uber. Unfortunately, that argument likely won't sway the DMV.

So let's see...

The self-driving software is bad enough that they run red lights and make dangerous turns... but they have humans in the drivers' seat! Who are also so terrible at their jobs that they can't prevent the car from running red lights and must be fired.

I guess none of us are as incompetent as all of us? The software is so bad that it makes human drivers even worse?

The usual argument for self-driving cars is that they will be safer for everyone than human-piloted cars. If that hypothesis turns out to be true, then I'm all for them! One can even imagine a shiny Starfleet future where self-driving cars lead to the end of personal car ownership and dramatic emissions reduction. Enter the shimmering arc!

Uber, of course, does not give the slightest fractional shits about whether self-driving cars are safer or cleaner: they are interested in them because they are cheaper. Allow me to remind you of this bit from Fight Club:

I'm a recall coordinator. My job is to apply the formula. It's a story problem.

A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 miles per hour. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now: do we initiate a recall?

Take the number of vehicles in the field, (A), and multiply it by the probable rate of failure, (B), then multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement, (C). A times B times C equals X... If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one.

And now we get to the part where the Uber software, operating as designed, is now literally trying to murder me:

SF Bicycle Coalition: A Warning to People Who Bike: Self-Driving Ubers and Right Hook Turns

Before the surprise launch of Uber's autonomous vehicles on San Francisco streets this week, I rode in one. I can tell you firsthand: Those vehicles are not yet ready for our streets.

I was at one of the demonstrations covered in the SF Examiner, along with others who Uber hoped to impress with their new technology. None of us were told that just two days later, Uber would be releasing this technology on our streets on a large scale. I did tell Uber some things about the shortcomings of that technology, however.

In the ride I took through the streets of SoMa on Monday, the autonomous vehicle in "self-driving" mode as well as the one in front of it took an unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane. Twice. This kind of turn is one featured in a 2013 blog post that is known to be one of the primary causes of collisions between cars and people who bike resulting in serious injury or fatality. It's also an unsafe practice that we address in all of the safety curriculum we offer to professional drivers, including the videos we consulted on for Uber as recently as this fall.

I told staff from Uber's policy and engineering teams about the safety hazards of their autonomous vehicle technology. They told me they would work on it. Then, two days later, they unleashed that technology on San Francisco's streets. Your streets.

Since yesterday, we have been told that "safety drivers" in these vehicles have been instructed to disengage from self-driving mode when approaching right turns on a street with a bike lane and that engineers are continuing to work on the problem. In the meantime, Uber is continuing to operate autonomous vehicles for passenger service in San Francisco.

There's no other way to put it: Launching autonomous vehicle technology before it's regulated and safe for our streets is unacceptable. If you support safe streets, please sign the petition to tell Uber to address this dangerous and illegal turning behavior immediately.

The people who wrote this software do not understand the traffic laws and programmed it with a set of rules that they figured was close enough. And then released them into the public.

"Disrupt transportation! Move fast, release early, and crush innocent people under two tons of fast-moving steel!"

I really can't express how unsettling it was today, riding my bicycle in traffic in the rain -- a time when San Francisco drivers are notoriously even less competent and more erratic than under normal conditions -- and wondering what fresh new hell of unpredictability I might encounter from poorly-behaving software in an alpha-test that I most assuredly did not click "Agree" on.

Fuck Uber.

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Mass Deportations will make Peter Thiel even richer

My joke about Thiel's "Brownshirt Combinator" isn't as funny now, is it?

Transition Adviser Peter Thiel Could Directly Profit From Mass Deportations:

Palantir Technologies, the data-mining company co-founded by billionaire and Trump transition adviser Peter Thiel, will likely assist the Trump administration in its efforts to track and collect intelligence on immigrants, according to a review of public records by The Intercept. Since 2011, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Office of Homeland Security Investigations has paid Palantir tens of millions of dollars to help construct and operate a complex intelligence system called FALCON, which allows ICE to store, search, and analyze troves of data that include family relationships, employment information, immigration history, criminal records, and home and work addresses. [...]

Working closely with a president-elect who has pledged to dramatically expand ICE, Thiel's varied connections to the immigration agency place him in a position to potentially benefit financially from a deportation campaign that carries highly personal stakes for millions of Americans. [...]

In addition to containing information on family relationships and immigration history, the records FALCON collects can also include photographs of subjects, employment information, educational background, and "geospatial data." [...]

Last month, it was reported that Trump and his advisers are drafting plans to launch a campaign of workplace raids across the country to find undocumented immigrants. With a mandate to enforce laws relating to unauthorized employment, HSI has been identified as the primary component within ICE that conducts such job-site raids. This past October, after a lengthy investigation, HSI agents raided several Mexican restaurants in Buffalo, New York, arresting more than a dozen workers, some of whom were charged with criminal counts of "illegal re-entry," raising an outcry from immigrant advocates. In 2013, after an HSI raid on carwashes in Phoenix, more than two dozen immigrants were reportedly sent to Enforcement and Removal Operations officers for possible deportation.

ICE can conduct such raids even in so-called sanctuary cities that have refused to allow local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE in finding and removing undocumented immigrants. [...]

Palantir, which is backed by the CIA's venture capital arm, did not respond to a request for comment regarding its ICE contracts and concerns over potential conflicts of interest. Peter Thiel spokesperson Jeremiah Hall declined to comment on a list of emailed queries, including a question asking whether Thiel has yet signed the Trump transition ethics agreement.

If this all sounds familiar, it's because it IS VERY FUCKING FAMILIAR:

IBM's Role in the Holocaust -- What the New Documents Reveal:

Newly-released documents expose more explicitly the details of IBM's pivotal role in the Holocaust -- all six phases: identification, expulsion from society, confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and even extermination. Moreover, the documents portray with crystal clarity the personal involvement and micro-management of IBM president Thomas J. Watson in the company's co-planning and co-organizing of Hitler's campaign to destroy the Jews. [...]

Among the newly-released documents and archival materials are secret 1941 correspondence setting up the Dutch subsidiary of IBM to work in tandem with the Nazis, company President Thomas Watson's personal approval for the 1939 release of special IBM alphabetizing machines to help organize the rape of Poland and the deportation of Polish Jews, as well as the IBM Concentration Camp Codes including IBM's code for death by Gas Chamber. Among the newly published photos of the punch cards is the one developed for the statistician who reported directly to Himmler and Eichmann. [...]

From the first moments of the Hitler regime in 1933, IBM used its exclusive punch card technology and its global monopoly on information technology to organize, systematize, and accelerate Hitler's anti-Jewish program, step by step facilitating the tightening noose. The punch cards, machinery, training, servicing, and special project work, such as population census and identification, was managed directly by IBM headquarters in New York, and later through its subsidiaries in Germany, known as Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft (DEHOMAG), Poland, Holland, France, Switzerland, and other European countries. [...]

Particularly powerful are the newly-released copies of the IBM concentration camp codes. IBM maintained a customer site, known as the Hollerith Department, in virtually every concentration camp to sort or process punch cards and track prisoners. The codes show IBM's numerical designation for various camps. Auschwitz was 001, Buchenwald was 002; Dachau was 003, and so on. Various prisoner types were reduced to IBM numbers, with 3 signifying homosexual, 9 for anti-social, and 12 for Gypsy. The IBM number 8 designated a Jew. Inmate death was also reduced to an IBM digit: 3 represented death by natural causes, 4 by execution, 5 by suicide, and code 6 designated "special treatment" in gas chambers. IBM engineers had to create Hollerith codes to differentiate between a Jew who had been worked to death and one who had been gassed, then print the cards, configure the machines, train the staff, and continuously maintain the fragile systems every two weeks on site in the concentration camps. [...]

At a time when the Watson name and the IBM image is being laundered by whiz computers that can answer questions on TV game shows, it is important to remember that Thomas Watson and his corporate behemoth were guilty of genocide. The Treaty on Genocide, Article 2, defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group." In Article 3, the treaty states that among the "acts [that] shall be punishable," are the ones in subsection (e), that is "complicity in genocide." As for who shall be punished, the Treaty specifies the perpetrators in Article 4: "Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials, or private individuals."

International Business Machines, and its president Thomas J. Watson, committed genocide by any standard. It was never about the antisemitism. It was never about the National Socialism. It was always about the money. Business was their middle name.


We, the undersigned, are employees of tech organizations and companies based in the United States. We are engineers, designers, business executives, and others whose jobs include managing or processing data about people. We are choosing to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans, immigrants, and all people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the incoming administration's proposed data collection policies. We refuse to build a database of people based on their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs. We refuse to facilitate mass deportations of people the government believes to be undesirable. [...]

Today we stand together to say: not on our watch, and never again.

Facebook Spokesperson Calls Muslim Registry "Straw Man":

A spokesperson for Facebook, accidentally responding to a BuzzFeed News reporter via email, called the notion of a Muslim registry a "straw man." Seemingly thinking he was addressing a colleague, he suggested that the best course of action was to not respond to the reporter's inquiry.

Earlier today BuzzFeed News emailed Facebook to ask whether the social networking giant would make a commitment to limit data collection that could be used for ethnic or religious targeting, including a pledge not to build a registry of Muslims, if asked to do so by the government. A Facebook public relations representative intended to forward our request, along with a message about how to respond, within Facebook, but accidentally sent the email to BuzzFeed News instead and in doing so provided inadvertent insight into how the company plays the optics game. [...]

Happy to talk to her off record about why this is attacking a straw man. Also I heard back from her that she may or may not write an additional piece depending on what response she gets from companies. So sounds like not making any stmt on record is the way to go.

The representative subsequently called, and asked that the email be considered off the record. This preference for off-the-record spin over on-the-record comments is fairly typical of large tech companies. Facebook ultimately declined to comment. [...]

"Facebook never would have taken the Lord's name in vain had they known the mic was live."

But if you think that Facebook is not already a Muslim registry, you have really not been paying attention:

Facebook, of course, already asks for and retains sensitive information about the race, religion, and location of its users and allows advertisers to target narrow segments of people based on that personal information. Government officials here and abroad already use the social network to track activists and dissidents.

"We would never create a registry" sounds a little less convincing when phrased as "we would never run that particular SQL query on our existing database", doesn't it?


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Shitshow roundup

The Hamilton Electors:

With just days to go until the real election of 2016 -- the Electoral College -- the rogue faction known as the Hamilton Electors is making one last-ditch effort to save America from Donald Trump by denying him the 270 votes he'll need to be officially named president. [...]

"This isn't about getting a Democrat in. This isn't even about getting a Republican in. This is about stopping Donald Trump," Chiafalo said. "This is about stopping the most unfit president we would have ever had by far."

What I saw at the Michigan recount:

On December 7, 2016, I volunteered as an observer with Recount Michigan 2016. I showed up at 9:00am sharp in the heart of Detroit, in heavily democratic Wayne County, Michigan.

It was a bloodbath.

I did not count a single vote during my entire first four-hour shift.

Trump's legal team was there in force, circling the room like sharks. They were challenging everything, gumming up the works and disqualifying whole precincts. I was only aware of a single Green Party attorney plus one law student in my (large) room. Many challenges had one or more Trump lawyers speaking with election officials, and no legal advocate present for the other side; they were simply outnumbered and outgunned.

Every recount table had 1 -- 2 Trump observers present, each one holding written scripts to challenge every single precinct, regardless of the facts.

Why Every American Should Care About Michigan's Canceled Recount:

As as the Michigan recount is being stalled in courts, it has become clear that 75,000 votes in the counties with highly Democratic populations came back with no vote for President -- but with votes for candidates lower down the ballot. This is what is referred to as an "undervote" and is largely attributed to malfunctioning ballot reader machines. In a state that Trump won by 11,000 votes, this large number of undervotes could easily change the outcome of who won here.

Incredibly, Michigan laws prohibit a recount if there are discrepancies in reconciling the numbers of votes against the poll books. Which is insane, of course. In a Catch 22 move, these wonky recount laws disallow a recount for the very reasons that a recount would be justified: "a precinct is ineligible to be recounted if the 'number of ballots to be recounted and the number of ballots issued on election day as shown on the poll list or the computer printout do not match and the difference is not explained to the satisfaction of the board of canvassers.'" If someone wanted to skew an election, all they would have to do is add or remove a few ballots so the poll books don't match the number of votes, and there can be no recount.

Most of the mismatched poll books are in Wayne County, a heavily Democratic area with a population of over 1.7 million people. According to Detroit's election director, eighty-seven of Wayne County's decade-old voting machines broke on election day.

Donald Trump lost the popular vote in last month's US presidential election by a bigger margin than any other US president in history.

The Republican is currently trailing Democrat rival Hillary Clinton by 2.8 million votes as the last remaining postal ballots are counted -- despite him winning the November 8 election because of the Electoral College system.

That deficit is more than five times bigger than the 544,000 by which George W. Bush lost to Al Gore in 2000 - the second biggest popular vote deficit in history for a candidate who has still gone on to become President. [...]

In 2012 Mr Trump called the Electoral College "a disaster for democracy" after mistakenly thinking it would lead to President Obama losing the popular vote but retaining the White House.

Following his election victory, however, the billionaire businessman praised the "genius" of the system.

CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House:

"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected," said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. "That's the consensus view." [...]

The Obama administration has been debating for months how to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions, with White House officials concerned about escalating tensions with Moscow and being accused of trying to boost Clinton's campaign.

Mitch McConnell, whose wife was offered a cabinet position, covered it up:

The Post told of an extraordinary meeting on Capitol Hill in mid-September, when FBI Director James Comey, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and other officials met with the leadership of both parties. They made the case for a bipartisan statement sending a warning to Russia that such actions would not be tolerated.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put the kibosh on it.

So the White House backed down, apparently to avoid being seen as trying to aid Clinton's campaign. [...]

Confronted with an attack by a hostile foreign power on our most critical institutions, Republicans decided that Russian hacking was OK, as long as it was against Democrats -- indeed, as Wikileaks strategically released the hacked emails over a period of weeks for maximum political impact, Republicans celebrated. [...]

And Democrats, including Barack Obama, didn't have the courage to stand up to them.

We think of American democracy as the most stable and secure in the world. But that stability and security comes not from the design of the system, but from the integrity and fortitude of the people within it. These new details, coming so late, are showing us that integrity and fortitude were both in short supply.

Trump doesn't need daily intelligence briefings because he's smart:

"I'm, like, a smart person. I don't have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years. Could be eight years. Could be eight years."

Trump's disinterest in keeping up-to-date on important security information is the most profound abrogation of responsibility ever exhibited by a person about to take command of our nuclear codes and the combined might of our military.

Pence being given the PDB is not a sufficient replacement. No President has ever turned over their Commander-in-Chief responsibilities to their Vice President -- not without being dead or completely incapacitated.

Tillerson might be the worst secretary of state contender on Trump's list:

Friends and associates said few U.S. citizens are closer to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin than Mr. Tillerson, who has known Mr. Putin since he represented Exxon's interests in Russia during the regime of Boris Yeltsin.

"He has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American with the exception of Henry Kissinger," said John Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary during the Clinton administration and president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank where Mr. Tillerson is a board member.

In 2011, Mr. Tillerson struck a deal giving Exxon access to prized Arctic resources in Russia as well as allowing Russia's state oil company, OAO Rosneft, to invest in Exxon concessions all over the world. The following year, the Kremlin bestowed the country's Order of Friendship decoration on Mr. Tillerson. [...]

In short, the only person who would like this nomination would be -- you guessed it -- Putin.

Rex Tillerson, secretary of state: What's good for Exxon is bad for the country.

The nomination of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state is like something out of a Marxist comic book: Who better to be the chief diplomat of a neocolonial power, plundering the world's oil riches, than the chairman and CEO of the world's largest oil company! [...]

Exxon Mobil, on the other hand, doesn't see itself as bound up with the country at all. Rather, as Steve Coll, author of Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, recently wrote in the New Yorker, Exxon Mobil sees itself as "a parallel quasi-state," a "power independent of the American government, one devoted firmly to shareholder interests and possessed of its own foreign policy," the goal of which is "to promote a world that is good for oil and gas production."

How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History.

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