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December 12, 2019


Autonomous vehicles, should they come about, will provide public transportation.

If you have to buy the autonomous vehicle, and you don't make enough money to buy the vehicle, then you don't have transportation.

If municipalities are going to field fleets of autonomous vehicles in numbers large enough for everyone who uses public transportation and / or wants to use public transportation, public roadways are going to turn into parking lots.

It is the most expensive, least scalable form of public transportation imaginable.

FWIW - this is from 2017, but it's probably still reasonable accurate - half a million people take 1.4 million trips per day on the Boston MBTA.

About half are on the subway, a little more than a quarter on the bus, the rest on commuter rail.

Addressing demand like that with autonomous vehicles would bring metro Boston to halt. Full stop.

Everyplace isn't like Boston. Lots of places are, and places that aren't will increasingly become so.

Technology is cool and fun, but self-driving vehicles are not a silver bullet for any other than the most narrow of transportation issues.

Will the self-driving vehicle understand what the guy in the orange vest with the flag is telling it to do

That? Probably a long ways away. But for just knowing about the problems and avoiding them? Wayz already does a passable job on that stuff. And no doubt a little work will make the system even better.

There are lots of crappy roads out there, they are always in some state of repair or disruption due to their own wear and tear and/or the fact that they share a footprint with lots of other systems

And, above else, "deferred maintenance". If self-driving cars force an end to the folly of deferred maintenance, which they will pretty well have to, that may be the biggest benefit of all to everybody else who uses the roads.

Wayz already does a passable job on that stuff.

In general, Wayz shunts traffic from congested major / larger roads, onto less congested local roads.

Which makes the local roads more congested.

I live the waking nightmare of getting around Boston and Cambridge most days of the week. Including stitching a path from home to work and back through a fairly byzantine web of major highways and local roads, with the choices du jour depending on accidents, road work, weather, general road conditions, and time of day.

Getting from point A to point B efficiently also requires skillful choice and timing of which lane to be in, knowledge of which traffic lights have a left turn option and which don't, and what time the school buses are on the road.

And I'm leaving out ephemeral phenomena like sinkholes, street sweeping machines, people attending sporting events, and road closures due to high speed chases involving bank robbers.

I understand that every place isn't Boston, but most large American cities have similar issues - and most of those don't have the transportation infrastructure that Boston has. Crappy as it is.

My point overall is that driving an automobile is actually a very complicated thing, for a very broad range of reasons. And, people are in general actually pretty good at it, and the causes for people not being so good at it are probably easier to address directly, rather than try to teach machines to do it instead.

I suppose it's possible that the technology could evolve to the point where we could have hundreds of thousands if not millions of one-ton-plus metal robots with people inside whizzing around without incident, but I really don't see it happening without re-engineering the public road system to basically dumb it down enough to make that possible.

And if that's what's required, I don't see that as the most productive or intelligent use of whatever public effort is required.

I just don't see an upside that warrants the investment. There are easier / better / more practical ways to do whatever things autonomous vehicles are supposed to do for us.

Is it possible? Probably - we sent a man to the moon, right? We mapped the genome, right? If we want to spend the time, talent, and money, we can probably figure out how to build a world where robot cars can zoom around without killing everybody.

Is it a good idea? Is this the best thing we can come up with to move people around?

I don't see that it is. I'm not seeing the value of it, at least compared to other choices.

It's not clear to me that an EV is, net/net, environmentally better than a vehicle that gets mid-30's mpg.

in my case...

my current A4 gets about 27MPG on my daily commute. that's 26 miles, half highway and half city. i fill it up roughly every 10 days. 15 gallons a shot. ~540 gallons of gas per year.

electricity in my area is generated by Mr Duke's clean-burning nuclear rods. so, every EV in the area is at least fossil-fuel free.

in addition, my company has a dozen acres of solar panels generating 3.6MW on-site (with sheep providing lawn care around them). and it provides plenty of EV charging points. so, the dozens of EVs charged there run primarily on Mr Sol's clean-burning photons - even better.

so, any EV i buy will be running as close to 100% carbon free as anything can.

(that's 26 miles - each way)

in my case...

That's all good. And, I'm sure there are lots of people for whom an EV is a great choice. I wish it made sense for me to drive one.

All of that said, it's not a technology that is likely to really move the needle on fossil fuel use until it's adopted widely. And that really can't happen until most folks can afford one, and have a convenient way to recharge them.

I'd love to see that happen, FWIW, I'm just calling it out as a pre-requisite.

If self-driving cars force an end to the folly of deferred maintenance, which they will pretty well have to

More or less my point, with "the folly of deferred maintenance" expanded to include an additional basket of things that make autonomous vehicles problematic in the real world.

It will require significant public investment. If we're going to spend public money, time, and effort, are autonomous vehicles really the best option?

40,000 die in car accidents every year, and a lot more people are maimed.

I would be happy for solutions resulting in people driving less, including and especially public transportation. It seems to me that's a more complicated plan, but I'm all for whatever can be done. The problem is, I've been all for it for my entire adulthood, and it hasn't gotten much better in the localities where I've lived.

DC created what seemed like a wonderful Metro system, and I used it faithfully when I lived in the area and worked in DC. I had to commute by car to a station however, and I don't think that's changed much. I moved from the DC area in about 1990, and only visit occasionally. I'm sure that I would still be a loyal user, but according to what I read, Metro is besieged by problems. (Link is to an old story, but still applicable.) The outskirts of Washington DC are a road rage nightmare (and my little city is starting to catch up).

Charlottesville has a bus system that serves a few people well, but most people poorly. If you're wealthy enough to live in downtown Charlottesville you can afford to be very green with public transportation. Also, they have a service for disabled people that's theoretically available to everyone, but I don't know of anyone who is not disabled who uses it - perhaps that's the answer (but in the short term, it would just increase the ride time for people who need to be shuttled). I don't use public transportation here at the moment. I drive a hybrid.
Like most people who live here, I have to drive (although I'm exploring the possibility of moving since I'd like to be driving even less often as I get older).

Public transportation has always been something I've supported. Unfortunately, it doesn't sell very well where I've lived.

I started this comment with a statistic about people dying on the roads. Driving is a complicated skill, but human drivers aren't perfectly programmed for it. I'm not sure how we compare to what robots might be able to do within the next couple of decades.

total agreement about the price. but it will probably come down, once the big makers really get into it.

and, of course, you can lease EVs. right now, a Leaf lease is $3K down, $199/mo. that's cheaper than leasing a Honda Civic.

Agreed that prices can and likely will come down. There's a bit of a chicken and egg thing - car makers will want to see the market before they invest in building the cars, the market will be hard to grow without the product to buy.

But somebody will make the long bet and get things going.

You can get a level 2 charger installed at home for something like $2-$3K, which is not so bad if you are committing to driving an EV and can amortize the cost over many years. Hopefully those will become common as something that just comes with housing.

I'd actually love to drive an EV, and looked at the Leaf. The whole package is just not there for me. We don't actually have a garage, so it might not ever be - I'm not sure the logistics of unsheltered outdoor charging stations are all that great.

But they're a promising option, and hopefully will become practical for more and more people.

sapient, I hear you about public transportation being a tough sell. And, I can see autonomous vehicles having value in places where populations are too sparse for buses or light rail to be practical. My guess is that some form(s) of autonomous vehicle will make it to market, they'll require a lot of public infrastructure changes to actually be safe and practical, and they'll be great in some places and be a freaking nightmare in others.

Mostly, I think Americans outside of urban cores are used to going wherever they want, when they want, without having to sit with people they don't know, and autonomous vehicles are a better fit for that cultural norm. So, they may win the day just on that basis, and whatever has to happen to make them practical is what we'll do.

Price per kWh 2016 - around $350
Current - around &250
2025 (without novel battery chemistries) - around $100

Sure, the early adopters oay through the nose... was’t the original Macintosh about $5k ?

And I think you’re missing the point about AVs. That effort will happen irrespective if whatever changes take place ,
You next bus will be electric in any event.

To quote the venerable Colonel Blimp:
Gad, sir, Lord Beaverbrook is right. The country must face the alternative - wider roads or narrower pedestrians

“irrespective of whatever other changes”, I incompetently wrote.

Sure, the early adopters oay through the nose... was’t the original Macintosh about $5k ?

FWIW, I bought one for about $3000 practically the day they came out.

Otherwise, in general and as usual, wrs starting at 2:29 today. As Jared Diamond put it: Invention is the mother of necessity. Unfortunately in some cases, IMHO.

my father in law never let me live down the fact that i bought a flat screen LED TV in the late 1990s - $2500 for a 28".

thus funding continued research into the tech that makes the same capability available for $250.

you're all welcome.

And I think you’re missing the point about AVs.

Entirely possible.

What is the point about AVs? Fewer accidents? Don't have to hire truck drivers? Don't have to own a car because the car will just come to you when you need it?

I can see the value of each of those. Less so for the second case, especially if you're a truck driver.

The last one is basically Uber without the necessity of human drivers. Most folks could probably get by without having a car at all - just summon one up as needed. Instead of everyone having one (or two) cars, each of which essentially remains idle for 90% of the time, one car could serve something like ten people, and be in use more of the time.

It's an interesting idea. Maybe we could reclaim a lot of the space currently devoted to parking lots.

All of that said, you'll still have at least the same number of cars in motion as you do now. Which, where I live and in most places like where I live, is much if not most of the problem.

And we will probably have to significantly rebuild a hell of a lot of public infrastructure to make driving simple enough for machines to do it safely.

Will the autonomous vehicles have incandescent bulbs in the overhead lights?

How are autonomous vehicles "autonomous"?

Autonomous from what and whom? If I'm in an autonomous vehicle, does that make me autonomous as well?

Are they autonomous in the Kantian sense, as in acting in the sense of one's moral duty rather than one's desires.

Can they be used as getaway cars when the trouble starts? Will anonymous vehicles be available for such purposes?

Will they get me to the church on time?

I'm not against the concept, indeed, I see the upsides, but a fella has time to think up annoying queries when he doesn't need to keep his eyes on the road.

And we will probably have to significantly rebuild a hell of a lot of public infrastructure to make driving simple enough for machines to do it safely.

How safe are we now? 40,000 deaths per year. Even more than gun violence (and I am anti-gun).

We're not safe now. I do hope that people measure their worries against the reality that exists now. And sure, maybe we've made it until now without being in a debilitating accident. We are lucky. Two friends of mine, both over 65, had a "spell" of some sort, where they zoned out and had an accident. Neither hurt anyone else (thank goodness), but both were seriously injured themselves. One of them died shortly thereafter, partly from the injuries, but also from the cumulative effect of that and other health problems (she stopped eating - she'd had it). The other friend survives, but isn't well.

People aren't programmed to drive cars. It's a necessary habit that most of us can manage for a long time, but when we suffer a moment of [whatever] it can be the end.

If you flip the bird from an autonomous vehicle to a person in another autonomous vehicle, why?

Guns should be autonomous as well.

Say an autonomous (Doomsday Machine, they used to call it; trump mastered all of it in depth in a nifty 25 minutes) hypersonic nuclear tipped missile is headed my way from Vice President Putin, and all of us are in well-behaved autonomous vehicles bumper to bumper at 30 mph heading for the hills, and the hills are 35 minutes away and the missile is 25 minutes away, will there be an over-ride gear?

Can they be used as getaway cars when the trouble starts?

It does raise an interesting issue. To what extent do these autonomous vehicles rely on infrastructure, specifically powered infrastructure, to guide them? And what happens there is a power outage?

I'm thinking of a disaster like fire, earthquake, hurricane, etc., where the user may need to get away, but the power is disrupted by the disaster. It's bad enough when you just can't get information because your ISP is down, and your TV, phone, and computer are all tied together to their infrastructure. But if your transportation is down....

Waymo's approach seems to be that the autonomous vehicle will have to know precisely where it is. Tesla's that the vehicle can function without knowing where it is.

40,000 deaths per year

Americans drive over 3 trillion miles per year, in total.

3 million million miles. 3 billion coast to coast road trips. Ten trips from the Atlantic to the Pacific, per human being in the US, per year.

40k fatalities is a lot, but it's one fatality every 75 million miles.

If we had one fatality every 75 million guns, about 4 people a year would die from firearms.

Apples to oranges, but I think you take my point.

I am neither for nor against autonomous vehicles, per se. I don't think they will provide the upside folks expect from them, without significant public investment in infrastructure.

And if we're going to make that investment, I am not convinced that autonomous vehicles are our best bet.

That's my argument.


One billion coast to coast road trips, per year. 3 per human, with a fourth trip ending in Chicago or Denver, depending.


I'm not leading a social movement to advocate for autonomous vehicles. I just don't want to drive. I haven't studied whether society would have to invest in a new infrastructure to accommodate them, and if that's true, I'm not for it. I'm skeptical about whether we can get our act together to develop any grand infrastructure plan.

So, again, I personally know people who have been badly hurt or killed in car accidents, so despite the odds you cite, it seems pretty common. I'm not sure whether driverless cars would do better or worse. It seems to me that we wouldn't tolerate 40,000 deaths per year from that technology, although we seem to take it in stride when it's a result of human error.

We're probably not willing to put it to the test anytime soon.

I haven't studied whether society would have to invest in a new infrastructure to accommodate them, and if that's true, I'm not for it.

Here's a report that includes a lot of information about that, which I might originally have seen linked right here at ObWi.

It's nowhere near as simple as "how many deaths this way vs that way," because it's not clear how we'd tally the hidden costs of such a massive investment in new infrastructure, including the question of what else the money might have been better spent on (as russell keeps saying).

The people hyping driverless cars are already pushing (though I'm not going digging for a cite) for huge governmental expenditures on infrastructure -- naturally, we as taxpayers will pay for both the initial infrastructure and the later hidden costs, and they (some handful of them) will reap the profits.

One of my kids has a good friend from college who works for an AV company. He just rolls his eyes at the hype. I stopped looking at Tech Review years ago because of the incessant stream of articles about how technology is going to fix everything. Don't they teach these people any history, or any common sense? (Rhetorical question.)

Yet another in a series of answers to the question, "How can smart people be so dumb?"

P.S. all the way back to something from earlier in (I think) this thread.

I suffered from frequent headaches when I was younger. A friend who was a doctor kept telling me to get them checked out, but I never did. I thought they were sinus headaches, since I've had chronic drippy sinuses since childhood.

After menopause (which also was roughly when I stopped eating wheat, so it wasn't a clean experiment), the headaches mostly stopped.

Then, about ten years ago, I started having ocular migraines (aka "auras"; I had never had those before), sometimes with full-blown headaches (which I now understood were in fact migraines) and sometimes with just a day or so of feeling kind of crappy and off.

It didn't take me long to make a connection: this started not long after I switched most of the light bulbs in my apartment to compact fluorescents. So -- I switched them all back.

Cut to the present: as far as I can tell, incandescent bulbs are the least likely to trigger migraines for me. I.e., they don't seem to trigger them at all. (LEDs are not as good. Certain foods and certain weathers are also culprits.) Before the ban on selling incandescents, I bought what I suspect is more than a lifetime supply of 60-watt bulbs at Lowe's, a couple of cartons at a time.

Even as a committed conservationist, I am unrepentant. I don't have a clothes dryer, a dishwasher, a microwave, AC, or a TV. I have by far the lowest electric bills of anyone I know. I keep my thermostat at 64 or lower in the winter. I work(ed) mostly from home, so/and I don't drive that much, especially for someone living in a rural area.

Why can't we have quotas for energy use and let people decide for themselves how to use their energy budgets? (Another rhetorical question. I'm sure it would get as complicated as the tax code in a quick hurry.)

The public option as free ponies for everyone.

I am mischaracterizing the article slightly, but it points out some of the problems with a public option that are not being discussed,

Why can't we have quotas for energy use and let people decide for themselves how to use their energy budgets?

Makes sense to me.

It also seems like something that would be fairly easy to enforce via something like a sliding scale for rates. The less you use, the lower your rate per unit, and vice versa.

AKA "How everybody went solar"

RTA death rates in the USA are three or four times the rates in Western Europe. A lot of lives could be saved by safer, more restrictive, driving laws. But they aren't, because people in the US choose to have the freedom to kill one another.

On the other hand, people in the USA love blaming car manufacturers for their mistakes - see the DoJ's expropriation of $1.2bn from Toyota. Which suggests that legal costs alone will mean that Automated Vehicle technology will have to be very much better than human driving before it can become widely used.

AV technology is already pretty good: a semi-autonomous vehicle with a human driver correcting any failure to recognise hazards would be a very safe system. Unfortunately this doesn't work well in practice because humans are not good at paying attention when they are unlikely to be needed. As Tesla drivers have demonstrated.

It's better either to have a human driver with automated assistance, or, as Waymo has recognised, to go straight to full automation. It seems to me that Tesla must know this too, but needs the money from its Autopilot sales.

RTA death rates in the USA are three or four times the rates in Western Europe.

And the death rates in China are about six times that of the US. In general, the Chinese drive insanely bad, especially Chinese boomers. That would seem to give autonomous vehicle technology a lot of room to develop there.

I thought driving in Israel was the most terrifying I had ever seen, until I went to Vietnam....

As Tesla drivers have demonstrated.

the marketing hype about 'self-driving' cars is going to kill a lot of people before the software even approaches human levels of competence.

Tesla autopilot on UK country roads.

Tesla Autopilot FSD V10 UK: Self driving on back roads with no lines, passing horses & speed bumps (YouTube)

a human driver with automated assistance

I appreciate this feature in cars that are being manufactured now. And you're right, it may be the best thing.

humans are not good at paying attention when they are unlikely to be needed.

Just out of curiosity, how do accident rates compare with vs without cruise control? Which is, after all, a small step towards AV technology that crept in while nobody was paying attention....

Tesla Autopilot FSD V10 UK:

/jogger appears on road:

"oh, we've got a person coming. so i'm going to obviously have to run off autopilot and go around him"

like i said, a lot of people are going to die.

For Germans freedom of the road (freie Fahrt für freie Bürger)* is what the 2nd amendement is for USians but still our roads seem to be safer.

*there is again a heated political discussion about a possible speed limit of 130km/h (81 mph) on the highway right now.

"Safety agencies are in favor of new age driver assistance technologies!

Data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2018 clearly suggested that new model vehicles are safer than older cars largely due to the latest crash prevention technologies. In fact, NHTSA’s analysis also showed that older cars led to a greater number of accident fatalities and severely injured passengers."
Are safe driving technologies reducing motor vehicle crashes?

real world driving .

The last video is titled "bad boston drivers" but it could also be simply titled "boston drivers".

The first two are plain old every-day traffic. The first one would be considered an easy drive.

Every place ain't Boston, but lots of places are like it.

Actually, both of the first two videos would qualify as seriously light freeway traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area. Certainly nothing like rush hour on our freeways -- we have basically circa 1970 road infrastructure capacity, combined with 5 to 10 times the population it was built for.

As for the "bad Boston drivers", there are idiots anywhere you go. Get a big enough population (i.e. any urban area) and there will be lots of them on the roads.

rush hour, Rte 128.

Pretty much like this, most days.

Another scientist toying with Boyle’s phosphorus found that, “if the Privy Parts be therewith rubb’d, they will be inflamed and burning for a good while after.”

russell, that's more like what I see. (Happily, I don't have to personally subject myself to it.)


And, to my delight, close observers and chroniclers. From Parson Woodforde's Diary in 1778:

1778 April 15... Brewed a vessel of strong Beer today. My two large Piggs, by drinking some Beer grounds taking out of my Barrels today, got so amazingly drunk, that they were not able to stand and appeared like dead things almost... I never saw Piggs so drunk in my life... April 16. My 2 Piggs are still unable to walk yet, but they are better than they were yesterday. They tumble about the yard and can by no means stand steady yet. In the afternoon my 2 Piggs were tolerably sober. March 23. Memorandum. In shaving my face this morning I happened to cut one of my moles which bled much, and happening also to kill a small moth that was flying about, I applied it to my mole and it instantaneously stopped the bleeding

My two large Piggs, by drinking some Beer grounds taking out of my Barrels today, got so amazingly drunk, that they were not able to stand...

When I was a kid in corn country, sometimes an old silo roof would leak and rain water would seep its way down the whole column of corn, fermenting as it went. Eventually it would leak out near the bottom of the silo. Hogs loved it, and would get staggering-around drunk on it.

Nature abhors a vacuum ... and sober swine.

Trickle-down oinkenomics.

Margarita ante porcos
(Rather aquavit)

Since we have wandered far afield... First information is out on the software problem in the Boeing Starliner that kept it from reaching the international space station. The system includes multiple elapsed-time clocks. The software was supposed to be looking at the clock that counts time elapsed since launch. Instead, it was looking at the clock that counts time elapsed since the computer was powered up, 11 hours before launch. This strikes me as rather embarrassing. Don't they do code reviews? Don't they run simulations?

"This strikes me as rather embarrassing. Don't they do code reviews?"

Is it worse than having your expensive interplanetary probe miss Mars because the scientific team used metric units, while the engineering team used english units?

Or having a rocket blow up because someone's code wrote a "real" value in an "integer" variable (or vice-versa) in your FORTRAN code?

I think that having an electoral college install a dotard is a far worse software bug.

I read somewhere that, just before the first moonshot, they discovered that the navigation software was treating the moon's gravity as repulsive instead of attractive.

I will note that all of the other examples of dumb software errors in space flight given here are more than 20 years old, and a couple are more than 50 years old. We have better tools; we have better processes. Maybe it doesn't bother the rest of you, but I am embarrassed that we are spending billions of taxpayer dollars to write real-time code that does stupid things because it looked at the wrong clock.

My thought about the software thing is this:

The complexity of the problems and use cases that software is intended to address has become too complicated for people to understand. So, the systems have become too complicated for people to understand.

We do have better processes and tools in place than we used to, but those alone are not sufficient to make the inherent complexity of the real-world problems simple enough for people to hold in their heads and reason about.

Using the wrong clock is an obvious bonehead error, and is something that should really have been caught by the most basic of testing regimes. And, in general, probably would have been.

But the larger issue, to me, is the fact that we increasingly depend - for really critical things - on systems that are too complicated for anybody to understand fully and accurately.

another dozen layers of disparate Javascript frameworks will solve it.

Yes, life is uncertain, russell. :-)

My own view is that computation (and stuff like documentation of procedures) merely gives us a slightly better grasp of how uncertain it all is...

Happy new year, one and all.

But the larger issue, to me, is the fact that we increasingly depend - for really critical things - on systems that are too complicated for anybody to understand fully and accurately.

My sense is that we have reached the second (at least) level of incomprehension. That is, we can only understand some systems by using other systems. Systems which themselves are too complex to understand. Which further increases the chances of errors slipping thru . . . until they manifest outside the system.

At that point, they may seem like obvious errors. But, due to the complexity of the system, no one person had all the relevant facts earlier.

But, due to the complexity of the system, no one person had all the relevant facts earlier.

Try to tell politicans and government buearucrats that.

Politicians work in a world where nobody ever has all the relevant facts. Most of them can't even picture it. But they slam each other (and are slammed by non-politicians) whenever they prove to have missed something.

Not surprisingly, they treat others the same way, even when they are not politicians. It's not so much that they are unaware of the problem. It's just that, in their world, it's not an excuse.

try telling a libertarian "It's really not that simple"

But the larger issue, to me, is the fact that we increasingly depend - for really critical things - on systems that are too complicated for anybody to understand fully and accurately.

I'm getting started on a couple of hobby projects, one that will require some computer vision stuff and one that will need some voice recognition. Neural networks and deep learning:

"This NN model, with these coefficients, recognizes cats."
"How? Why are those coefficients cats rather than dogs, or cows?"
"We have absolutely no idea."

I read somewhere where someone had trained a NN to recognize sheep. With further scrutiny, they realized that what the NN really recognized was the environments that sheep are found in.

Since this was originally a thread about the UK elections, here is one if the best post mortems I've read

The UK chose barbarism. Now what?

Those of us who have challenges with facial recognition tend to do a lot of that kind of thing, too. Sounds like they did good training, just not quite for the behavior they were aiming for. Serendipity?

A video on cheap face recognition hardware. And how wonderfully weird and strange people can be.

"I test out a face recognition NVR I bought on Aliexpress- does it really work in the real world?"
Naomi 'SexyCyborg' Wu: Discount Dystopia! $50 Face Recognition Security System (YouTube)

It's super-easy for a computer to tell the difference between a cat and a cow.

Cows rarely chase a laser-dot. QED.

...Instead, it was looking at the clock that counts time elapsed since the computer was powered up, 11 hours before launch.

As I understand it, the Starliner's Mission Elapsed Timer (MET) is set by querying the Atlas V rocket. The problem seems to have arisen in communication between the two.

I guess that in so far as they tested the interaction with the Atlas V software, they did it with the Atlas V MET set to the same time whatever other clock they mistakenly got a reading from.

Which is not good, but the sort of thing that can happen when working with third-party software.

....The nationalists believe they are winning, and they are not necessarily wrong. They have encountered less resistance than expected. Republicans used to wonder why moderate Muslims would not speak out against jihadists in their midst. They surely know the answer to that question now. With little to fear except a nasty tweet and a loss in a primary, GOP elected officials have capitulated to a man whom they regarded as a buffoon and completely unfit to be president...

Nigel: requires self-consciousness not in evidence.

"self-consciousness" sounds like one of those PoMo commie PC things. none of it for me, thank you very much; I'm an American!

Snarki,I have no comeback.

Another chapter in the novel "But Hillary is a Hawk".

at least we have a trustworthy and stable genius in charge this time.

Wag the Dog?

like everything else, Trump just takes what someone else made and slaps his gaudy name on it.

Will an irrelevant Parliament even require burning?

But, the match dropped on it might well come from above, which is now synonymous with ABOVE, in the God-bothering sense.

What if the the King of the Jews decides a King doesn't require earthly election?

The King can disregard all law and bring his exceptional, virtuous, court martialed, murderous military home to close America's borders at the behest of his chosen vermin evangelical base, the many evil, vermin, subhuman Grahams.

And then, after murdering brown children, sic them (murder) on liberal Jews, who now have no King to look after them in the world and America, the entire LGBT cohort, all liberals and Democrats, Joepiscopelians, women who dare step outside the home and attempt an illegal abortion after being raped by the King of the Jews and his faithful men of the bloody, victimized cloth, for right wing evangelical and Catholic Orthodox Dreher Christians are the truest deserving victims and remnant of the true America and its sword of God, the virtuous, exceptional military led by its most exceptional victim and martyr of socialist liberal justice, Eddie Gallagher.

Will Christianity Today be folded into the Murdoch empire and re-issued as Prosperity Gospel for the Remnant of the Two Unnamed Crucified Thieves Only?

Will the unelected bureacratic deep state King of the Jews encourage Q-Anon to jail and execute Tom Hanks, felling imagined corrupters of American Christian youth Walt Disney and Mister Rogers (wait, we just murdered Forrest Gump too, oh well) at one swoop as well, while ignoring the rape crimes of the Daddy of the kneeling Richard Viguerie, Billy James Hargis?

In the late 1970's, when theocrat conservative republican filth Paul Weyrich dreamed his theocratic dreams ("I don't want everyone to vote." 1977), how would American history have unfolded if a bullet had been put in his subhuman, theocratic, conservative, republican brain, aborting his Plan?

THAT act alone would have justified the tax-exempt status of vermin America's State Church and Vatican, the NRA.

While viewing the movie "It's A Wonderful Life" the other day (WRS), not for the first time did it occur to me how much more wonderful the lives in Bedford Falls could have been if Frank Capra chose to have Clarence the Angel interrupt George Bailey's attempted plunge into the icy river right off the bat by assassinating the verminous conservative Mr Potter and his morose sidekick, who, let's face it, had a crush on Violet Bick, and the means to pay for it.

If Mr. Potter hadn't been fucking born .... THAT is the question?

They'll never stop.

"We will continue to fight these battles. It is a never-ending struggle until ... the Rapture."

Mike Pompeo, 2015.

There will be killing, slaughtering and butchering.

Who is it gonna be on the receiving end? Us or them?, under trump's tax tutelage and regime, got out from under paying for the drone strike that killed Soleimani, like so many tax-hating filth did in America.

I hope, at the very least, that Amazon uses the knowledge gained from that murderous drone technology to deliver my purchases to me even faster, even if the guy reaching for the item on the Amazon warehouse shelf keels over in his meager, not-good-enough attempt at productivity.

Ploughshares, etc.

Where IS the lurk button on this contraption?

Oh, yeah, it's labeled "Delete".

So some people ( including me) are wondering how the giant brains of the anti- Trump resistance reconcile the assassination of Soleimani with the fact that he was instrumental in bringing Russia into Syria. Seems odd that Putin’s puppet would murder one of Russia’s friends.

It’s not the only example where Trump’s actual policies went against Russian interests. It would be nice if anti- Trump resistance for the past three years had been mostly focused on his actual horrific policies, including his warmongering and meddling in Latin America and the Middle East, rather than wasting time on crackpot McCarthyite fantasy crap. But then we might have to talk about actual issues which are deeper than the narcissistic idiocies of one man.

Speaking of influence

It’s also depressing but unsurprising that many of the critics of Trump regarding his assassination policy is that they don’t actually condemn it. They start out saying Soleimani was a “bad guy” and it is great that he is dead. Justice was served, but maybe in a foolish way. Maybe so. So does this mean every bad guy can be assassinated by drone strike or does this only apply to bad guys who aren’t our allies or in our own government?

I haven’t talked about drone strikes in awhile because Yemen and Gaza and our bombardments of Raqqa and Mosul put all that in the shade, but we have set this precedent where we take for granted our right to kill anyone we deem a “ bad guy” whenever and wherever we want and where we only worry about our lack of a “ strategery” to deal with the aftermath. We can’t oppose it because it’s wrong. No, we only oppose it because of the likely blowback. If we limit ourselves to less blatant acts — things like brutal sanctions or endless wars where unimportant people die— then it is all more manageable and acceptable and frankly, boring. This is why MSNBC in a one year span broadcast several hundred stories about Stormy Daniels and just one on Yemen.

So [email protected]@k Trump, but just a few months ago I saw articles in the NYT criticizing him for not striking Iran after the Saudi oil installation was hit. We had to establish deterrence against Iran so they wouldn’t react to the brutal sanctions we imposed or the war we supported in Yemen. Sometimes these things escalate up to the point where real people might get hurt.

Putin is all about the oil, Donald. Everything else is just theatrics. He's a world class liar, and he has no "friends".

We can’t oppose it because it’s wrong. No, we only oppose it because of the likely blowback.

We can do both. And we can even think Soleimani was a "bad guy" (personally I have no idea, given the multiplicity of bad guydom now loose in the world, how he measured up) so that we don't mourn him too much, while still thinking that extra-judicial killings are wrong, and a bad idea because of the likely blowback. As for Putin's occasional stooge Trump killing Putin's opportunistic buddy Soleimani, your perception that this is a strategic contradiction brings to mind Snarki's recent verdict: assumes facts (and mental capacities) not in evidence.

Girl from the North Country: Upvote.

So now Trump is threatening to bomb cultural Iranian sites, while Pompeo is professing love for the Iranian people.

I'm not sure the Iranians have the precision to obliterate Trump and his properties, but that would be the most effective and humane way to deal with this.


Chris Murphy, who is one of the better Democrats, speaking about why we shouldn’t do assassinations even if Iran is full of “malevolent evildoers”.

I think we should put Dubya on Mt. Rushmore. Practically everybody in American politics talks like him and both Ellen Degeneres and Michelle Obama find him kind of cuddly. A man with that kind of impact on public discourse deserves a piece of a mountain.

Sarcasm aside, I think most of the mainstream political spectrum has forgotten what it even means to be antiwar, assuming they ever knew. They oppose war if it seems likely that a lot of Americans might die. But the idea that you begin an antiwar argument with a statement that some country is full of malevolent evildoers is just so freaking depressing I feel it necessary to take refuge in sarcasm.

Not that Iran is lacking in malevolent evildoers. They have their fair share. America has a monopoly on benevolent evildoers, perhaps. We are forever “ blundering into quagmires with the best of intentions.” That’s the sarcasm reflex kicking in.

I think most of the mainstream political spectrum has forgotten what it even means to be antiwar, assuming they ever knew.

I don't know what you're talking about, unless you mean antiwar=pacifist. That's fine, but you never owned up to being a pacifist.

A lot of people are anti-war, depending on which war. I was anti-Vietnam war. I was anti-Iraq war. I was anti-Afghanistan war, with Bush having led that effort (it would have been better to wage an early focused campaign against al Qaeda taking refuge there, including Osama bin Laden). I am anti-Iran war.

Obama tried to forestall the war against Iran with the Iran deal, which [apparently, and I'll trust] required a buy-in from the Saudis for which we paid the price of offering peripheral assistance to them in Yemen. (Which Obama drew down prior to his departure).

This Iran aggression is not a case of benevolent anybody. This is a case of wag the dog. And Putin is probably all for it. Your earlier comment was refuted, and you have no response.

A couple of articles that outline the problem.

The first states more clearly what I have been saying.

The other ( which i will link in a moment) outlines the difference in the responses by Warren and Sanders on the one hand vs Biden and Buttigieg on the other.

Not that Iran is lacking in malevolent evildoers. They have their fair share. America has a monopoly on benevolent evildoers, perhaps. We are forever “ blundering into quagmires with the best of intentions.” That’s the sarcasm reflex kicking in.

I'm guessing almost everybody here feels your pain, Donald, and doesn't altogether disagree with you. This seems like a major clusterfuck from every possible viewpoint: moral, practical, strategic, and all points in between. God help us (and I don't believe in God).

Actually, on second thought, I won’t post the second article. I think it was a bit unfair to Biden and Buttigieg. Not that I like their response, but it didn’t strike me as quite as bad as Mackey said. But the Scahill piece I linked was good.

The entire problem with Trump as Putin’s puppet is precisely the fact that Putin, whatever else one could say about him, is smart and Trump is not. Trump can be flattered into supporting people sometimes, but I have seen liberals claiming for three years that everything Trump does leads back to Putin, which is a statement that simply doesn’t fit the facts. Trump ended the INF agreement. He is building or wants to build a new class of tactical nukes. He opposes the Russian pipeline to Germany. He interfered in the Ukraine against arms shipments for his own benefit, but agreed to supplying more weapons than Obama did. He wants a massive increase in defense spending and got it. Putin wants that? I doubt it.

If people were genuinely serious about foreign influence on our policies, as Scahill says it has been out in the open all along. Trump, like many others ( but it goes farther with him) is influenced by the UAE, the Saudis, and Israel. He ended the agreement with Iran which was not what Putin wanted but is what Israel and the Saudis wanted. He increased US support for the war in Yemen. He essentially ended the admittedly comatose US opposition to Israeli settlements, which goes against a few decades of US policy.

What has Putin gotten? He got the sort of cooperation in fighting some jihadists that he would have gotten from Obama. Trump is not fond of NATO because he sees almost everything in financial terms, so Putin gets that, if it ever amounts to anything. And Trump says nice things about anybody who flatters him. But his record with Putin is mixed.

As for pacifism, the ad hominem is silly, but I will play. I would have supported WWII. Korea would be a close call. In hindsight it was justified. South Korea is a democracy, which came about decades later. As actually conducted at the time it was an abomination, one long massive war crime on all sides. I am not sure I’d have supported any of our wars since.

Yemen was another abomination, clearly so from the very beginning. You didn’t have to be a pacifist to oppose Saudi bombing of civilians.

Anyway, that’s enough ranting for one night.

Putin wants that? I doubt it.

Why? Are you operating under the assumption that Putin wants what's good for Russia? That's not correct. Putin wants what's good for Putin. And what Trump wants or opposes is not necessarily what Trump states. They're liars. And they're working for their personal interests, not the interests of their respective countries.

You didn’t have to be a pacifist to oppose Saudi bombing of civilians.

Of course you didn't. The Obama administration also opposed it, which is why US support was eventually curtailed (until Trump). It became obvious that the bombing of civilians wasn't a result of Saudi incompetence. That price was too high to pay for Saudi support of the Iran deal.

Darn it, I lied, I forgot where I was going in the second paragraph.

The danger with Trump all along is that there are people who want to overthrow the Iranian government and he listens to them. He backed away from the air strike months ago because there is another group of antiwar conservatives who know how to flatter him ( among them is Tucker Carlson,God help us). But the prowar group seems to have greater sway and they only need it once to start a real war.

This isn’t coming from Putin. But it is more fun to talk about Russian spies and fictitious pee tapes and all that crap than it is to talk about the Americans who want a war with Iran. And if one wants to blame evil foreigners for our political idiocies, well, unfortunately the evil foreigners who want us bombing Iran are not based in Moscow. But I wouldn’t go overboard blaming the foreigners. It’s a convenient excuse. Superpowers can’t be made to do stupid evil things.

A rant by proxy

“ Of course you didn't. The Obama administration also opposed it, which is why US support was eventually curtailed (until Trump). I”

Bullshit. They did a token slap on the wrist after the bombing of a funeral which killed 150 people in Sana’a got worldwide attention towards the end of Obama’s term.. It was clear from week one that the Saudis were going to fight a dirty war and the Obama people had to claim civilians were being killed accidentally because an open admission of their guilt would be a confession of complicity. Privately there were lawyers in the Administration that worried that US forces could be accused of war crimes.

In the interests of getting offline, I won’t look at whatever response you type until sometime tomorrow.

Over at BJ, Betty Cracker sez:

If the Iranian regime is smart, they’ll just stand by while Trump transitions the U.S. to pariah-state status, paving the way for Iran to fully rejoin the family of nations.

Which is certainly one of the ways it could play out. The US kinda acts like a dick, everybody else seizes on that as their excuse to blow off the sanctions and start doing business with Iran again.

I find it hard to know who the good guys and bad guys are in the middle east, and that includes us. There's oil there, therefore there's money there, and that FUBARs everybody's moral compass.

Hope we don't go to war with Iran, I can't think of one good thing it would accomplish.

From Putin's POV what would be the alternative? Jabbabonk may not be under his full control but an easily misled buffoon open to flattery and (to a degree) blackmail serves Ras Putin's interests more than an intelligent, experienced 'realist'. The least His Kremlinship gets out of it is a significant self-weakening of the US. Plus, Jabbabonk is not the only beneficiary. The Moss Cow Midge also receives massive indirect support (through targeted Russian investment in Kentucky). The Turtle isn't a direct lackey but his purely self-serving 'grim reaper' politics are advantageous to Vladimir. They see each other as useful idiots (as with US RW evangelicals and the RW in Israel).

...what has Putin gotten ?

A fractious, and possibly fractured NATO; a US which appear to have lost a great deal of influence in Asia; a weakening of US alliances around the world; a significant pause in US leadership in replacing fossil fuels.

Is Trump a Putin puppet ? Of course not.
But he is a useful idiot, and there is significant evidence the Russians have backed him financially (underwriting his loans from Deutschland Bank, and engaging in mutually profitable money laundering), and likely to some extent during the election too.

i don't think Trump is under Putin's direct control. but it seems quite possible and likely that Putin has talked Trump into doing and saying a few things here and there which benefit Russia.

and yes, the US is the cause and source of all evil in the world, second to non. nobody else has free will or agency or their own desires - everything is a reaction to the evil that gushes from the black heart of almost every American.

In the interests of getting offline, I won’t look at whatever response you type until sometime tomorrow.

Didn't see this until now. Funny.

This isn’t coming from Putin. But it is more fun to talk about Russian spies and fictitious pee tapes and all that crap than it is to talk about the Americans who want a war with Iran....

More than a touch of straw manning about this.

The US’ long history of clusterfucks in its relationship with Iran goes back to the postwar decade, so it would be somewhat otiose to ascribe all the blame to Putin. Having said that, Russia is every bit as malign a meddler in the region as the US, and doesn’t even have the excuse that it is endeavouring to maintain the steady supply of oil to the West...

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