Green Acres

Today I learned that someone near us has a flock of Guinea fowl that he lets run around, “free range ” – in the middle of the road, in this case. I had to herd them off to the side with my car. Cause that’s country livin.

I didn’t know what they were. Looked like fat chickens with puffin heads.

Coincidence

You know, it really is a surprise to find American’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, at the heart of a whisper/smear/cloud-of-FUD campaign against Trump’s electoral opponent – There’s corruption! Look! An investigation! Don’t trust Biden!

Well, it would be if you don’t remember 2016.

Once, in his days as New York’s chief federal prosecutor and later as the city’s mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani was a master of releasing damaging leaks aimed at the kneecaps of opponents. Sometimes, they were true.

Now Mr. Giuliani works the other end of the information slurry, and he has had a hard time keeping his stories straight, one day boasting of his inside sources, then denying that they exist.

At a Senate hearing this week in Washington, Democrats took turns at the microphone to ask about the furies that — depending on which version of Mr. Giuliani you believe — ran from the F.B.I. office in New York to Mr. Giuliani during the closing weeks of the 2016 presidential election.

One Democratic senator asked the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray, if the pipeline was still running.

“Can you assure the American people there are no ongoing leaks from any office of the F.B.I. to Rudolph Giuliani?” Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut asked.

“Senator, I’m certainly not aware of any,” Mr. Wray replied.

Sure.

And days before the election, FBI director Comey announced an investigation into a newly-discovered laptop full of emails tangentially relating to Clinton – an announcement that likely played a big part in her losing the election.

How did that announcement, which went against FBI policy, come to happen? Well, it’s suspected that Comey announced it in an effort to get ahead of leaks about the investigation. Comey denies it, but that’s at odds with other people who involved.

So who was driving those rumors?

The former attorney general, Loretta Lynch, told investigators that Mr. Comey “said, ‘It’s clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton.’ And he said, ‘It is deep.’”

Mr. Comey said he found it “stunning,” Ms. Lynch told the investigators. She replied to him: “I’m just troubled that this issue — meaning the, the New York agent issue and leaks — I am just troubled that this issue has put us where we are today with respect to this laptop.”

The self-proclaimed tribune of that F.B.I. antipathy was Mr. Giuliani, now a lawyer for President Trump.

On Oct. 25, 2016, three days before Mr. Comey’s stunning announcement, Mr. Giuliani appeared on a Fox morning television show.

“We got a couple of surprises left,” Mr. Giuliani said.

He chortled, and when asked to expand on the subject, replied, “And I think it’ll be enormously effective.”

So, yes, it’s a big surprise to see Rudy G running around, spreading rumors about, and trying to get someone to announce an investigation into another of Trump’s (likely) opponents. If you didn’t read anything I quoted above, that is.

What Dat?

The NTSB report includes a second-by-second timeline showing what the software was “thinking” as it approached Herzberg, who was pushing a bicycle across a multi-lane road far from any crosswalk:

  • 5.2 seconds before impact, the system classified her as an “other” object.
  • 4.2 seconds before impact, she was reclassified as a vehicle.
  • Between 3.8 and 2.7 seconds before impact, the classification alternated several times between “vehicle” and “other.”
  • 2.6 seconds before impact, the system classified Herzberg and her bike as a bicycle.
  • 1.5 seconds before impact she became “unknown.”
  • 1.2 seconds before impact she became a “bicycle” again.

It saw her five seconds before it ran her over.

Two things are noteworthy about this sequence of events. First, at no point did the system classify her as a pedestrian. According to the NTSB, that’s because “the system design did not include consideration for jaywalking pedestrians.”

Second, the constantly switching classifications prevented Uber’s software from accurately computing her trajectory and realizing she was on a collision course with the vehicle. You might think that if a self-driving system sees an object moving into the path of the vehicle, it would put on its brakes even if it wasn’t sure what kind of object it was. But that’s not how Uber’s software worked.

The system used an object’s previously observed locations to help compute its speed and predict its future path. However, “if the perception system changes the classification of a detected object, the tracking history of that object is no longer considered when generating new trajectories,” the NTSB reports.

What this meant in practice was that, because the system couldn’t tell what kind of object Herzberg and her bike were, the system acted as though she wasn’t moving.

A 2018 report from Business Insider’s Julie Bort suggested a possible reason for these puzzling design decisions: the team was preparing to give a demo ride to Uber’s recently hired CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Engineers were asked to reduce the number of “bad experiences” experienced by riders. Shortly afterward, Uber announced that it was “turning off the car’s ability to make emergency decisions on its own, like slamming on the brakes or swerving hard.”

Don’t worry, the software driving the car that’s coming at you will have been written by uncompromised omnipotent super-humans who won’t overlook anything.

Masterminds

Why would Rudy Giuliani associate and indicted dealmaker Lev Parnas name his company “Fraud Guarantee”?

Is there a worse name for a company with the stated mission of helping “reduce the risk of fraud”?

Well, Parnas apparently had a reason for the unusual name: Google search results.

When Parnas and Fraud Guarantee co-founder David Correia set up the company, Parnas picked the name so that people Googling the words “Parnas” and “Fraud” would see something positive — Parnas’ business — rather than his long history of legal trouble.