Category Archives: Poetry

Bailing Sand

the truck transmission whined in protest, the computer gave up. then, bailing away soft flowing sand from our door sills, shovel burning my hands even under a cool moonless starry night… something was truly exhilarating about digging out.

this machine would never understand. sat quietly and waited for rescue by a tool thousands of years old.

in a way, hacking machines is like driving off-road so far that you’ll maybe never make it out again. and that’s why to do it. humans are driven by curiosity, machines are driven by humans.

Reduce Your Vulnerability to Fraud by Listening to More Stories

There is measurable vulnerability in people who lack experience outside a single story. We documented this in terms of who falls victim to Advance Fee Fraud (419 scams) but it also applies to the AntiFa and BLM scams spreading lately.

A story-teller on TED may explain it far better than I ever could:

Army Captain Florent Groberg, who received the Medal of Honor for charging a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, calls this opening up to others so you can “have a conversation”.

Deepfake Map History

Here’s a weird footnote in deepfake history…

Old publishers of “facts” like map makers and encyclopedias gave up inserting fake data after the US Supreme Court ruled their facts can’t be copyrighted, as a New Yorker article from 2005 explained.

If Mountweazel is not a household name, even in fountain-designing or mailbox-photography circles, that is because she never existed. “It was an old tradition in encyclopedias to put in a fake entry to protect your copyright,” Richard Steins, who was one of the volume’s editors, said the other day. “If someone copied Lillian, then we’d know they’d stolen from us.”

The clever habit of sprinkling fake facts among the real ones declined when money couldn’t be made from proving someone copied facts.

It kind of makes sense that they lost the copyright.

Stealing a fact seems absurd, made only more absurd by polluting a fact to prove it was stolen (an act essentially proving it impossible to steal a fact), and then made even more absurd by trying to prove the decoy (deepfake) is NOT a fact.

“Its inherent fakeitude is fairly obvious,” she said. “We wanted something highly improbable. We were trying to make a word that could not arise in nature.”

They had to make the fake obvious, yet hidden, because they wanted to prosecute people for copying facts that couldn’t be distinguished from fakes. Uh-huh.

In the end there were better ways to create uniqueness (such as very specific distances) versus these silly falsifications. Money for copyright violation seems like such a low bar though, in terms of why someone would insert fakes into a map.

Food for thought when you look at your next map and wonder if you can detect a deepfake. As I wrote in 2020, maps are inherently political and about power.

What If There Was No Good/Bad Split in Narratives?

Since I was a teenager I’ve preferred watching non-American movies because they aren’t saddled with the boring good/bad split.

Drama becomes exceptionally lame when you are told who is good, who is bad, and then you take an obvious side and wait out the inevitable results.

Nothing is at stake.

This was always one of the first points I made when I was teaching ethics to computer science graduate students.

A simple good/bad binary is like an empty premise, not food for thought; doesn’t come anywhere close to reflecting the messy and hard decisions of the real world.

On that note, here’s an interesting essay that says Robin Hood was transfigured into a moral tale to excite political resistance:

As part of this new nationalist consciousness, other authors started changing the old stories to make a moral distinction between, for example, Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Before Joseph Ritson’s 1795 retelling of these legends, earlier written stories about the outlaw mostly showed him carousing in the forest with his merry men. He didn’t rob from the rich to give to the poor until Ritson’s version – written to inspire a British populist uprising after the French Revolution. Ritson’s rendering was so popular that modern retellings of Robin Hood, such as Disney’s 1973 cartoon or the film Prince of Thieves (1991) are more centrally about outlaw moral obligations than outlaw hijinks. The Sheriff of Nottingham was transformed from a simple antagonist to someone who symbolised the abuses of power against the powerless. Even within a single nation (Robin Hood), or a single household (Cinderella), every scale of conflict was restaged as a conflict of values.

My immediate thought is that this presents a chicken-and-egg dilemma. Were old stories changed only after nationalist consciousness, or did they create it?

I mean these narratives may have changed as a reflection of nationalist consciousness, but that doesn’t preclude narratives from having moral spin. Nor does it preclude moral stories from being messy and complex to stimulate thought instead of obedience.

Overall the essay lacks a lot of oral traditions and mostly centers around Greek literature. It makes no mention of Native American or African stories at all, for example, so I am unconvinced it has a fully researched view.

How “Gullah” Atlantic Creole Defeated American Surveillance

Sunn M’Cheaux of Harvard explains — in a brief history lesson on accents within a longer video — that American slaveholders tried to force learning English to surveil and thereby prevent rebellion of their slaves.

As he lays out in the video, there were many native languages among the Blacks kidnapped and forced into American concentration camps. Slaveholders worked hard to mismatch and divide people to prevent any two slaves from speaking with each other except using English (so they could be surveilled and freedom quashed).

Such a plan for racist dominance and control over Blacks (surveillance capitalism as a symptom) ultimately backfired, however. Diverse languages among the slaves evolved into a whole new “creole” that their oppressors struggled to understand.

This common example shows how a Gullah phrase would look versus an English equivalent:

De buckruh dey duh ‘ood duh hunt tuckrey.
The white man is in the woods hunting turkeys.

Kumbaya, as I’ve written about before in terms of American surveillance history, is alleged to be a Gullah phrase for “come by here” — an encoded expression of Black liberation theology.

The Gullah Geechie people are descendants of people from the rice-growing region of West Africa, who were forced into the rice plantations (concentration camps) of South Carolina and Georgia. Those who could escape tyrannical American abuses headed across the border at that time, towards the freedoms given to them under Spanish or French monarchy (even British monarchy by 1800s was abolishing slavery, so life in America was unquestionably the worst).

While Florida was still part of the Spanish empire the Gullah who arrived there built their own settlements and began to prosper, away from the white nationalist extremists running America. A series of wars were even fought to preserve these Black freedoms, which had the effect of further scattering the Gullah across North America.

More precisely General Andrew Jackson in 1818, a long-time white insecurity leader with the life-long objective to steal and destroy Black prosperity in America (e.g. note his abuse of Black American veterans in 1815), illegally invaded Florida to murder the non-white population there.

The video above lays out some of the important Gullah achievements against American tyranny, and the outsized role of John Horse:

  • They created the largest haven in the U.S. South for runaway slaves
  • They led the largest slave revolt in U.S. history
  • They secured the only emancipation of rebellious slaves prior to the U.S. Civil War
  • The formed the largest mass exodus of slaves across the United States and, ultimately, to Mexico

Since Mexico figures prominently here, crucial to understanding the “Remember the Alamo” phrase popular in America is that it had always been a racist white insecurity response to Black liberation and freedom… in Mexico.

The slave rebellions of the early 1830s thus were when white immigrants (like the assault by Andrew Jackson into Florida two decades prior) pushed white militancy upon Mexico (state of Tejas). White settlers were trying to replace existing freedom with a tyranny, ultimately with the aim to expand slavery.

So when a white militia occupied the Mission San Antonio de Valero (a ruin called “the Alamo” because Spanish for cottonwood) it was precisely to violently force a white nationalist state into being against the rising Gullah freedom movement (the foundation story for white police state of Texas).

American slave rebellions map from http://www.johnhorse.com

It’s shocking that today most Americans are more familiar with the gross disinformation spread about the Alamo and Texas as a whole, while few if any are taught about the Gullah Wars of the exact same period that show what was actually at stake.

That probably has something to do with the fact that American children are spoon-fed very North-Korean sounding “underdog” missives about the bogus heroism of white slaveholders fighting to expand slavery. The Civil War, like the Gullah Wars that preceded it, was to stop tyranny spreading.

Saying “remember the Alamo” or throwing around associated racist salutes are like stupidly trying to teach that expansion of slavery should be promoted as if it was a good thing. Here’s what it really means:

…no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens…

And, just like any tyrant would be expected to do, a Texas state representative has introduced legislation to censor the mention of slavery being one of the causes of the Texas Revolution (it was the primary cause).

Thus, Gullah history is interesting to consider when people talk about surveillance technology and oppression even today. It almost seems that soon the only safe way to teach real facts about places like Texas, Florida or Georgia (states where Blacks were free until they joined America) might be to return to roots and practice Gullah.


Update May 20, 2021:

Whit Diffie says in a preview for the RSA Conference Cryptographer’s Panel that increasing communication decreases freedoms, and we’re only a decade away from total freedom loss.

I would argue this is a false choice fallacy, and the Gullah history above hopefully shows why. Could the Gullah communicate securely while also being free? Indeed, by increasing their communication they realized greater freedoms than before.

As Tom Wolfe wrote in “The kingdom of speech“…

Physically, [the human] is a sad case. His teeth are baby-size and can barely penetrate the skin of a too-green apple. His claws can’t do anything but scratch him where he itches. His stringy-ligament body makes him a weakling compared to all the animals his size. Animals his size? In hand-to-paw, hand-to-claw, or hand-to-incisor combat, any animal his size would have him for lunch. Yet [the human] owns or controls them all, every animal that exists, thanks to his superpower: speech.

Gullah Atlantic Creole is a superpower? Now that’s an American history story I would love to see kids learn.

The British in WWII Reported Own Losses to Undermine Nazi Confidence in Wins

An old story from The Guardian reported how transparency played in a war with liars:

An academic trawl of the corporation’s archives has revealed that while the Nazi regime used puppet broadcasters such as William Joyce – nicknamed Lord Haw-Haw – to spin messages of German invincibility, the BBC was choosing to broadcast detailed news of Britain’s military setbacks. The decision was part of a deliberate strategy to win the hearts and minds of the German people, says Dr Vike Martina Plock of the department of English at Exeter University, who discovered memos from the time during research at the BBC Written Archives Centre in Caversham Park, Reading.

The strategy was simple.

If the Allies could openly admit defeats, it was believed [by Nazi listeners], they must be extremely confident, convinced of their eventual victory over Nazi Germany.

Tales of invincibility projects weakness, whereas confidence comes through when talking openly about losses.

For instance, on 27 November 1942 the service reported on the bombing of Toulon by the Germans and the scuttling of the French fleet by Allied forces to avoid capture by the Nazis. The invasion of Norway was covered with similar attention to detail. On 6 April 1940, days before the invasion the BBC German Service accordingly told listeners that the German navy had sunk 52 Norwegian ships causing the death of 392 people.

The BBC referred to themselves as “The Fourth Arm” of warfare and some of it still can be reviewed in their archives.

Source: BBC Genome

Here’s the kind of honesty in British reporting the Germans reoriented themselves towards:

Source: Indian Annual Register, Volume 1, 1945, page 253

On the flip side of this story about truth telling, it also seems important to look at examples of the “spin” such as all the fiction about Rommel, who I’ve written about before.

A couple years after his failures in North Africa and Europe he was coerced into suicide by state threats to kill his entire family, covered up by propaganda claiming he died from battle wounds.

Hitler indeed demanded Rommel commit suicide or be forced to watch all his family and contacts be gunned down first before being executed; chief of staff and commanding officer already having been executed by Hitler.

Rommel’s reputation obviously was artificially inflated during and after his life. This despite massive failures and pathetically supporting Hitler all the way to taking a poison pill to prove he remained loyal to the lies of fascism. He literally said in his final days the coming occupation (anti-fascism truth-telling) wouldn’t suit him.

And in that context we must also not forget “Lord Haw-Haw” was in the end held responsible for his Nazi “spin” broadcasts.

4 January 1946: William Joyce, known as Lord Haw-Haw, who started his Nazi propaganda broadcasts with ‘Germany calling,’ is executed for treason.

It was a similar fate for another Nazi “spin” broadcaster, Paul Ferdonnet from France, also who I’ve written about before.

This Day in History 1921: Sophie Scholl Was Born

Source: Diana Hildebrandt

On the 22nd of February 1943 a brave 21-year-old woman walked to a Nazi guillotine, displaying full conviction she “had done the best I could have done for my people”.

This is where her life ended. But how did it begin?

Today marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Sophie Scholl. On May 9th, 1921 her protestant liberal German parents had their fourth child, who grew interested in art and music.

Like all “eligible” German children she was forced to endure indoctrination from the “Hitler Youth” program. The Nazi system of hate was designed to stomp children into becoming obedient followers of a fascist regime of ruthless intolerance, and to rebel against their parents.

Sophie, as might be expected of such heavy propaganda, at first participated in regular programmed camaraderie and adventures. She became a squad leader of the Nazi Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls), where they were trained to sing songs like this one.

Läutet, daß blutig die Seile sich röten,
Rings lauter Brennen und Martern und Töten

(Ringing, until ropes run red with blood,
Ring louder with burning, torture and murder)

Then her loyalty and intelligence began to take effect. Major doubts arose: Why were her friends denied membership for being Jewish? Why were books mysteriously forbidden from any discussion with her own squad? Why were women being denied any future except “wife, mother, and homemaker”?

Her older brother Hans was arrested in 1936 when he crossed one of these invisible lines of secret police, accused of being in a forbidden youth movement (Deutsche Jungenschaft, Bündische Jugend — basically the Boy Scouts).

It was this arrest of her brother that turned Sophie as a 15 year old girl away from Nazism — she felt loyalty to her family and to human values more than the irrational hate programming.

Six years later in 1942 Sophie joined her brother Hans at Munich university, where he already had been active in a group called The White Rose that opposed German fascism.

Sophie then convinced her then fiancee — a 25-year-old law student and officer in the Nazi air force named Fritz Hartnagel — to also support this group.

On the 23rd January 1943, just a month before The White Rose was uncovered and Sophie would be executed, Hartnagel returned to Germany on the last military evacuation plane out of Stalingrad. Dutiful as a Nazi officer, yet supportive of Sophie in The White Rose, he survived the war and died in 2001 at age 84.

Today she is considered one of the most important Germans of all time.

True/False? “NHTSA reports an average of one accident per 484,000 miles”

As soon as Tesla was on the road it had to start reporting deaths. Source: https://www.tesladeaths.com/

I keep reading the following sentence in safety reports about Tesla, but only about Tesla:

NHTSA reports an average of one accident per 484,000 miles.

Do you see the NHTSA reporting that anywhere? I do not. And I do not see any other car manufacturer quoting this number either.

I see only a sentence Tesla put on their website to claim they aspire “to be” the safest car on the road. And then they wrote that sentence without any source or qualifications.

In other words the 484,000 miles reference is found nowhere but the Tesla site, which claims it found it somewhere else without telling us exactly where.

This December 2020 NHTSA report (DOT HS 813 060) is perhaps the closest thing: “Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes in 2019”

Source: NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, Research Note: “Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes in 2019”, DOT HS 813 060

Wow, as a percentage of total fatalities since 1995 more and more people outside cars are being killed!

Speaking of charts, here’s a real one based on the data that Tesla itself publishes.

Source: Tesla Vehicle Safety Report for the first quarter of 2021. It clearly shows the average distance per accident while driving on Autopilot, and driving off Autopilot, both declined year-over-year.

I am not kidding when I illustrate their own data showing the precipitous decline in safety over recent quarters, while their NHTSA number is showing almost no change. These are the real numbers they publish themselves. Bizarre.

So can someone find the magic 484,000 number anywhere in NHTSA reports? I have questions even if you can:

  1. Why didn’t Tesla put in a simple NHTSA reference to their claim? Don’t they want us to connect directly to the NHTSA and read that report if true?
  2. Why do people keep repeating this without any direct NHTSA reference? People say Tesla says that the NHTSA says a number. What? Nobody just says please show us this report? Can anybody find an actual NHTSA report that says this number?
  3. Does anyone understand what NHTSA might actually be talking about when they are cited improperly in this Tesla quote?

Until I see this report where NHTSA says the exact magic 484,000 number, I continue to believe something is very wrong with media channels repeating it as though it’s true.

Take this report that uses the number for example:

Stock in the electric-vehicle pioneer Tesla is wobbling after a Tesla vehicle crashed and police said no one appears to have been at the wheel.

Here’s another one that uses the number:

Tesla Q1 Safety Report Shows Rise In Autopilot Accidents

Why is that 484,000 data point being sourced from Tesla in these articles about Tesla safety failures, and NOT some statement or report directly from the actual NHTSA?

Perhaps Tesla is engaging in disinformation such that safety news is always controlled by them and them alone to poison a safety narrative?

Here are some guesses why Tesla doesn’t want someone to find or read a NHTSA report, even though Tesla wants us to believe they base their safety engineering on it:

  • NHTSA averages are for all vehicles in all conditions everywhere
  • Tesla averages are for a tiny subset of vehicles and conditions
  • Tesla doesn’t define methods or terms such as miles, crash, accident
  • Tesla crashes have been increasing, worsening not improving
  • Other car manufacturers are reporting their safest records in history during rise in Tesla fatalities and injuries

Saying Autopilot in a Tesla is safer than a 1995 rust-bucket on a dirt road where Autopilot can’t even function is a completely bogus comparison.

Tesla seems to be willfully misleading with its claims about crash data.

As an example of more meaningful comparison here is an actual NHTSA report on factors in crashes in the United States:

Source: NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, Research Note: “The Relationship Between Passenger Vehicle Occupant Injury Outcomes and Vehicle Age or Model Year in Police-Reported Crashes”, DOT HS 812 937

From this table we see 1995-2011 cars are clocking 1,030,624 severe injuries.

Meanwhile, 2012-2018 cars have only 199,480. So is the 2021 Tesla safety marketing campaign comparing itself to a 1995 car on purpose?

Also the NHTSA issues a warning about their own numbers:

…while the present analysis shows that the newer vehicle model year groups were inversely associated with occupant injury severity outcome, this study does not identify which aspects of the model year group with particular vehicular designs are responsible for the reduction in the risk of severe injury to vehicle occupants.

That’s literally the opposite of Tesla marketing, which repeatedly says their particular vehicle is responsible for reduction of crashes… despite no actual evidence to support such claims.

Tesla put its first cars on the road in 2013, right? So you can see it’s patently unfair to compare a 2013 or later model with anything prior unless making a completely different point about car safety (e.g. buy any new car, not an old car, because data shows generic new cars safer than all old ones).

Do you see a problem with Tesla comparing its particular cars to all crashes ever for all cars on the road instead of doing a true comparison with proper analysis?

What if we just run the numbers of Teslas crashing versus Teslas delivered. What percentage of Teslas crash, and how soon after being delivered?

Remember that table at the start of this post?

After putting only a few thousand cars on the road, and a CEO publicly stating his cars are the safest of all cars on the road, Tesla had to report two deaths from a car that “veers into opposite lane”.

Is there another car manufacturer that has as many deaths per cars delivered?

If you went out to buy a car today, Tesla continues to claim misleadingly you should see them as safer than ALL cars ever made, even when you are only in the market for NEW cars.

And when you’re in the market for new cars, Tesla may in fact be significantly less safe than other options (Volvo, Honda, etc). Here’s some proper analysis:

The fundamental problem here is that Tesla does a poor job of driver monitoring. Unlike several other automakers, Tesla only uses a torque sensor in the steering wheel to try to detect when the driver is moving the wheel. This is a cheap but very imprecise method.

A brand new Tesla uses “cheap but very imprecise” engineering for its safety.

Why would Tesla hide the reference to the NHTSA and make it hard to see the actual math? Seems cheap and imprecise of them.

Again, here’s some proper analysis.

General Motors’ similar Super Cruise feature, which is advertised as hands-free, uses facial recognition technology to ensure that a driver is watching the road while it is in operation and recently ranked higher than Autopilot in a Consumer Reports test

I don’t like “hands-free” marketing either, but you have to recognize that Tesla was ranked lower than other brands in safety using independent analysis

If nothing else, you should know Tesla clearly doesn’t want the NHTSA to speak for itself because it never seems to say to anyone “here’s the NHTSA” or “go read the NHTSA”.

Until I see people start to use original source NHTSA documentation when talking about NHTSA reports, I am extremely skeptical of the NHTSA being fairly referenced by Tesla.

If Tesla builds cars like they build their arguments to drive their cars, you shouldn’t buy their cars.

Here’s some poetry that might help explain:

Electric cars were the future in 1981.
Reagan shut it all down.
Electric cars were the future in 2001.
Bush shut it all down.
Electric cars were the future in 2021.
Tesla is a dumpster fire.

If you want to know why people are sticking with fossil fuels, it’s pretty clear who is keeping them alive. Yes, that’s silly. Let’s get rid of the combustion engine and get in our electric cars.

Just don’t get into a Tesla unless you’re prepared to be misled by funny numbers straight into a tree and die in a fire.

Why put people into an electric clown car? That does not help bring electric cars to market faster, as it destroys trust in new cars and their manufacturers.

Perhaps the best take in the news so far has been the Chaser:

“When we say we want a fully driverless future, we mean it” said Tesla CEO, Elon Musk at a press conference on Monday. Musk harked back to his childhood days as the heir of a Zambian blood-diamond empire “this tactical disdain for human life is crucial for any entrepreneur looking to really embrace change”.

For my take on broader disinformation issues in Tesla marketing, see my earlier post on their CEO tactics.