D’s View: From around the world

Just a few points on some of the top news today.

Self-driving cars –

I haven’t quite been able to understand the hype around self-driving cars. There are some good points about them like if I wanted to take a long trip but dread having to drive it. Long road trips just aren’t fun when you’re driving them. You can’t look at the landscape as you whiz by. And so you miss all the beauty the great outdoors has to offer. On cross country trips, I tend to hurry through in order to just get it over with.

For everyday use, though, I suppose I don’t see the point. Of course my way to work is faster by the back roads, a path that takes me straight through mostly farmland on two-lane roads. So I don’t have to contend with traffic congestion very often, with the exception of the days when the farmers are out taking spins in the old tractors. Someone who has to take the 101 though downtown Los Angeles may have an entirely different perspective on the issue.

From a technology standpoint, it doesn’t seem to me that satellite networks are fast and reliable enough to be able to provide the kind of data needed to enable a self-driving car to make the kinds of important decisions a machine would have to make. And so my guess is that the transportation networking technology, local networks available by the roadside, needed to make them a success aren’t there to complete the vision of self-driving cars for the masses, and I wouldn’t guess that cellular is the answer either, given the limits of spectrum and the fact that each is shared data space. We’ve all experienced throughput issues when attempting to stream a movie over broadband, which is also shared data space, and much of that is likely due to packet collisions. Just imagine something like this happening at the worst possible time in your self-driving car.

From my standpoint, the concept of the self-driving car is an end point of an evolutionary process from assisted driving tech because it won’t be successful until cars can “talk” to and understand each other on a peer to peer basis. For that to happen on the widest possible scale, there needs to be all sorts of programming and protocol standards that have yet to be developed; we cannot build strong house without first building a foundation, and the standards and protocols that are developed to support assisted driving are the foundation from which self-driving cars will evolve.

Given that the physical wellbeing of people is at stake, since we do not have the appropriate underlying tech for self-driving cars widely available and standardized, it is nether prudent nor practical to try to rush to the end state or to sell the conceptual end state as being viable and profitable even 5 or 10 years away. It just isn’t, even assuming that public acceptance wouldn’t be an issue.

In short, don’t expect any sort of ROI on your self-driving car investments for at least a decade and a half or more, and the people hyping the concept should be convinced to cool their jets or it will end badly in the shorter term, and there won’t be any return at all. By the way, contractionary monetary policy will push it out even longer because nobody is in the mood to dream about the future with they are fearful of today.

Catalonia –

Earlier in the year the Spanish courts ruled that the Catalan referendum on independence was unconstitutional given that the constitutional process for an independence vote is supposedly for it to be nationwide. Everyone in the country must vote or nobody votes. Of course, the referendum that was held despite the opinion of the courts wasn’t done that way.

And that presents a bit of a conundrum for people like me who are principled on democratic process and rule of law. A ratified constitution should be adhered to on all sides, and I have not heard about  occasions of repeated, aggravated and egregious violations of constitutional order on the part of central government, such as unfair tax burdens and uncivil attempts at justice as to call for aggravated violations in kind.

A news report I saw the other day depicted Pudgidemont as deciding to join the separatist movement in order for Catalonia to have its own football team and not have to share the glory of winning the World Cup, implying that his personal motives are more of the egotistical type. Whether that was a fair or unfair depiction of him or even the entire movement remains to be seen, but when I don’t have enough information to understand the motivations behind the independence movement, it’s hard to rationalize putting the Catalan population through the ordeal of separation from the motherland without any identifiable and understandable need for justice. The “why” is probably more important than the “how”, and the question of whether independence for Catalonia is sensible and rational is still very open.

Sexual harassment –

Over the years I’ve heard that the entertainment and media industries are rife with all sorts of corruption, and that for many women simply being good at what they do isn’t enough to do or be anything more than second rate.

Of course, I can’t sing or dance and that’s why I’m in tech. When I started out in the field nearly 25 years ago, it was definitely a man’s world and recall being the only woman on the team for most of my early career. But the resistance I came across was more of the adversarial kind rather than quid pro quo. Only once did I have a problem where a coworker wanted more. But the come on was subtle, and after I rebuffed it nearly as subtlety as it was delivered, he turned into a nemesis. I could only imagine the problems I would have had if he had been my boss. He came down with a severe case of flu two years ago and died. When I was told of the news, it was awkward social position because while I felt empathy for his wife and young daughter, I felt no sorrow and was a no-show at the funeral.

Thinking back on the experience, I never said anything about what happened. There wasn’t any real reason to and in personal life it isn’t something that is talked about unless there is a need. Rejecting come-ons is a part of life that is personal and should be handled with tact, a feminine social and survival skill that is developed practically from the onset of puberty – how to say “No.” and move on without consequence on either side.

So I can understand why some women may not talk about a particularly aggressive experience for many years. For every one who does, there are even more who haven’t, especially when the tactful “No” had consequences. But that doesn’t mean that every story that is told is true, and I think that the subject should be approached with the seriousness it deserves as to avoid slander. Having many women coming out at once about any one guy does more to cloud the issue in my perception than it does for presumption of guilt. In this case, less is more.

Trump –

I’ve previously exhausted the issue of the upcoming Fed Chair pick, and it’s probably overdone at this point.

In other news on the Trump front, the President recently declared the opioid epidemic a national health emergency, a development that is hardly impressive. It is simply the same old war on drugs with a different spin. We simply cannot begin to solve the problem as long as the black market created by prohibition exists, and if we could solve the problem with enforcement and prison, it surely would have been solved by now as our corrections systems have been overflowing with users and pushers for several decades. More enforcement and more prison is just doing more of the same stuff and expecting a different result. Dealing with drug abuse as a national policy needs much more of rethink because I don’t believe anyone can afford more the same with no end in sight.

“No comment” needs to enter the Trump administration vocabulary. Not every issue needs a position statement from the White House. Some issues can take care of themselves and should be allowed to. But despite an abundance of experience in stepping on landmines from speaking from the hip about issues irrelevant to the White House, at least Sarah Sanders hasn’t yet learned the golden rule of never missing an opportunity to keep her mouth shut, especially on the matter of Weinstein, and has been thoroughly criticized for calling his accusers liars.  Less is much more, and it would be nice if the administration declined to weigh in on matters that do not have enough evidence brought to light in order to form a rational and thoughtful opinion or on those that are not necessarily Federal matters. Please. From now on, let the irrelevant alone to work itself out. Witnessing the unnecessary fallout from bad form has become something of an embarrassment and it detracts from the political capital required in order to accomplish more important things.

Flak and Corker speeches –

I saw a video of the speech Jeff Flake of Arizona gave on the floor of the Senate to announce his decision not to run for re-election and it me feeling perturbed. He spoke about the wanton bluster about immigration and character assignation by the President as an issue he can’t tolerate. I thought back to the election cycle of the 2012 when Flake was elected and remembered the bluster of then candidate Romney that consisted of class politics, and I don’t recall any member of the Party objecting to slandering victims of the Great Recession when many of us are highly aware of the inappropriate things that were said. Nor did Flake or anyone else address the egotistical, childish and narcissistic declaration of economic warfare on the populace that came from many GOP members of the Senate in order to “not help Obama.”

The true fact of the matter is that Flake and Corker couldn’t care less about people in general, and the entire ordeal is personal. They are selfish, egotistical cowards that the people are much better off without and I sincerely hope that the Senate door hits them in rear on their way out.

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