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The Jetzon’s Self Driving Auto Car Drone Aint Here Yet

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History shows again and again
How nature points out the folly of men.

Yeah, truer words never spoken. Even if in relation to Godzilla. And you can apply that to the relentlessly ballyhooed “autonomous driving automobiles”.

Seriously, this stuff is Henny Youngman type of slapsick comedy. It ain’t happening.

Okay, I am cribbing from Atrios, but dammit, what the hell do you think us conspiracy propagators are supposed to do??

I’m just saying these cars won’t ever (in our lifetimes – sure, eventually the singularity might arrive) really work as hyped and certainly don’t deserve all of the press they’re getting. I also don’t think that even if they did work they’d be a big improvement for all (some) of the reasons people think they will be, but those are more debatable issues which I rarely bother to debate because the fact is the things aren’t going to work. Okay, I’ll define “work.” Basically, you have to be able to tune out 100% over 90% of the time. I’ll even allow for a “last mile” kind of “time for you to drive” thing as long as the rest of the time you can kick back and read your book or whatever. Because if you have to pay attention but usually not doing anything, what’s the point? It’s just better cruise control. A neat feature for some, but nothing more than that.

Ya. I am sure that all of you out there driving their Tesla 3’s will squawk [oh, wait, they are not out yet!]. As I am sure all of you on the waiting list for Tesla 3’s [good luck with that!] that is already years behind technical and production capability at Tesla are oh so defensive of the giant Elon Musk dream. Surely the dream will catch up to reality, it must!

Also, the supertrains between Los Angeles and San Francisco (okay, forget the “cheaper” stuff, that was a joke!) and between New York and Washington DC are totally gonna be ready to roll after New Year’s Eve.

When the candidates talk about their totally awesome “infrastructure and jobs” proposals, maybe ask what the hell they are talking about. Because it is probably bullshit. Hold them to it.

Sandy’s Teachable Moment on Infrastructure

In a remarkable development, the devastation from Sandy now is finally moving a least a portion of the national conversation onto the very important topic of infrastructure and how we need to renew our degrading infrastructure in addition to hardening it against new waves of damage due to weather extremes brought on by climate change. Consider this bit of truth-telling from Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy on Rachel Maddow’s show last night:

But it’s not just Malloy who sees the need to have the future in mind during the recovery from Sandy. Today’s New York Times carries an article in which New York Governor Andrew Cuomo discusses how preventive steps need to be taken in the near future:

On Tuesday, as New Yorkers woke up to submerged neighborhoods and water-soaked electrical equipment, officials took their first tentative steps toward considering major infrastructure changes that could protect the city’s fragile shores and eight million residents from repeated disastrous damage.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state should consider a levee system or storm surge barriers and face up to the inadequacy of the existing protections.

“The construction of this city did not anticipate these kinds of situations. We are only a few feet above sea level,” Mr. Cuomo said during a radio interview. “As soon as you breach the sides of Manhattan, you now have a whole infrastructure under the city that fills — the subway system, the foundations for buildings,” and the World Trade Center site.

The Cuomo administration plans talks with city and federal officials about how to proceed. The task could be daunting, given fiscal realities: storm surge barriers, the huge sea gates that some scientists say would be the best protection against floods, could cost as much as $10 billion.

It is sad that such a level of devastation is needed before there is talk of action. As recently as last month, the Times carried yet another warning that exactly this type of damage was becoming increasingly likely:

But even as city officials earn high marks for environmental awareness, critics say New York is moving too slowly to address the potential for flooding that could paralyze transportation, cripple the low-lying financial district and temporarily drive hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Only a year ago, they point out, the city shut down the subway system and ordered the evacuation of 370,000 people as Hurricane Irene barreled up the Atlantic coast. Ultimately, the hurricane weakened to a tropical storm and spared the city, but it exposed how New York is years away from — and billions of dollars short of — armoring itself.

“They lack a sense of urgency about this,” said Douglas Hill, an engineer with the Storm Surge Research Group at Stony Brook University, on Long Island.

Instead of “planning to be flooded,” as he put it, city, state and federal agencies should be investing in protection like sea gates that could close during a storm and block a surge from Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean into the East River and New York Harbor.

And it was exactly that storm “surge from Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean into the East River and New York Harbor” that flooded lower Manhattan and the New York subway system. Considering that estimates yesterday on the financial impact of Sandy were already going as high as $25 billion (and I expect that number to go up by a lot as more damage is discovered), an investment of $10 billion for a surge barrier, coupled with a massive push for revitalizing and hardening the electrical and transportation systems behind the barrier, looks like a very wise investment. Sadly, though, as Malloy points out, half the country doesn’t believe in infrastructure investment. At least, that was the case before Sandy. Will infrastructure scrooges who were directly impacted by the storm finally see the importance of being proactive, or will yet another teachable moment be lost?

US Wasting Money on Afghanistan Infrastructure While US Infrastructure Continues Decline

Joshua Foust tweeted a link to a story in today’s Washington Post about the most recent report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Foust’s tweet succinctly summed up the situation: “#SIGAR body slams the war in Afghanistan… again, and no one will probably ever care.” He followed that up with more: “This will destroy you if you dwell on it too much, but the blithe way DC encourages zero memory and zero accountability really is awful.”

Coming on the heels of the exposure of General William Caldwell’s disgusting 2010 coverup of hellish conditions at Afghanistan’s Dawood National Military Hospital in Kabul, it’s hard to see how Foust can be wrong in his pessimism. Where was the outrage over such horrid coniditions? Why is Caldwell still in the military?

The SIGAR report eviscerates the US counterinsurgency strategy that is based on the assumption that building a Western type of “infrastructure” will produce an Afghan populace that develops such adulation for the purveyors of such cultural “improvement” that they will immediately in fall in line with all other desires of the West.

The Post story opens:

A U.S. initiative to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on construction projects in Afghanistan, originally pitched as a vital tool in the military campaign against the Taliban, is running so far behind schedule that it will not yield benefits until most U.S. combat forces have departed the country, according to a government inspection report to be released Monday.

A few paragraphs later, we get more of the explanation of how the strategy was supposed to work:

Many U.S. military commanders, diplomats and reconstruction experts have long believed that large infrastructure projects were essential to fixing Iraq and Afghanistan.

The next sentence, however, suggests that David Petraeus saw through this strategy and understood what really mattered in the “battle for hearts and minds”: Read more