1930s Air Force Against Fascism: First Women Pilots in Africa

Source: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Photo of 1931 black pilots and founders of Robbins, Illinois airport.
Recently as I was reading a note someone sent me about Melody Millicent Danquah, who was born in 1937, I thought something seemed off in the timeline. Danquah was described as the first female pilot in Africa, trained in 1963 by Ghana’s Air Force and a year later making solo flights in a de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk.

It is a fine story on its own, not to mention the wider story of emancipation of black women from colonialism, but unfortunately it obscures the many women who flew in Africa long before her. I think it fair to say Ghana in 1963 was most certainly thinking about at the Ethiopian Air Force of 1935, and the role of women there.

First, let me lay out the situation globally for women who were pilots by the 1930s.

Bessie Coleman was the first American to have an International Pilot’s license. Racism in America actively prevented a black and Native American woman to learn how to fly, so she took night school to learn French, went to France and quickly became a pilot there.

…her brothers served in the military during World War I and came home with stories from their time in France. Her brother John teased her because French women were allowed to learn how to fly airplanes and Bessie could not… Coleman was accepted at the Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation in Le Crotoy, France. She received her international pilot’s license on June 15, 1921 from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

Just to reiterate, Coleman was the first American of any race or gender to achieve an International Pilot’s license.

Willa Beatrice Brown also is an American remembered for achieving many firsts: she was the first black woman with a mechanic’s license 1935, first black woman with a private pilot’s license 1938, and first black woman with a commercial pilot’s license 1939.

Source: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Willa Brown, pioneer woman pilot and president of the National Airmen’s Association of America (NAAA).

Brown trained hundreds of black American pilots, including some who went on to serve in the US military during WWII. She also was one of the eight black pilots that Ethiopia intended to get military support from to help fight against fascist invasion from Italy.

Second, Brown’s story reveals another thread — Ethiopia’s sense of equality at that time. It was a place with women flying planes years before Danquah was even born. And since that’s a giant clue about history of women pilots in Africa, let’s pull on the thread a little.

Italy invaded Ethiopia on October 3, 1935. Italian fascists (similar to the KKK in 1921 using planes to firebomb Tulsa, Oklahoma) launched a series of bombing runs to drop chemical weapons on Ethiopian civilians (even targeting clearly marked medical facilities).

It was in context of this air war, as well as 1921 the KKK using aircraft to bomb Tulsa, that we have to think of a black woman pilot like Janet Bragg being refused a role in US military because of racism.

She was invited by Emperor Selassie to Ethiopia (we know officially in 1955, although hard to find documentation of earlier visits).

Source: Jet magazine, 1993

The Chicago Challenger Air Pilot Association (CAPA), aiding in building an Ethiopian Air Force, was in fact founded by Bragg (see again the photo at the start of this post) where she maintained a very high-profile role including a public newsletter.

While doing postgraduate work at Loyola University and the University of Chicago, she worked as a registered nurse at several hospitals and saved enough money to buy her first of three planes. For $500 she purchased a plane, which she shared with other flying enthusiasts. This group, inspired by Bessie Coleman, formed the Challenger Air Pilots Association, which later evolved into the Coffey School of Aeronautics.

More to the point, we have evidence the President of CAPA — John Robinson — was physically in Ethiopia 1935 to advise Selassie when Italy invaded.

Was Bragg there too?

Did the CAPA women fly in Ethiopia to help build an Air Force that could fight fascism? They certainly were pilots considered instrumental in training male pilots and supporting Air Force development in both America and Ethiopia at this time, so it is not implausible.

This is a line of inquiry worth investigating further. And on that note, it would provide some evidence that America’s air force dramatic build-up the 1940s to fight against fascism would be rooted in the efforts of black women in the 1930s.

Third, the CAPA aviators in Ethiopia were able to escape back to America to avoid capture by Italy. Yet we know today America really should have been backing these black pilots flying in Africa at this time and sending them back in with the British forces in 1940 (instead of waiting until Operation Torch 1942 and then not using them at all).

Indeed, American black pilots achieving record-breaking feats were far more likely to find themselves recruited to fight against fascism by Africa itself, than allowed to fight for America to free Africa.

Although Julian never succeeded in flying across the Atlantic, his efforts made him an international celebrity, and in 1931 Emperor Haile Selassie invited him to Ethiopia to take part in his coronation ceremonies. Julian impressed the Emperor with his skills as a parachutist, landing within a few feet of his throne during one ceremony, a feat that won him Ethiopian citizenship and a position in the nation’s airforce. […] During the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, Julian flew to Ethiopia to aid in the defense of Selassie’s government. He was put in command of the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force, which at the time consisted of 3 planes. Upon his return to the United States, he was temporarily detained at Ellis Island, over the question of his nationality — British or Ethiopian.

Of course that brings forward the rather awkward fact revealed by the British Foreign Office that some in the American government actively tried to undermine American blacks aiding Ethiopia and keep them home.

One distressed American official [November 1935] asked the State Department to investigate… and to discourage American blacks from going to Ethiopia.

When I studied Ethiopian history in British government archives, I read about women flying there in even the very first years of airplane availability (1920s). Perhaps with some time, and better availability of archives online, someone will focus on an important chapter of history that appears long overdue for greater exposure.

Please keep in mind (as an end note on where to learn more about these amazing women) I’ve written before about Wikipedia integrity issues, such as strange tone and lack of accuracy, and this history of black women in aviation is no exception.

You’ll find Wikipedia pages that claim impossibly that both Willa Brown and Janet Bragg were the “first” black woman to earn their commercial pilot’s license, and no reference at all to the racism they faced.

Here’s how the Smithsonian easily puts the Wikipedia integrity issues to rest. Brown was able to get a commercial license in 1939, whereas Bragg was denied a commercial license in the 1930s solely because she was black:

Bragg encountered discrimination against women at the Tuskegee black pilot training school when she passed the flight test for her commercial license and was denied the license. She received her commercial license in 1943 at the Pal-Waukee Airport near Chicago.

I don’t know what is worse, that Wikipedia omits the racism they faced, fails to recognize these two women existed during the same period and thus couldn’t both be the first, or gets a date wrong. It’s easy to fixate on the last point (easy to fix a date) yet the former issues are really more of an ongoing problem I find with Wikipedia.

X-Rays Defeat LetterLocking: Secrets Exposed of Ancient Folded Papers

A new paper in Nature says they have an algorithm that can read tightly folded letters without opening them physically.

The challenge tackled here is to reconstruct the intricate folds, tucks, and slits of unopened letters secured shut with “letterlocking,” a practice—systematized in this paper—which underpinned global communications security for centuries before modern envelopes.

It makes the bold case that these tight folds from letters 300 years ago should be considered an historic link to modern cryptography.

Source: Nature, letterlocking examples from the Brienne Collection.
From: Unlocking history through automated virtual unfolding of sealed documents imaged by X-ray microtomography

Letterlocking was an everyday activity for centuries, across cultures, borders, and social classes, and plays an integral role in the history of secrecy systems as the missing link between physical communications security techniques from the ancient world and modern digital cryptography.

I have to say I disagree with this “missing link” comment. Cryptography doesn’t seem to come into it, as there is no decipher key to unlock them unless you stretch a definition to include unfolding.

A more obvious link from these letterlock examples to modern methods would be… the modern letterlock.

Letterlocking: Aerogramme, United States Postal Service (1995) from letterlocking on Vimeo.

I suppose it’s important to say envelopes were an 1800s innovation in secrecy by providing an, ahem, envelope. Aerogrammes are ostensibly less safe than putting one in an envelope, even though an attacks on either one are basically the same — unlock, unfold, read.

That is why I say a “locking” fold of paper without an envelope doesn’t make a direct link to modern encryption. I mean encryption also existed in letters for many centuries (as I’ve written here before), separate from how the letters were folded.

For example, here is a German message intercepted in 1918 by British operator in Basra after liberating Iraq.

The bottom note says “2 letters missed thro machine gun jam”, which I suppose would be comparable to the “wormholes” in lockletter unfolding. But unlike lockletters, which can be read once unfolded, this text still lacks a key.

For another example here’s an old slide I made to show how the key in a 16th century “cardan grille system” (early steganography) was used during the American Revolution:

America’s “Intellectual Inequality” Undermines STEM

Source: Civic Engineering, ONU. Sunrise over a row of cannon at the Antietam Civil War Battlefield at Sharpsburg, Maryland USA
Two years ago an article called “The Decline of Historical Thinking” warned that too few people in America were studying the right stuff to understand society (foundation to engineering):

Lately, I’ve noticed a feature of economic inequality that has not received the attention it deserves. I call it “intellectual inequality.” I do not refer to the obvious and ineluctable fact that some people are smarter than others but, rather, to the fact that some people have the resources to try to understand our society while most do not. Late last year, Benjamin M. Schmidt, a professor of history at Northeastern University, published a study demonstrating that, for the past decade, history has been declining more rapidly than any other major, even as more and more students attend college.

Some people have the resources to try to understand our society while most do not.

The big question becomes how many of those with these resources are in any position to improve society. Evidence today suggests far too few, as “today’s civics crises” are being linked directly.

For many close observers, a direct line can be drawn from today’s civics crises to a long-standing failure to adequately teach American government, history and civic responsibility… and the cost is a citizenry largely ignorant of the work needed to sustain a democracy.

STEM fails when its graduates are “ignorant of the work needed to sustain a democracy”.

People like to ask me how I made a “transition” from history to a career in tech, when they instead should be asking others how dare they work in tech without a foundation in history.

Information technology is really about economics, information security is really about philosophy (ethics), and both depend on an understanding of history.

As an example of what it can look like, some indeed are taught STEM properly with a lens on history, as an ONU civic engineering blog explains:

Finding answers would take research, so the eight engineers became historians. They researched the Village of Forest. They studied artillery. They learned about the Civil War. They had historians come speak to their class.

Can you imagine a software engineer saying something even close to that, or imagine a “civic software engineer” title? How many big tech companies are inviting historians to come speak to engineering? No wonder so many in tech, suffering from deep intellectual inequality, are undermining democracy.

Tom Cruise is a Fake. For Real This Time.

Why are some fakes seen as ok and others are “scary”? Hint: agency and power in voice.

Something I’ve always known about Tom Cruise is that he is a fake. Literally. He is a paid actor, who makes a living from being a fake.

He is highly paid because apparently his fakes are so good. People even think he’s tall and well dressed (neither are true — sophisticated teams give him that appearance).

Now comes an article with a stark warning that evidence has been found of Tom Cruise, the fake, being faked.

Deepfake videos of Tom Cruise show the technology’s threat to society is very real: We’re entering scary times.

Entering scary times? Have you seen this from 1986, the true hey-day of cyber hacking?

WARNING: DESPITE THIS CONVINCING VIDEO IN CIRCULATION, TOM CRUISE WAS NOT IN THE NAVY, DID NOT FLY JETS …ETC ETC

Was Tom Cruise not a threat to society already since he is a fake? Think about it. How often have you really seen a real Tom Cruise?

Incidentally, here was my take several years ago on that movie poster of Tom Cruise showing that anyone these days can make a fake. Admittedly it DID NOT age well.

Original artwork by me.

We dispense shame and hate on all the “paparazzi” who violate his privacy and dare to expose a real Tom Cruise (e.g. how short and badly dressed he is), yet laud all his fakery that he thrives from.

The alarmist article doesn’t bother to address such a very important and simple problem with its analysis.

It all begs the question of why should we be comfortable and trust a fake like Tom Cruise up until now, but then worry about someone else making a fake of his fakes.

In other words, why should we trust Tom Cruise being the only responsible fake, more than someone who is faking Tom Cruise being a fake?

If we could achieve trust of one fake (a Scientologist of all things, who peddles in fake beliefs), why not achieve trust in the fake of that fake? Or maybe another way of asking it is who really is scared by a world where a Tom Cruise fakes being tall, or fakes being a Navy pilot?

Some may claim to be “scared” by the idea of agency and voice being held by those not in power. That is what this really is about.

Someone who doesn’t appear physically to be Tom Cruise (a non-white, non-male) now may be able to attain the same power of influence that used to be reserved only for Tom Cruise (thanks to technology, just like the technology Tom Cruise used to appear taller than he is).

Imagine a black woman putting her words into the mouth of Tom Cruise and nobody detecting that it really is a black woman’s ideas. SO SCARY!

It’s about power. Why is power scary?

In reality, this kind of fear mongering with technology goes back to the turn of the century when machines put human faces on and people started experimenting with the idea of robots and inauthentic presence enabled by machines.

Also, to be fair, Tom Cruise is someone who battled with perception his whole life and made a career out of presenting a different vision than others were assigning to him.

He overcame obstacles and transformed his own physical appearance from something that he was ashamed of into an unbelievable physical representation, thus mastering the art of a fake.

People celebrate his achievement of fake Tom Cruise, so perhaps we should do the same celebrations for achievement of fake fake Tom Cruise.

I’ve written about all this security theater before, with regard to people faking the Queen of England. I write about it because I continue to find it amusing how it is a security issue that is literally about theater, which never seems to recognize the irony.

Additional food for thought: Americans have been spreading loads of fake traitor General Lee art after the Civil War (back to my point about industrialization-era fakes), not to mention image manipulation just as old.

Putting up a statue of Lee is about the same thing as if Americans went about erecting monuments to Osama bin Laden after 9/11. Show me the outrage about statues of Lee before we go on to an ability to fake Tom Cruise as our biggest concern.

If anyone thinks it is “scary” now that Americans believe something is real that instead has been entirely faked… have I got some very real news about frightening times we’ve been in for over 100 years!

CPAC 2021 Open Display of Nazi Symbols

In 2016 the National Socialist Movement (NSM) of America, also known as Nazis, claimed to be “buoyed by a Donald Trump victory”, and announced a shift in symbols they considered headline-worthy:

“…white supremacists ban swastika in bold attempt to ‘go mainstream’.

The Odal rune, a less-well-known Nazi Germany symbol, will take the place of the swastika on all official uniforms and banners. Mr Schoep says it’s a gentler approach to preaching the same messages. “The party leadership has every intention to bring the party, our leaders, our members and supporters into the halls of government here in the United States, and to do that we must reach more of the public.”

What would the Nazi version of an odal rune look like in their campaigns to enter the halls of US government?

The CPAC 2021 event gives an obvious answer by creating a main stage in the shape of one:

German Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code) in section § 86a outlaws this use of the Nazi Odal rune, but since it’s being done in America…

Way back in 2014 this kind of thing used to be a huge problem. A London retailer was forced to apologize and recall a jacket that “inadvertently” displayed the Nazi odal.

Source: Mirror UK

Its £205 “grunge look” Horace hooded denim jacket featured an emblem worn by Second World War SS troops. The ancient Norse odal rune, which is similar to a swastika, was used to symbolise Adolf Hitler’s belief in a pure Aryan race.

Just to be clear an ancient Norse odal has straight arms, lacking the very distinctive up-turned “surrender” arms of the SS odal.

The Nazis shamelessly appropriated others’ symbols as their own and forever tainted them, so sometimes it can be hard to establish the shift from ancient symbol to Nazi beliefs. I’m not sure how much that matters though as the ADL documents how a Norse odal is often displayed by white supremacist groups in general, so it’s pretty clearly a symbol of hate.

In 2017 white supremacists marched with the straight-armed Norse odal. If you look carefully at a photo of hate groups “uniting” to attack America, there is a giant NSM banner with Norse odal.

See the NSM at the top of the banner with a Norse odal?

Trump described this deadly hate group march that killed Americans as “very fine people”. Even after objections he tried to clarify his support of hate groups with “you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists.”

The man occupying the White House delivered the argument that Nazism was mainstream to the Republicans, exactly what NSM and white supremacist activists had promoted in their campaigns to wave a dog whistle flag and be seen as “many people” — wearing a red hat, waving an odal rune, instead of obvious Nazis with a swastika armband.

In 2018 a white supremacist activist published how the Republican party had become the Nazi vehicle for “legal” destruction of American government

If we want to abolish [democracy], we’ll first need to master it. […] We always gain power legally. This is more terrifying to our rivals than any number of street fighters or gunmen. They would rather lay down their own lives fighting us in the streets, than live to old age under our rule. If we really want to punish them, we must be Republicans, not revolutionaries.

Want a historian protip? Nazis hate more than anything else in the world being embarrassed and shamed. It is their kryptonite. They are so insecure in their sense of self worth, if they are made to feel embarrassed and shamed they lose bodily function and fall apart. The same article has this tell:

This is not to say we should descend into optics cucking. Far from it. Anyone who dares punch right should be descended upon with all of the venom we can muster. However, we should master the art of the dog whistle…

In other words, shame is toxic to the Nazis and so they still defend the interchangeability of a swastika and confederate battle flag, while also running “dog whistle” symbols to attract followers who normally would worry about the optics and obvious shame of being seen as Nazis.

This is a repeat of history, as the same tactics were known to be used by Nazis in the late 1930s. See also my post on “what isn’t a swastika“.

It also is a repeat of more recent history, with “Christian Villain” training leaflets made by hate groups in America intended to help Nazis rebrand their image to “mainstream” anti-federal Western ranchers (pardoned by Trump) or an infamous anti-federal posse of sheriffs.

Click to enlarge

CPAC 2021 changes all this, because they went with an explicit symbol of Nazism. They intentionally chose the villain costume.

It shows how Nazis have been fully embraced by Republicans now, having built a stage design for the very distinct Nazi “surrender arms” odal, which cannot be confused with any other use, time or affiliation other than Hitler.

CPAC went out of their way to use the exact symbol banned in Germany, used only by Nazis; one that tracks back logically to 2016 NSM announcements that Donald Trump was their man to carry Nazism into American government using the odal.

Another consideration is that the SS wearing the odal infamously rejected allegiance to constitution or government, instead pledging to follow only Hitler. Before 1934, the German pledge had this opening phrase:

I swear loyalty to the Reich’s constitution…

After 1934 in a Nazi dictatorship, the pledge was changed to this:

I swear to God this holy oath that I shall render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler…

When I say “their man” I mean it would be further proof of this CPAC odal significance if we see Nazis at the same event trying to emphasize worship of a single man, instead of allegiance to a constitution.

Sure enough, CPAC was trotting out bizarre and gaudy statues of Trump for people to pledge themselves his obedient follower.

Source: UpWorthy

A golden statue wearing swim trunks and flip flops represents a mish-mash collision of the extreme right-wing evangelicals, the anti-government boogaloo and Nazis, if we really must parse this idol worship.

Of course, some always will say they can’t see any rune connection (as if planned and built stages just come out naturally this particular way), or say that a connection to NSM isn’t clear enough yet (as if the NSM repeatedly taking credit isn’t an admission of anything).

Such claims of blindness is precisely why the CPAC stage was in the shape of a Nazi odal instead of a swastika, as the NSM clearly explained for us at the start of this blog post.

Nazis love to play dumb and lie about their intentions and meaning, forcing their targets to waste time trying to stop the “permanent improvisation” of tyranny. A toddler-like complete lack of responsibility for actions is a defining characteristic of Nazism (not to mention Facebook management).

Perhaps it helps to put it like this: in October of 2020 viewers of a TV show complained that a man had the obvious Nazi symbol “88” clearly tattooed on his face. The TV program confidently countered that there was no connection; in fact they claimed a very important meaning that would shame anyone criticizing the 88.

At first the channel defended Lumsden, a joiner from Bristol, stating that similarity between his tattoos and Nazi symbols was “entirely incidental” and that background checks had confirmed he had no links or affiliations to racist groups or views. It was said the number 88 referred to 1988, the year of Lumsden’s father’s death.

Death of his father must have been so traumatic, that year so deeply meaningful, he incidentally put a large 88 permanently on his face. Makes sense, right? So everyone stopped thinking it was a Nazi symbol… until someone smart called the man’s father to confirm whether he died in 1988.

The Daily Mail subsequently tracked down Lumsden’s father Trevor, who lives close to his son and who declared to a reporter: “I’m here aren’t I? I’m alive and kicking, so I’m not dead yet.”

Such blatant disregard for truth is par for course with Nazis these days.

On Wednesday, the Trump campaign placed 88 ads on Facebook — 88 is a number with Nazi connotations — that featured a symbol used by Nazis to denote political prisoners in concentration camps. The Trump campaign denied the reference to any Nazi symbols was intentional…

If you want to read more about Nazi symbolism hiding in plain sight, I have another blog post that offers even more detailed background and modern examples.

CPAC wouldn’t have used the Nazi odal if they thought they couldn’t spin lame Lumsden-like excuses and get away being irresponsible for promoting Nazism. They also wouldn’t have used the Nazi odal if it didn’t promote Nazism.

Those are the basic facts for America today, and at this point it’s clear Trump is attempting to run on nothing more than the “white grievance” platform of Nixon and Reagan — white insecurity political influence of the KKK (heavily “Nazified” by David Duke, as Trump himself admired in 2000).

The Nazis really runed CPAC this year.


Update Feb 28: It’s been pointed out to me Russian “FSB operators love2rune“. They are linked to extremist white supremacist groups operating in foreign conflicts, adopting the Norse odal as a marker.

Source: @AliceAvizandum

This also was documented in 2014 by Ukrainian press. Alignment with symbols of Russian military foreign operations helps explains why in 2016 American Nazis announced they would be adopting the odal:

Source: EuroMaidan

Manslaughter By Car: “At Best Negligent” in South Dakota

Here are some useful definitions for interpreting the continuously bad news about infrastructure and transit safety in South Dakota.

  • Gross Negligence: “…reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others, which is so great it appears to be a conscious violation of other people’s rights to safety…”
  • Negligence: “…failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act (e.g., a duty to help victims of one’s previous conduct).”
  • Involuntary Manslaughter: “…negligently causing the death of another person…”

Here’s a basic data point about people with cars killing Americans:

In the nine years from 2009 to 2018, pedestrian deaths increased 51 percent from 4,109 to 6,227.

And here are five related cases for consideration.

First, 2013 San Francisco Uber staff exhibited reckless disregard for safety or lives of others, killed people in the street, and in 2018 was charged with misdemeanor:

Prosecutors charged Muzaffar with a misdemeanor after finding no evidence of gross negligence in the incident. He faces up to a year in jail at sentencing. Muzaffar’s attorney argued that a blind spot in the driver’s vehicle prevented him from seeing the family when he struck them.

Think for a minute about that defense tactic. You close your eyes, fire a gun towards an area with people, and then argue — because you prevented yourself from seeing them — you aren’t responsible for your conscious violation of other people’s rights to safety.

Or perhaps imagine you shoot into the woods where you know there are walking paths and say you can’t be charged because couldn’t see people you were killing as the trees you were hiding behind blocked your view?

Second, 2017 San Francisco law enforcement officer sitting in a car shot an unarmed running man, and in 2020 was charged with a homicide while on duty

…Officer Samayoa was seated in the passenger seat. Officer Samayoa pointed his gun and shot Mr. O’Neil through the passenger side window of the patrol car, killing Mr. O’Neil…

Third, Arizona has the highest pedestrian deaths in America. Over 70% of pedestrian fatalities are at night. Jaywalking is a fantasy crime invented by American car manufacturers, which has led to premeditated overconfidence by drivers they won’t be convicted for killing pedestrians.

In 2018 Uber staff exhibited reckless disregard for safety or lives of others, killed someone in an Arizona street at night (as easily predicted), and in 2020 their “safety driver” was charged with negligent homicide.

…a charge similar to manslaughter that carries a recommended sentence of 2.5 years. However, the grand jury also charged that the crime was committed with a “dangerous instrument” — namely the car. When negligent homicide is committed with a dangerous weapon or instrument, the recommended sentence increases to six years.

…one departing Uber engineer, Robbie Miller, sent a scathing email to the head of the self-driving program days before Herzberg’s death. “A car was damaged nearly every other day in February,” Miller wrote. “We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles.” Miller pointed to an incident the previous week (nine days before Herzberg’s death) when an Uber test vehicle “drove on the sidewalk for several meters.” …the incident “was essentially ignored” until Miller brought it to the attention of management. But Uber escaped criminal liability for the crash.

Fascinating to note how “dangerous instrument” means use of an Uber increased the sentence for a “safety driver” yet no charges for Uber. This is like charging Boeing pilots for negligent homicide in the 737 MAX autopilot crashes, yet Boeing itself escaping liability.

Speaking of which, Tesla killing pedestrians seems almost completely unreported compared to all the attention paid to Uber for doing the same thing around the same time.

Fourth, Republicans around the country very politically tried to criminalize freedom of movement outside a vehicle such that no driver ever would expect to be held liable for reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others.

In North Dakota this even was characterized very narrowly as a way for white middle-aged women to “hit the accelerator” to kill Americans in the street and still be free of any charges.

…what would have happened to his mother-in-law if she panicked and hit the accelerator when she meant to hit the brakes. Should the bill pass, Kempenich’s mother-in-law could not be prosecuted nor sued. The bill would be good for Kempenich’s mother-in-law but perhaps not so good for anyone who gets hit by a car…

In Texas it led to things like this backpedaling news story:

…author of a Texas bill to protect drivers who injure demonstrators found himself the target of outrage on social media this weekend after the hit-and-run death of a young woman…

Such an unbalanced mindset of American politicians criminalizing pedestrians is critical to understanding a terrible record of people in South Dakota being killed with cars.

Vehicle versus pedestrian collisions are fairly common in South Dakota. The state saw 140 such collisions in 2019, about one every 2.5 days. Eight pedestrians were killed and 132 were injured in 2019. So far in 2020, seven pedestrians have been killed. From 2014 to 2019, 50 pedestrians were killed on or along South Dakota roadways. Often in South Dakota, vehicle versus pedestrian collisions don’t result in serious criminal charges being filed.

The data suggests it’s more dangerous to walk on a road in South Dakota than ride a motorcycle.

Let me emphasize that again just to be clear. South Dakota doesn’t even have an adult motorcycle helmet requirement (it does require eye protection however), and still there are more pedestrian deaths each year than motorcyclists.

Far more people die each year from being hit by cars as they are walking in South Dakota then are killed by pretty much anything else (except poison, drowning and falling).

Source: South Dakota Government

Fifth, “run them over you won’t be charged” has been a social media campaign since at least 2016 encouraging Americans to kill each other using cars if they have political differences.

One tweet promoting this violence even suggested the sound of a dead American under vehicle wheels makes a sound like “Trump, Trump”.

Ok.

All of that is background to the news today that a South Dakota Attorney General in a car killed a man. Investigators proved “His face was in yours… think about that” yet the accused coldly dehumanized his victim to avoid charges of negligence.

He said he thought he killed an animal and he thought he looked hard enough (even though evidence proved he saw the man face-to-face and did not look very hard).

Think about that.

Because in South Dakota the dangerous instrument used to kill was a car…

…to charge him with manslaughter the state would have to prove he ‘consciously and unjustifiably’ disregarded a substantial risk — which it could not…

At best, [killing with a car] was negligent, which is insufficient to bring criminal charges in South Dakota… history of speeding: in the four years leading up to his election in 2018 he racked up six separate speeding tickets.

Six speeding tickets in four years perhaps you could say propelled this man into an Attorney General seat… in a state known to criminalize people walking in the street. His alleged negligence led predictably nonetheless to him claiming no liability at all for using a car to kill someone.

The Give and Take of Cake

I’m curious about a theory posted in a rhyming-slang encoding guide meant to demystify some fun yet secretive communication:

…no cake can be eaten that has not been given (by a shopkeeper) and taken…

“Give and Take”, which rhymes with cake, is thus said to mean cake.

However, cake can be eaten alone. Cake also can be baked and not given away, only eaten. Does nobody in the rhyming slang context bake a cake and eat it themselves?

And that brings to mind something more like a “cake and eat it too” explanation:

…to have or do two good things at the same time that are impossible to have or do at the same time…

It looks like there are interesting cultural clues in a key to decoding signals, although the current reference may actually be incorrect or misleading.

Would You Call Amazon “The Jungle”?

News about Amazon seems to read like something straight out of a classic American novel and now makes me wonder if the company name is related, as I wrote here in 2015 about that book.

…when you talk to the platform engineers behind closed doors you will often find a modern version of Sinclair’s 1906 novel “The Jungle”; history has some very important lessons to be remembered…

Founder Jeff Bezos was reported to say competing with Bernie Madoff in hedge money made him feel like a loser.

Bezos reportedly confided to former AOL president Ted Leonsis that he quit his job at the hedge fund D. E. Shaw because Bernie Madoff “was kicking my ass.” The Amazon idea came to Bezos as he was researching online business opportunities for the hedge fund.

Madoff was later sentenced to 150 years in jail for crimes, what Bezos credited as “kicking”.

Bezos meanwhile gave up because too jealous of Madoff’s ill-gotten wealth; allegedly he thought a better get-rich strategy for a wealthy hedge gambler was to plunge his millions into gaming a vulnerable market into a forced monopoly (initially books). This was basically creating a tech platform for rent seeking (coerced trade that benefits only one side), which today we call Amazon.

Fast forward and we are now being told Bezos isn’t even close to jail for a cruel headline that reads like Sinclair reporting American life in 1906:

Amazon Warehouse Employee Designated To Improperly Test Workers For COVID-19, Dies And The Media Isn’t Talking About It

Easy to see why people describe Amazon having “blatant disregard of human life” yet hard to see why it is legal.

Robot Detained a Google AI Ethicist, Terminated Her

In 2011 at BSidesLV I gave a presentation about the danger of big cloud companies operating like the movie 2001 by Stanley Kubrick — ship automation systems with too much authority detaining and terminating their own crew.

Google AI ethics team discusses next steps in a “private” chat while Google’s AI reads their lips

That presentation was the genesis of the book I have been writing since that time (and in 2012 I spoke about humans enacting a political coup using social media, a step beyond HAL). It has generated enough material so far to probably be a multi-volume set, although I tell myself to edit it down…

Anyway, here we are today discussing the news of a robot at Google that acted against an AI ethicist, blocking her from her accounts and holding her in limbo before she was ultimately terminated. HAL is that you?

Why is Wikepedia So Racist?

I recently had to explain that someone edited the Wikipedia entry on Woodrow Wilson to falsely claim that the very man who called for a return of the KKK, restarted the KKK as President, and led its rise to humanitarian disasters across America… was somehow “personally opposed to the KKK”.

Click image to enlarge:

Source: Wikipedia

That’s crazy talk.

It would be like saying General Grant was personally opposed to destroying the KKK. Wrong. Grant destroyed it. Wilson restarted it. Those are facts.

A totally false sentence about Woodrow Wilson entered into a Wikipedia post makes literally no sense, is obviously counter-factual, yet there it is… without any citation or reference at all.

It’s like someone from the KKK dropped in and thought it would be really funny for people to read “water in the ocean isn’t wet [citation needed]”.

The cost to disrupt and confuse with these attacks on weakly-anti-racist (also known as racist) systems is very low, the cost to defend (without proper anti-racist measures for prevention of racism) is high.

I presented something about this problem way back in 2016 at KiwiconX

I’m finding this class of attack all over Wikipedia. Here’s another example from the very racist history of voucher schools, fraudulently trying to minimize their impact and use by white insecurity hate groups in America.

Click image to enlarge and see the crazy counter-factual statement that “all modern voucher programs prohibit racial discrimination” with [citation needed] right next to it:

That is just so factually wrong it’s amazing. Anyone apparently can get garbage to stick immediately on Wikipedia with a very tedious and long process to get it removed or corrected.

Actual analysis of failure to prohibit discrimination in modern voucher programs would be more like the following:

  • 2016: “Dollars to Discriminate: The (Un)intended Consequences of School Vouchers… legislators appear to have neglected to construct policies that safeguard student access and ensure that public funds do not support discriminatory practices…”
  • 2017: “Studies on charter schools in Indianapolis, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas, among other places, show that charter schools can lead to greater racial stratification.”
  • 2017: “…as private school voucher programs grow to scale – statewide and even nationally in other countries – they can actually increase segregation…”
  • 2020: “Century Foundation also proved that voucher programs across the country benefit the most advantaged students … continue the long-residual effects of racism.”

Wikipedia clearly has widespread integrity issues, weak editing/deployment pipeline process and quality is very low.

the poetry of information security