Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Governor’s Council Fiasco Claims First Political Casualty

The Governor’s Council mishandling of the nomination of Joe Berman to a Superior Court judgeship has been a front page story for close to a month.
This morning it claimed its first political victim.

And it wasn’t Joe Berman.

Councillor Jennie Caissie has been positioning herself as a potential running mate for Charlie Baker for several months. 

After all, it has been well known that Baker wanted to name a woman to help balance out the ticket.  (And by picking a running mate before December 31st, Baker can tap the donor base twice – once in each calendar year.  So time has been running short.)

But three weeks ago Caissie aggressively interrogated Berman on his role as a member of the New England ADL Board.

Last week, after panning her performance at the Berman hearings, the Boston Herald editorial page acidly noted: “And to think some in the GOP were foolish enough to tout [Caissie] as lieutenant governor material.

That was the last impression voters – and Baker --  read before Baker’s decision.

This morning, Baker chose Karyn Polito, a former candidate for Treasurer. 

Would Baker have chosen Caissie otherwise?

We’ll never know, but it’s hard to think that her performance at the high-profile Berman hearings did anything to help her chances.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Governor's Council and Qualified Nominees

I attended the Governor's Council meeting yesterday morning, and came away shaking my head.
Some context: at the Council meeting yesterday, the nomination of Joe Berman for a seat on the Massachusetts bench was hotly discussed.  

(Full disclosure: Joe is friend.  In addition, my law firm has worked side-by-side with Joe as co-counsel, so I know him both personally and professionally.)

Joe is a clearly-qualified candidate, with degrees (cum laude) from both Dartmouth and Michigan Law.  Joe is a vigorous advocate who nonetheless holds himself to the highest ethical standard.  He has received the President’s Award from the Boston Bar Association for his pro bono work.  His peers have voted him one of the Top 100 lawyers in New England.
Let me say that again: his peers voted him one of the best 100 lawyers in all of New England.

No one at the Council hearing yesterday, nor to my knowledge, in any previous hearing, has raised questions about Joe’s qualifications. 

I urge the Governor’s Council to confirm Joe Berman for the Massachusetts Superior Court.

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Full post coming soon

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ray Kurzweil Speaks About His Role at Google

Late last year, Google announced that it had teamed up with AI guru Ray Kurzweil to collaborate on AI applications both in search and elsewhere.  Last week, Kurzweil hosted a Google Hangout, and then sat for an interview with Wired Magazine.  Among the highlights was his description of what he is doing for Google:

My mission at Google is to develop natural language understanding with a team and in collaboration with other researchers at Google. Search has moved beyond just finding keywords, but it still doesn’t read all these billions of web pages and book pages for semantic content. If you write a blog post, you’ve got something to say, you’re not just creating words and synonyms. We’d like the computers to actually pick up on that semantic meaning. If that happens, and I believe that it’s feasible, people could ask more complex questions.
Wired Magazine article

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

National Robotics Week Continues

National Robotics Week continues this week (and through April 14th, although events continue throughout the month of April.) 

For more info see:
National Robotics Week website
Twitter: @roboweek
Facebook page

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

(Moisture) Farming with Droids

A new article predicts that once the FAA clears unmanned use of the national airspace (currently scheduled to occur in 2015), the vast majority of commercial uses will be in connection with farming. The Daily Beast estimates that a typical farming droid will cost under $10,000, and can pay for itself in short order.

No word on whether any farmers will have need for a protocol droid

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Golf Telecasts Brought to You By...Drones

The Golf Channel announced that it will begin experimenting with mounting cameras on drones to be used during telecasts. The network will begin with practice rounds and other made-for-TV events, but eventually hopes to launch the Hoverfly models to help cover tournaments from the US Open to the Ryder Cup.   

A ball striking a drone would presumably be subject to the Rules of Golf: play it as it lies.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Senator Rand Paul Stages "Real" Filibuster Over Drone Strikes

In the wee hours of this morning, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) ended a 12+ hour "talking" filibuster to hold up the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA Director. But the substantive reason for Paul (who was joined by a number of other Senators) was an exchange earlier in the day when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) questioned AG Eric Holder about the circumstances under which the President could order a drone strike on an American citizen on US soil.
Article on Rand's Filibuster
Video of Cruz-Holder Exchange

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Drone Medal Draws Fire

Newly-confirmed Sec of Defense Chuck Hagel was presented with a letter earlier today from the Veterans of Foreign War taking issue with the new armed services medal that will recognize drone and other out-of-theatre service. However, the proposed new citation -- titled the Distinguished Warfare Medal -- will outrank such traditional awards as the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. It is the ranking, not the creation of the medal itself, that has veteran groups (and some members of Congress) up in arms. The Pentagon insists that its support for remote and cyber warfare does not diminish from its traditional awards for combat valor.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

China Gets in on the Self-Driving Boom

Joining Toyota, Google, and Audi, China's Army (PLA) announced earlier this month that it has tested its own self-driving car. Code named "Lion No. 3", the car apparently hit a top speed of 105/kmh (65 mph), and overtook 33 cars in 85 minutes in recent tests on China's roads.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Toyota Announces that It is Also Testing a Driver-Assisting Car -- in Michigan

 Like Google and Audi, Toyota has joined the ranks of high-tech car creators, with an announcement earlier this month that it has been testing its own version of a car. But unlike Google and Audi, which are heading down the path of autonomy, Toyota/Lexus appear to be focusing on smart technologies that will aid the human driver -- but leave him or her in control. Dubbed the Integrated Safety Management Concept (ISMC), Toyota analogizes the system to other advances in safety, like Anti-lock Brakes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Interacting with the Driverless Car

Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic had an interesting "back to the future" moment when filming a demonstration of the Audi driverless-car system; he was reminded of the reaction that early 20th-century farmers had when confronting an automobile for the first time. See the video for more.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

AI Creates Classical Music

Spanish researchers are developing a new kind of AI software that can make classical music on its own. Iamus (named after Greek god of music) uses the 12-note "Western" scale currently, but its programmers are currently adding "Eastern" (Hindu and Arab) scales, and the expectation is that the program will eventually merge the different sounds into something new.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Audi Authorized by Nevada for Driverless Car

Audi has become the first car manufacturer to receive a license from the State of Nevada (and second company overall after Google) for use of the State's roads by a driverless car. Audi is scheduled to unveil its advances in the robotic technology later this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Forbes article

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Information Emerges About Air France Flight 447

More than two years after the Airbus 330 crashed, new information has emerged thanks to locating and recovering the "black box" flight data recorder. In short, human error caused the crash of AF 447. But the human error was in the face of -- and in some cases, enhanced by -- advanced autopilot functions that the human pilots were relying upon. Because they trusted the Airbus to "self-correct", the inexperienced pilots continued to fly the plane in the face of stall alarms. If they had been flying a much less sophisticated vehicle, it seems unlikely that they would not have taken corrective action and avoided the catastrophe. The Popular Mechanics article shows one of the problems that can emerge when "artificial intelligence" is relied upon in the face of other empirical data. Popular Mechanics article

Obama Signs "Fiscal Cliff" Bill with Help of Robot

Having departed Washington shortly before midnight on January 1st to return to his family's vacation spot in Hawaii, President Obama nonetheless was able to sign the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" bill, thanks to a robotic autopen that has its roots in the Jeffersonian era. President George W. Bush's White House first asserted the legality of a President signing (of a law) via autopen, but did not use it; Obama became the first President to actually do so, first with the extension of the PATRIOT Act, and then again this week. ">National Journal article