Archive for the ‘organizational behavior’ Category

While Volkswagen is sticking to their story that Dieselgate was merely the work of a few “rogue” engineers, analysis of the ECU code suggests otherwise. In this presentation from a Chaos Computer Club conference, a hacker does a walk-through of the ECU defeat code. The defeat code was sophisticated, and clearly required the support of an entire organization.

Someone better go to jail for this.

(If you are impatient, you can skip ahead to 56:00 to see the Smoking Gun.)


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The Bridge-Gate scandal is getting a lot more interesting. The Christie administration illegally obtained private travel records to attack political opponents:

[Senator] Lautenberg carried a reputation as the political nemesis of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who had appointed Baroni to his perch. Baroni swiftly attacked the senator: How could Lautenberg justify his opposition to raising tolls when he had himself enjoyed free passage across area bridges and tunnels?

“Respectfully, Senator, you only started paying tolls recently,” Baroni said, according to a transcript of the exchange. “In fact, I have a copy of your free E-ZPass,” he continued, holding up a physical copy of the toll pass Lautenberg had received as a benefit from his tenure as a Port Authority commissioner. “You took 284 trips for free in the last 2 years you had a pass.”

Within days, Christie himself disclosed further detailed information about Lautenberg’s private travel records. At a press conference, he alleged that the senator didn’t “pay for parking at Port Authority facilities” and said Lautenberg went “through the tunnel to New York three or four times a week in 2005 and 2006.”

As the IB Times notes, EZ-Pass records can only be accessed through court-order or criminal subpoena.


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The investigation has just begun, but it is likely that the NTSB will find that the fatal Metro-North derailment was due to excessive speed. It is precisely the kind of accident that PTC would have prevented.

But the FRA has a different view. FRA Administrator Joe Szabo sent a blistering letter to the MTA complaining of unspecified problems in its safety culture:

The Federal Railroad Administration today called for mandatory safety retraining of Metro-North workers and the creation of a confidential reporting system that lets employees report safety concerns, according to a letter from the agency to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It directed MTA, which operates the railroad, to respond by Dec. 6. The MTA needs to show its employees “a serious, good faith commitment to the safe operation of the system and inform them of the steps that MTA will take to enhance safety in both the short- and long-term,” Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo wrote in the letter to MTA Chief Executive Officer Thomas Prendergast.

At best, his letter is premature. At worst, it is disingenuous for trying to deflect blame from the FRA.

Historically, the FRA was opposed to PTC technology (until Congress intervened in 2008). Since that time, the FRA has botched the PTC implementation. Rather than pointing fingers, the FRA needs to answer why the PTC implementation is taking so long, despite being a turn-key technology.

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Institutional dysfunction at the FRA and the DOT isn’t exactly a sexy topic for the mainstream press. So kudos to Stephen Smith for publishing a great article in Bloomberg that asks whether the next DOT Secretary can be a technical leader:

David Gunn, the president of Amtrak from 2002 to 2005, cited a lack of technical knowledge as the biggest problem at the Transportation Department, which he said has devolved into “an agency that just distributes money.”

“If you look at the Federal Railroad Administration and the Department of Transportation, they’ve never really had professional leadership,” argued Gunn.

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Remember that boondoggle court computer system? It’s been shitcanned by the Legislature:

The plug has been pulled on one of the biggest boondoggles in California history – the effort to build a $2 billion computer system linking the state’s 58 county courts. It never worked, and some say it was doomed from the start.

The program had run so amok, according to the state auditor, that one of the subcontracts had 102 change orders, pushing that one bill alone from $33 million to $310 million.

Faced with mounting criticism from judges and legislators, the state Judicial Council finally voted Tuesday to kill the out-of-control program. But not before spending more than $500 million trying to launch it.

The computer system was basically a Web 2.0 content management system. They spent $500 million, and have nothing to show for it.

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It’s like a bad episode of Reno-911.

A jogger clings to life after being hit by a semi — and the police crack jokes:

Officer 1 ‘That’s why you drive a car!’
Officer 2 ‘Yeah, don’t try to jog to work, you dumb fuck!’

Click through to komo-news for the video and interview with the victim.

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Loose Cannon

A recent ‘Mythbusters’ cannonball experiment nearly resulted in tragedy when an errant cannonball smashed through a suburban neighborhood. The projectile sailed through a bedroom where a couple and their child were sleeping. After exiting the bedroom, it smashed into a minivan that had been parked just 10 minutes earlier.

The cannonball blast did not come from a Hollywood set. For the past 8 years, the show has enjoyed free use of the Alameda County Sheriff Department Bomb Disposal Range.

But don’t worry… the Sheriff provides a safety expert to monitor stunts. Unaware of basic physical laws, this “expert” apparently felt a cinder-block wall provides protection against heavy ordnance. Cannons, mind you, were used in medieval times to blast through castle walls.

It is the latest in a string of embarrassing episodes for the Department, which has become — if you pardon the pun — a Loose Cannon.

The Department gained notoriety in recent years over plans to build a juvenile super-jail. The jail was seen as a big revenue source for the department, and local construction contractors. Due to popular outcry, that plan was thankfully scaled back. The Department is also notorious for having scored 9-11 grants to purchase a military gunboat. The idea of Sheriff Deputies chasing after Terrorists with NATO-issue machine guns made for a hilarious episode of 60-Minutes. Soon after that report, grant funding ceased for the program.

And when not Blowing Shit Up, the Sheriff Department has spent an inordinate amount of time going after law-abiding cyclists. Just ask Chuck Pascoe, who was charged for ‘holding a parade without a permit’ – an offense that carries a maximum 6-month prison term:

Pascoe had no idea that the ride, the annual fund-raiser for Cherry City Cyclists, a San Leandro club, would cause a fuss.

But he hadn’t reckoned with the North Valley Homeowners Association, whose members were fed up with cyclists hogging the roads. After years of quiet grumbling, the 54 residents of rural Collier Canyon Road decided to act. They signed petitions, sent an emissary to Livermore City Hall and contacted the Sheriff’s Department.

Watt found a sympathetic ear when he expressed his concerns to sheriff’s Capt. Dennis Scheuller.

After inspecting the 3-1/4-mile stretch of narrow Collier Canyon Road just outside Livermore where the Cherry City Jubilee would begin and end, Scheuller decided it was too dangerous for bikes and cars to share.

Chuck was told to get a parade permit, which was denied. The ride went on anyway, with Chuck being cited. That was in 1997, but even 10 years later the department was still going after cyclists for not getting parade permits to ride on county roads.

For now, an investigation is planned over the cannonball incident. It would be nice if it results in changes in the department, with actual adults assuming responsibility. But given past history, that seems unlikely….


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