Tag Archives: cars

Volkswagen Tennessee and the Works Councils

20 Feb

VW Bluecross Concept

Be careful what you agitate for. 

Last week, workers at the new-ish Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted to reject UAW unionization by a very narrow margin. 

Let’s not forget, shall we, that Volkswagen, AG has a global reach.  Here are its stated corporate “Basic Principles”: 

Top performance

To survive in the face of competition and to achieve top performance, the Volkswagen Group needs employees who enthusiastically give their best. A good balance between demands and ability (the so-called “flow channel”) is the basic precondition for optimum performance and results. For this reason, we do not want our employees to be overstretched, but also not understretched, so that they are able to deliver top performance and advance the success of our company. 

Leading by example

The management assumes a decisive role in this entire process. Our principle has to be “Lead, Demand and Promote”. The Group will only be able to achieve its goals with exemplary leadership and constructive cooperation between management and workforce. This includes both targeted and continual personnel development and work organisation, which we continue to develop with the so-called “Volkswagen Way”. 

Active involvement

A standard survey of employees across the Group was introduced in the form of the so-called “mood barometer”. The “mood barometer” gives employees the opportunity to anonymously voice their opinion and so to become actively involved in the organisation of the company. The results form the basis for continually developing our strengths and for exploiting potential that is brought to light. The high rate of participation shows that employees have positively accepted this instrument as an expression of their esteem. In this way, they make a contribution to the continued development of the company. 

Social responsibility

Not only does Volkswagen’s corporate culture focus on people, it also represents the sustainability of economic and social goals, “corporate social responsibility”. The “Declaration on Social Rights and Industrial Relations” expresses Volkswagen’s global understanding of social responsibility on the basis of minimum standards.

This includes Volkswagen’s active cooperative conflict resolution between the Works Council and the company management. We created European and Global Works Councils early and without any statutory obligation. We do not cling to traditional questions of co-determination. Rather, we discuss the development of the company with our Works Council representatives. This is the way from co-determination to shared responsibility.

In other words, Volkswagen has made a global commitment to maintain a positive and cooperative relationship with its employees.  It wants them to be happy and productive. Unfortunately, that sort of mentality is completely anathema to our post-Reagan “greed is good” labor-bashing stock price culture. 

But Volkswagen is thriving, building everything from the VW Polo to the million-dollar Bugatti Veyron, with some Audis and Bentleys in between. The Volkswagen Works Councils are an integral part of the company’s success. The push to unionize in Tennessee was not so much pushed by the UAW as it was by Volkswagen itself, because under American law the council can’t be set up without union representation. In fact, the Chattanooga plant is the only Volkswagen facility anywhere in the world where workers are not represented by a Works Council or labor union. 

This would also be something new for the United Auto Workers. They wouldn’t have the same relationship with VW as they do with Chrysler, General Motors, and Ford. Rather, the idea is to create something called a “works council,” which are widespread across Europe and enjoy tremendous influence over how plants are run. In America, that kind of body can’t be established without a union vote — but crucially, the works council would be independent of the union, meaning the UAW would give up some control as soon as it gained it.

Why does the company favor works councils

There are three major advantages of councils. You’re forced to consider in your decision making process the effect on the employees in advance…this avoids costly mistakes. Second, works councils will in the final run support the company. They will take into account the pressing needs of the company more than a trade union can, on the outside. And third, works councils explain and defend certain decisions of the company towards the employees. Once decisions are made, they are easier to implement.

Works councils don’t call strikes because they don’t need to. Their inherent authority helps to avoid crises before they arise. The UAW would not be running labor relations from the outside, and the vote in Tennessee was done via secret ballot

Currently, the Chattanooga plant manufactures Volkswagen’s Passat sedan, which is nearing the end of its life-cycle. It is a unique factory that can build more than one model side-by-side on the line, and it’s slated to get Volkswagen’s upcoming mid-sized 3-row SUV, to replace the Routan minivan and slot between the expensive Touareg and the smaller Tiguan. 

As VW negotiated with the UAW in advance of the works council vote, politicians in the notoriously anti-union, anti-worker South remained relatively quiet. That is, until it seemed as if the plant would, in fact, become the first auto plant in the South to vote to unionize. Republican politicians tripped over themselves to predict armageddon if the vote was successful, and panacea if it wasn’t. For instance

That doesn’t mean, however, that the vote is unopposed. National anti-union groupsand the state’s Republican leaders are campaigning against the UAW, saying unionization will spread like a contagion through Tennessee’s other auto plants. “Then it’s BMW, then it’s Mercedes, then it’s Nissan, hurting the entire Southeast if they get the momentum,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R.-Tenn.).

BMW also uses works councils in other countries, to great success. It has operated a non-union plant in South Carolina since the mid-90s. But this wasn’t at all a fair vote. Big-money corporate anti-labor (Republican) interests from Washington interfered and campaigned against the works councils

Two of Tennessee’s most powerful Republicans, Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, insist they know how to run an auto company better than VW. Despite this successful international auto company’s actual business experience with work councils, these GOP politicians say that they know what’s best, that they just know unionization won’t be good for VW.

A union-hating group, the National Right to Work (For Less) Committee, travelled to Chattanooga from its headquarters near Washington, D.C. with a carpetbag full ofcash for legal challenges to the unionization effort. And GOP crank Grover Norquistsent his Washington, D.C.-based organized labor-hating group, Center for Worker Freedom (To Work For Less), to Tennessee to thwart the Chattanooga workers’ right to unionize.

VW objected to the interference. CEO of VW Chattanooga Frank Fischer asked the outside agitators to stop, saying, “Volkswagen is committed to neutrality and calls upon all third parties to honor the principle of neutrality.”

They ignored him — disregarding a CEO, a figure before whom Republicans typically grovel! That is how much Republicans hate unions.

They refuse to believe what VW is saying, that works councils are valuable management tools, despite evidence that the model already succeeds in the United States.

Corker went so far as to say that he had spoken with VW corporate, and that they had told him that VW would announce that it would be building the mid-sized SUV in Chattanooga (instead of in, e.g., Puebla Mexico) only if the vote to establish works councils failed.

… it was the conduct of U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that most damaged the prospects for a free election. After stating that he would stay out of the vote, Corker returned to Tennessee to claim that he had been assured that VW would manufacture a mid-sized SUV in Chattanooga if the workers rejected the union. Head of the Chattanooga plant, Frank Fischer, immediately disowned his remarks and stated that the decision on where to expand production was separate from the union vote. Unperturbed by this denial, Corker accused Fischer of speaking from “old talking points” and stood by his comments. Corker’s remarks made a fair election impossible and did much to turn the vote against the union. He had used the authority of his office to say that a vote against the UAW was vote for more work in Tennessee, even though, according to VW management, his comments were unfounded.

Now that the election is over, Corker should have no problem disclosing who assured him that the rejection of the union would result in VW locating the SUV production in Chattanooga. If VW executives said this – which seems unlikely given the company’s respect for labor rights throughout the globe – that comment could form the basis of an unfair labor practice complaint. If not, it appears that Corker suggested this in order to pressure VW workers to vote against the union. While third parties are held to lesser standards in NLRB elections than the parties directly involved – allowing Corker to make comments that might be ruled illegal if made by VW or the union – the NLRB can set aside elections because of third party interference in exceptional circumstances such as these.

What are they so afraid of? Employees having rights, apparently

…a UAW victory would show that even billionaire anti-union zealots can be beaten. Right-wing groups are furious that Volkswagen is not fighting the UAW, so they have chosen to do so on their own. National organizations funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers and other right-wing activists have taken to the airwaves to demonize the UAW. State politicians have attempted to blackmail autoworkers to vote no by stating that Volkswagen may lose state financial support if it becomes unionized. Unionization, one elected official explained, “was not part of the deal.”

Promising auto lines out of turn? Threatening to withhold or withdraw negotiated, promised incentives? Blackmail? The anti-union Southern GOP and big-money interests may have won this round, but it’s also beginning to backfire

DPA, the German news agency, quoted [head of VW’s global works council Bernd] Osterloh as saying that, without a mechanism for “co-determination,” as Germans refer to the works council system, VW’s works council could “barely” agree to further investments in the US. The works council approves all decisions on investments in plants or their closure.

“I can absolutely imagine that a future VW facility in the USA, should another one be built there, would not definitely go to the south again,” Mr Osterloh said.

Ugly stuff, that. It would be a rich irony if the malicious intervention from Republican union-busters and Washington corporate interests in Tennessee resulted in the expansion halt that they threatened would happen if the works council was allowed to pass. Works councils cannot be formulated in the United States without union involvement – the company cannot create one unilaterally

Indeed, Mr. Osterloh’s comments have been interpreted to mean that VW head office in Wolfsburg will not permit the Bluecross-based SUV to be built in Chattanooga specifically because of the defeat of the works council and the malicious, false intervention by the likes of Senator Corker. 

Volkswagen wanted this union vote to pass, because it wanted the works council set up now – not in a few years when people get around to changing the rules. Republican lawmakers and special interests thwarted this, and it’s mind-boggling that these CEO-worshippers would deliberately thwart the wishes of a big manufacturer,  and threaten a big employer in the process. 

Since 1999, I have owned a Golf, a Jetta Wagon, two GTIs, a Passat Wagon, a Chattanoogan TDI Passat, two Beetles, and a TDI Beetle Convertible. I love the design, driving experience, features, engine choices, and build quality of Volkswagens. 

The Republican party and its lobbyist paymasters have long ago jettisoned good policy and good government for ideological purity. This has been – simply put – bad for America. It’s high time these nihilists were hoist by their own petards. 

Shorter Everything

10 Jan

1. Dennis Gabryszak is a creep who is accused of doing creepy things to at least 7 women, who have the courage to come forward and publicly air the ways in which this schmuck humiliated them. Gabryszak has not denied or otherwise addressed the allegations and is unfit for public service. 

2. It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up was the lesson learned during Watergate, and on Thursday New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took 2 hours to explain how he was completely in the dark about some really despicable things that his very close advisors and confidants were doing. When his appointee to the NYNJ Port Authority, David Wildstein, resigned in December – a month ago – over September’s politically manufactured bridge debacle. For Christie to suggest that this is all news to him strains credulity. For him to suggest that he was completely in the dark about these things seems unlikely. Ultimately, if you surround yourself with petty, vindictive people, and you maintain a public demeanor that is, at times, petty and vindictive, you can hardly stand there with a straight face and claim that you are, like, totally shocked that people in your employ behaved in a petty and vindictive manner. 

3. Yesterday, GOP gadfly Michael Caputo was sitting in for Tom Bauerle on WBEN, and he had legendary dirty trickster Roger Stone call in – that’s quite a get. They talked about a meeting Friday put together in an effort to convince billionaire birther Donald Trump to run for Governor of the state of New York. Stone got it exactly right – Trump doesn’t have a chance. Ultimately, New York State is as blue as it gets, and while Democrats and left independents might consider a Republican who portrays himself as a centrist who is liberal on social issues (see: Pataki), there’s no way in hell any self-respecting Democrat would support a Donald Trump for governor – not after his dramatic and absurd lurch to the very fringes of the right wing in the last few years. For all the Freudian bleating about the NY SAFE Act, the metropolitan area around the five boroughs – how did Glenn Beck phrase it? Oh yeah, “they surround you”. 

4. Declared dead several years ago, it turns out that shared border management still has a pulse. Because Canadian border agents are now armed, like their American counterparts, one of the big obstacles to pre-clearing traffic on the Canadian side and eliminating the inspection booths on the American side has been eliminated. For now, it’s a pilot program and it’s only for commercial traffic, but if it’s successful there’s no reason why it couldn’t also be used for passenger vehicles, too. If that happens, all of the alarmist talk about the adverse health effects from idling traffic at a bridge crossing that has existed for 100 years can stop. I never quite understood how adding lanes to alleviate traffic congestion would aggravate health problems on the west side of Buffalo, nor did I understand why the anti-bridge rhetoric was effectively arguing for the complete removal of the bridge altogether. But hopefully the saga of the Hundredyearbridge will make a millimeter’s worth of progress. 

5. If your town government decides to hold a “public hearing” about a local controversy at 4:30 pm on a weekday, and doesn’t bother to invite representatives of the locality’s regional governmental entity, then it’s safe to say that the town government isn’t interested in dealing with conflict or problems. The one-party system in the town of Clarence is not showing itself to be particularly responsive or concerned about legitimate gripes from people in the northern flood plain.

Unbelievable. 

6. Chris Collins (NY-27) is playing to type

7. Subset cars: 

– did you know that it is perfectly legal for any American to import any car from anywhere in the world, provided it is 25+ years old? Not only legal to import, but legal to put on the road. Here’s a cool story about a dream come true

– I told you a few weeks ago to get yourself a set of snow tires. That’s not all. When it’s snowing and sloppery out, you should also (a) keep your washer fluid topped off; (b) keep an extra gallon of fluid in your trunk; (c) physically wipe the slop off your wipers every once in a while to keep them clean and clear; (d) take a squeegee to your front headlights at every fill-up to get the road sludge off of them and enable you to actually see at night. To that end, if your local Noco or whatever doesn’t keep a proper squeegee bucket around with some form of unfrozen cleaning solution, stop going there or complain. It is inexcusable in a cold climate. 

Have a good weekend!

 

 

 

Buffalo Played a Great Role on Top Gear USA

31 Oct

If you missed the Top Gear USA episode they shot in Buffalo and Youngstown – one of the best episodes the American iteration has ever done, WNY notwithstanding – you can still watch it on the History Channel on the following dates and times:

  • – November 05, 2013 – 11:02-12:01AM ET
  • – November 06, 2013 – 03:03-04:02AM ET
  • – November 12, 2013 – 12:00-01:00PM ET

Or you can watch it in full at this link in a week or so. 

Fans of the British version sometimes haughtily dismiss the American version as being inferior. It is. But in the same way that Paris is better than the French version of Epcot, it doesn’t mean it’s not fun in its own way. While the British show features a contemporary review, and the Stig taking it for a power lap, the News, a funny challenge or feature, and a Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, the US version jettisoned the parts that were awkward for its hosts (almost everything) and now just stick to the challenge feature. Frankly, it’s the best part of the British show, too – you don’t remember how fast an Ariel Atom went around the track, but you remember when Jezza raced James and Hammond from the South of France to London, pitting a Bugatti Veyron against a Cessna. 

Top Gear in WNY is funny and compelling, and above all, it makes Buffalo and western New York look absolutely gorgeous. It’s nice to be able to see Buffalo used as a backdrop without a septuagenarian lecturing you about how significant the buildings and street grid are, and instead being used by three guys having a good time. 

Roundabouts: Are they Better?

8 Oct

Have you driven through this, the intersection of Harlem Road at Wehrle and Kensington Ave? It’s a glorious set of two roundabouts, which allow traffic to negotiate what had previously been a set of intersections with lights. I think it works phenomenally well, and I think it’s great that we’re seeing more and more intersections in the area switching to roundabouts – Hamburg especially.

So, the big question – are roundabouts better for traffic? They calm traffic by requiring a yield/slow-down, but are they more or less efficient in terms of getting traffic through an intersection, as compared with a four-way stop? 

#FreedomofSpeech

15 Feb

1. CNN has been offering up wall-to-wall coverage of the Carnival Triumph, which has limped its way back to the US after suffering a crippling engine fire on Monday. They were calling it, and treating it like, a “disaster”, but was was disastrous about it? What it amounted to was 4,000+ passengers and crew being wildly inconvenienced and placed under poor conditions of sanitation and comfort. But no one died, and everyone came home last night. This wasn’t a floating boxcar of detainees – it was a cruise ship that broke down, revealing perhaps that cruise ships need fewer nightclubs and more backup systems, as WKBW reporter John Borsa pointed out on Twitter. It wasn’t a disaster – it was a mass inconvenience. 

2. Remember the “proud racist South Buffalo guy“? He made headlines some months ago for complaining about how those minorities commit crimes, cause property values to decline, and destroy neighborhoods. He’s now been arrested for robbing a West Seneca bank

3.  A West Seneca high schooler misbehaved at a hockey game and was asked to leave. He later took to Twitter and cursed out the teacher who did it. He did not threaten the teacher, he did not mock or insult the teacher – he merely vented his frustration with a Tweet that read, in relevant part, “f-ck [Teacher’s Name] #freedomofspeech”. The school found out and gave this honor student who, it is said, has no great history of behavioral problems, a five-day suspension. 

Interestingly, the student’s hashtag wasn’t frivolous. A kid doesn’t shed his constitutional rights when he enters the school building, and he especially doesn’t lose them when he uses a public platform from home, off school grounds, and outside school time. This particular student did absolutely nothing wrong. He took to a social media site and vented about a teacher with whom he had just had a negative experience. The only punishment this student should receive, if any, should come from his parents. The teacher can confront the student directly and demand an apology, I suppose, but the school has absolutely no right and no business to regulate or ban speech – even profane speech – a student uses on social media outside school time and grounds. Believe it or not, this is a case with federal, Constitutional, ramifications.

4. A big national tea party group – FreedomWorks, which was until recently led by former Congressman Dick Armey – made a video depicting former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receiving cunnilingus from a panda. The tea party, relegated to the very deepest fringes of the right wing, has devolved from an anti-Obama movement into a group promoting some pretty base, offensive sexist stuff. I’m not surprised, either

In one segment of the film, according to a former official who saw it, Brandon is seen waking from a nap at his desk. In what appears to be a dream or a nightmare, he wanders down a hallway and spots a giant panda on its knees with its head in the lap of a seated Hillary Clinton and apparently performing oral sex on the then-secretary of state. Two female interns at FreedomWorks were recruited to play the panda and Clinton. One intern wore a Hillary Clinton mask. The other wore a giant panda suit that FreedomWorks had used at protests to denounce progressives as panderers. (See herehere, and here.) Placing the panda in the video, a former FreedomWorks staffer says, was “an inside joke.” 

Another FreedomWorks staffer who worked there at the time confirms that “Yes, this video was created.” 

Days before the FreePAC event, the video was screened for staff. “My mouth was wide open,” a former official recalls. “‘What the hell is this?'” Several FreedomWorks staffers were outraged and stunned that Brandon, the group’s second-in-command after Kibbe, had overseen the video’s production, appeared in it, and intended to show this film at the conference, which would be attended by many social-conservative activists. They raised objections to the film. 

“How was that not some form of sexual harassment?” a former FreedomWorks official asks, noting that two female interns had been requested to act out a pretend sex scene. “And there were going to be thousands of Christian conservatives at this thing. This was a terrible lack of judgment.”

Brandon, a former FreedomWorks official says, defended the film, insisting it was creative and funny. But eventually a decision was made not to show the video at FreePAC. 

Armey says he didn’t became aware of the film until months later: “I heard they had made an obscene video mocking Hillary Clinton.” He says he was told the video showed Clinton having sex with an intern. “I asked another [FreedomWorks] guy if he had seen it,” Armey recalls. “He said, ‘I heard about it. I was traveling at the time. It was shown around the office.'” Armey adds, “There was a concern that this kind of behavior could land you in court. I was shocked at the ugly and bad taste.” 

Dick Armey is the guy who called Representative Barney Frank “Barney Fag”. Dick Armey is a horrible person, and “FreedomWorks” is a horrible organization. The news that they produced a video showing Hillary Clinton engaging in some form of bestiality is unsurprising.  After all, 15 years ago these same clowns were probably referring to her as “Hitlery Klintoon” over on Free Republic. 

5. Tesla is a company that manufactures and markets a gorgeous, all-electric luxury sedan. It recently contacted the New York Times to do a story showing off, in cold weather and real-life conditions, Tesla’s new network of high-capacity chargers placed at 200-mile intervals along the Northeast Corridor. It didn’t go well

Tesla CEO Elon Musk went ballistic, calling the review a “fake” in social media. This prompted the Times’ reporter, John Broder, to refute Musk’s assertions via the Times’ Wheels blog. Let’s swing back to the point that Tesla pushed this test to the Times, and that, 

This evaluation was intended to demonstrate its practicality as a “normal use,” no-compromise car, as Tesla markets it.

A cold snap in the Northeast shouldn’t cause a state-of-the art $100,000 sedan, marketed as a regular car, to be unable to make 180 mile trip without pausing for an hour to recharge. Practically any car in America can easily make 300 miles before pausing for a 5 minute refueling stop. 

Soon, Musk took to Tesla’s corporate blog, where he challenged Broder’s assertions point by point, and uploaded what purport to be printouts of data the car recorded from Broder’s ride. Again, social media went nuts, calling out the Times for lying. Lying? 

First of all, let’s consider we have a Times reporter with no known axe to grind with Tesla or electrics in general who reported on his experiences trying to get a $100k car from Philadelphia to Boston. On the other hand, we have the CEO of a corporation and his public relations department trying to spin away the negative effects of the car’s failure to accomplish what the lowliest Honda Jazz can do. But also consider the fact that, in his blog, Musk purported to get inside Broder’s mind to ascribe motives to what he wrote. Consider, 

In Mr. Broder’s case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.

Broder had once written an article bemoaning the various criticisms and chicken-and-egg problems with electrics, and Musk simply dismisses that as animus. 

As a result, we did not think to read his past articles and were unaware of his outright disdain for electric cars. We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles. For that, I am deeply sorry.

Musk made this assertion: 

Cruise control was never set to 54 mph as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 mph. Broder in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that driving at speeds of 65 – 81 on national interstates is not unusual, and that setting the heat at 72 on a very cold day is perfectly normal behavior – stuff that a $100k sedan that is supposed to be a replacement car and not a superfluous frivolity for the rich should easily be able to accomplish – the statement is wholly misleading. Look at the data: 

He was driving at 0 MPH a whole lot more often than he was driving 80 MPH. Indeed, the data records exactly one momentary spike to over 80 MPH – to say that he was routinely exceeding the speed limit is simply misleading. And why bother offering up the data if you won’t bother to characterize it accurately? Broder responded at the Wheels blog, after New York Times Public Editor and former Buffalo News Editor-in-Chief Margaret Sullivan became involved. As to the speed discrepancy, Broder accurately suggests the speedometer was uncalibrated due to wheel size, 

I drove normally (at the speed limit or with prevailing traffic) when I thought it was prudent to do so. I do recall setting the cruise control to about 54 m.p.h., as I wrote. The log shows the car traveling about 60 m.p.h. for a nearly 100-mile stretch on the New Jersey Turnpike. I cannot account for the discrepancy, nor for a later stretch in Connecticut where I recall driving about 45 m.p.h., but it may be the result of the car being delivered with 19-inch wheels and all-season tires, not the specified 21-inch wheels and summer tires. That just might have affected the recorded speed, range, rate of battery depletion or any number of other parameters. Tesla’s data suggests I was doing slightly more than 50 over a stretch where the speed limit was 65. The traffic was heavy in that part of Connecticut, so cruise control was not usable, and I tried to keep the speed at 50 or below without impeding traffic.

Certainly, and as Tesla’s logs clearly show, much of my driving was at or well below the 65 m.p.h. speed limit, with only a single momentary spike above 80. Most drivers are aware that cars can speed up, even sometimes when cruise control is engaged, on downhill stretches.

Musk accused Broder of deliberately running down the battery during a stop at a Milford, CT plaza where Tesla had a supercharger located, 

When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said “0 miles remaining.” Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.

Of course, Musk is merely ascribing ill motives on Broder because he is now butthurt over the article. But here’s how Broder explains what happened, 

I drove around the Milford service plaza in the dark looking for the Supercharger, which is not prominently marked. I was not trying to drain the battery. (It was already on reserve power.) As soon as I found the Supercharger, I plugged the car in.

The stop in Manhattan was planned from the beginning and known to Tesla personnel all along. According to Google Maps, taking the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan (instead of crossing at the George Washington Bridge) and driving up the West Side Highway added only two miles to the overall distance from Newark, Del., to Milford, Conn.

Neither I nor the Model S ever visited “downtown Manhattan.”

As a lawyer, I’m trained to recognize BS when I see it, and when someone has a motive to exaggerate or mischaracterize evidence, and then does so, I’m skeptical of everything else they have to say about a matter. So it is with Mr. Musk, who goes beyond the data and labels Broder a liar who had it out for the Tesla from the get-go. Given a choice between believing the reporter and the company’s PR department, I’ll go with the Times. 

After all, Musk told Broder directly

Mr. Musk called me on Friday, before the article went up on the Web, to offer sympathy and regrets about the outcome of my test drive. He said that the East Coast charging stations should be 140 miles apart, not 200 miles, to take into account the traffic and temperature extremes in this part of the country.

Incidentally, CNN tried the same trip and had no problems whatsoever. Perhaps the temperatures had moderated, as evidenced by the snow-free photograph accompanying the article.

None of this is an indictment of the car, or even of the network of chargers. (As someone who puts lots of miles on two cars every year, I fail to see the allure of spending the equivalent of a Cheektowaga house to buy a car that has trouble making 200 miles before needing an hourlong break to charge up, but to each his own). But the tone of Musk’s response to a negative experience that Broder had, and the malicious way in which he mischaracterized what happened and ascribed to Broder a hostile state of mind, I echo what media guru Jeff Jarvis Tweeted late Thursday, 

 

WRC: Not in the US

8 Feb

This weekend is the annual FIA WRC Rally Sweden, a competition that involves small turbocharged cars going very fast on all sorts of road conditions – gravel, dirt, asphalt, and snow/ice. Unlike NASCAR and Indycar, they turn more than just left. Spectators stand right next to the track. It’s insane and death-defying. Of course, it’s not being aired in the US at all. Or in Canada, for that matter. 

This is something that should be remedied. Witness: 

Highlights from the 2012 Rally Sweden: 

Highlights from Monte Carlo 2013: 

The $100,000+ Bentley Continental W12 GT takes to the Welsh WRC rallye track with Top Gear’s James May calling the turns – often poorly. 

Ken Block with Top Gear’s James May at a California airfield. 

Catalunya Spain 2011 WRC: 

Climbing up Pike’s Peak: 

How is this not popular in the US? 

 

Romney's American Value: Lying

30 Oct

One of the reasons a local birther cited for choosing Mitt Romney over Barack Obama is that Romney is an American who holds American values with other Americans in America and has America’s best American interests at American heart. 

One of those American values must also involve lying

For instance, American Mitt Romney hopped on a Bloomberg story indicating that Jeep would return to the Chinese market. Jeep doesn’t make cars in China, and not a single car made in the People’s Republic of China is sold in the United States at this time.  That didn’t stop the Romney campaign from saying – with a straight face – that Obama is an outsourcer because Jeep will start building its cars in ChinaThe report was that Jeep would resume exporting American-made Jeeps to China. From Chrysler: 

There are times when the reading of a newswire report generates storms originated by a biased or predisposed approach.

On Oct. 22, 2012, at 11:10 a.m. ET, the Bloomberg News report “Fiat Says Jeep® Output May Return to China as Demand Rises” stated “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley (President and CEO of the Jeep brand) referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”

Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.

Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.

That didn’t stop the American Romney campaign from completely making something up out of whole cloth. On the American stump, Romney began saying that Jeep was going to start building cars in China. When Chrysler and the media pointed out that this was false,  American Romney doubled down on the lie and made an ad about it. It’s a lie. It’s false. Mitt Romney’s American or Mormon or whatever values allow him to just blatantly make stuff up

It’s so bad that it’s now actually become a thing. The Obama campaign is pouncing, Americanly 

Romney’s American Value: Lying

30 Oct

One of the reasons a local birther cited for choosing Mitt Romney over Barack Obama is that Romney is an American who holds American values with other Americans in America and has America’s best American interests at American heart. 

One of those American values must also involve lying

For instance, American Mitt Romney hopped on a Bloomberg story indicating that Jeep would return to the Chinese market. Jeep doesn’t make cars in China, and not a single car made in the People’s Republic of China is sold in the United States at this time.  That didn’t stop the Romney campaign from saying – with a straight face – that Obama is an outsourcer because Jeep will start building its cars in ChinaThe report was that Jeep would resume exporting American-made Jeeps to China. From Chrysler: 

There are times when the reading of a newswire report generates storms originated by a biased or predisposed approach.

On Oct. 22, 2012, at 11:10 a.m. ET, the Bloomberg News report “Fiat Says Jeep® Output May Return to China as Demand Rises” stated “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley (President and CEO of the Jeep brand) referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”

Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.

Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.

That didn’t stop the American Romney campaign from completely making something up out of whole cloth. On the American stump, Romney began saying that Jeep was going to start building cars in China. When Chrysler and the media pointed out that this was false,  American Romney doubled down on the lie and made an ad about it. It’s a lie. It’s false. Mitt Romney’s American or Mormon or whatever values allow him to just blatantly make stuff up

It’s so bad that it’s now actually become a thing. The Obama campaign is pouncing, Americanly 

Three Things for Friday

6 Jul

Here are three observations for you to consider: 

1. I’m not a regular follower of the almost Vaticanesque intrigue that regularly plagues the Buffalo school system, and happily remind Buffalo boosters regularly that the schools’ mismanagement and disarray is a massive impediment to people choosing to live within city limits. The Buffalo News’ Mary Pasciak does a fantastic job chronicling the school board’s goings on. If Carl Paladino is right about the allegations he makes in an Article 78 action he filed this week (to force a municipal entity to act lawfully), then he should be commended for being the only one willing to take on that battle.  The school board should act transparently, with lawful public input. 

2. The term “illegal immigrant” was first coined by Palestine’s British masters in 1939 to describe Jews fleeing Nazi genocide. It is a term recommended by not only the AP stylebook, but also by Orwellian Republican language guru Frank Luntz. Latino businessman Charles Garcia argues here that the term is a slur that serves only to dehumanize and denigrate people who are really just economic refugees. Most deportable immigrants have that status because they’ve overstayed valid entry visas –  not because they crossed a river in the middle of the night. I’m guilty of using “illegal alien”, and will stop using the phrase, because if Elie Wiesel says it’s improper, I’ll go along with that. Here’s some additional information you’re probably not aware of, coming from the recent Supreme Court majority decision arising out of the Arizona immigration law. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and three other justices, stated: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.” The court also ruled that it was not a crime to seek or engage in unauthorized employment.

As Kennedy explained, removal of an unauthorized migrant is a civil matter where even if the person is out of status, federal officials have wide discretion to determine whether deportation makes sense. For example, if an unauthorized person is trying to support his family by working or has “children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service,” officials may let him stay. Also, if individuals or their families might be politically persecuted or harmed upon return to their country of origin, they may also remain in the United States.

Perhaps our rhetoric on this issue is a bit overwrought and needs to be re-examined. 

3. The only person more gratingly annoying than Billy Fuccillo is his blonde sidekick, Abby Sommers. These two have been polluting my television for weeks now, and are even featured in a lengthy occasional infomercial. It’s all screaming and sexual innuendo from the two least appealing people on the face of the planet. They don’t appear to be in any sort of relationship other than a commercial one, but from their carrying on, you’d think they were married. 

Rear Fog Laser

5 Jun

In the EU, it’s standard for all cars to equip what’s called a “rear fog light“. They’re available on a small number of cars in the US, and what it is is a single rear light, brighter than a brake light – on the left on the Continent, and on the right in the UK – which alerts cars driving behind you that you’re there when visibility is poor. 

Audi has taken the idea one step further, designing a laser rear fog light that illuminates an area on the ground behind the vehicle, indicating for motorists behind it a safe following distance. With the slow introduction of LED headlights and DRL, this is a pretty neat innovation.