automobiles

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Wednesday Morning: Woe, Nelly, Woe

I meant woe, not whoa. I do know the difference.

It’s woe I was thinking of when I wrote this next bit.

What would you do if you were told you wouldn’t be paid for last 2 months of a 9-month job?
Let’s say you have kids to feed, a mortgage/car payment/college loan payments to make, childcare to pay, out-of-pocket healthcare costs — you know, all the expenses the average working person has.

In spite of one or more obligatory college degrees, continuing education requirements and mandatory background checks, your job requires you to work in facilities where ‘mushrooms, black mold, fecal matter, dead rodents, no heat‘ are common. It’s a workplace functioning like Flint’s water crisis, and it’s been this way for more than a decade. Fellow employees have had to bring in paper towels and light bulbs from home or solicit them as donations to the workplace.

Because of your employer’s money woes, you may even have made a concession agreeing to collect your pay over 3-4 months instead of the next six to eight weeks you are actually scheduled to work.

And then your employer’s employer says they aren’t going to pay, and you might have to work without pay for the next six weeks. Unpaid, as in violation of labor laws unpaid.

And your employer’s employer has a history of acting both in bad faith and with prejudice. Your workplace hasn’t improved for years; children were permanently poisoned and adults died as a result of their awful handiwork on this and other projects.

What would you do? Quietly stay at your desk working and hope for the best, or walk out in protest to demand action?

The employer’s employer accuses you of all manner of bad things, and is actively undermining your rights to organize, by the way.

Welcome to Detroit Public School system, and welcome to more of Michigan’s obnoxious and toxic GOP-led legislating. Pretty sure the jerks who are causing this latest crisis by grandstanding on teachers’ backs don’t care if the president arrives here in Michigan today.

Dude caught on video sprinkling substance on food arrested by FBI
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about in Michigan, some whackjob has been sprinkling a mixture of hand sanitizer and rodent poison on food in stores, including salad buffets. He was caught on security camera in Ann Arbor, but he is alleged to have sprinkled this mix in multiple stores in Ypsilanti, Saline, Birch Run, and Midland. The mixture is not supposed to be toxic, but who wants to eat remnants of isopropyl alcohol and an anticoagulant? What the hell was this all about anyhow?

Canadian city of 80,000 forced to evacuate overnight due to massive wildfire
Mind-boggling to think of an urban center this size forced to flee on such short notice, but Fort McMurray did just that beginning late afternoon yesterday. Even the local hospital was emptied as fire leaped from undeveloped to developed areas, consuming neighborhoods. 80% of homes in the Beacon Hill neighborhood are ash. Conditions have been unusually warm and dry in the region; the local temperature was 83F degrees before the evacuation notice was issued. Weather conditions today are expected to be hotter (32C/90F) and WSW winds stronger ahead of a cold front, likely spreading the fire even farther to the northeast.

The area around Fort McMurray has only been in moderate drought conditions, yet the fire was explosive, doubling in size in a matter of hours. Can’t begin to imagine what might happen in areas where conditions are drier while this climate-enhanced super El Nino continues.

Volkswagen’s former head of engine and transmission development exits company
Wolfgang Hatz, suspended by VW for his role in Dieselgate, chose voluntarily to leave the company. This bit in NYT’s article is choice:

In 2007, shortly after being named head of engine and transmission development at Volkswagen, Mr. Hatz complained at an event in San Francisco that new rules on tailpipe emissions in California were unrealistic.

“I see it as nearly impossible for us,” Mr. Hatz said of a proposed regulation during the event, which was filmed by an auto website.

In other words, Hatz didn’t see the purpose of the regulation, didn’t perceive a challenge to design truly clean diesel — he saw an obstruction he needed to bypass. Auf wiedersehn, Herr Hatz.

Odds and sods

  • Middle Eastern drought worst in 900 years (NASA) — Drought map of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey looks awful, but Egypt — wow.
  • Wars might be caused by lack of water (Scientific American) — I sense a theme developing…hey, guess when the Crusades were? 900 years ago.
  • Study shows stocks overvalued often, too long (Phys.org) — Huh. Interleaves with economic social theory of reflexivity, that.
  • Third leading cause of death in U.S.: medical errors (Science Daily) — Grok this: 250,000 deaths a year. You’d think insurance companies and policy makers would look into this, considering annual death toll is like ten times that on 9/11. Imagine if we spend tax dollars on fixing this and improving health care instead of militarizing against the rare-to-non-existent domestic terror attack.
  • Tesla’s residential battery, Powerwall, now for sale (Bloomberg) — Residential solar may now explode with growth. We can only hope.

It’s supposedly downhill from the top of this hump. Race you to the bottom!

Wednesday Morning: Lüg mich an, Lügner

I admit freely my facility with the German language is poor. I hope this post’s headline reads, “Lie to me, Liar.” Which is about as close as I could get to “Lying Liars” because I can’t conjugate the verb ‘to lie.’

~shrug~

It’s not like anybody’s paying me for this, unlike the lying liars at Volkswagen who’ve been paid to deceive the public for a decade. This video presentation featuring Daniel Lange and Felix Domke — a security consultant and an IT consultant, respectively, who reverse engineered VW’s emissions control cheat — is a bit long, but it’s chock full of unpleasant truths revealing the motivations behind VW’s Dieselgate deceptions. The video underpins the cheat outlined in a 2006 VW presentation explaining how to defeat emissions tests.

The one problem I have with this video is the assumption that the fix on each of the affected vehicles will be $600. Nope. That figure is based on how much has been set aside for the entire Dieselgate fix, NOT the actual cost to repair the vehicles.

Because if VW really fixed the vehicles to match the claims they made when they marketed and sold these “clean diesel” passenger cars, it’d cost even more per vehicle. I suspect one of the motivations behind inadequate reserves for a true repair is a reluctance to disclose to competitors how much emissions standards-meeting “clean diesel” really costs.

And of course, avoiding more stringent calculations also prevents an even bigger hit to the company’s stock price, which might affect the pockets of some board members and executives rather disproportionately to the rest of the stock market.

Just how closely that figure per car hews to the agreement with the court this past week will be worth noting, since the video was published in December last year.

But now for the much bigger, even more inconvenient Lügner Lügen: This entire scandal exposes the fraud that is the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris agreement.

We know a small nonprofit funded research by a tiny group of academics exposing VW’s emissions controls defeat. We know this set off a cascade of similar analysis, exposing even more cheating by more automobile manufacturers.

But why are we only now finding out from nonprofits and academics about this fraud? Didn’t our elected representatives create laws and the means for monitoring compliance as well as enforcement? Why aren’t governments in the U.S. and the EU catching these frauds within a year of their being foisted on the public?

These questions directly impact the Paris agreement. We’re not starting where emissions standards have been set and where the public believes conditions to be, but at real emissions levels. In other words, we are digging out of  a massive pollution hole.

Our elected officials across the world will avoid funding the dig-out; they’ll continue another layer of lies to prevent removal from office. And we can reasonably expect from them only what they’ve done so far, which Dieselgate has proven to be little.

For that matter, Flint’s water crisis has much in common with Dieselgate, relying on academic research and nonprofit entities to reveal mortal threats to the community. Flint’s crisis showed us government at all levels can be even worse at writing laws, monitoring compliance, and subsequent enforcement.

If the public cannot expect government to do the job it believes it elected them to do over the last several decades, how ever can they expect their government to enact the terms of the Paris agreement? How can we expect third world countries to reduce carbon emissions to save the world from the devastation of climate change while we and our governments continue to ignore corporations’ ongoing deceptions?

No roundup today, gang. I strongly recommend watching the video above. Thanks to BoingBoing for linking to it.

Wednesday Morning: Breaking Spring


In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

— excerpt, Locksley Hall by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Welcome to spring break. And by break, I mean schedules are broken around here. Nothing like waiting up until the wee hours for a young man whose fancy not-so-lightly turned to love, because spring.

~yawn~

While the teenager lies abed yet, mom here will caffeinate and scratch out a post. It may be early afternoon by the time I get over this spring-induced sleep deprivation and hit the publish button.

Apple blossoms — iPhones and iPads, that is
Not much blooming on the #AppleVsFBI front, where Apple now seeks information about the FBI’s method for breaking into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5C. The chances are slim to none that the FBI will tell Apple anything. Hackday offers a snappy postmortem about this case with an appropriate amount of skepticism.

I wonder what Apple’s disclosure will look like about this entire situation in its next mandatory filing with the SEC? Will iPhone 5C users upgrade to ditch the undisclosed vulnerability?

What if any effect will the iPhone 5C case have on other criminal cases where iPhones are involved — like the drug case Brooklyn? Apple asked for a delay in that case, to assess its position after the iPhone 5C case. We’ll have to wait until April 11 for the next move in this unfolding crypto-chess match.

In the meantime, spring also means baseball, where new business blossoms for Apple. Major League Baseball has now signed with Apple for iPads in the dugout. Did the snafu with Microsoft’s Surface tablets during the NFL’s AFC championship game persuade the MLB to go with Apple?

Volkswagen coasting
It’s downhill all the way for VW, which missed last week its court-imposed 30-day deadline to offer a technical solution on its emissions standards cheating “clean diesel” passenger vehicles. If there was such a thing as “clean diesel,” VW would have met the deadline; as I said before, there’s no such thing as “clean diesel” technology. The judge allowed a 30-day extension to April 24, but my money is on another missed deadline. Too bad there’s not a diesel engine equivalent of Cellebrite, willing to offer a quick fix to VW or the court, huh?

Of note: former FBI director Robert Mueller has been named “special master” on this case by Judge Charles Breyer; Mueller has been meeting with all the parties involved. What the heck is a “special master”? We may not have a ready answer, but at least there’s a special website set up for this case, In re: Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” MDL.

The cherry on top of this merde sundae is the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit filed yesterday against VW for false advertising promoting its “clean diesel” passenger cars.

With no bottom yet in sight, some are wondering if VW will simply exit the U.S. market.

Automotive odd lot

  • Jury says GM’s ignition switch was bad, but not at fault in a 2014 accident in New Orleans (Reuters) — Keep an eye on media representation of this case. Headline on this one focused on the switch, not the jury’s decision.
  • Car-to-car communications will be road tested soon (MIT Technology Review) — This technology might have prevented Google’s self-driving car from getting crunched by a bus recently.
  • Dude demonstrates his hack of Alexa + Raspberry Pi + OBDLink to remote start his car (Gizmodo) — What. even.
  • Did Tennyson write anything about spring spawning naps? Because I feel like I need one. Hope we’re back in the groove soon. See you in the morning.

Friday Morning: F for Free and Favorite

Congratulations! You made it to another Friday! The end of the week means jazz here, until I run out of genres. This Friday I’m not covering a genre, though. I’m pointing you to one of the most surprising and utterly awesome gifts jazz lovers and historians could get.

1,000 hours of free jazz, ready to download.

Holy mackerel! I almost fainted when @OpenCulture tweeted last week about David W. Niven’s collection shared with the public at Archive.org. Just as amazing is Niven’s commentary, providing context we would never otherwise have about each piece.

I’ll embed some Louis Armstrong at the bottom of this post to get your weekend started. Mark this collection as one of my favorite things ever.

Malware discovered, targeting non-jailbroken Apple iOS devices in China
This is the second China-specific malware that researchers at Palo Alto Networks have found this year. Gee, why China?

UK’s Labour Party wankers want ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ because Snowden
Just the wankers, mind you, though it’s hard to tell which MPs were the wankers as Labour and SNP sat on their hands during the vote for the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB), not wanting to appear obstructive. Fondly called the ‘Snoopers’ Charter,’ the bill replaces Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and passed in the House of Commons on its second reading. The bill allows the UK government to amass all Internet Connection Records (ICRs) for a year’s time, including telecommunications connections. Restrictions on which government entities have access to these records and for what purpose is muddy at best, and the cost of collecting and storing these records will be borne by the network service providers who in turn will need to raise their rates. Sane people understand the IPB as passed is atrocious. The bill would not have passed the second reading at all had all of Labour and the SNP voted against it, but a number of wankers argue Edward Snowden is reason enough to dragnet the entire UK’s internet activity — which makes no sense whatsoever, based on the bill’s current formulation. The ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ now enters the Committee Stage, where it’s hoped somebody catches a cluestick and puts the brakes on this current iteration of government panopticon.

U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and FBI warn about automobile hacking
Hmm. A little late to the party after at least four different vulnerabilities were revealed over the last year, but better late than never. Rather annoying the public needs to be on guard against automakers’ naiveté/stupidity/hubris.

Google’s parent Alphabet selling its robot division Boston Dynamics
Remember the creepy four-legged robot ‘Big Dog’? It and its developer are up for grabs. Google (before it became Alphabet) bought Boston Dynamics in 2013, but now finds the firm doesn’t fit its strategy. Worth noting differences in reaction to the news:

The tone of the MIT Review piece — technology’s coolness is sufficient rationale for its creation and existence — offers interesting insight, explaining how awful technology ends up commercialized in spite of its lack of fitness.

Let’s call it a week and get on with our weekend. Have a good one!

Monday Morning: Feeling Rather Mussorgsky

It’s not even 7:00 a.m. here as I start to write this post, and the day is already frantic — like Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. I don’t expect a placid ending to the first day of this week, either.

Strap in, lock and load.

Volkswagen on a roll — downhill, fast

  • A former employee who worked at the Michigan-based Volkswagen Group of America’s data processing center filed suit for wrongful termination. The employee lost their job after warning against data deletion after the U.S. Department of Justice ordered VW to halt normal data deletion processes to preserve potential evidence. Michigan is an at-will state, meaning employees can be fired for any reason at any time if they do not have a contract. However, employers may not fire workers in retaliation for refusing to do illegal acts or for reporting violations of health and safety code. Not a sketchy situation at all…this case might be an opportunity for discovery.
  • VW cutting jobs back home in Germany, with administrative roles taking the biggest hit. At the same time, VW says it intends to hire more software and technology personnel as it shifts away from traditional automotive technology. Huh — not a move I would expect when VW clearly hasn’t a handle on electronic vehicle technology.
  • Car sales are up 6.3 percent in the EU, but VW-brand car sales are off 4 percent. Ford and GM’s Opel picked up what VW lost in terms of sales.

Asking oranges from Apple

  • USDOJ hint-hints with little subtlety it will demand Apple’s source code. By subtlety, I mean a footnote shaped like a cudgel in its response to #AppleVsFBI:

    The FBI cannot itself modify the software on Farook’s iPhone without access to the source code and Apple’s private electronic signature.

    The government did not seek to compel Apple to turn those over because it believed such a request would be less palatable to Apple. If Apple would prefer that course, however, that may provide an alternative that requires less labour by Apple programmers.

    You can read Marcy’s take on the USDOJ’s Lavabit gambit for more.

  • The mega-sized tech companies who support Apple are now doubling down on encryption. Couldn’t see that coming, huh?
  • Some speculate WhatsApp as a communications technology may be the next focus of law enforcement in wake of #AppleVsFBI.
  • John Oliver does a Deep Dive into #AppleVsFBI — amusing take, but Oliver and his writing team have far too simplistic a take on this case. It’s not just that FBI wants a ‘master key,’ or that the FBI relies on All Writs to make its demand on Apple. It’s about forcing a company to create something entirely new, and something that’s not intrinsically part of its product.

Another energy industry executive dead
Josh Comstock, CEO of C&J Energy Services in Houston, Texas, died unexpectedly on Friday. He passed away in his sleep at age 46. Comstock was a supporter of NHRA drag racing. His company, which provided hydraulic fracturing (fracking) services, lost considerable value over the last year with the sharp drop in oil prices and field development.

Oil dudes are under a lot of stress these days.

And it being a Monday, so are we. Relax when you can, gang. I’m clocking out.

Friday Morning: Lovely

We made it to Friday! Yay! And that means another jazz genre. This week it’s shibuya-kei, a sub-genre/fusion born of Japanese jazz. Our sample today is by Kenji Ozawa. Note how damned perky it is, blending jazz elements with pop and synthpop. Its cuteness might also be described as kawaii, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

Some other shibuya-kei artists you might want to try are Paris Match (Metro), Aira Mitsuki (Butterly), Maki Nomiya (Shibuya-kei Standards), Takako Minekawa (Plash), and Kensuke Shiina (Luv Bungalow).

Get your mellow on and jazz your Friday up.

Urgent: Update Adobe Flash immediately if you apply patches manually
Go to this Security Bulletin link at Adobe for details. The update fixes 23 vulnerabilities, one or more of which are being used in exploits now though information about attacks are not being disclosed yet. And yes, this past Tuesday was Patch Tuesday, but either this zero-day problem in Flash was not known then, or a solution had not yet been completed, or…whatever. Just make sure you check all your updates, with this Adobe Flash patch at the top of the list.

USDOJ doing its PR thing on #AppleVsFBI
After reports this week that FBI director James Comey was a political liability in the case against Apple, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch appeared on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show to make the case for Apple writing code as requested by USDOJ. She said,

“First of all, we’re not asking for a backdoor, nor are we asking anyone to turn anything on to spy on anyone. We’re asking them to do what their customer wants. The real owner of the phone is the county, the employer, of one of the terrorists who is dead,”

Right. And my iPhone-owning kid wants a ham sandwich — will Apple write an app on demand for that, just because my kid’s the owner of the iPhone?

Look, nearly all software is licensed — the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone may be property of the county that employed him, but the iOS software is property of Apple. Maybe Lynch needs a ham sandwich, too, a little boost in blood sugar to grok this point.

Volkswagen’s Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Week continues

  • Looks like VW’s U.S. CEO Michael Horn bailed out because he butted heads with the Holzkopfs in German leadership (Jalopnik)
  • By butting heads, that is to say, Horn dislikes the idea of jail time (Forbes) — though naming executives is pro forma on such lawsuits, if Horn was only in his role for roughly 18 months and this fraud goes back 8-9 years, AND Germany’s executive team disagreed with Horn’s proposal for U.S. dealers and vehicle owners, he’s reasonably twitchy about sticking around.
  • VW updated its emissions standards defeat code after its existence was revealed (Forbes) — wanna’ bet it was a software patch?

Stray cats and dogs

  • White House wants +20M more Americans on broadband (DailyDot) — Under ConnectALL initiative, a new subsidy program will help low income citizens get online with broadband access.
  • Pew Research study shows 15% of Americans still not online (Pew Research Center) — Rural, low income, minority, elderly are most likely not to have internet access; they’re the same target group as proposed federal ConnectALL program.
  • But good luck with broadband speed or cable TV content if HBO-TWC-Charter continue to scuffle over the TWC-Charter merger (AdAge) — Yet another example of the fundamental conflict between content makers and internet providers; internet providers should focus on the quality of their internet service, not on the content in the ‘series of tubes’ they supply.`

And just for giggles, note the Irish economy has expanded at fastest rate since 2000. Gee, I wonder what would happen to the Irish economy if major tech companies like Apple moved to Ireland?

I’m out of here — have a great weekend!

How Hillary Helped Banks Foreclose on 5 Million Families

Let me be clear at the outset: I think what follows is a bullshit argument. But I think it is less unfair of an argument than Hillary’s claim that, by voting to withhold the second tranche of TARP funding on January 15, 2009, Bernie Sanders voted against the auto bailout.

As you’ll recall, in October 2008, the Bush Administration threw some vaguely laid out plans on some cocktail napkins over the wall to Congress and got it to release $700 billion dollars to bail out the banks. Between the time the new Congress got sworn in but before Obama became President, Republicans in the Senate wrote a bill to withhold the second tranche, or $350 billion, of those funds. In the days before the vote, Larry Summers threw two more cocktail napkins of promises to Congress. Bernie was one of seven Democrats who voted not to release the funds based on a series of what were effectively ideas on cocktail napkins.

One of the things on those cocktail napkins, though, was a promise from the Obama Administration that actual human persons facing a crisis, rather than just banks, would get some of the second tranche of money.

The Obama Administration will commit substantial resources of $50-100B to a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis.  We will implement smart, aggressive policies to reduce the number of preventable foreclosures by helping to reduce mortgage payments for economically stressed but responsible homeowners, while also reforming our bankruptcy laws and strengthening existing housing initiatives like Hope for Homeowners. Banks receiving support under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act will be required to implement mortgage foreclosure mitigation programs.

Of course, it was just a cocktail napkin, and by voting to release the funds without tying them to actual legislation requiring the Administration actually use the funds in a such a way as to help homeowners, Hillary — and all the other Democrats who voted to give their new President funds without real limits on how they could spend it — gave away any leverage they had to actually force the Administration to implement such a plan.

Last year David Dayen described how the Administration not only never spent $50 billion — they only ever spent $12.8 billion — but the number of people helped was far lower than promised, and most people “helped” actually weren’t helped at all.

On January 15, 2009, Obama’s chief economic policy adviser, Larry Summers, wrote to convince Congress to release the second tranche of TARP funds, promising that the incoming administration would “commit $50-$100 billion to a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis … while also reforming our bankruptcy laws.” But the February 2009 stimulus package, another opportunity to legislate mortgage relief, did not include the bankruptcy remedy either; at the time, the new administration wanted a strong bipartisan vote for a fiscal rescue, and decided to neglect potentially divisive issues. Having squandered the must-pass bills to which it could have been attached, a cramdown amendment to a housing bill failed in April 2009, receiving only 45 Senate votes.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who had offered the amendment, condemned Congress, declaring that the banks “frankly own the place.” In fact, the administration had actively lobbied Congress against the best chances for cramdown’s passage, and was not particularly supportive when it came up for a vote, worrying about the impacts on bank balance sheets. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner admitted in his recent book, “I didn’t think cramdown was a particularly wise or effective strategy.” In other words, to get the bailout money, the economic team effectively lied to Congress when it promised to support cramdown.

[snip]

According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, 64 percent of all applications for loan modifications were denied. Employees at Bank of America’s mortgage servicing unit offered perhaps the most damning revelations into servicer conduct. In a class-action lawsuit, these employees testified that they were told to lie to homeowners, deliberately misplace their documents, and deny loan modifications without explaining why. For their efforts, managers rewarded them with bonuses—in the form of Target gift cards—for pushing borrowers into foreclosure.

Because of all this, HAMP never came close to the 3–4 million modifications President Obama promised at its inception. As of August 2014, 1.4 million borrowers have obtained permanent loan modifications, but about 400,000 of them have already re-defaulted, a rate of about 30 percent. The oldest HAMP modifications have re-default rates as high as 46 percent.

Effectively, because Congress didn’t force the Administration to adopt cramdown (which would have resulted in real modifications which would have mean more people kept their homes and didn’t lose their wealth), Treasury could instead use the promise to “foam the runways” to help the banks string out losses and therefore avoid accountability for their recklessness.

This was a direct result of voting to give the Executive continued free rein on what to do with massive amounts of bailout money. So was bailing out the car industry, but the vote in January was primarily about whether to continue letting the Executive spend billions without clear guidelines.

So Hillary, according to her own logic, voted to help banks foreclose on 5 million people, which resulted in a tragic loss of wealth for American families.

Again, I think this is a bullshit argument. I assume Hillary intended to get real foreclosure relief (indeed, one domestic policy on which she was better than Obama in 2008 did just that). Though for someone who claims to know how to “get things done,” she showed no awareness of how to do that here. Nevertheless, it is the kind of bullshit argument she is making.

And having gone there — having permitted herself to engage in this kind of bullshit argument — she makes such arguments fair game for Donald Trump to make about her in June.

Ultimately, I think this vote was about whether the Executive should be able to operate without real limits. Bernie voted against that, Hillary voted for it (which makes it similar, in many ways, to the Iraq War vote in 2003, and had equally foreseeably bad results). Hillary will never make such votes for freeing the Executive of meaningful restraints again. But it’s pretty clear she’s a fan of letting the Executive operate without them.

That, to me, is the meaningful, non-bullshit, takeaway from that vote.

Thursday Morning: Things Are Gonna’ Change

After Tuesday’s primaries and last night’s Democratic candidates’ debate, surely something will change in messaging and outreach.

And surely something will change on the other side of the aisle given the continued rampage of ‘Someone With Tiny Hands.”

Calls to mind an animated movie popular with my kids a few years ago.

Moving on…

Volkswagen and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

  • USDOJ subpoenaed VW under recent banking law (CNBC) — This is the first such application of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (Firrea) since it was signed into law in 1989 in response to the savings and loan scandal. The law was used to target bank fraud in subprime mortgages after the 2008 financial crisis. (Caveat: that link at CNBC autoplays video. Bad practice, CNBC very bad.)
  • VW’s US CEO Michael Horn departs with marked haste (Bloomberg) — Huh. Interesting timing, that. A subpoena and an exit inside 48 hours? The phrases “mutual agreement” and “leave to pursue other opportunities” are very telling. IMO, Volkswagen Group’s response to the scandal has been lackluster to obstructionist, and Horn might not want to be the automaker’s sin eater here in the U.S.
  • Not looking good in Germany for VW, either, as prosecutors expand their investigation (Business Insider) — 17 employees now under scrutiny, up from six.
  • VW’s South Korean offices raided (Reuters) — Wondered when South Korea would catch up after all the recenty happy-happy about clean diesel passenger vehicle sales.

I feel like I’m telling a child Santa Claus is a lie and the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist, but it’s important to this scandal to grasp this point: There is no clean diesel technology. There is no clean diesel technology coming any time soon. Invoke a little Marcus Aurelius here and look at this situation and its essential nature, by asking why VW cheated and lied and did so for so long.

Because there is no clean diesel technology.

And the clock is tick-tick-ticking — the court case in California gave VW 30 days to come up with a technical solution. Mark your calendar for March 24, people.

A – Apple, B – Bollocks, C – Cannot…

Panopticonic POV

  • Defense Department used surveillance drones over U.S. for a decade (USA Today) — All legit, though, nothing to see here, move along. Disregard the incomplete list of flights, just trust.
  • What will happen when your neighbors can buy a StingRay on the cheap to listen in on your cellphone calls? (Bloomberg) — Worse thought: what if they’ve already built one?
  • If you’re a commercial trucker, chances are anybody can track you (Naked Security) — Read this, especially the pointers at the bottom of the article. (Personal tip from me: If you’re a female trucker, use a gender neutral name or initials in the workplace. Insist your employer respects this practice.)

That’s enough damage for one day. Things have got to change.

Tuesday Morning: Some Kind of Freak

Today’s the intersection of my Gwen Stefani jag and International Women’s Day 2016. Need some more estrogen-powered music to celebrate IWD? Try this list — note and compare Lesley Gore’s You Don’t Own Me and Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made for Walking against more recent tunes like No Doubt’s Just A Girl.

Let’s roll…

Volkswagen shocked, SHOCKED! the EPA went public on the diesel emissions standards cheat
But by the time the EPA made public statements regarding VW, the German automaker had already known about the International Council on Clean Transportation’s research results for a year and had yet to reveal to shareholders the risk of prosecution and penalties. VW’s leadership hoped for a mild and quiet slap on the hands and enough time for a technical solution before the EPA’s disclosure:

“In the past, even in the case of so-called ‘defeat device’ infringements, a settlement was reached with other carmakers involving a manageable fine without the breach being made public,” VW argued. “And in this case, the employees of Volkswagen of America had the impression on the basis of constructive talks with the EPA that the diesel issue would not be made public unilaterally but that negotiations would continue.”

Hope somebody is looking at insider trading for any sign that VW executives were unloading stock in the period between September 2014 when ICCT’s results were published, and when the EPA went public in 2015. Wonder what penalties there are under German/EU laws for this?

USDOJ appealed last week’s ruling in Brooklyn iPhone 5S case
At the heart of this appeal is Apple’s past cooperative actions when federal law enforcement asked for assistance in unlocking iPhones. Apple, however, said past acquiescence is not consent. USDOJ has now asked for review of Judge Orenstein’s ruling.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak appeared on Conan, sided unsurprisingly with Apple
Woz admitted to having tried his hand at writing viruses for Mac, but the entire premise terrified him, compelling him to destroyed his efforts. Video of his appearance included at this link.

France to punish phonemakers for encryption, while UK’s GCHQ says it should get around encryption
A narrow body of water, a different language, and a recent terrorist attack make for very different reactions to encrypted communications. France’s Parliament voted yesterday to punish phonemakers which do not cooperate with law enforcement on unencrypting data; the bill is not yet law, subject to further parliamentary process. Meanwhile, Britain’s spy chief said he hopes methods can be developed to get around encryption without building backdoors.

Drive-by quickies

And it’s Presidential Primary Day in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, Hawaii. I may avoid social media for most of the day for this reason. Hasta pasta!

How Hillary Turned Her Support for Welfare for Banks into an Auto Bailout Attack

For a campaign that has spent days insisting Bernie Sanders should not launch attacks against her, the Hillary Clinton campaign sure engaged in some dishonest hackery last night.

During the debate in Flint, Hillary attacked Bernie for “vot[ing] against the money that ended up saving the auto industry.” She was talking about a January 15, 2009 attempt to withhold the second $350 billion of TARP funding that failed (here’s the resolution); Bernie voted not to release those funds. But the vote was not directly about auto bailout funding. It was about bailing out the banks and funding what turned out to be completely ineffective efforts to forestall foreclosures.

It is true that Bush’s failure to fund an auto-specific bailout meant that TARP funds got used to fund the $85 billion auto rescue (Bush had already spent some money on the auto companies — basically just enough to ensure they’d go under on Obama’s watch, but not enough to do anything to save them). But that’s not what the vote was (and there might have been enough money for the auto bailout in any case).

Larry Summers’ two letters in support of the additional funding (January 12Janaury 15) in support of the additional funding certainly didn’t describe it as an auto bailout bill. He mentioned “auto” just three times between the two of them. In the January 12 letter, in support of auto loans to consumers, and in the January 15 letter, limits on what I believe is a reference to GM Finance (now Ally)’s Christmas holiday move to turn into a bank so it could access funding. Contemporary reporting on the vote also did not mention the auto bailout (though there had been discussion that it might be used the previous month).

Moreover, there had been an auto bailout vote in the Senate (on a bill already passed by the House) on December 11, which failed. Both Bernie and Hillary voted in support.

So while Hillary’s attack was technically correct — Bernie did vote against giving Jamie Dimon more free money, which had the side effect of voting against the second installment on the fund that would eventually become the auto bailout — he did not vote against the auto bailout.

But Hillary’s attack did its work, largely because national reporters appeared completely unaware that they were fighting about TARP much less aware that there had been votes in December that directly pertained to the auto bailout. Even some local reporters now appear unaware of what went down in 2008-9. John Podesta helped matters along by sowing confusion in post-debate speeches.

Here’s one of what will end up being several exceptions to the shitty reporting on this that will come too late for people to figure out what actually happened.

During the testy exchange over the auto bailout, Clinton called Sanders a “one-issue candidate” for voting against the release of $350 billion in Jan. 15, 2009, to continue funding the bailout of the nation’s banks and mortgage lenders.

Sanders joined seven Democratic senators in voting against the second wave of TARP funds. President Barack Obama ended up using some of TARP to fund the $85 billion rescue of GM, Chrysler and their auto lending arms.

“If everybody had voted the way he did, I believe the auto industry would have collapsed, taking 4 million jobs with it,” Clinton said.

[snip]

David Axelrod, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama, questioned Clinton’s attack on Sanders’ voting record in the middle of the debate.

“It wasn’t explicitly a vote about saving auto industry,” Axelrod wrote on Twitter.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Clinton supporter, said after the debate that senators, including Sanders, were aware the TARP money would be used to aid the domestic auto industry.

“A lot of folks said we shouldn’t do it because somehow it was helping the banks,” said Stabenow, D-Lansing. “It was the auto bailout we were talking about. I was very clear with colleagues that we had to do this.”

Stabenow’s comment, incidentally, is proof that the money shouldn’t have been granted as it was (it wasn’t spent on auto companies until much later). While she’s right that there had been public discussion of spending some money on the auto bailout, there obviously was still so little limiting what the Executive could do with the money that there needed to be nothing explicit supporting the auto bailout to make it happen. The flimsiness of the guidelines is one of the things that enabled the Obama Administration to avoid providing real foreclosure relief, choosing instead to “foam the runway” for banks.

Don’t get me wrong. Bernie did a number of other things at the debate that hurt him last night, such as his comment about ghettos that suggested all African Americans are poor and no whites are. I think, too, the optics of his efforts to stop Hillary from interrupting him as well as his own gesticulating while she was making responses will go over poorly.

But the auto bailout attack was a pretty shameful ploy, one that otherwise would make it fair game to really hit on Hillary’s own actions in a way Bernie has not yet done. That said, it was also a probably perfectly timed attack, because it will ensure victory for Hillary on Tuesday, eliminating one of the last possibilities that Bernie might really challenge Hillary.

Update: As it turns out, Hillary should be attacking Stabenow according to her own standards, because Stabenow voted no on the first TARP vote that actually paid for the first tranche of funding to the auto companies. (Here’s the second, January 2009 one.)

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @davidminpdx Talk to @teddysanfran (Who is now really TeddyPortland)
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bmaz @MiracMagntism Absolutely, but most of ones from the right that will come already are. Don't dispirit left by trying harder to please right.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @SunsetGunShot Yeah, but I kind of like the premise!
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bmaz Hillary is more concerned with swimming right than left and here are the @Democrats doing what they do https://t.co/ppBJe088OP
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bmaz RT @GinnyLaRoe: some sad truth right here https://t.co/hT9diSEB3N
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bmaz RT @dannowicki: The Arizona Republic's Steve Benson on @realDonaldTrump's call for GOP unity. More cartoons: https://t.co/pslz4r1IZF https:…
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emptywheel @superwuster I studied 19th C stuff that was called camp-before-its-time. And he snots always said no, it can't be good before camp is cool
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emptywheel @superwuster No. They're usually only good in a camp sense.
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emptywheel @margibb I was a civ kid! Tho so late in the Duck and Cover era it was mostly rote performance.
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bmaz Hey @ryanlcooper you picked a fine day to connect to Verizon https://t.co/ksNjRurhic
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bmaz RT @billmon1: I thought by now Clintons understood that they (and Wall Street Dem backers) ARE the Rockefeller Republicans. https://t.co/V
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bmaz @ddayen Yeah, well if you make it to Phoenix, call #Grumpr
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