Friday Morning: Looks Like We Made It!

Looks like we survived the first business week of the year, made it through floods and fire and other apocalyptic events. Can’t imagine what next week will bring at this rate.

Saudi Arabia may sell shares in oil producer Aramco
Listing Aramco could create the most valuable company in the world, worth over a trillion in U.S. dollars. The move may raise cash to pay down some of the Saudi government’s debt, but it opens the oil producer to public scrutiny. Would it be worth the hassle?

With Russia increasingly eating into Aramco’s market share of China, and OECD countries’ oil consumption falling, selling shares in Aramco may not raise enough cash as its revenues may remain flat. Prices for utilities have already been raised within Saudi Arabia, shifting a portion of expenses to the public. What other cash-producing moves might Saudi Arabia make in the next year?

Detroit’s annual Autoshow brings VW’s CEO for more than a visit to tradeshow booth
Looks like Volkswagen’s Matthias Mueller will be tap dancing a lot next week — first at the 2016 North American International Auto Show, which unofficially opens Sunday, and then with the Environmental Protection Agency.

What’s the German word for “mea culpa”? Might be a nice name for a true “clean diesel” vehicle.

Data breaches now so common, court throws out suit
You’re going to have to show more than your privacy was lost if you sue a company for a data breach. Judge Joanna Seybert for U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed a class action suit against craft supplies retailer Michael’s last week, writing that lead plaintiff “has not asserted any injuries that are ‘certainly impending’ or based on a ‘substantial risk that the harm will occur.” Whalen’s credit card had been used fraudulently, but she wasn’t liable for the charges.

Annoyingly, Clapper v Amnesty International USA was used as precedent, much as it had been in last summer’s suit against Home Depot for a data breach. At this rate, retailers will continue to thumb their noses at protecting their customers’ data, though identity theft-related losses amount to more than all other property theft losses combined [pdf].

Don’t forget China: DOJ raids Chinese hoverboard company’s stall at CES 2016
I can’t find any previous examples of law enforcement conducting a raid at a trade show — if you know of one, please share in comments. The Department of Justice’s raid yesterday on Changzhou First International Trade Co.’s booth at CES 2016 doesn’t appear to have precedent. Changzhou’s hoverboard product looks an awful lot like Future Motion’s Onewheel, which had been the subject of a Kickstarter project. The Chinese hoverboard was expected to market for $500, versus the Onewheel at $1500.

Makes me wonder if there are other examples of internet-mediated crowd-funded technology at risk of intellectual property theft.

Pass the Patron. I’m declaring it tequila-thirty early today.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
24 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Chevrolet, Audi, and BMW all offer diesel passenger cars in the US. How come they didn’t have trouble meeting emission requirements? Why was VW engineering so far off the mark in comparison?

  2. lefty665 says:

    “identity theft-related losses amount to more than all other property theft losses combined”
    .
    Looks like they did not include losses from civil asset forfeiture in that statistic. Recent reports show that as larger losses than from property theft too. Regular old burglars and robbers need to step their game. Hackers and cops are leaving them in the dust as a legacy technology that is failing to thrive here in the future.
    .
    bloopie2 It is my understanding that VW made a big capital investment in new engine technology. However, when delivered it did not have the emissions characteristics they expected and needed. Rather than pay more for more emissions control equipment they chose another way to beat the standards. Often software is cheaper than hardware, but in this case the life cycle costs for VW would have made springing for the emissions control hardware a bargain.
    .
    Failing to learn from history department. In WWII the Germans figured we were too dumb to decrypt their communications. They were wrong then too.

  3. blueba says:

    More anti-China reporting at Emptywheel — raiding a Chinese company automatically means the Chinese company is or has stolen technology – and probably form the US of course where everyone knows the technology is vastly better than anything those evil commies could come up with. As the article strongly implies – guilty as charged.

    • lefty665 says:

      Checking VW group vehicles make sense, they have admitted some additional cheating on larger engines. Interesting that everyone would get looked at. Not too hard either, it’s a pretty finite list, 39 vehicles according to the linked article. Go for it EPA.
      .
      You’d think the other mfrs would have been curious how VW achieved their emissions goals when everyone was facing the same overall problems. Suppose the engineers at Ford, GM and Chrysler figured out what VW was doing? If so, how did they respond to being put at a competitive disadvantage through cheating?

  4. Rayne says:

    bloopie2 — Important to remember which of those German manufacturers are also VW subsidiaries — Audi is one, and Porsche is now something like a joint venture. I’m going back through the studies implicating VW, to see if they were the only make subjected to real-world testing, or if all cars were subjected to that. If memory serves, there was something off about VW vehicle data, which then triggered testing on their diesel cars. I don’t recall that being the case with other German makes like Mercedes.

    Keep in mind that VW+VW Group cars were selling as “clean diesel,” representing a sizeable uptick in new car sales. The U.S. market is not friendly to diesel, and it didn’t buy more of any other foreign-made diesel vehicles. The representation of VW passenger diesel as “green” or “clean” is the consumer fraud.

    As I said, I am going back through the studies. My gut says there is a second, really big problem right under our noses. It was obvious in Europe that something was wrong when ambient air tests showed there was an increase in NOX in spite of a steady phased-in implementation of emissions controls laws. The EU has a HUGE problem in that none of its member states is acting in good faith to enforce emissions controls. Each state is either ignoring the problem or actively abetting the manufacturers in their own state in some way.

    The problem in the US should have been evident by similar measures of NOX, as well as testing of vehicles in states where emissions tests are mandatory. Why was the increase in NOX not noticed here until a tiny nonprofit ran real-world emissions tests on a limited number of vehicles?
    _________

    arbusto — I read that bit from The Intercept. Don’t know how much of this idea to take part of Aramco public is not only to pay down debt, but to fund warfare against Iran+proxies. Worth reading this bit from Bloomberg, in which the banksters are laughing at Saudi Arabia. But I don’t know if that’s because the banksters may have been a Saudi target, too.
    _________

    lefty665 — Sorry, civil asset forfeiture not considered a crime, though much of it is criminal, and therefore not lumped in with other property theft. :-(
    WRT VW: I suspect the testing as well as the bullshit marketing tagline “clean diesel,” combined with little discretionary cash, discouraged US automakers from testing competitors. As long as the testing system was successfully thwarted, there was no red flag.
    _________

    jo6pac — I’m sure that the idea of Russia or China buying up big chunks of Aramco stock is one of the reasons why Aramco hasn’t already been cut up and listed, and why banksters are laughing so hard.
    _________

    blueba — When I wrote “Don’t forget China,” that was just for you and your insistence that this site is anti-Chinese. You are so full of 粪.

    I notice you take zero issue with the ‘anti-German’ content in the posts I’ve written lately, specifically those tackling Volkswagen’s emissions fraud. VW and its subsidiaries represent roughly 10% of Germany’s jobs, an even more direct relationship between the output by a business and its home country. But again, you don’t have a problem with that.

    Nor do you appear to have a problem with any of the ‘anti-Saudi’ content here, and surely some writings must appear to be that when we point out the relationship between oil and climate change, or cybersecurity and Saudi funding behind cyber incursions. But not a peep out of you.

    Let’s get even more specific:
    This site has published nearly 10,500 posts.
    (379) of them mention China.

    Compare to these numbers:
    (386) posts mention Syria
    (397) posts mention Israel
    (399) posts mention Russia
    (482) posts mention Saudi Arabia
    (965) posts mention Iran
    (1174) posts mention Iraq (no surprise, given the early work here on Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, and the Iraq War.)

    Looking at these numbers, this site has reported far more about other countries besides China, though China has a considerable impact on the US in terms of economic impact. You might have a legitimate point if you were concerned about a lower amount of China-related content here, but you’re interested in suppressing any posts that do not cast a positive light on China or Chinese-origin entities.

    I could go on, but it’s not worth any more of my time. You’re on ignore status with me if you cannot bring anything fresh and constructive to the table.

    • lefty665 says:

      “little discretionary cash, discouraged US automakers from testing competitors”
      .
      Yeah but, I’ve never seen an organization where the engineers didn’t understand the competitions products and technology. Professional pride if nothing else. Something like, “How the !@#$%^ is VW doing “clean diesel”? We can’t come close to those power and emissions numbers”. Even worse, it lets the bozos in marketing pick on the engineers.

      • Rayne says:

        lefty665 — Remember what I said about the US being unfriendly to diesel? Subsidies and infrastructure here are inadequate to support diesel passenger vehicles compared to Europe. I’ve worked in and rubbed shoulders with folks in the auto industry for 40 years. Can’t swing a cat around my neck of the woods without hitting somebody in the industry. And none of them give a rat’s ass about diesel-powered *passenger* vehicles. What pays the bills: either higher performance or fuel-efficient/green gasoline, and interest is higher in electric/alternative fuel than in diesel. Technology for cleaner gasoline passenger vehicles is much easier to develop than diesel; to compete with “clean diesel,” U.S. engineers simply needed to double down on cleaner gasoline and hybrids.

        Keep in mind, too, that VW’s emissions numbers were distorted just enough to encourage sales, but not to run up a flag. Only sales people would have been mildly concerned, and the tectonic shifts due to the financial crisis could explain away much of changes in sales. 600K VW diesel cars sold over ~7 years, compared to 15.6 million total vehicles sold in 2014 alone would raise an eyebrow only for a moment.

        Diesel trucks is a different story, but then emissions standards are probably not as aggressive here in the U.S. for trucks versus cars. Trucks are low on my list to investigate.

        The issues U.S. engineers may have spent far more time worrying about were the GM ignition switch problem and the Toyota’s sudden acceleration problem. Both issues very similar, resulting in deaths, and potentially affecting millions of vehicles here in the U.S. In contrast, the VW emissions fraud affected a very few cars and no deaths or injuries have been linked directly to this problem.

        • lefty665 says:

          I hear you. Your proposition that passenger diesel is a minor player in the US market is unquestionably right. A great big honking Cummins with a blower and cubic torque is a lot sexier than a thrifty 2 liter in a cracker box.
          .
          But… that doesn’t mean nobody was paying attention, especially the engineers. It may have been just a few, but still there were/are some engaged in passenger diesel. They’d have wanted to know what was up at VW.
          .
          “emissions numbers were distorted just enough to encourage sales, but not to run up a flag.” This is bull. 40x the NOx standard is not de minimus fiddling. VW was profoundly defrauding emissions standards.
          .
          In contrast to diesel emissions, the GM ignition switches were a trivial engineering issue. The solution cost less than a buck and the design change was made (without identifying it or revising the part #). The problem was management’s unwillingness to spend the money, mostly in recall labor, to fix it on millions of cars already out there. That’s what got them criminal charges.
          .
          Love your daily posting, please keep it up!

          • Rayne says:

            lefty665 — by “emissions numbers were distorted just enough to encourage sales, but not to run up a flag,” I meant at the point of testing. Whatever happened when CA and AZ and other states’ test systems attached to VW diesel cars, it didn’t trigger interest by officials or engineers. And when do auto engineers spend their time seeking ambient air quality reports in upscale neighborhoods in California? That’s where the NOX would have increased most in US.

            At best, auto engineers might have noted a slight uptick in sales of VW diesel, look at marketing and all the hoopla from enviromental media, go back to work on Chevy Bolt or Ford Fusion Energi, drool over Tesla and Fisker.

            Pretty sure the deaths were real reason there were criminal charges. Otherwise automakers didn’t do anything more than Wall Street banksters did to us, and the banksters breezed by.

            And thanks! ;-)

  5. Jim White says:

    .
    On the issue of diesel passenger cars in the US, one technology here that does have both excellent gas mileage and low emissions is the Mercedes BlueTec. It utilizes a variant of the catalytic converter that uses urea to capture the worst of the diesel byproducts. We have a 2007 E-class that now has about 120,000 miles on it, still runs beautifully and gets 30 mpg in town and 35 on the highway–numbers I consider amazing for a vehicle of that size and weight.
    .
    I’m too lazy to look it up, but Mercedes took the “BlueTec” badge off their diesels for a few years, but it came back sometime around last year. I don’t know if they dropped the urea tank (and maybe installed VW-like software?), but it seems interesting that they have gone back to claiming the different technology now that the VW scam is exposed. That might prove an interesting route for further research.

    • Rayne says:

      Jim — VW uses urea, too, branded as AdBlue. But I think this is an inherently bad design since urea only works in a very narrow range. Creates N2+H2O+NH3 (as you’ve probably figured out) if too much is applied, which has its own problems. The regulation of urea is handled by the ECU — and it’s this component which is programmed improperly.

      This means Mercedes’ diesel engines could also be programmed to evade emissions standards. I don’t know if real world testing has yet been done on Mercedes’ passenger vehicles.

      Can’t help wonder if air knife and/or cyclonic vacuum were ever considered by industry for particulate and NOX removal.

  6. orionATL says:

    oregon:

    what happens when a gov bureaucracy sets a mousetrap of a criminal case:
    .

    http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2016/01/oregon_standoff_harney_county.html
    .

    note that the head of the local bundy group is vice-chair of the local republican party. note also that the (political, not paramilitary) goal is to redistribute federal land to haney county.

    does this movement have legs? check out the recent proposal by former obama advisor austin goolsby to sell off federal land in the west.

    best not to set doj to fucking with people on technically criminal charges lest you sow the seeds for the destruction of a national land treasure.

    the thousands of acres of the hammonds’ land on which the blm has right of first refusal as part of the settlement of the doj’s criminal case against the hammonds may in time be the most expensive acreage blm ever bid for.

  7. lefty665 says:

    Hey Rayne, It’s Saturday afternoon, NFL playoffs start tomorrow and there’s no trash talk. Any chance you could fill in?
    .
    Let’s see if I can seed the kitty. How about them Redskins? Gonna kick some Cheesehead butt. Rogers has all the history, but since the bye Cousins has been the better QB. GM Scott McCloughan has turned the ‘Skins around, Gruden has grown up as coach, and miracle of miracles, Snyder has apparently kept his fingers out of the pie for the first time ever.
    .
    Here’s a link to the tune for the day, Patty Loveless doing Darrell Scott’s “You’ll never leave Harlan Alive” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqDVObM1kxc
    .

  8. lefty665 says:

    Will the Squawks be frozen out against the Vykes? The forecast for game time is 0 with -10 to -20 wind chill. Fans are advised to bring styrofoam to put under their feet to keep them from freezing. Marshawn Lynch was smart to be inactive for this game.

  9. Rayne says:

    orionATL — Wait, what?? What game starts at 4:30 pm today? I saw 8:15 pm EST this evening. Straighten me out so I can correct the Trash Talk placeholder post, thanks!

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