Wednesday: Get Bach

Summer bug laid me up. I’m indulging in the audio equivalent of tea with honey, lemon, and a shot of something to scare away the bug. A little cello playing by Yo-Yo Ma never fails to make me feel better.

This sweet video is enlightening, didn’t realize Ma had an older sister who was an accomplished musician at a tender age. Worthwhile to watch this week considering the blizzard of arguments about immigrants and refugees here and abroad.

And then for good measure, a second favorite added in the mix — Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman together, performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto Fantasy.

There. I feel a little better already.

Probably better than frustrated House Democrats led by Rep. John Lewis who are engaging in a sit-in protest on House floor demanding a vote on No-Fly-No-Buy gun control. If you want to watch the action, you’ll have to check social media. It’s said House GOP leadership ensured CSPAN cameras were shut off.

Diesel do you

  • Volkswagen streamlining offerings to cut costs, 40 makes on the chopping block (Bloomberg) — This is the old General Motors play that eventually killed Oldsmobile and Pontiac to reduce costs related to duplicative brands. Makes sense, especially if this hatchet job kills passenger diesels. Note the story says a fix may come later — uh-huh, like never? Because VW can’t handle the volume of required repairs OR the lack of actual clean diesel technology, OR both?
  • Testimony in S Korea: VW’s upper management may have ordered regulatory cheats (The Hankyoreh) — Story is focused on emissions controls defeat and approval process, but sound controls were also an issue in South Korea. Were those likewise suppressed by order of VW’s German head office?
  • Former CEO under investigation for securities fraud (Reuters) — Big investors want to know why it took a year for Winterkorn to act after the emissions controls defeat were made public by researchers. Bet there’s a link between Winterkorn’s notification of researchers’ findings and the destruction of emails.

Sigh, cyber, sigh

Wait, what?
Did you know Led Zeppelin is being sued over Stairway to Heaven? Allegedly a key riff in the famous 40-year-old tune was stolen, violating copyright. Forty years. ~smh~

Going back to a recumbent position. Stay braced for the outcome of the sit-in and Brexit vote tomorrow.

18 replies
  1. bevin says:

    Sad to see so many people rallying behind the No Fly list, to the extent of wanting to add to it.

    What is next in the way of lists of suspects pronounced guilty?

    It would be better to see Congressmen supporting the Bill of Rights or, as was suggested under Greenwald’s piece on this subject, following their consciences and calling for the repeal of the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

  2. bloopie2 says:

    “If you can’t release all the details of the deliberative process, it looks pretty shady. What compromises were made? What points weren’t covered or ignored? Who knows?”
    No effin’ way. Zillions of decisions are made every day by private corporations and governmental bodies and NGOs and all kinds of other bodies, affecting us all. Is every one of those decisions “shady” just because we don’t have reams of paper to read, backing it up? What if person A says X, then is eventually convinced to vote “not-X”? Who would want to participate in such deliberations, knowing her every move was being made public? One of the reasons Congress, for example, does nothing these days, is that every member’s every move is scrutinized and pored over by partisans. You do need to compromise once in a while; transparency is good in some thing, but not in others. And if someone doesn’t like Facebook’s research projects just because they are of partially unknown origin, then just stay off Facebook. Can’t people live without it?
    Also, what articles did you read over the last two days and decide not to summarize for us? Please do tell, so that we will know what your research methods are, see what your biases are, decide how to judge your journalism, etc. Every day, every article, from now on. Do it or be considered “shady”. :)

  3. Rayne says:

    SpaceLifeForm (3:07) — That. Excellent read. Only nit I have with it is his implicit bias, revealed by the small ‘d’/no ‘s’ democrat and the assumption they wholly wrote past flawed legislation. There have been enough Democrats over the years who are NRA-friendly that legislation could easily have been shaped by pro-gun members and staffers. That’s one of the most insidious parts of our government as configured: matters less who’s elected to office if the staffers remain the same or revolve in and out of corporate world, and their tenure is mistaken as expertise. (I worry this same problem exists wrt technology, hence the persistent stickiness of some challenges.)

  4. Rayne says:

    bloopie2 (3:29) — Facebook isn’t doing marketing testing, they’re conducting social experiments. They know it or they’d make the same unsupported weak sauce ‘proprietary knowledge’ argument you just made. When I start conducting social experiments in order to make a profit — and I make absolutely * zero * from my posting here while cooperating * zero percent * with publicly-funded institutions like universities — I’ll let you know in full.

  5. P J Evans says:

    I hear the results are back from the first 300 people drug-tested under Rick [ptui] Snyder’s ‘reform’ of welfare.
    Not one was using drugs.

  6. Peterr says:

    You’ve got a problem with item #3 under Diesel:

    Big investors want to know why it took a year for Winterkorn to act after the emissions controls defeat were made public by researchers.

    No, the problem is that Winterkorn failed to disclose to investors in a timely fashion that there was a big investigation going on that could potentially affect their stock. Per Handelblatt’s Global Edition:

    German prosecutors are investigating whether Volkswagen may be guilty of market manipulation because the carmaker deliberately delayed a statement about its diesel emissions manipulation. Former chief executive Martin Winterkorn is one of two former VW board members under investigation.
    The prosecutor in the city of Braunschweig, which is located close to VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, said in a statement the carmaker had reported on the diesel rigging scandal on September 22 in accordance with the legal obligation to make public statements on market sensitive information.
    “However, there are sufficient factual indications that this obligation to issue a statement about the expected substantial financial losses for the company could have occurred at an earlier point in time,” the Braunschweig prosecutors’ office said.

  7. Rayne says:

    Peterr (11:45) — I should have been more clear when I said ‘securities fraud’. By taking action I meant fulfilling his fiduciary responsibility to mitigate Dieselgate losses to shareholders. This would include not only taking measures to stop further sales of the defective vehicles but to recall and fix those already on the road, as well as advising shareholders of the downside to the stock’s value due to recall/repair expense, loss of sales, and loss of goodwill. The deliberate effort to ignore the problem combined with destruction of evidence looks like more than negligence but fraud.

    rg (11:49) — CSPAN is media; just how social is a matter of opinion. They’re certainly more social tonight after using Periscope to replace the House camera feed.

    • Peterr says:

      Winterkorn’s problem is that he apparently violated the same kind of securities laws we have in the US, that require companies to disclose in a timely fashion legal actions that could materially impact the company’s financial situation. That could be a governmental investigation, a civil lawsuit, or any number of other things. This is well before stopping sales or issuing recalls — as the German prosecutors likely see it, this kind of disclosure probably should have been triggered by the initial investigation by the California regulators and/or EPA. As soon as VW got the requests saying “You know, we’ve gotten some emissions data that doesn’t square with what you initially provided, and we need you to share some additional data with us,” that’s when they should have included a footnote in some report saying something like “We have received inquiries from US regulators, and it is possible that in the most extreme situation it could require us to undertake major remedial actions that would negatively and significantly affect the financial health of VW.”

      The German financial regulators don’t care about stopping sales or issuing recalls. They care about misleading the financial markets. It’s like the SEC and the EPA. The SEC doesn’t care if a company is engaged in pollution — that’s the EPA’s job — but if a company doesn’t disclose that the EPA is coming down on them very very hard, then the SEC gets very upset.

  8. blueba says:

    Regarding PayPal, I have had a question about the spying from the early days of Snowden. That question is – why would the government of a nation and society devoted entirely to money and financial control not “follow the money”? Why would NSA et al not want to follow where money is flowing in the same way they follow other human activity? It seems quite reasonable that NSA would “partner” with PayPal and follow where money is going. After all, the fusion of government and corporate interests and activities – commonly known as fascism – is fully mature now.

    My two big questions are, how does the US follow the money – I think one can assume they do – and where are the documents showing more comprehensive spying on elected officials in the US in particular and around the globe. We found out about Merkel and very little else.

    I can imagine an entire department at NSA devoted to following US elected officials.

  9. Rayne says:

    Peterr (1:08) — I’m going to be even more cynical and say it’s not ‘German financial regulators’ who cared; their efforts were tepid last September when this story broke. I get the impression they are quite slow, seeing as charges related to stock manipulations during the VW/Porsche M&A from 2008 are still being tried in Stuttgart. They may be motivated to move more quickly by outrage from Lower Saxony and 278 institutional investors which have sued VW for losses — and now CalPERS as of this week.

    VW made meager concessions with management pay cuts in April this year, but then in May more independent shareholders pressed for an investigation, roughly 14 months after the emissions controls defeat were revealed by researchers. From the outside it looked like collusion between the largest shareholders — the Porsche/Piech families, the state of Lower Saxony, and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund — suppressing minority shareholders’ demands. The tell, however, should have been the 5% wage increase in May for production workers, many of whom were residents of Lower Saxony. In retrospect it looks like a bribe to buy their satisfaction with VW management’s efforts and compensate for stock devaluation (and not just hush money to maintain omerta on illegal behavior).

    See this story yesterday and compare to the story published Tuesday, by same reporters with Bloomberg. There’s an additional point in today’s piece that clarifies what Reuters and other news outlets omitted or missed — it wasn’t ‘German financial regulators’, but Lower Saxony’s prosecutor’s office which opened the investigation Reuters reported. Reuters could have been more explicit about this, but instead simply wrote that “German prosecutors…the prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig” launched a probe — and Braunschweig is in Lower Saxony. It’s still not clear from Bloomberg’s reporting if the prosecutor’s office is state or federal, or if it is attached in any way with financial regulation entity.

    It’s also muddy as hell what role the German financial regulator agency, Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin), played at all based on the reporting to date. Reuters’ report about the investigation didn’t mention BaFin nor did Bloomberg’s reports Tuesday and Wednesday. WSJ did but not until afternoon on Tuesday. UK-based news outlets said the investigation was launched based on a complaint filed by BaFin only this week, just before the first annual shareholders’ meeting since the EPA’s report last autumn. UK reports muddy things further if one searches for ‘Braunschweig + BaFin’ — the UK calls it Brunswick. None of the reporting goes into any detail about what BaFin did or what it found to trigger a complaint, or why it took them until this week to make one since it was clear last year that VW management knew about ICTC’s findings in March 2014. The timing looks very political.

    Ugh. I should just post all this today. Unless one is fluent in German and reads German media frequently, Dieselgate is murky as all get-out.

    • Peterr says:

      I’m decent in German, but this is getting into technical and legal language, which can make things tricky. Lots of the English language coverage conflates, or does not distinguish between, criminal local prosecutors and BaFin, though some are getting this critical detail right.

      The Financial Times opened their story on this on Tuesday like this:

      Germany’s financial regulator has called on prosecutors to investigate the entire former management board of Volkswagen on suspicion of possible market manipulation.
      The move comes with VW facing accusations from investors that it took too long to disclose to the markets that diesel vehicles had been equipped to cheat in emissions tests.
      VW revealed last September it had used software-based “defeat devices” in up to 11m of its diesel vehicles, which served to understate emissions of hazardous nitrogen oxides in official laboratory tests.
      But prosecutors in the northern German city of Braunschweig, near VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters, said on Monday there was evidence to suggest VW could have disclosed the potential damage arising from the emissions cheating earlier.
      On that basis, the prosecutors said they had launched an investigation into Martin Winterkorn, VW’s former boss, and an unidentified second executive, into whether they had effectively manipulated markets — by delaying the release of information about the deception.
      On Tuesday it emerged that BaFin, Germany’s financial watchdog, had called on the Braunschweig prosecutors to investigate the entire former management board — not just the two executives.
      A person with knowledge of the matter said BaFin believed that it should be investigated whether the whole board should be held collectively responsible for how the cheating was communicated to markets. BaFin and VW declined to comment.

      More at the link.
      BaFin may have been slow, but they seem to be catching up. It would be nice to see the US financial regulators go after the entire board of some of our banks, for instance, rather than seeking a slap-on-the-wrist fine for their misconduct.

  10. Rayne says:

    blueba (8:04) — Call me naive, but a U.S.-based publicly-held company has no right to demand an overseas customer violate local laws. Doesn’t matter if they are “following the money” on behalf of a U.S. governmental agency, which itself would be very questionable. If PayPal is a “partner” with a U.S. intelligence agency, this should be disclosed to shareholders as a source of income, and it shouldn’t happen for any other reason apart from a paid service.

    Disclosure: I own PayPal stock, and I am NOT happy about this story at all.

  11. wayoutwest says:

    Rayne, I agree with most of your comments on the crimes committed by VW and other auto makers but why do you seem to have an aversion to diesel autos? The newer diesel trucks I see seem to have reduced visible pollution dramatically and the systems to reduce NOx appear to be working although diesels are still a bit stinky compared to gas vehicles.

  12. Rayne says:

    wayoutwest (11:53) — I don’t have a problem with diesel engines whether passenger or truck if they meet emissions controls standards, period. I won’t drive one, but I don’t care otherwise provided they are compliant with U.S. laws.

    I do have a problem with companies lying to customers about products that aren’t clean as billed, violate multiple laws, and do so repeatedly — like 600K times in the U.S. Hell, RICO? Am I supposed to like that?

    Peterr (12:34) — I don’t typically read FT, stopped after their heavy-handed firewall and a few cases of rather egregious bias toward corporations. Excerpt is better than many, but it doesn’t resolve the lack of clarity for U.S. readers about the relationship between local Braunschweig prosecutors, Lower Saxony state, or German federal prosecutors. Also reads as if they couldn’t sort the BaFin complaint versus Braunschweig prosecutors’ suspicions. And the timing falls smack between the destruction of emails and the annual meeting.

    WRT BaFIN as compared to U.S. financial regulators — the U.S. regulators were captured under the Bush admin, hence their incredibly weak oversight. I suspect BaFin and other law enforcement in Germany has been likewise captured because VW Group represents 10% of Germany’s employment. Hence the snail’s pace. There’s really no excuse whatsoever for BaFin (and the SEC & DOJ) not to have demanded a freeze on all documentation 30 days after the EPA’s 18-SEP-2015 report in the absence of a formal disclosure filing (8-K in the U.S.) by VW Group advising material risks to shareholders. And again, that’s what I meant by Winterkorn taking action. He would have been legally obligated to sign off on an 8-K here, and I suspect he bloody well knew it.

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