Wednesday: Heat of Passion

Crazy stuff happens when there’s a full moon like last night’s. Crazier stuff happens under heat and pressure. Brace yourselves as the heat dome slides from the southwest to Midwest and east this week.

Hot wheels

  • A look at the whys behind Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal (DailyBeast) — Interesting read in which German and VW culture loom large as contributing factors behind the fraud that is ‘Clean Diesel’.
  • New York, Maryland, Massachusetts each file lawsuits against VW (Reuters) — Filings accuse VW of violating states’ enviromental laws. The suits claim VW’s executives knew ‘clean diesel’ technology would not meet states’ environmental standards, and that former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn knew about this failure since 2006. The suits also claim VW employees willfully tampered with evidence after they were told an order to freeze documents was impending. A DOJ criminal investigation is still underway.
  • VW set aside another $2.4B (BBC) — In addition to the previous $15.3B, the additional amount was set aside to address “further legal risks predominately arising in North America.” Hmm…was that about the states’ environmental lawsuits now popping up?
  • And yet VW’s stock price popped up because profits (TheStreet) — Uh-huh. Short-term churn, unsustainable, because VW hasn’t yet seen half of its legal exposures given the number of states’ lawsuits so far, let alone other countries’ claims. VW expects sales to lag over last year, too, not to mention all the other factors increasing market instability.
  • EU Competition Commission busts European truck cartel with $3.2B fine (Bloomberg) — Interesting push-pull inside this story: Scania AB, a Swedish truckmaker owned by Volkswagen, has been penalized after MAN SE, another Volkswagen subsidiary, squealed to the EU and got its $1.2B fine waived. Wonder if VW execs did the math on that in advance? Another interesting tidbit is Volvo’s reduction in production here in North America and abroad, blamed on stagnant market; this says something about consumption.
  • Mercedes’ self-driving buses pass 20-kilometer trip test (The Verge) — IMO, self-driving mass transport should have priority over passenger cars; there’s not much difference between a semi-autonomous bus on a scheduled route and a streetcar on a track like those in New Orleans or San Francisco, and we know they are successful. This distance test could mean a lot to cities the size of Detroit; now will U.S. transportation companies meet Mercedes’ challenge?

Miscellany

  • Feds seizing assets related to Malaysian theft, including Wolf of Wall Street (THR) — DOJ tracking down the $1B stolen from Malaysia; destinations of cash may suffer asset forfeiture including rights to artworks like recent pop music and films. Background on the 1MDb scandal here (not to be confused with Amazon’s subsidiary IMDb.com).
  • Oil bidness, part 1 — UK edition: Oil price crash plus Brexit accelerates capping of North Sea well heads (Bloomberg) — The uncertainty of UK’s future plans makes the country a good opportunity especially when the pound is low to shut down wells. It’ll only cost more to do the same when UK comes out of its funk, and the well heads must close eventually due to falling demand and a long-term glut expected. Oh, and Scotland. Don’t forget the risk of costly transition between a UK pound, the euro, and a possible Scottish pound in the future.
  • Oil bidness, part 2 — Russian edition: Oil price below $40/BBL will help Russia (Bloomberg) — Okay, this one made me laugh my butt off. Uh-huh, less cash is exactly what Putin wants in order to make Russia great again. Right. The real crux is and has been Russia’s access to cash for their defense (offense?), and it’s not Russia who wants less cash spent on that.
  • BEFORE meeting with UK’s PM May, Scotland’s FM Sturgeon suggested another indy ref vote next year (The Scotsman) — I think this is the match-up we’ll want to watch, the volley of words between Sturgeon and May as they jockey for best position. Sturgeon has the upper hand, period; she’d already had a chat with the EU about remaining in the community before May was named PM, though Spain was a sticking point (because of their own potential breakaway state, Catalonia).
  • Student researching WiFi brings center of Brussels to a screeching halt (Le Soir) — Good news, bad news story: Security took note of the young man wearing too long a coat for the day’s heat and halted traffic in the city’s center as counterterror teams were dispatched. Turns out the guy was just studying the city’s WiFi. Good that security wasn’t goofing off, bad that even looking odd while researching can stop a major city.

Stay cool — I’m considering popcorn for dinner at the local cineplex this evening until the sun sets and the temperature drops outside. Dinner tomorrow and Friday might be Jujubes and Good-and-Plenty.

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.
20 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    I’m hearing good things about “Ghostbusters”, from people who have actually seen it.

  2. rugger9 says:

    Raisinets for me unless Peanut Butter M&Ms are available.
    *
    I wondered about who precisely would own the North Sea wells in the event of a UK breakup, especially given that the negotiations to come may have more plot twists than “Game of Thrones”. Since Sturgeon has made it clear with confirmation of her voters that Scotland does want to stay in the EU, May has a tough sell. This makes the Westminster attitude all the more odd with the posturing they have demonstrated so far in their choices for ministers and in the positions they have taken. Spain’s concerns are valid with respect to Catalonia, but the parallels with Scotland are very apt. Depending upon the borders it could be the successor to Navarre (one reason the Basques are so independently minded, because they used to be), but in the modern EU with Schengen it would probably be wiser for the Spanish king to let Catalonia go or come up with something similar to the Commonwealth run by HM the Queen.
    *
    One more note about posturing: it only works if ALL adversaries are willing to be pushed around. It did not work for Kaiser Wilhelm II prior to WW1, with the Czar willing to listen to the “Marsellaise” when he changed his alliance to France and the English completing the encirclement that Bismarck was able to prevent.
    *
    I don’t get how VW could rise with all of those unfunded and also undefined liabilities hanging over their head, but stocks around the world went on a panic about Brexit that did nothing in actual terms.

  3. rugger9 says:

    Speaking of posturing, the ongoing saga at Faux is going to be verrrry interesting (h/t Artie Shaw). So, Gretchen Carlson filed suit against Roger Ailes (only, not Fox) and now it is apparent that Megyn Kelly was also propositioned and singing to GC’s attorneys and according to a DailyKos posting she identified a third Faux female anchor getting a sexual assault (unwanted kissing) to those GC attorneys. Wait until the depositions begin, but Faux and Ailes want to win the arbitration gambit to be able to survive this. The problem for them is if GC (and MK, and the unnamed one) were propositioned in NJ where the case currently is, because if that did happen GC has a perfect right to file there.
    *
    Add to this the report on Raw Story that Hannity, O’ Lielly and Greta Van Susteren were leaving if Ailes goes. I think that it is not likely they will actually leave (maybe CNN would take them but they are already saturated with RW slant) but if they do, who replaces them (Limpbaugh)? If there is a series of bimbo eruptions Faux will have to do something or it will get very expensive indeed.
    *
    To all of this I say: Hahahahahahahahahahahaha, it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

  4. bloopie2 says:

    (This is a Brexit-neutral comment.) Let’s assume Brexit screws up a lot of things over the next 10 years. Who’s to say that there would not have been anything else to come along and have a similar effect? Anyone here want to predict, with money on the line, what the next 10 years will really be like? Anyone here who accurately predicted, 10 years ago, how these past 10 years turned out? Hmm … silence? The point is that, as always, “If it’s not one thing, its another.” Don’t think Brexit is the be-all and end-all of world events. I’ll bet $0.00 that in 10 years it will have turned out to be but a small blip on the screen.

  5. blueba says:

    Mercedes’ self-driving buses pass 20-kilometer trip test (The Verge) — IMO,

    This story has far reaching and profound implications for society than perhaps even the author is unaware. Driving a commercial vehicle, from pizza delivery to those odd looking container movers or the giant trucks which carry ore from mines is one of the most abundant blue collar jobs. Think for a moment how many commercial vehicles are on the rode at any given time 100 million would be a low guess. Now that driverless trucks are operating moving freight from Mexico to the US and the introduction of driverless public transport you can see the consequences for those hundreds of millions of jobs that will diaper over the next 20 years.

    Society is completely unprepared to offer opportunities to unemployed on that scale, the can’t even handle it now. Further, no government or societal institution is even discussing the consequences.

    Further, although it is very big, we are still talking about one job category – driver. In the North of England now they are fighting to save their auto plants. They seem not to realize that fully automated auto plants are already in operation in Germany and China and those jobs – no matter what they do – will be gone in the next 20 years.

    And, just as an aside, Vw is owned by one family, the Porsche family. After the fraud and racketeering was exposed and VW profits were 20% lower the Porsche family still took home a little over a billion dollars in profits. They have no liability or accountability for the fraud and racketeering operation which lasted at least 10 years and all the profits from their criminal organization are untouchable.

    I fail to agree that there is much doom and glum in the future of the Porsche family.

  6. Frank Wilhoit says:

    The Soviet Union knew how to build military infrastructure without spending any [of what anyone else would recognize as] cash. It is safe to assume that Putin remembers all those tricks.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A lot more to come on Dieselgate. Nice article you cite from the Beast. Recommend it. Regarding its observation that German tech’y is not always as good as its reputation, the observation is decades old. (See, The Machine That Changed the World, first published 1991.) Among its stories is that the vaunted Mercedes build quality once required endless hand refinishing. Not helpful to the MB or the industry’s mythology.

    Another issue is that VW is a major player and trendsetter for the entire industry. Its competitors may want to jump on the bandwagon and throw turnips at VW, especially GM/Opel, which has lost no love for VW since at least the time of the Lopez affair in the mid-1990s. But let’s not forget that while VW management appears to have been criminally corrupt for years, it decided that it could (and did) get away with it for years. Partly, that may have been its expectations of benign government response. Partly, VW may have expected no responses from its peers. In concentrating on VW, let’s not lose sight of possible corruption and misdeeds affecting the entire industry.

  8. bloopie2 says:

    Well, let’s assume it was not a blip. Then let’s all who say “Brexit is horrid” reminisce and remember all the bad things that arose from Britain’s entrance into the EU. I personally don’t know any, I wasn’t paying attention to such back then. But do the knowledgeable folks say that it was all peaches and cream? Really? That’s hard to believe, such a massive event. My point now is, let’s get some perspective. It’s not the end of the world, it’s the flavor of the month (or year). It’s not more important than what’s happening in the Middle East, or climate change, or income inequality, or a half dozen other current events. And especially–especially–people should not blame everything today on Brexit, or tie every bad thing to Brexit (“Oh, ___ is down, that’s Brexit-related”). That’s a weak excuse in many cases. Sure it will have adverse effects, but I’ll bet that it will have good effects also down the road. Will anyone be mentioning those, then? Nah, that’s not newsworthy, or gossip-able. Let’s get a grip. No one’s going to let Great Britain go down the tubes over this.

  9. Rayne says:

    bloopie2 (9:22) — You’re really being a PITA.

    THINK, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. The current PM, appointed by her party solely because of Brexit fallout, eliminated the cabinet level role for Climate Change. The Brexiteers don’t want EU pollution regulations, which have been more stringent than UK regs.

    On this issue alone the Brexiteers are actively seeking the end of the fucking world as we know it.

    And of course there’s the UK support for bombing the fuck out of Syria and Yemen. It was the end of the world for innocent civilians there this week.

    And then why don’t you ask Allan whenever he shows up here to give you his generous two shillings’ worth on the Brexiteers’ position on Trident?

    I’m so done with you in this thread, bloopie. Jeebus.

  10. bevin says:

    Rayne persists in asserting that “Brexiteers” are a right wing faction of the Tory party.
    The facts suggest otherwise: the bulk of votes against the EU came from the old industrial areas of the North and Midlands.
    Which is just what one would expect. Were there ever to be a referendum in the US on NAFTA it would be reasonable to predict that the “rust belt” would vote heavily against it.
    And then the Clintonites would charge the people of the industrial areas decimated by NAFTA with racism, stupidity and an inability to appreciate the wonders of a world in which capital and ‘talent’ can move wherever they want and working stiffs are at the mercy of a labour market in which their skills are worth nothing.

    As it happens the very same communities which voted heavily against the EU have been voting against imperialism, against racism, against pollution (a subject on which they have three centuries of expertise) and for free education, free healthcare and other “progressive” causes ever since they got the vote and long before then.

    It is a libel against the people of England to assert that their decision to separate from an institution-the EU- which refuses to democratise itself, which is increasingly committed to promoting neo-liberal assaults on popular living standards, which has taken upon itself the task of over riding the legislatures of Greece and Ireland, and is currently insisting that France sacrifice its 35 hour work week and long vacations, its health and safety regulations in the workplace, pensions and employee rights.

    • Alan says:

      Many areas in the north and middle of England voted Brexit. Many of these areas are actually low in immigrants and are traditional Labour voting areas. These are the often the areas that at one time supported heavy industries and suffered most under Thatcherism and have since felt abandoned by both the Tories and New Labour. Unlike Scotland, there isn’t a progressive social democratic alternative option on offer to the main UK parties in these regions.
      *
      An interesting question is what happens when Scotland leaves? Scotland has been used to incite English nationalism. Check out the comment pages on the Scottish stories in UK papers, even in more liberal papers like the Guardian, and you’ll find lots of people going on about whinning Scots living on English handouts (if anything the opposite has been the case). English nationalism targeted at Scots and foreigners covers up the massive economic disparities between the south, especially the southeast, and the north and the political failings of decades of Thatcherism and Blairism.
      *
      <a href="https://goo.gl/images/zYaHG3"Notorious (in Scotland) 2015 Tory election poster of former leader of the SNP stealing money out of an Englishman’s back pocket. Fear-mongering trading on nasty ethnic stereotypes of Scots and money.

    • John Casper says:

      bevin, “persists in asserting that ‘Brexiteers’ are a right wing faction of the Tory party.
      The facts suggest otherwise: the bulk of votes against the EU came from the old industrial areas of the North and Midlands.
      Which is just what one would expect. Were there ever to be a referendum in the US on NAFTA it would be reasonable to predict that the ‘rust belt’ would vote heavily against it.
      And then the Clintonites would charge the people of the industrial areas decimated by NAFTA with racism, stupidity and an inability to appreciate the wonders of a world in which capital and ‘talent’ can move wherever they want and working stiffs are at the mercy of a labour market in which their skills are worth nothing.
      As it happens the very same communities which voted heavily against the EU have been voting against imperialism, against racism, against pollution (a subject on which they have three centuries of expertise) and for free education, free healthcare and other “progressive” causes ever since they got the vote and long before then.
      It is a libel against the people of England to assert that their decision to separate from an institution-the EU- which refuses to democratise itself, which is increasingly committed to promoting neo-liberal assaults on popular living standards, which has taken upon itself the task of over riding the legislatures of Greece and Ireland, and is currently insisting that France sacrifice its 35 hour work week and long vacations, its health and safety regulations in the workplace, pensions and employee rights.”

  11. Alan says:

    The interesting thing about the UK is not only is most of the oil (that’s left) in Scottish waters but Scotland is rich in renewables. It has huge resources of tidal, wave, wind and hydro. About 50% electric needs come from renewables at the moment. However, one of the many reasons they are pissed at the UK Government is that the latter cut subsidies and other supports continuing the expansion of the renewable energy sector.

  12. Rayne says:

    bevin (10:52) — This:

    “Brexiteers” are a right wing faction of the Tory party.
    The facts suggest otherwise: the bulk of votes against the EU came from the old industrial areas of the North and Midlands.

    Maybe you missed the bit where I likened Brexiteers to Reagan Democrats. I’ll spoonfeed this analogy to you so it works its way into your brainpan.

    Reagan Democrats = Labour-identified who support Tory-promoted policies.

    Michael Gove and Boris Johnson aren’t Ukip, they’re Tories.

    Farage is a convenient Ukip bigot-scapegoat whose usefulness as a tool is now at an end. He can be blamed for all manner of things.

    And Corbyn as Labour’s leader did very little to take a stand because his personal power came from a default position.

    I know I’ve also pointed out areas which are still hardpressed in southern England — like Lancashire in particular — which voted Brexit. It was not just the north. About the only thing I’ll agree with is the industrial base voted Brexit, and again, it’s like organized labor folks in Michigan who became Reagan Democrats.

    Even a dog learns a trick after four attempts. ~smh~

  13. Matt Platte says:

    First derivative: the sensitivity to change of a quantity which is determined by another quantity. Second derivative measures how the rate of change of a quantity is itself changing. And _then_ you embed a video.

  14. Rayne says:

    earlofhuntingdon (7:29) — Yes, Boris is much slower than the average dog, agreed. He will offer much entertainment in his new role for this reason.

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