Racist of the day

Congressman Robert Pittenger of North Carolina: take it away:

Later in the day, he attempted to apologize.

Jack Lessenberry slams current ban on Tesla sales and service in Michigan

How’s this idea: In an effort to please an old-fashioned, shrinking industry, we outlaw efforts to sell a new product in an innovative way?

Instead, we’ll make anyone who wants this product drive to Chicago or Cleveland to buy it.

That ought to help Michigan become economically competitive again.

What I am talking about is the electric car manufacturer Tesla, which sells sleek, beautiful and expensive vehicles that are gradually catching on.

They want to sell cars in Michigan.

But two years ago, automotive industry lobbyists successfully got the Legislature to pass a bill designed to prevent Tesla from doing so. That’s because Tesla sells its vehicles to consumers directly, eliminating franchised dealerships that add another layer of cost.

Governor Rick Snyder, who ran for office pledging to make Michigan more open to innovative ways of doing business, then betrayed his own principles by signing the bill.

Not much of this was made at the time. But now, the California- based company is fighting back.

Yesterday, Tesla filed a lawsuit against the state, naming Governor Snyder, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Attorney General Rick Schuette as defendants.

And how this plays out could be highly significant for the retail automotive industry.

Opponents of Tesla have sometimes billed this as a consumer protection issue. If the automaker was selling cars without any servicing or warranty contracts, that might have merit.

But that’s not the case at all.

Tesla actually asked the state for permission to open a dealership in Grand Rapids, complete with service facilities, but the Secretary of State’s office turned Tesla down. That’s because the dealership wouldn’t have a specific conventional contract with an auto manufacturer.

Do you think the average consumer cares, as long as he or she can get their cars serviced? Of course they don’t. Nor are they necessarily thrilled at having an extra layer of cost added by forcing them to dicker with a salesman in a dealership.

But the established automakers don’t want their way of life threatened. And they are especially worried now that Tesla is about to come out with a car priced at around $30,000, far less than before.

According to the Detroit Free Press, 400,000 people have sent in deposits to reserve one of these cars.

More here.

Political ad of the day

Jason Kander is the Missouri Senate Democratic candidate. And this is a great ad.

Gail Collins has this take:

The hottest political ad of the season — I am not counting anything involving Triumph the Insult Comic Dog — is probably for the Missouri Senate, in which the Democratic candidate talks about … gun background checks.

Well, obviously we all miss the one about hog neutering.

But this is pretty darned good. Jason Kander, who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan, assembles an assault rifle blindfolded while saying that he believes “in background checks so the terrorists can’t get their hands on one of these.”

His opponent, Senator Roy Blunt, had been lambasting Kander for his failure to toe the straight National Rifle Association line. “I approve this message,” Kander concludes, swiftly finishing his eyes-closed assemblage, “because I’d like to see Senator Blunt do this.”

Not going to happen. But Blunt did release a collection of videos ofother blindfolded rifle assemblers. (“Some do it … really, really fast.”) And then the announcer reminds Missouri that Kander got an “F” from the National Rifle Association.

Tesla lawsuit against Michigan triggers comments

Daniel Howes, writing in the Detroit News:

The surprise isn’t that Tesla Motors Inc. is suing Gov. Rick Snyder and the state for the right to sell its cars directly to consumers.

It’s that it took this long for the electric-car maker to use the courts to show the hypocrisy of Michigan’s theoretically enlightened take on the transforming auto industry. Enlightenment has its limits.

Here’s the epicenter of the U.S. auto industry, the repository of enormous engineering talent and manufacturing prowess, falling all over itself to lead the autonomous-vehicle bandwagon, to master mobility, to beat Silicon Valley at its own game.

And there’s the same state power structure standing astride decades-old dealer franchise laws to block the upstart Elon Musk from selling his pricey rides directly to buyers, bypassing those pesky middlemen who are so 20th century. No wonder dealers and their allies in (some) legislatures across the country are twitchy.

* * *

Look, Michigan wants to have it both ways. It wants to be the vanguard of a new, quick, technology-leading auto industry capable of attracting top talent and claiming leadership as a mobility hub. And it wants to use the power of state law to protect a politically connected system that is deeply rooted in communities here and nationwide.

But can it be both? This isn’t as clear-cut as either side would have us believe — not, that is, if you accept the proposition that the industry will change more in the next five years as it’s changed in the past 50.

Should the retail end of it all be immune to similar, tech-fueled change because, well, that’s the way it’s always been? The short answer is no. A compromise that embraces competition is preferable to wielding political clout to stop it. Plus, the optics stink.

* * *

More than words, his actions suggest he wants no less than to fundamentally alter a century-old industry that put the world on wheels, won World War II and helped shape the American middle class. And he wants to win.

If tweaking industry convention by selling directly to customers is one way to do it, Musk’s Tesla evidently is happy to oblige. Now it’s Michigan’s turn.

Daniel Crane, via Automotive News:

Daniel Crane, a University of Michigan law professor who has closely followed the Tesla case in the state, said the company’s constitutional challenge was a last resort.

“After the disastrous and corrupt debacle in the Legislature in 2014, Tesla tried its hardest to reach a compromise in the Legislature or before administrative agencies,” he wrote in an email to Automotive Newstoday. “Once they reached a roadblock with the denial of their request for a dealer license and in opposition to reform in the Legislature, the only remaining route was a constitutional challenge.

“The constitutional case is challenging, but has some strong support in federal case law,” he wrote. “The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Michigan, has ruled that economic legislation that serves merely to protect special interests against competition is unconstitutional. A variety of neutral parties, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of over 70 economists and law professors have already described direct distribution restrictions like Michigan’s in exactly those terms.”

“I look forward to seeing how the State of Michigan will try to defend this ban in court.  It has no good arguments.”

The full text of Tesla’s lawsuit against Michigan can be read here.

 

About damned time

It’s official. Tesla Motors has filed a lawsuit against the State of Michigan, which bans all sales and service centers within the State. Tesla (correctly) claims that current law gives local auto dealers a state-sponsored monopoly on car sales in Michigan, undermining competition.

Via Fortune:

Tesla is suing the state of Michigan in federal court in hopes of reversing a law that prevents the automaker from selling its electric cars there.

The Palo Alto-based automaker filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court Western District of Michigan Southern Division. The lawsuit comes just a week after Michigan officials rejected Tesla’s request for a“Class A” license, which would have allowed the automaker to open a company-owned dealership in the state. Tesla applied for the license to test the limits of a state law that prevents it from selling vehicles there directly to consumers, the company said back in February.

Tesla has a different business model than other automakers. It sells its own cars directly online and through its own branded stores, not through franchised dealerships. All U.S. states have laws that prevent automakers with existing franchisees from opening their own dealerships to compete with them. However, dealer associations in a number of U.S. states, including have tried to expand the law to include manufacturers like Tesla that don’t have franchise dealers. Tesla has not been able to get a license to sell directly to consumers in Michigan, Texas, Connecticut, and Utah.

In October 2014, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill initiated and backed by the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association that effectively banned Tesla from selling directly to consumers in the state.

Tesla says the law was passed to give local auto dealers a state-sponsored monopoly on car sales in Michigan. “As a result of this law, Michigan consumers are forced to accept reduced access to the products they want, less competition and higher prices,” Tesla said in an emailed statement.

Tesla insists that it prefers to solve the problem legislatively, but says the response from the state legislature has forced the company to take legal action.

Again, from Tesla:

Unfortunately, the local auto dealers and local manufacturers have made clear that they oppose any law that would allow Tesla to operate in Michigan. Given their position, the leadership of the Michigan legislature recently informed Tesla that it will not even hold a hearing to debate the issue. As one leading legislator told Tesla: The local auto dealers do not want you here. The local manufacturers do not want you here. So you’re not going to be here.

In the lawsuit, Tesla accuses General Motors of using its considerable influence in the state to help push the so-called Anti-Tesla bill through the legislature.

Demand that Trump release his taxes

Via The New York Times:

All major party nominees for president going back nearly 40 years have released their tax returns except Donald Trump. That leads to a simple question: What is he hiding?

Mr. Trump’s principal argument for why he should lead the country is that he is a successful businessman and billionaire. According to him, he alone has the negotiating chops necessary to boost the economy and bring foreign adversaries to their knees. Yet, he refuses to tell voters how he comes by his money, how much he actually has and what he does with it.

It is odd that Mr. Trump, who demanded proof on paper that President Obama was born in the United States, would expect voters to take on faith his own claims about his commercial successes, his dealings with business partners, what he gives to charity and other financial matters that could conflict with his duties if elected president. His tax returns are the only documents that can conclusively corroborate or disprove his claims and allay concerns about conflicts of interest.

Mr. Trump has offered nothing but fallacious excuses for keeping his returns secret. Initially, he said he would not release returns until the Internal Revenue Service completed an ongoing audit; the agency said there’s no rule stopping disclosure during an audit. Recently, one of his sons said the returns are so long and complex that people would ask too many questions if they were allowed to see them. None of these claims make sense.

Much more here.

Kathleen Parker denies cabal at the Washington Post

Kathleen Parker is a conservative leaning columnist for the Washington Post yet her column today shows that she is clearly not a Trump fan.

Excerpt:

As the first presidential debate approaches, fists clench, jaws tighten and invectives giggle in anticipation.

Game on!

To half the country, it’s a sure win for Hillary Clinton, who will expose Donald Trump’s shallow store of knowledge, his intemperate habit of insult and insouciance, his division of diversity into us and them. To the other half, Trump will destroy his foe with a glance of his lance, ripping away the shroud of secrecy in which Her Majesty conceals the codes to the missing emails.

A-ha!

At this point, Trump readers are already enraged and selecting their favorite epithets for the email they feel “compelled” to write. “You’ve got it in for Trump,” they’ll say. “You give lyin’ Hillary a pass,” they’ll accuse. “Why do papers run you as a conservative when you’re an obvious libtard?” they’ll ask. And best: “I used to enjoy reading you. What did you do with Kathleen Parker?”

It isn’t only readers who feel this way. Recently, a television producer wanted me to respond to the anchor’s observation — it seems that The Post is against Donald Trump.

Yes, it do.

But not for the reasons many people seem to think. The idea that everyone on the opinion staff at The Post is anti-Trump is probably close to correct. It is certainly not the case that editors and columnists are convening at the Keurig machine to plot Trump’s ruin. More likely, such plans are hatched individually whilst staring out a window and pondering with some precision exactly how much time can be wasted before deadline.

There’s no cabal, in other words. No media conspiracy. No dictate from on high. There’s an editorial board that does meet and decide what the newspaper’s position will be on a given subject. And, yes, The Post’s editorial page has decided against Trump. But this position isn’t binding on anyone. No one in the history of my almost 30 years of column-writing has ever told me what to say.

Much more in her essay today.

Wells Fargo CEO testifies before Congressional Committee

Yesterday Wells Fargo‘s CEO, John G. Stumpf testified before a Congressional Committee regarding the stunning bogus bank and credit card accounts that cost customers millions. It did not go well.

Via The New York Times:

The more the chief executive of Wells Fargo tried to explain, the more skeptical the senators became.

For more than two hours testifying before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, John G. Stumpf expressed regret that Wells Fargo had created as many as two million bogus bank and credit card accounts without its customers’ consent. He apologized for failing to stop the illicit behavior sooner, and vowed to make amends.

Some of the senators on the committee scoffed. Mr. Stumpf, they said, was offering little more than platitudes while allowing his top executives to avoid any real consequences — like being fired or having their enormous pay packages clawed back.

Instead, the bank’s lowest-paid workers have borne the brunt of the punishment, the senators noted. Senior management, they said, seemed to ignore this practice because it helped turn the bank into a profit machine.

Addressing Mr. Stumpf directly, Senator Elizabeth Warren took the unusual step of telling the bank chief executive that he should resign.

“Have you returned one nickel of the money that you earned while this scandal was going on?” asked Ms. Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. “Have you fired any senior management, the people who actually oversaw this fraud?”

“No,” Mr. Stumpf answered.

Ms. Warren added: “Your definition of accountability is to push this on your low-level employees. This is gutless leadership.”

* * *

The Banking Committee, one member noted on Tuesday, showed a rare display of bipartisanship in denouncing Wells Fargo.

Mr. Stumpf’s testimony is more likely to fuel public outrage than to contain it.

* * *

“Explain to the public: What does accountability look like when an executive departs with millions of dollars?” asked Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama and the committee’s chairman.

Much more in the full article.

Fact check of the day

Via The Washington Post Fact Checker:

The Facts

After Donald Trump raised the bogus birther issue in 2011, while testing the waters for a presidential run, President Obama released his long-form birth certificate on April 27, 2011. Yet Trump refused to take that as an acceptable response. Here are some of his tweets:

2012:

2013:

2014:

Slate magazine counted nearly 40 Trump tweets since 2011 that raise questions about Obama’s birth.

Even after Trump starting running for president last year, he continued to question the president’s background in television interviews.

Not until Friday — Sept. 16, 2016 — did Trump firmly say he believed Obama was born in the United States. But he did not apologize — and he again falsely accused Clinton of starting the controversy.

The Pinocchio Test

This is such bogus spin that we have to wonder how Christie manages to say it with a straight face. Regular readers know we shy away from using the word “lie,” but clearly Christie is either lying or he is so misinformed that he has no business appearing on television.

Kudos to Tapper for refusing to let Christie get away with it.

By the way, the Post Fact Checker gave the exchange Four Pinocchios.

Trump is an object lesson in the problems of machine learning

img-thing

“Trump’s algorithm is to say semi-random things until his crowd roars its approval, then he iteratively modifies those statements, seeking more and more approval, until he maxes out and tries a new tack.” – It’s a fascinating prism through which to view Trump’s speeches.