Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Appointed counsel withdrawing; new counsel requested

A switchyard.

Shashi Kewalramani has done good work as my CJA defense counsel, and I am sorry not to be able to work with him any more, but he is changing jobs to a new law firm where he cannot continue representing me.

So he has asked the court to appoint a new defense counsel.

Court filing -- request to withdraw and for appointment of new counsel

Peter, Paul & Mary - Freight Train

"Auto safety" is an oxymoron

Deadly car parts factory in Foshan, one of many such unsafe plants in China.

- the auto industry kills its workers as well as its customers -

Financial Times - car parts factory explosion kills 17 on Dec. 31, 2014

At least 17 workers were killed by explosions in an automotive components factory in southern China on New Year’s eve — the latest in a series of deadly industrial accidents in the world’s workshop.
State media reported that another 20 people were injured after three blasts ripped apart a machinery factory in Foshan, a manufacturing hub in Guangdong province, at 9.30am.
Executives at Fuwa Engineering, which makes truck components, could not be reached immediately for comment.
Car parts factory explosion kills 69 in August, 2014
[the death toll later increased to 75, then 146]
China’s president Xi Jinping has demanded an investigation into a factory explosion that killed at least 69 people and injured up to 187 in the country’s worst industrial accident in more than a year.
The blast ripped through a car parts factory in eastern China on Saturday, apparently when a flame was lit in a dust filled room in the plant, located in an industrial zone in the city of Kunshan, about 1,000km south of Beijing...
State television news showed footage of plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the plant, and news websites posted pictures of the dead or injured, many with horrific burns.
Many of the injured were shown lying on wooden pallets, waiting to be stretchered on to trucks, public buses and ambulances.

Questions: Does Toyota do on-site audits of its supplier plants for worker safety? Does it require its Tier 1 suppliers to do the same for lower tiers, all the way down the supply chain, so all workers are protected? What money value is placed on the lives of these dead workers? Do automakers compensate their families? 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Toyota Camry--scientific evidence of tin whiskers in accelerator pedal position sensor

Down the road from NASA is CALCE at the University of Maryland, where there are world-class, extensive, advanced electronics reliability laboratories funded by a huge consortium of the world's giant electronics companies. Testing goes on there day and night. Toyota is notably not a member of the consortium.

Here is a paper explaining the findings of tin whiskers by several of CALCE's top people.

CALCE paper on tin whiskers findings in Toyota Camry

Summary of findings (from abstract): The use of a tin finish in the APPS is a cause for concern. Tin finishes are known to produce metal whiskers that are conductive and capable of creating unintended current leakage paths. In the analysis, a significant number of tin whiskers were found.

That's putting it politely.

Anyway, this means, and I am repeating--but perhaps the DOJ remains unable to understand--that this is a dangerous safety defect that was known to Toyota and not admitted to by Toyota. You cannot design a safety-critical system with such unpredicable components and still sell the product and claim it is safe. And Dr. David Gilbert and others have proved that short circuits are not always detected by Toyota's failsafe, so that is no defense.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sean Kane and Quality Control Systems close examination of NHTSA's Toyota investigation revealed some dirty fingerprints back in 2011--and then what?

Evidence, magnified.

Among many others, I have often wondered why the DOJ did not take up the SUA-related electronics defects as one aspect of Toyota's fraud on the government and the public. I asked two people why. One, a Congressional staffer, answered that the DOJ must have evidence of a defect from a "neutral tribunal." ie NHTSA. LOL!!! Neutral?? Well, there is no one else more "neutral" in the US. The other was a famous reporter. He said basically the same thing. He said that unless the government recognizes the defect, the DOJ cannot go after Toyota for covering it up. 1000 Michael Barrs cannot make up for the lack of an official government finding of a defect.

That large loophole--a kind of wormhole through which Toyota could escape from earthly physical reality--must have been evident to the company's inside and defense counsel from the start, and then that must have driven them to take the steps they did with Exponent and NHTSA--basically to use Exponent to play with statistics to obscure the physical fact of a short circuit in the pedal that caused uncontrollable vehicle speed, just exactly as Dr. David Gilbert had also shown. And with statistical game, the 'neutral' tribunal was officially blinded to the reality of a defect.

Dr. Leidecker once said something wise: "Just because a 'neutral' tribunal, ie a court, does not recognize an event, does not mean that it did not happen."

Here's the story of Kane and Whitfield applying a magnifying glass to NHTSA's report.

"SRS’s report noted that the most remarkable discovery of the NHTSA-NASA Toyota Unintended Acceleration investigation was the presence of tin whiskers on every potentiometer-type accelerator pedal they examined. Tin whiskers are crystalline structures, many times thinner than a human hair, which form on the tin solder used on printed circuit boards. They are mighty inconvenient for electronics manufacturers, having been known to produce all kinds of varied and unpredictable electronic malfunction such as shutting down nuclear reactors, satellites and medical devices – to name a few examples.
They proved to be mighty inconvenient to NHTSA-NESC team, too. Not only did they discover the presence of tin whiskers on every potentiometer pedal examined, the researchers actually found them on a pedal tied to a vehicle that had experienced multiple instances of UA. With one promising root cause right there on the lab bench, most scientists who practice their vocation with rigor might have expanded their sample beyond several pedals to determine incidence in the field. They might have looked for tin whiskers in the throttle bodies or ECMs – other components of the engine system that could lead to a throttle malfunction. Instead, NHTSA turned to Exponent, the science-for-hire firm Toyota’s legal team retained to defend the company in class action lawsuits.
Neither agency disclosed this conflict-of-interest. NHTSA claimed that it performed the warranty analysis.
The Whitfields, unpacked the data supporting the alleged Trouble-Not-Found conclusions and they were particularly struck by this:
“It is also extraordinary that the NASA-NESC team, as safety experts, would look upon secret, warranty data reported by a manufacturer’s litigation experts as evidence of the lack of corroboration of an electronics cause of unintended acceleration. This is especially true because the compromised, safety-critical, electronic circuitry was discovered in an accelerator pedal sensor assembly examined in a NASA laboratory... Only NASA’s and NHTSA’s analysis of the complaint data in relation to the secret, warranty data is cited to support the lack of relevance of these findings to public health and safety... It is difficult to imagine NASA itself accepting assurances from a manufacturer of its own spacecraft that similar problems in important safety systems should be regarded as inconsequential. Yet it is the NASA-NESC report on which NHTSA relied to close its investigation,” the Whitfields wrote in their report."

Question: Where is it written in stone that NHTSA cannot examine the Toyota SUA statistics from 2011-2014? 

Toyota's alleged spoliation of tin whisker evidence in Alberto case

A tin whisker is unlikely to withstand a direct hit by a falling iPad.

Alberto case story: Genesee_county_judge_orders_Toyota to turn over tin whiskers docs.html

"The role tin whiskers may have played in Toyota's unintended acceleration complaints have been a hot button issue nationally. Some have argued that the small formations that can grow on electroplated tin may have occurred in a sensor in the vehicle's acceleration system and caused a short circuit that led to the acceleration.
Attorneys for Alberto's estate said there was such a formation in an acceleration sensor in Alberto's 2005 Toyota Camry. The sensor was destroyed when it was being evaluated by a potential witness for Toyota. Toyota's attorneys claim the sensor was accidentally destroyed when an iPad was dropped on it during the evaluation.
Alberto's car careened down West Copeman Boulevard in Flint April 19, 2008, at 80 mph, weaving in and out of traffic before hitting a tree, sending her car airborne. The car eventually smashed into another tree, hitting it 8 feet off the ground, killing her instantly."

The tin whisker story is not new. Let me repeat it, though. In 2010-11, during the NASA study, Dr. Henning Leidecker found tin whiskers in a pedal of an "undrivable" Toyota, among others. Much later, in around 2012, he found whisker-like electrically conductive dust inside the sensor of a pedal that had been removed from a Florida car that had experienced unintended acceleration.

One interesting aspect that the public may have forgotten is that Dr. Leidecker's findings and Dr. David Gilbert's findings, each obtained independently and with obviously different methods, are in very close correlation with one another. I hope that the public will soon notice that they are right.

Question: When will Toyota admit the truth about tin whiskers in its potentiometer pedal sensors?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tin whiskers and Senator Grassley's letter to NHTSA--a retrospective look

Yes, worse than NHTSA thought!

LA Times on Senator Grassley's 2012 letter to NHTSA

Senator Grassley's letter to NHTSA

WASHINGTON — A U.S. senator has raised concerns about a government investigation of sudden unintended acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles, saying the probe might have erroneously ruled out the company's electronic throttle control system as a cause.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said whistle-blowers recently have provided his office with information suggesting that the investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with the help of NASA engineers, "may have been too narrow."
In a letter sent Thursday to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, Grassley asked for detailed information about the investigation and whether vehicles were tested for the presence of an electronic phenomenon known as "tin whiskers" that could have been the cause of unintended acceleration.
"This is a serious issue," Grassley wrote. He noted that NASA engineers said just because they did not find proof that Toyota Motor Corp.'s electronic throttle control system caused the reports of unintended acceleration "does not mean it could not occur."

Since then, Dr. Henning Leidecker, the top tin whiskers expert at NASA, has explained on camera in an interview with Israel's Channel 2 Ulpan Shishi primetime news magazine that vehicle misbehavior is definitely associated with tin whiskers in some cases. Toyota knew Dr. Leidecker's findings at the time Senator Grassley sent his letter.

Toyota's denial (quoted in the LA Times article) is pretty typical.
"There is no problem with the electronic throttle control systems in Toyota vehicles — and all the scientific evidence confirms it," the company said in a statement.
I wonder if in retrospect one could understand this statement as wire fraud. Obviously, I'm not a prosecutor, but I later learned that Toyota subsequently ceased making the claim that tin whiskers are not assocated with sudden acceleration. Halloooo SD NY, you have any prosecutors over there who can say if it was wire fraud?

Cryptic commentary on my legal situation

Deep river M i s s i s s i p p i

Well, is the actual FBI tracking this "free speech" blog yet?
Please listen to this song and lighten up, boys and girls! Happy holidays to all.

Doc Watson - Deep River Blues

Let it rain, let it pour, 
Let it rain a whole lot more, 
'Cause I got them deep river blues. 
Let the rain drive right on, 
Let the waves sweep along, 
'Cause I got them deep river blues. 

My old gal's a good old pal, 
And she looks like a water fowl, 
When I get them deep river blues.
Ain't no one to cry for me, 
And the fish all go out on a spree 
When I get them deep river blues. 

Give me back my old boat, 
I'm gonna sail if she'll float, 
'Cause I got them deep river blues, 
I'm goin' back to Muscle Shoals, 
Times are better there I'm told, 
Cause I got them deep river blues. 

Let it rain, let it pour, 
Let it rain a whole lot more, 
'Cause I got them deep river blues, 
Let the rain drive right on, 
Let the waves sweep along, 
'Cause I got them deep river blues. 

If my boat sinks with me. 
I'll go down, don't you see, 
'Cause I got them deep river blues, 
Now I'm gonna say goodbye, 
And if I sink, just let me die, 
'Cause I got them deep river blues. 

Let it rain, let it pour, 
Let it rain a whole lot more, 
'Cause I got them deep river blues, 
Let the rain drive right on, 
Let the waves sweep along, 
'Cause I got them deep river blues

more good stuff from Doc Watson - Black Mountain Rag (skip to 1:07 for music)

Liu Tienan, Chinese former planning official, sentenced to life imprisonment for taking bribes from Toyota's JV partner and others

Liu Tienan

I posted about this man's trial and now follow up with news of his sentence, and some more details on the deal with Toyota's JV partner in China.


The former deputy head of China’s top planning agency was jailed for life Wednesday over a bribery scandal that exposed graft at the highest levels of China’s government, and ensnared several companies — including Toyota Motor Corp....According to court documents, Liu used his son as a conduit to funnel the money to himself from four Chinese companies, including Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., which has a joint-venture with Toyota.
The documents describe Liu using his power over economic affairs in exchange for a raft of quid pro quos, including a 30 percent share in a Beijing auto dealership that was given to his son and later sold for profit.

Here's another glimpse. Financial Times story on Liu 's dealings with Toyota's JV partner in China.

Mr Liu’s trial provided a glimpse into how officials often use family members to funnel corrupt payments — and can sometimes expose unwitting [?] multinationals to reputational risks in the process. 
As a senior planning official, Mr Liu was in a position to approve or reject investments by Toyota’s highly successful joint venture with state-owned Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC Group) in southern Guangdong province.
According to court documents, in 2005 a former GAC Group general manager suggested that Mr Liu’s son [Liu Decheng] open a Beijing dealership for the joint venture.
When Mr Liu said that his son had neither the capital nor experience to do so, the Chinese executive arranged for him to take a 30 per cent stake in a new dealership that was established with Rmb12m in registered capital. According to the court, the arrangement was approved by GAC Group’s current chairman, Zhang Fangyou.
At the time, China was on the cusp of the largest automotive boom in industrial history and competition for lucrative dealerships was intense. Mr Liu’s son never worked at the dealership and did not collect any salary from it, but in 2007 was able to sell his stake for Rmb10m [$1.6 million]. 
Mr Zhang, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday. The former GAC Group general manager was appointed head of another state-owned enterprise in 2008 and retired last year. Prosecutors did not present any evidence that Toyota was aware of the arrangement. The Japanese company declined to comment.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Automakers play with by-country recalls

A different kind of safety regulator in every country.

AP story on safety discrepancies by country
"We are starting with a world that is uneven in the distribution of safety," says Adrian Lund, the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an insurance-funded group that crash tests U.S. cars....Despite decades of talk, at the United Nations and elsewhere, little progress has been made getting governments to harmonize safety standards.
In Europe and Japan, cars are rigorously tested before they go on sale. In the U.S., automakers self-certify and cars are tested only after they go on sale. In Mexico and India, cars don't have to meet any government safety standards at all.
Likewise, countries differ on how to treat a problem. The U.S. requires automakers to report a safety defect within five days of its discovery, even if the cause hasn't been determined. Other countries, like Colombia, want automakers to have a fix in place before they report a recall.
John Krafcik, the president of auto buying site and Hyundai's former U.S. chief, says there's also discrepancy in what's considered a safety defect.
The lack of a cohesive system contributes to huge disparities. In 2013, there were 714 vehicle recalls issued in the U.S., where 28 million cars, trucks and motorcycles were called back due to safety issues. That outpaced the rest of the world. In Europe, which has around the same number of cars on the road as the U.S., there were 110 recalls. In Japan there were 303. China had 130.

Questions: How do automakers exploit the imperfect communication among safety regulators in various countries to minimize the spread of recalls as if they were contagious?

And if they really care about the safety of their customers and the public, why don't they voluntarily recall unsafe vehicles even in countries without adequate safety regulation?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Lexus IS250 takes off and crashes after car wash; dashcam video goes viral

Lexus IS250 comes to a stop across the street.

Lexus IS250 takeoff dashcam video
This video mesmerizes as the Lexus undergoes a slow, soapy automated car wash.
Skip to 2:40 for the acceleration and crash

car wash song - Rose Royce Greatest Hits

Ooh, ooh, you might not ever get rich
But let me tell ya, it's better than diggin' a ditch
There ain't no tellin' who you might meet
A movie star or maybe even a Indian Chief

- or maybe a Lexus IS250, and then you can get fired if the software misfires.

Or maybe you will be humilitated by a lazy reporter as "dopey."

People, including reporters and police, tend to jump to conclusions that the driver stepped on the gas pedal. He may have.

But there are quite a few incidents of sudden acceleration reported by car washes.

I hope the insurance company will check the driver's shoe or boot and check for traces of it on both the gas or brake pedals. The driver should put that shoe or boot in a plastic bag and keep it there. And did anyone see brake lights?

Here's another similar incident:
May 29, 2013 - Greensburg, PA - Vehicle Speed Control

Question: When will reporters begin to check sudden acceleration complaint statistics by model before they write their stories? And is NHTSA still listening, or has it fallen asleep forever about Toyota SUA?

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
(Car wash)
Never seem to stop comin'
What'd I say?
Keep those rags and machines hummin'

Read more: Rose Royce - Car Wash Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Howard Zinn essay remembering holy outlaw Berrigan

Today I surfed around looking for stories that testify to the close relationship between corporate abuses of power and widespread poverty.

I found this story, which does not explain why they are related, but describes one person's heroic response to various kinds of unjust wars and general injustices.


Phil Berrigan was a hero in a time when we cannot find heroes among the politicians in Washington, much less the timorous press.
The real heroes are not on national television or in the headlines. They are the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the social workers, the janitors, the hospital orderlies, the construction workers, the people who keep the society going, who help people in need. They are the advocates for the homeless, the students asking a living wage for the campus janitors, the environmental activists trying to protect the trees, the air, the water. And they are the protesters against war, the apostles of peace in a world going mad with violence....
Altogether, Phil Berrigan served more than ten years in various prisons for his passionate insistence that war was a cruel response to the problems people faced in this country and around the globe. 

Question: How does Toyota's refusal to admit to the reality of its sudden acceleration defects ultimately lead to disempowerment and poverty? O most profatable Toyota, you know the answer.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Government Accountability Project reports on the criminalization of whistleblowing

Laws based on ignorance and fear tend to cripple democracy.

The US seems to be awash in successive waves of criminalization-- of poverty, homelessness, HIV, "wrong" skin color, mental illness, immigration, dissent, and so forth and so on, resulting in the largest per capita prison inmate population in the world.

Corporate executives are exempt.

Law enforcement seems to have broad latitude in their decsions to investigate and prosecute. Starting a few years ago, it was also widely reported that government employee whistleblowers and their media partners were subject to an unprecedented wave of prosecutions.

The Government Accountability Project's staff spoke out against this wave, and has identified and described the trend and the individuals who have been subject to this treatment.

Digital Commons- GAP's Radack writes about public servant whistleblower criminalization

Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the NSA, had concerns about massive waste, mismanagement, illegality, and a willingness to compromise the privacy of U.S. citizens.44 He reported his concerns to as many people within the IC as possible, including his immediate supervisors, the NSA’s inspector general, the DOD IG, and Congressional intelligence committees.45 When all these routes produced no results, he went to a Baltimore Sun reporter with information that was not even classified.46

In a shorter blog post, GAP staffer Shanna Devine describes why this is happening, her focus being criminalization of truth-telling government employees.

Over the past few years there has been a surge in whistleblower protections against workplace retaliation, affecting federal and corporate workers alike. Finding it more difficult to justify firing truth-tellers in the face of these buttressed rights, retaliatory managers are increasingly using a new method of retribution – referring whistleblowers for criminal investigations and prosecutions when they engage in protected whistleblowing. The end result is while whistleblowers are now safer from firing for exposing wrongdoing, they are increasingly the targets of criminal investigations, referrals to the Department of Justice, and even prosecutions. Adding insult to injury, the culpable bosses circumventing the nature of the law are never held accountable.
Why is this happening?There are many reasons why agencies find criminal referrals more attractive than retaliatory job actions (demotion, suspension, etc). Just some include:
  • Criminal investigations are cheaper and easier than retaliatory job actions. It takes an army of attorneys and witnesses – plus depositions, briefs and hearings – to fire an employee. All it takes for a criminal witch-hunt is a sole investigator willing to act as a bully.
  • Criminal investigations are risk free to the agencies, whereas retaliatory job actions may be found to violate federal protected personnel practices (PPPs). If a bogus, unfounded criminal investigation turns up nothing – or refers a whistleblower who is ultimately vindicated – there is no consequence for managers who have committed reprisal. The investigation simply closes. Managers taking actions against truth-telling employees through retaliatory job actions can be found to have violated PPPs, at which point the manager would have to defend their actions during an administrative hearing.
  • Criminal investigations can essentially be perpetual, serving as a never-ending nightmare for whistleblowers. When one investigation uncovers no wrongdoing and is closed (typically only after being open for an elongated period), another retaliatory investigation can be opened the next day for a stated discrete reason, when in actuality each action is in response to whistleblowing. An employee operating under a continual cloud of investigation can find it impossible to change positions if they wish to leave the agency.
  • Criminal investigations and prosecutions are far more effective at isolating the first whistleblower on a given issue – terrorizing coworkers into silence – compared to retaliatory job actions.
Because of these reasons, the face of whistleblower retaliation is evolving from firings to criminal investigations and prosecutions. It's unjustifiable, and it shouldn't be allowed.
- See more at:

Sean Kane's Safety Institute publishes Safety Watch List data, with statistical support from Quality Control Systems

warp speed.

To those of you familiar with the long and sorry saga of government blindness to the ongoing issue of Toyota SUA, this may be old news, but I am posting it anyway for the benefit of the many international visitors to this blog, who may be investigating in depth for the first time, thanks to the occasional but ongoing steady drip of incriminating evidence from real-world events that I have been fortunate to be able to post on this blog.

Here is a list of complaints on Toyota Camry 2005 model year speed control issues.

This is only one example of the many lists of complaints provided to back up the Saftey Institute's Vehicle Safety Watch List rankings of safety-imparied vehicles.

The Watch List can be found here.

Hats off as ever to Randy Whitfield of Quality Control Systems for using his expertise in statistics to find introvertible truths.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Contempt ruling issued by Central District of California federal court in response to Toyota's application for OSC

A gate.

Contempt ruling - "Minute order"

1. The ruling finds me in contempt for only 88 docs, a tiny fraction of the total number of docs that Toyota incorrectly claimed were subject to the court's protective orders.
2. The ruling makes no mention of the Barr Powerpoint, so it remains in disputed status.
3. The ruling vacates part of its previous overbroad order that resulted from Toyota's efforts against Barr and me last spring, and the incomplete and misleading information that it gave to the court at that time.
4. The ruling includes orders for remedies, most basically, to provide information about and then to destroy these 88 docs.

What is next? We will see.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sienna empty, idling, gear in park, takes off, crash! Call it the "dog chow incident."

"Got the dog food, put the dog food in the tailgate..."


Question: Toyota, how can you manage to blame the driver for this incident?

Takata's recall defenses

How Takata wiggles out of answering questions about the actual defect.

7 Days in Dubai report: Toyota says it is "impossible" for cruise control to get stuck

So which one is it, this time?

7 days in Dubai: Toyota-says-cruise-control-not-blame-runaway-cars-uae/

"Car giant Toyota says it is “impossible” for a car’s cruise control to get stuck at high speed, despite a number of drivers in the UAE claiming a malfunction left them hurtling along the road.
7DAYS has reported on at least three incidents where the drivers said they could not turn off the cruise control and the car’s brakes would not work, although the firm said that about a dozen such cases have been reported, mostly in the Northern Emirates.
In the majority of them, the cars were either made by Toyota or its sister company Lexus.
Shuichi Hirata, general manager for the Middle East and Africa of Toyota’s overseas service division, said: “In the Middle East, we read many articles and information from the police about this, however there have been no cases in any other regions. Therefore, Toyota, the distributors and the police checked the vehicles.”
He added: “First of all we examined them physically to see if any problem had happened in the brake system or cruise control system.”
Hirata said they looked closely at the brake pads and discs in particular.
“If the brake is depressed firmly a mark will remain,” he said. “As a result, the driver’s behav­iour can be imagined.”
The engineers also checked the onboard comp­uter.
“The ICU records driving cond­itions, such as the acceleration or braking. We call it the event data recorder,” Hirata said. “We can read all the information and confirm if there is a problem.” 

Questions for Mr. Hirata: 

1. No cases in any other regions, huh. What about the U.S.? What about the Louden testing that showed cruise control could cause UA? What about the poor auto safety data collection systems in other countries?

2. You examined the brakes physically? You are looking very hard for evidence that the drivers are lying, right?

3. It seems you or the reporter are mixing up the ECU and the EDR. Barr found that the ECU is designed not to record software errors. The EDR records data for 5 seconds only when there is a crash that deploys the airbags. What could you be talking about? If the reporter mixed them up, could you not correct him?

4. What about the problem of a wide open throttle eliminating the brake assist vacuum and preventing a terrified driver from braking with sufficient force to cause a mark on the brake pads?

...lots of questions, Mr. Hirata.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rep. Billy Long, R-MO, likens Takata airbags to a shotgun aimed at you from behind the steering wheel

A shotgun shot.
Generally, gunpowder is a mixture of sulfer, charcoal, and potassium nitrate.

This is the status of the US auto safety regulation and regulatory oversight. It is better than nothing (maybe) but many have called it political theater that does not accomplish anything lasting for consumers. Everyone expects witnesses to lie under oath.
One hour into the [Takata Dec 3] hearing, Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., leaned toward his microphone, stared at the witness from Takata and asked: "How many more people will die before you issue a national recall?"
Moments later, Long threw a second rhetorical haymaker, offhandedly remarking that owning a vehicle with Takata airbags "is tantamount to driving down the highway with a shotgun aimed at you from behind the steering wheel."

David Sedgewick writes in Automotive News about Takata's lack of DC friends

This article notes that a Republican (who would be expected to treat corporate interests softly) has taken aim, and it strongly implies that in other auto safety scandals, the Republican members of Congress attempted to defend the automakers, including Toyota.

They had "despicable political reasons" for doing so, according to a recent NHTSA docket filing by intrepid aircraft safety engineer Geoff Barrance.

Question: Why have Republicans coddled the auto industry and turned a blind eye to consumer deaths and to the misconduct of corporate executives whose decisions allowed those deaths to happen?

Now we have shotgun-like Takata airbags aiming at millions of drivers worldwide.

Re-elected Japan PM Abe and "Hitler's Election Strategies"

"The bible for winning a modern election"

Japan held snap elections yesterday. As everyone knows, sitting PM Abe won. Abe's people read this "bible." The author of this article analyzes Japan's rapid lurch to the right, and notes that the Japanese public does not seem to care. The article desribes a speech recently delivered in Hamburg by Professor  Koichi Nakano:
  Professor Nakano is a professor of political science at Sophia University (上智大学), who is one of the very few outspoken critics still standing up and critiquing the Abe government.. ..He explained with great honesty and clarity, why in his opinion, Japan is shifting dangerously to the right. The lecture resonated in Germany in a way it may resonate nowhere else.

We will never learn the precise details of the relationship between Toyota and Abe. But suffice to say that it seems to me highly unlikely that Abe can rule Japan without Toyota's support. It is most obvioujs that Abe has been very good to Toyota.

"There is only one path--this one."

Abe has been very, very good to Toyota.
Will this help auto safety? Or will this just enable Toyota to keep 
plundering the earth and its people in order to make more money for Japan, and for Abe?

bloomberg- /toyota-gains-on-abe-gifts-of-sales-tax-delay-weaker-yen.html

Question: How can we trust Toyota with our lives?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ring ring telephone

Skadden, Arps and The Street Lawyer

File thief cuffed.

Skadden must be trying to figure out what I mean by my previous post about The Street Lawyer.
How interesting! Dear Messrs. Skadden, some of this sounds so familiar, I laugh out loud when reading it. Then I think about the SUA victims and I stop laughing.

Here's more, from Chapter 26
[the story so far: The protagonist Michael Brock, a young fast-track associate, went through a near-death experience that awoke his sleeping conscience. He then stole an incriminating legal file from his employer Drake & Sweeney, a white-stocking DC law firm. The file was {inadmissible but otherwise corroborate-able} proof that the firm's legal misconduct directly led to the deaths of a homeless mother and her several children. After Brock quit the firm to go practice public interest law for the homeless, the law firm had him charged with grand larceny and then arrested .]

"'I'm his lawyer,' Mordecai said. 'Let me see that.' He took the arrest warrant from [officer] Gasko and examined it as I was getting cuffed, hands behind my back, wrists pinched by cold steel. The cuffs were too tight, or at least tighter than they had to be, but I could bear it...
"Gasko sat in the rear [of the police car] with me...
"'What a waste of time,' Gasko said as he relaxed by placing a cowboy boot on a knee. 'We got a hundred and forty unsolved murders in this city, dope on every corner, drug dealers selling in middle schools, and we gotta waste time on you.'
'Are you tryng to interrogate me, Gasko?' I asked.
'Good.' He hadn't bothered with the Miranda warning, and he didn't have to until he started asking questions.
Goon One was flying south on Fourteenth, no lights or sirens, and certainly no respect for traffic signals and pedestrians.
'Then let me go,' I said.
'If it's up to me, I would. But you really pissed some folks off. The prosecutor tells me he's under pressure to get you.'
'Pressure from who?' I asked. But I knew the answer. Drake & Sweeeney wouldn't waste time with the cops; they would rather talk legalspeak with the chief prosecutor.
'The victims,' Gasko said with heavy sarcasm. I agreed with his assessment; it was difficult to picture a bunch of wealthy lawyers as victims of a crime."

Later, when Drake & Sweeney realized the extent of the firm's exposure, the managing partner called Brock's lawyer Mordecai to urgently propose a settlement of the wrongful death lawsuit that he had filed on behalf of the dead mother and children.

I have not read past this point. To be continued. Perhaps.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The floating basket of baby Moses

A precious baby of flesh and blood.

Some of you may recall that my youngest son's name is Moses. He is named after a righteous relative, Dr. Moses Gottleib, who was blown up in a bus in Jerusalem on his way to treat children as a clinic volunteer, a few months before my son's birth.

I remember Dr. Moses Gottleib.

This haunting, beautiful song and its Biblical story and Talmudic source text reminded me of a few of the fundamentals of the human story that underlies the tragedy of Toyota SUA.

Parents send their children out into a dangerous world, enclosed lovingly in any kind of protective baskets that the parents are able to give. A "basket" can be anything tangible or intangible.

Sometimes the basket is a car.

In United Arab Emirates, soft sand rescues Toyota Land Cruiser sudden acceleration driver, 2012


Ras Al Khaimah Police rescued an Emirati driver, whose Land Cruiser’s cruise control system got stuck at 120 kph on Emirates Road, which wouldn’t allow the car to decelerate or even stop.
The Emirati driver was going at speeds of around 120 kph in his Toyota Land Cruiser when he realised he could not slow down anymore, and called the police.
...Police dispatched ambulance and rescue staff immediately after they received a call from the panicking driver informing of them of the cruise control glitch. Within four minutes of hearing the call, a senior official also reached the Land Cruiser and tried to overtake the speeding vehicle attempting to slow down the car before it reached the final roundabout at the end of the highway.
The driver had earlier tried to slow down the vehicle by engaging the handbrake but the car started to veer sideways. According to Khaleej Times newspaper, he decided to flash his lights towards motorists in front of him to give way.
The rescue staff kept him on the phone as they surrounded him to clear off his way, while the senior official stayed in front of the Land Cruiser, eventually slowing him down using the handbrake till he steered right at the roundabout and crashed into the sand dunes on the road side. The vehicle was not damaged, and the motorist was not injured, but he had apparently gone mute for a while due to the terrifying experience.
Drive Arabia  - story of runaway Toyota Land Cruiser driver crash into sand dune

Questions: Why does Toyota give potentially terrified drivers (and then policemen) (and then a sand dune!) the tough job of becoming the "fail-safe" when there is a dangerous failure in a vehicle electronics system? This is hideously poor safety engineering practice. Why does Toyota behave this way?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Soap opera

In truth, there are life and death matters in the balance. 

Sorry, that's all I can say about this topic right now. I have a splitting headache from cognitive dissonance. Let me be clear, though. I am not talking about the court.

John Grisham and the alleged decayed ethics of Big Law

We are waiting for the court's ruling. I have little to say in the meantime. The Takata airbag scandal is being well covered by Reuters and the NY Times. I don't have to try to dig up the gory details, and have just been adding my comments and questions.

Meanwhile, to pass the time, I started re-reading The Street Lawyer. This is a book that came to me by accident some years ago, literally in a wheelbarrow full of pulp fiction, given to me on my old farm by a fellow English-speaking farm villager. I read and then tossed all the other Grisham books that I found in the wheelbarrow, but this one I kept.

It is written simplistically. Attorney Grisham writes for the masses and the best seller lists, but I found a likeable message on its pages -- you can be both a human and a lawyer. And sometimes that means taking on ferocious legal opponents who are protecting their big-money, unethical, and sometimes criminal clients, as the protagonist did. The people whose lives he may have saved may not have even known or cared that he existed. I like this character. He faced the truth and he tells the truth.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Keith Crane of Automotive News: Airbags as a black art car system

A black art car system.
Consumers never ever know what's behind the curtain, even if it can kill them.

Automotive news editorial: Takata just doesn't get it

Airbags seem to be one of those black art car systems we accept without question.

Question: Why does the US government not require third-party safety certification of vehicles and safety-critical parts, when other transportation products must be certified by third parties. 

Attorney Lance Cooper seeks privileged King & Spalding GM ignition related docs under crime-fraud exception

Valukas paintbrush.

Plaintiffs suing General Motors claiming the carmaker covered up evidence of a faulty ignition switch they blame for their daughter's death want GM's lawyers at King & Spalding to hand over confidential internal notes and memos about the case....Cooper, the plaintiffs' lawyer, said he knows his request is unusual, and that he is asking for information that he normally would not request. But he believes his demand is justified by what he views as a decade-long corporate cover-up of a deadly defect, and that correcting the faulty ignition switch earlier could have saved Brooke Melton's life. He's basing his subpoena on the "crime fraud exception" to attorney-client privilege and work product protection....In making his case, Cooper is taking aim at what has become known as "the Valukas Report," a 325-page document produced by attorney Anton Valukas of Jenner & Block in Chicago, hired by GM to investigate the handling of the ignition switch defect. Cooper isn't buying Valukas' conclusion that the company's leadership did not participate in a cover-up, calling it a "whitewash."...Cooper said the Valukas report "ostensibly pulls no punches," he added, "what the report does not do, however, is find any evidence of bad faith, collusion, callousness, or malice in anything GM did or did not do."
Daily Report Online article

Question: If GM's ten-year coverup is fair game for crime-fraud exception to privilege, isn't Toyota's electronics-induced SUA coverup also fair game?

Tubal Cain - a legal allegory for Lisa Gilford

Tubal Cain
Charles Mackay (1814–1889)
OLD Tubal Cain was a man of might,
  In the days when earth was young;
By the fierce red light of his furnace bright,
  The strokes of his hammer rung:
And he lifted high his brawny hand        5
  On the iron glowing clear,
Till the sparks rushed out in scarlet showers,
  As he fashioned the sword and the spear.
And he sang: “Hurrah for my handiwork!
  Hurrah for the spear and the sword!        10
Hurrah for the hand that shall wield them well,
  For he shall be king and lord.”
To Tubal Cain came many a one,
  As he wrought by his roaring fire,
And each one prayed for a strong steel blade        15
  As the crown of his desire:
And he made them weapons sharp and strong,
  Till they shouted loud for glee,
And gave him gifts of pearl and gold,
  And spoils of the forest free.        20
And they sang: “Hurrah for Tubal Cain,
  Who hath given us strength anew!
Hurrah for the smith, hurrah for the fire,
  And hurrah for the metal true!”
But a sudden change came o’er his heart,        25
  Ere the setting of the sun,
And Tubal Cain was filled with pain
  For the evil he had done;
He saw that men, with rage and hate,
  Made war upon their kind,        30
That the land was red with the blood they shed,
  In their lust for carnage blind.
And he said: “Alas! that ever I made,
  Or that skill of mine should plan,
The spear and the sword for men whose joy        35
  Is to slay their fellow-man!”
And for many a day old Tubal Cain
  Sat brooding o’er his woe;
And his hand forbore to smite the ore,
  And his furnace smouldered low.        40
But he rose at last with a cheerful face,
  And a bright courageous eye,
And bared his strong right arm for work,
  While the quick flames mounted high.
And he sang: “Hurrah for my handiwork!”        45
  And the red sparks lit the air;
“Not alone for the blade was the bright steel made,”—
  And he fashioned the first ploughshare.
And men, taught wisdom from the past,
  In friendship joined their hands,        50
Hung the sword in the hall, the spear on the wall,
  And ploughed the willing lands;
And sang: “Hurrah for Tubal Cain!
  Our stanch good friend is he;
And for the ploughshare and the plough        55
  To him our praise shall be.
But while oppression lifts its head,
  Or a tyrant would be lord,
Though we may thank him for the plough,
  We ’ll not forget the sword!”