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#FreedomofSpeech

1. CNN has been offering up wall-to-wall coverage of the Carnival Triumph, which has limped its way back to the US after suffering a crippling engine fire on Monday. They were calling it, and treating it like, a “disaster”, but was was disastrous about it? What it amounted to was 4,000+ passengers and crew being wildly inconvenienced and placed under poor conditions of sanitation and comfort. But no one died, and everyone came home last night. This wasn’t a floating boxcar of detainees – it was a cruise ship that broke down, revealing perhaps that cruise ships need fewer nightclubs and more backup systems, as WKBW reporter John Borsa pointed out on Twitter. It wasn’t a disaster – it was a mass inconvenience. 

2. Remember the “proud racist South Buffalo guy“? He made headlines some months ago for complaining about how those minorities commit crimes, cause property values to decline, and destroy neighborhoods. He’s now been arrested for robbing a West Seneca bank

3.  A West Seneca high schooler misbehaved at a hockey game and was asked to leave. He later took to Twitter and cursed out the teacher who did it. He did not threaten the teacher, he did not mock or insult the teacher – he merely vented his frustration with a Tweet that read, in relevant part, “f-ck [Teacher’s Name] #freedomofspeech”. The school found out and gave this honor student who, it is said, has no great history of behavioral problems, a five-day suspension. 

Interestingly, the student’s hashtag wasn’t frivolous. A kid doesn’t shed his constitutional rights when he enters the school building, and he especially doesn’t lose them when he uses a public platform from home, off school grounds, and outside school time. This particular student did absolutely nothing wrong. He took to a social media site and vented about a teacher with whom he had just had a negative experience. The only punishment this student should receive, if any, should come from his parents. The teacher can confront the student directly and demand an apology, I suppose, but the school has absolutely no right and no business to regulate or ban speech – even profane speech – a student uses on social media outside school time and grounds. Believe it or not, this is a case with federal, Constitutional, ramifications.

4. A big national tea party group – FreedomWorks, which was until recently led by former Congressman Dick Armey – made a video depicting former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receiving cunnilingus from a panda. The tea party, relegated to the very deepest fringes of the right wing, has devolved from an anti-Obama movement into a group promoting some pretty base, offensive sexist stuff. I’m not surprised, either

In one segment of the film, according to a former official who saw it, Brandon is seen waking from a nap at his desk. In what appears to be a dream or a nightmare, he wanders down a hallway and spots a giant panda on its knees with its head in the lap of a seated Hillary Clinton and apparently performing oral sex on the then-secretary of state. Two female interns at FreedomWorks were recruited to play the panda and Clinton. One intern wore a Hillary Clinton mask. The other wore a giant panda suit that FreedomWorks had used at protests to denounce progressives as panderers. (See herehere, and here.) Placing the panda in the video, a former FreedomWorks staffer says, was “an inside joke.” 

Another FreedomWorks staffer who worked there at the time confirms that “Yes, this video was created.” 

Days before the FreePAC event, the video was screened for staff. “My mouth was wide open,” a former official recalls. “‘What the hell is this?'” Several FreedomWorks staffers were outraged and stunned that Brandon, the group’s second-in-command after Kibbe, had overseen the video’s production, appeared in it, and intended to show this film at the conference, which would be attended by many social-conservative activists. They raised objections to the film. 

“How was that not some form of sexual harassment?” a former FreedomWorks official asks, noting that two female interns had been requested to act out a pretend sex scene. “And there were going to be thousands of Christian conservatives at this thing. This was a terrible lack of judgment.”

Brandon, a former FreedomWorks official says, defended the film, insisting it was creative and funny. But eventually a decision was made not to show the video at FreePAC. 

Armey says he didn’t became aware of the film until months later: “I heard they had made an obscene video mocking Hillary Clinton.” He says he was told the video showed Clinton having sex with an intern. “I asked another [FreedomWorks] guy if he had seen it,” Armey recalls. “He said, ‘I heard about it. I was traveling at the time. It was shown around the office.'” Armey adds, “There was a concern that this kind of behavior could land you in court. I was shocked at the ugly and bad taste.” 

Dick Armey is the guy who called Representative Barney Frank “Barney Fag”. Dick Armey is a horrible person, and “FreedomWorks” is a horrible organization. The news that they produced a video showing Hillary Clinton engaging in some form of bestiality is unsurprising.  After all, 15 years ago these same clowns were probably referring to her as “Hitlery Klintoon” over on Free Republic. 

5. Tesla is a company that manufactures and markets a gorgeous, all-electric luxury sedan. It recently contacted the New York Times to do a story showing off, in cold weather and real-life conditions, Tesla’s new network of high-capacity chargers placed at 200-mile intervals along the Northeast Corridor. It didn’t go well

Tesla CEO Elon Musk went ballistic, calling the review a “fake” in social media. This prompted the Times’ reporter, John Broder, to refute Musk’s assertions via the Times’ Wheels blog. Let’s swing back to the point that Tesla pushed this test to the Times, and that, 

This evaluation was intended to demonstrate its practicality as a “normal use,” no-compromise car, as Tesla markets it.

A cold snap in the Northeast shouldn’t cause a state-of-the art $100,000 sedan, marketed as a regular car, to be unable to make 180 mile trip without pausing for an hour to recharge. Practically any car in America can easily make 300 miles before pausing for a 5 minute refueling stop. 

Soon, Musk took to Tesla’s corporate blog, where he challenged Broder’s assertions point by point, and uploaded what purport to be printouts of data the car recorded from Broder’s ride. Again, social media went nuts, calling out the Times for lying. Lying? 

First of all, let’s consider we have a Times reporter with no known axe to grind with Tesla or electrics in general who reported on his experiences trying to get a $100k car from Philadelphia to Boston. On the other hand, we have the CEO of a corporation and his public relations department trying to spin away the negative effects of the car’s failure to accomplish what the lowliest Honda Jazz can do. But also consider the fact that, in his blog, Musk purported to get inside Broder’s mind to ascribe motives to what he wrote. Consider, 

In Mr. Broder’s case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.

Broder had once written an article bemoaning the various criticisms and chicken-and-egg problems with electrics, and Musk simply dismisses that as animus. 

As a result, we did not think to read his past articles and were unaware of his outright disdain for electric cars. We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles. For that, I am deeply sorry.

Musk made this assertion: 

Cruise control was never set to 54 mph as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 mph. Broder in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that driving at speeds of 65 – 81 on national interstates is not unusual, and that setting the heat at 72 on a very cold day is perfectly normal behavior – stuff that a $100k sedan that is supposed to be a replacement car and not a superfluous frivolity for the rich should easily be able to accomplish – the statement is wholly misleading. Look at the data: 

He was driving at 0 MPH a whole lot more often than he was driving 80 MPH. Indeed, the data records exactly one momentary spike to over 80 MPH – to say that he was routinely exceeding the speed limit is simply misleading. And why bother offering up the data if you won’t bother to characterize it accurately? Broder responded at the Wheels blog, after New York Times Public Editor and former Buffalo News Editor-in-Chief Margaret Sullivan became involved. As to the speed discrepancy, Broder accurately suggests the speedometer was uncalibrated due to wheel size, 

I drove normally (at the speed limit or with prevailing traffic) when I thought it was prudent to do so. I do recall setting the cruise control to about 54 m.p.h., as I wrote. The log shows the car traveling about 60 m.p.h. for a nearly 100-mile stretch on the New Jersey Turnpike. I cannot account for the discrepancy, nor for a later stretch in Connecticut where I recall driving about 45 m.p.h., but it may be the result of the car being delivered with 19-inch wheels and all-season tires, not the specified 21-inch wheels and summer tires. That just might have affected the recorded speed, range, rate of battery depletion or any number of other parameters. Tesla’s data suggests I was doing slightly more than 50 over a stretch where the speed limit was 65. The traffic was heavy in that part of Connecticut, so cruise control was not usable, and I tried to keep the speed at 50 or below without impeding traffic.

Certainly, and as Tesla’s logs clearly show, much of my driving was at or well below the 65 m.p.h. speed limit, with only a single momentary spike above 80. Most drivers are aware that cars can speed up, even sometimes when cruise control is engaged, on downhill stretches.

Musk accused Broder of deliberately running down the battery during a stop at a Milford, CT plaza where Tesla had a supercharger located, 

When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said “0 miles remaining.” Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.

Of course, Musk is merely ascribing ill motives on Broder because he is now butthurt over the article. But here’s how Broder explains what happened, 

I drove around the Milford service plaza in the dark looking for the Supercharger, which is not prominently marked. I was not trying to drain the battery. (It was already on reserve power.) As soon as I found the Supercharger, I plugged the car in.

The stop in Manhattan was planned from the beginning and known to Tesla personnel all along. According to Google Maps, taking the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan (instead of crossing at the George Washington Bridge) and driving up the West Side Highway added only two miles to the overall distance from Newark, Del., to Milford, Conn.

Neither I nor the Model S ever visited “downtown Manhattan.”

As a lawyer, I’m trained to recognize BS when I see it, and when someone has a motive to exaggerate or mischaracterize evidence, and then does so, I’m skeptical of everything else they have to say about a matter. So it is with Mr. Musk, who goes beyond the data and labels Broder a liar who had it out for the Tesla from the get-go. Given a choice between believing the reporter and the company’s PR department, I’ll go with the Times. 

After all, Musk told Broder directly

Mr. Musk called me on Friday, before the article went up on the Web, to offer sympathy and regrets about the outcome of my test drive. He said that the East Coast charging stations should be 140 miles apart, not 200 miles, to take into account the traffic and temperature extremes in this part of the country.

Incidentally, CNN tried the same trip and had no problems whatsoever. Perhaps the temperatures had moderated, as evidenced by the snow-free photograph accompanying the article.

None of this is an indictment of the car, or even of the network of chargers. (As someone who puts lots of miles on two cars every year, I fail to see the allure of spending the equivalent of a Cheektowaga house to buy a car that has trouble making 200 miles before needing an hourlong break to charge up, but to each his own). But the tone of Musk’s response to a negative experience that Broder had, and the malicious way in which he mischaracterized what happened and ascribed to Broder a hostile state of mind, I echo what media guru Jeff Jarvis Tweeted late Thursday, 

 


  • Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of said speech.  I find it interesting that you find the West Seneca kid a “freedom of speech” issue.  Wasn’t the South Buffalo guy using his freedom of speech as well?

    His speech wasn’t free of consequences – he was labelled a racist.  Neither should the West Seneca kid’s speech be free of consequences.

    • No one said that one couldn’t call the West Seneca kid a profane numbskull who shouldn’t say nasty things about his teachers. There’s a palpable difference between a specific government-imposed sanction (5 day suspension) and being called a racist for being racist. 

      • I’m going to bookmark this post so I can remind you of it the next time you write about the plight of public school teachers.  Oh, those poor teachers!  It’s not their fault test scores are so poor!  Students are undisciplined!

        It’s been a couple months since you’ve written one of those.  You’re overdue.

      • I’ll look forward to it, since I don’t have a recollection of ever writing such a post at all, ever.

      • Mike_Chmiel

        Why is it so hard for people to distinguish between government sanctions against free speech  (which the Constitution forbids) and societal scorn for people who say stupid things?

        Racist South Buffalo Guy = no punishment from Government for comments.

        Mouthy student = punishment for comments from Government.

        It is not rocket science.

      • Brian Buckley

         you obviously overlooked the fact that this particular student is an honor student.  I’m guessing he probably doesn’t have any problems with his test scores.  This is obviously a case of first amendment infringement by the school.

      • I had no idea honor students were allowed to tell off their teachers.  Where were you went I was in school?

      • This kid didn’t tell off his teacher. He cursed her out on a private computer using a privately owned forum on his own time. 

      • Calvados

        It doesn’t matter who’s electronic device was used to make the post and it doesn’t matter if it occurred on campus or off.   I agree with your sentiments. Unfortunately, our opinions don’t jive with present law.   There is a new law that was just passed in Albany  called the” Dignity for All Students Act”.  I provides schools with enormous latitude to discipline students if there’s a reasonable
        probability of a disruption or a danger.  The genesis of the bill was the liability attached to cyber bullying and it covers  “all cyber activity”.  From the tone and comments in the above article I doubt the people at Artvoice, or many parents for that matter, are aware of the law.

      • I certainly wasn’t aware of it, and I hope this kid challenges its constitutionality. 

      • Calvados

         I wouldn’t expect that to happen. No one would support him. The ACLU and NYCLU applaud the bill and were actually consulted on parts of it while it was being written.

    • Yes but the South Buffalo guy is not facing administrative action by an overseeing body for what he said. He’s going to jail for robbing a bank. 

  • AdamaDBrown

    When it comes to choosing between the unsupported word of somebody who’s written articles slamming the entire idea of an electric car, and the people who have the log data proving him wrong, I’m going to go with the people who have the evidence. Particularly since CNN already tested this out and sided with Tesla saying that the Model S made the road trip with no difficulty at all, even after missing an exit and having to loop around. So that’s the evidence AND an independent test saying that the NY Times reporter was full of it. 

    • You’d have to assume that the NY Times reporter was lying about stuff, and quite clearly he wasn’t. 

      Also, there’s not one word in Broder’s prior article about electric cars that reflects some personal animus. All he did was write the truth – that electric cars are barely ready for prime time, and car makers continue to work on them despite their obvious shortcomings and lack of traction in the market. 

      • AdamaDBrown

        I disagree about his prior article. It was basically one long rundown of everything negative you could find to say about electric vehicles, with no attention paid to the many positives. More to the point, it’s not at all clear that he wasn’t lying about things, when they have the actual vehicle logs which contradict him. Especially since many other media outlets, including CNN and dedicated car media, have all come out with the opposite opinion on Tesla’s cars–they get nearly universal good reviews, even in cold weather testing. 

      • He wasn’t reviewing the car. He was reviewing the superchargers. At the conclusion of his test, Musk said that they should be placed 60 miles closer together than they are. Seems to me, Musk conceded the point.

  • Jesse Griffis

    #4 is pretty weak on your part Alan. Even from your quote it’s apparent that some douchebags in that organization created something wildly inappropriate, AND WERE CALLED ON IT by others within that group.

    Why is this being used to smear the entire group?

    • Because it goes to the mindset of the current President of FreedomWorks, that having a panda eat out the Secretary of State is an appropriate and funny thing/commentary for a political group to do. I’m not going to clap wildly that Dick Armey and some others thought it was a bad idea, because Kibbe is still President there. Dick Armey, alas, is gone. 

    • EricSaldanha

      Why should we focus on FreedomWorks’ ideas of appropriate communications? Oh yeah, because they have none.

      http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2013/02/14/lawmakers-wont-receive-murderous-dictator-valentines-day-cards/

  • Jesse Griffis

    Also unsurprising: Alan goes with the liberal reporter at their greatest cathedral over the corporate evil mastermind. Media types _always_ defend their own, they’re like a cult.

    Many other reports online indicate this guy Broder has a thing against electric cars in general, and you seem to think he doesn’t. That’s curious.

    And wheel size!? Yeah right, that entire log’s distances would be off if that were the case, by a significant amount.

    “Customer service” has nothing to do with a reporter doing a shitty job (see the CNN results for unsurprising real-world account)

    • What’s “liberal” about a reporter reporting (a) on his experience with this car; and (b) reporting utterly palpable facts about the state of the electric car industry? What’s political about this? Dumb comment is dumb. 

  • “The tea party, relegated to the very deepest fringes of the right wing, has devolved from an anti-Obama movement into a group promoting some pretty base, offensive sexist stuff. I’m not surprised, either.”

    You base that opinion on a video produced by a person exercising his freedom of speech right.  A video that was reviewed by his peers and rejected because it was distasteful.  You then try to indict Matt Kibbe for being the boss of the guy who made the video that wasn’t shown after it was reviewed by his peers.  The group had two choices, show the video, or don’t show it.  Did they make the wrong choice?  Are all Democrats bad, evil people because one Congressman texted pictures of his junk?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you fill the internet with distasteful horse porn innuendo??