Musk’s mad at the media for reporting the truth

Tesla founder Elon Musk is becoming increasingly disenchanted with the media’s treatment of his company, and he’s threatening to return fire.

Tesla has received plenty of negative media coverage recently: Missed production schedules, questions about working conditions at its factories, a negative review by Consumer Reports, and criticism for abandoning the people’s car, the $35,000 version of the Model 3.

Elon Musk: Down on media

Musk said this kind of coverage is driven by reporters under pressure to get “max clicks”–the modern version of “they just want to sell more newspapers”–and is biased because of advertising by auto makers and oil companies.

“The holier-than-thou hypocrisy of big media companies who lay claim to the truth, but publish only enough to sugar-coat the lie, is why the public no longer respects them,” he tweeted recently. “Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication. Thinking of calling it Pravda.”

He didn’t explain how the public is supposed to rate the “core truth” of an article it didn’t research or report on, but nobody bothers with the facts anyway when it comes expressing an opinion on the internet.

The idea reflects Musk’s penchant for publicly battling media outlets, analysts and investors who raise questions about his business, a tradition of high-tech hot-shots who come to resent the media after early encomiums turn to criticism when their companies’ performance doesn’t live up to the hype.

Even successful companies eventually turn on the media. Despite Apple’s success and generally glowing media coverage, Steve Jobs came to loathed the media over time, still reflected today in the company’s penchant for being closed-mouthed with the media and paranoia about any employee who leaks to the media. (It produced a multi-page internal memo on the subject recently, which of course was leaked to the media.)

Like many of his peers, Musk over promises, under delivers, and then wonders why he gets criticized. The company has repeatedly blown production targets in recent years as it burns through billions of dollars in cash, and now it has essentially conceded it is giving up producing a car for the masses.

Long derided as a manufacturer of expensive toys ($75,000 and up) for eco-elitists, Tesla announced it would produce a car for the masses–the Model 3–for around $35,000. That prompted nearly 500,000 people to put down $1,000 deposits for the car. Now Musk has announced a new $78,000 version of the Model 3, conceding the $35,000 version would cause the company to “lose money and die” if built right away.

“The problem is investors have given Tesla a nearly $50 billion market cap in the belief the company will up-end the global auto market, not become a niche, high-end electric-car company,” The Wall Street Journal reporter Charley Grant wrote recently in its “Heard on the Street” column. “What that latter company is worth is hard to say, but it isn’t the current market valuation.”

No wonder Musk’s upset with the media.

Posted in Economy, Environment, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Lehman expected to be named next county executive officer

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet behind close doors Tuesday to consider a successor to county CEO Rick Haffey, and most people will be shocked if the job doesn’t go to current assistant CEO Alison Lehman.

Alison Lehman

The supervisors apparently haven’t looked at any outside candidates, and Haffey has recommended a successor. “I believe that the transition will be a smooth one,” Haffey told The Union last month, basing his statement on the supervisors’ response to his recommendation.

If Lehman gets the job, her appointment will continue a recent trend of promoting insiders–in a couple of cases, without even bothering to look at outside candidates. When John Foster retired as police chief, Grass Valley officials made it clear his successor would be one of two lieutenants in the department. The current city managers of Grass Valley and Nevada City were also appointed from inside.

Appointing insiders has the advantage of making a seamless transition to a new leader who can “hit the ground running.” It also increases the possibility the incumbent will stay for the duration instead of moving onto a new position in a couple of years, as was the case in the sudden departures of recent Grass Valley and Nevada City managers.

But it also means you’re more likely to get business as usual, particularly if the new person has never worked anywhere else. While there are a lot of people around here who don’t want to see any change, the world around us is changing rapidly and we’re going to have to adjust even if we don’t want to.

Haffey was the No. 2 guy in the Rood Center when he got the top spot almost 15 years ago, and it looks like Lehman is poised to follow in his footsteps. Supervisor Dan Miller appears to be onboard.

“Personally, I like to explore possible replacements in-house because the transition would be much more seamless, and an in-house candidate will typically have a very good understanding and knowledge of our community,” Miller emailed The Union.

Miller may also have in mind the reception he got from Lehman when he joined the board almost four years ago. Lehman was given the job of giving Miller a tour of county operations, and she reported at his swearing-in that he was a star student.

“I’m truly looking forward to having Dan on the board,” she said. “In getting to know him, it has become clear that he has a strong commitment to the community. He’ll be a welcome addition to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors. He’ll be an effective supervisor.”

That should be worth a vote in Lehman’s favor on Tuesday.

Posted in Government, Nevada County Board of Supervisors, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Referendum on Diaz as election officer starts this week

This week could go a long way toward cementing or sinking the reelection hopes of county Clerk/Recorder Gregory Diaz, who is facing two opponents in the June election.

Nevada County is one of the few counties test driving the state’s new vote-by-mail system, and the test will begin this week with the mailing of ballots to all registered voters in the county and the opening of voting centers for those who don’t want to mail back their ballots or prefer to vote in person.

Gregory Diaz

Diaz is basing his reelection campaign on his professional expertise–he’s been clerk/recorder since 2007–so the smoothness with which the new voting process proceeds will be a referendum on his competence.

His two opponents–Mary Anne Davis, events manager at The Union newspaper (where I’m a freelance columnist), and Elise Strickler, an analyst in the county CEO’s office–have no experience in the field. (Strickler worked in Diaz’s office for four years in another capacity.)

Diaz likes to tout his expertise when it comes to running elections, but his track record in Nevada County does not instill confidence that everything will go smoothly.

Ballots sent to vote-by-mail voters for the 2016 general election were missing a page listing nine of 17 state propositions and three local measures. “The page just didn’t get stuffed in the ballot by the printer,” an election office employee explained.

Managing outside vendors has been a recurring problem for Diaz’s office. Ballots in 2016 (late getting verified) and 2014 (printing error) were delayed because of screw ups that weren’t caught by his office. Then there’s his interpretation of election law, something he’s supposed to know.

Americans for Safe Access Nevada County launched a drive in 2014 to quality a medical marijuana initiative for the ballot. State law required the promoters to obtain valid signatures of 20 percent of county residents who voted in the most recent governor’s election.

In this case, that was 2010, when 45,657 votes were cast in the county for governor. That meant the promoters needed to obtain a minimum of 9,131 valid signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.

But Diaz came up with another number, claiming they needed to obtain 9,928 signatures, 20 percent of all voters even if they didn’t cast a vote in the governor’s race. Diaz was the only clerk/recorder in the state to come up with that novel interpretation. He eventually reversed himself.

WHERE’S WALDO? Is Diaz actually running a reelection campaign? If you Google “Gregory Diaz for county clerk/recorder” you get…nothing. No campaign web site, no Facebook page. Davis has both and Strickler has a Facebook page.

Maybe he’s trying to emulate former county Clerk/Recorder Kathleen Smith, who spent no money on advertising and did practically no campaigning when she ran for the office in 2006. The Union endorsed Diaz, but Smith won anyway.

Posted in County Clerk/Recorder Gregory Diaz, Elise Strickler, Government, Mary Anne Davis, Politics, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Miller and Hodge square-off at less than satisfactory LWV forum

Supervisor Dan Miller and the challenger for his District 3 seat, Hilary Hodge, got the opportunity Thursday night to explain to voters why they’re the person for the job.

Dan Miller Experience

The occasion was one of four forums being held this month by the League of Women Voters to acquaint voters with the candidates for the major offices on the ballot in June.

I don’t live in District 3 so I can’t vote for either one of them, but if the LWV event was all I had to go on, I wouldn’t know who to vote for. The format just doesn’t work for me.

For starters, the questions asked by the media were guaranteed not to offend, covered the predictable subjects, and didn’t put anybody on the spot. They were mixed in with questions from the audience that were basically softballs to the candidates: One asked the candidates if experience was important to be a supervisor. I wonder which Miller supporter wrote that one.

Challenger Hilary Hodge New Vision

Miller emphasized his 27 years of experience in various elected and appointed positions, suggesting this was the key to steady leadership residents expect. Hodge described herself as an unabashed progressive with a vision for a better future.

Both of them generally avoided putting themselves in controversial situations, although Hodge stated her support for Placer County taking over the animal control operation from Sammie’s Friends, an outfit that has a lot of support in the community.

Miller was more than willing to pass off the responsibility to provide more low-cost housing to the south county (“Grass Valley has enough”), especially now that the county is going to finance a waste water hookup from the LOP treatment plant to the new Higgins Market Place development.

I’m sure I’ve heard Supervisor Ed Scofield describe the hookup as a means of boosting the economy in the Higgins Corner area. I’ll have to ask him at next week’s community get together what he thinks of putting low-cost housing in the area.

Whether you like it or not, Hodge has a vision for what our future should look like, and she expresses it with passion. For somebody who has been doing this for 27 years, Miller was surprisingly inarticulate, stumbling over his answers to questions. He shows no evidence that anything creative has ever occurred to him.

One exchange illustrated the differences for me. I don’t recall the subject, but Miller said there simply wasn’t money in the budget. Hodge responded that budgets reflect priorities and values.

This race is generating a lot of interest because it is commonly believed that a Hodge victory will flip the Board of Supervisors to a 3-2 liberal majority. I’m not so sure about that because Supervisor Richard Anderson is reluctant to take a firm position on anything, and he would be the swing vote.

We’ll see what the voters of District 3 want.


Posted in Hilary Hodge, Nevada County Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Dan Miller, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

An issue that got people excited about the race for sheriff

Nevada County residents get the opportunity this year to elect the first new sheriff in 20 years, making it easily the most important office on the June ballot.

The sheriff’s office is responsible for police services in the unincorporated areas of Nevada County–that’s most of our sparsely populated county–and will be the main enforcer of the marijuana cultivation ordinance the Board of Supervisors is currently considering, an issue that has roiled the area for several years.

Maybe we’re not close enough to election day yet, but people seem to have a ho-hum attitude toward the race to succeed Sheriff Keith Royal. At lease they did until the issue of who gets to run the dog pound surfaced.

The sheriff’s office is responsible for animal control operations in the county, work that has been contracted out to Sammie’s Friends since 2010. That contract expires June 30, and the sheriff’s office announced the new contract will go to the Placer County Animal Services Division.

People are not happy with the idea of having to drive to Auburn to adopt a dog or cat, and others are upset with Placer County’s kill policy when it comes to distressed animals. (Sammie’s Friends home on McCourtney Road would act as an intake spot, and possibly handle some adoptions in the future.)

The decision was made after a committee of anonymous county employees reviewed the bids from Sammie’s Friends and Placer County, interviewed the representatives, and then scored the two applicants. Placer County offered to take over the operation for almost $100,000 less that Sammie’s bid.

Now the sheriff has to negotiate a contract with Placer County and get it approved by the Board of Supervisors. That may not be easy. Supervisor Ed Scofield, no slouch when it comes to spending as little money as possible, is a “strong supporter” of Sammie’s Friends who claims he was “blind-sided” by the contract award process. One can presume any contract brought to the board will receive close scrutiny.

Local social media has erupted over the issue–at least one regular on Nevada County Peeps has demanded that each candidate for sheriff state his or her position on the issue–and each candidate has a statement on Facebook.

Each of the candidates–Capt. Shannan Moon and Lt. Bill Smethers of the sheriff’s office, and former Grass Valley police chief John Foster–have issued statements that generally back Sammie’s Friends.

A rally in support of Sammie’s Friends will be held April 25 at the Foothill Events Center, and I wouldn’t be surprised if all three candidates are there. Finally, an issue to get the voters interested in the race.

Posted in Captain Shannan Moon, John Foster, Lt. Bill Smethers, Nevada County Board of Supervisors, Politics, Sammie's Friends, Sheriff Keith Royal, Supervisor Ed Scofield, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Toasting the ’06 quake with Hotaling’s whiskey

In case you missed it, Wednesday was the 112th anniversary of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. (Conservatives would say the quake wasn’t bad enough.)

While my wife and I were both born there (she grew up in SF, I grew up in San Mateo), we never did anything to celebrate the occasion in the past. Then I recently discovered that Anchor Brewing Co. has revived Hotaling’s whiskey and is now producing it in limited quantities.

It turns out Total Wine and More carries it, so I bought a bottle and joined some San Francisco natives for a few rounds of rye whiskey.

For those of you who don’t know the story, Hotaling’s Whiskey was one of the few businesses in San Francisco to survive the earthquake in tact. That inspired poet Charles Field to write the following:

If, as they say, God spanked the town for being over-frisky,

Why did He burn the churches down and spare Hotaling’s whiskey?


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What did manliness have to do with Trump’s election?

Harvey Mansfield, professor of government at Harvard University and author of “Manliness,” a put-down of western feminists, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal:

“Laughing lightly, Mr. Mansfield recalls Mr. Trump’s masculine belittling of ‘Little Marco,’ ‘Low Energy Jeb’ and ‘Lyin’ Ted.’  ‘That was very effective with a lot of voters,’ he says, ‘particularly the less educated. You could look at 2016 as a revolt of the lower-IQ half of America against the upper half, which is dominated by the universities.’ Now in Washington there has been ‘a replacement of the people who reflect the values of American universities, where manliness is taboo.’ “

Posted in Donald Trump, Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment