Of Combat and Cars

By Doug Magill

Beyond Gaffes.

Most people tend to like Joe Biden.  An amiable goofball, he says things that cause most of us to scratch our heads and wonder what planet he is from.  He is like the crazy old uncle you keep in the kitchen at the Christmas party so he doesn’t scare the other guests, and yet you enjoy wandering back to listen to him – never knowing what on earth will come out of his mouth next.

Yep, that Joe Biden.  The one that claimed that the government’s $529 million loan to Fisker Automotive  “…is seed money that will return back to the American consumer in billions and billions and billions of dollars in good new jobs.”  Right before Fisker announced it was moving its manufacturing to Finland.

Well, he’s done it again.  At a fundraiser last week he extolled the virtues of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden:  “You can go back 500 years.  You cannot find a more audacious plan.”

After shaking your head at the stupidity of the comment, one begins a slow burn at the complete lack of any understanding of history, or any perspective of the feats of men at arms.

Having known people who were involved in the D-Day landing, I can only surmise their stupefaction at the comparison.

Or consider Daniel Morgan’s double envelopment at the battle of the Cowpens (one of the very few in history).

Think about Jimmy Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo – a tonic to a country that needed some good news, and where the pilots didn’t really know where they would land once they took off.

Somewhere my father is shaking his head – he served during Halsey’s Pacific campaign, which was pretty audacious.  Or the fact that his carrier (coincidentally named the Cowpens) served as an unescorted decoy in the Sea of Japan with numerous reports of Japanese submarines lurking nearby.  I suspect the entire crew though that was pretty audacious.

The raid on Entebbe comes to mind – rescuing over 100 hostages 2500 miles from home tends to define boldness.

MacArthur’s surprise landing at Inchon which altered the Korean War I am certain is considered by military men to be a pretty daring mission.

My uncle, were he still alive, would certainly take issue with Biden’s assertion.  Tom landed with the Marines at Okinawa, and I know he didn’t feel like that was a simple, or easy mission.

Lest we forget, American forces allied with Filipino guerillas raided a Japanese prisoner of war camp at Cabanatuan City and in a nighttime battle rescued 500 Allied prisoners.

And finally, the indomitable courage of Confederate forces at Pickett’s charge defines audacity.  Survivors that managed to retreat did so walking backwards, so that it would not appear that they were running away by being shot in the back.

One expects hyperbole and distortion from this administration, particularly since the president and his staff are so obviously desperate for any good news that they can claim credit for.  But, abysmal ignorance of history is beyond excusable.  Even for someone as addled as Joe Biden.


A Fisker Brick.

We wrote in a recent column about the tendency of Tesla Motors automobiles to become referred to as “bricks” when their lithium-ion battery pack becomes exhausted.  Well, the expensive products of Fisker automotive appear to have similar problems.

It seems that Consumer Reports spent $107,850 on a brand new Fisker Karma.  They bought it through a dealer which is their practice to insure objectivity in duplicating the consumer experience.

While doing speedometer calibration on their test track, and with less than 200 miles on the vehicle, it flashed a warning message and could only be put into Park or Neutral.  The dealer had to send a flatbed to take the vehicle in for repairs (a 100-mile trip).

As Consumer Reports stated, “We buy about 80 cars a year and this is the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process.”

Not a good recommendation.

Additionally, Fisker has recently stopped work at the Wilmington, Del, assembly plant it promised to revive, and laid off engineers at its headquarters in California.

Surprisingly, the Energy Department has halted loan payments to the company because of its failure to meet the commitments it made when originally receiving the DOE loan.

All is not lost, as Tom LaSorda – recently CEO of Chrysler – has replaced the founder, Henrik Fisker, as CEO of the company.

In a response to the fiasco with Consumer Reports, the company mentioned something about being a new company with new technology in the market.  All true, and in most instances should be a reason to excuse a few minor errors in some of its initial products.

The problem is really not in the technology, which is not revolutionary.  Most of the hybrid or all-electric vehicles in the market today share many similar engineering approaches if not components.  The problem is the amount of money required to fully develop a manufacturing process when the scale of the market is so small.  Hollywood celebrities and a few image-conscious executives might be willing to spend the money necessary to buy these things, but even with tax credits the vast majority of consumers are unwilling to spend money on a vehicle of dubious utility that costs more than any perceived worth.

Until revolutionary advances in battery technology, an enormous increase in the cost of gasoline, or drastic changes in the design of urban environments, these vehicles will fill the niche last left by the DeLorean – touted as a dramatic technolgical advance at the time.  A nice status symbol but not really useful.

Doug Magill worked in the automobile industry at one time and is currently a consultant, freelance writer and voice-over talent.  He can be reached at doug@magillmedia.net



  1. William Ferry says:

    It seems to me that a great military man like Joe Biden should have learned more in his military history and military strategy and tactics courses when he was at West Point. Or was it Annapolis?

    • Joe,I have two problems with this line of isneonrag. First, only well connected ex-politicians need apply for these subsidies, so how do we know that the best technical approach was chosen? Second, how do we know that electric cars are the right technology? Maybe fuel cells are better, or flywheels or maybe we could actually reduce the carbon footprint with more fuel efficient gasoline engines than the ones we have now. I have no faith in the government’s ability to pick winners and losers. Better to put a carbon tax in place and let investors who stand to lose or make money figure it out. Investors are always more likely than government to pick good technology. Further, our taxes won’t get wasted.

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