Friday, March 12, 2010

More Skepticism About the Toyota Problems; Glen Beck Tries to Tell People What Their Religion Should Mean to Them

Happy Friday, everyone! Beautiful weather here in Austin!

I know that everyone is probably getting sick of hearing me talk about how I think this whole Toyota recall thing is more media hype than genuine problem, but here's one more thing, anyway. One of my friends on Facebook linked to this column that was written by a guy who used to litigate spontaneous acceleration lawsuits. Basically the guy is saying that the same sort of complaints that are now being lodged against Toyota have been made against other manufacturers before (the most notorious cases prior to the Toyota were made against Audi some years back), and in the end, engineers and scinetists were unable to ever adequately explain a mechanical source for the sudden acceleration problem. In short, what is most likely happening, according to automotive safety experts, is that people are essentially stepping on the wrong pedal. When people don't get the reaction they expect (i.e., speeding up instead of braking), one of the most common reactions for them is not to switch pedals and correctly apply the brakes. Instead, panicked, most drivers tend to stomp even harder on whatever pedal they're already pressing- seeking to get the result that they're looking for by more strenuously applying pressure on the wrong pedal. Frank goes on to also talk about how somehow these spontaneous acceleration problems tend to routinely exist within a population of older drivers (somehow, strangely, they don't tend to have nearly the same effect upon the population of younger drivers who have better reflexes), and about how the media hysteria surrounding these reports tends to cause a sort of snowball effect where drivers who have recently had accidents in the sorts of cars being discussed suddenly all decide that their accidents must have been caused not by their own driving patterns, but by some sort of defect in the automobile. Statistically, Frank points out, Toyotas are still some of the safest cars you can drive.
Anyway, like this guy, I remain skeptical of a situation where no one can find the actual, mechanical source of the problem (aside from floor mat issues, which probably caused problems in a pretty small number of vehicles), but where the media keeps adding fuel to the fires of hysteria and where people are seeking the opportunity to shift the blame for driving mistakes over to the car manufacturer in order to try to make the car company liable for damages. (and that guy who was driving down the highway in California at 90 mph earlier this week in his supposedly out of control Prius? I have questions about him, too. The brakes in that car are strong enough to stop it even when the accelerator is fully depressed, so, in effect, he's claiming a spontaneous acceleration problem and a braking problem. So two completely separate systems in his car would have had to have failed at exactly the same time. We'll see if they actually find anything wrong with the car, but I have my doubts, and now apparently other people are questioning his story as well.)

What else? Here's a somewhat long, but pretty good column by Howell Raines in The Washington Post about Fox News. Raines expresses frustration not only with Roger Ailes (the head of Fox News) and Fox News itself, but also with the rest of the media establishment for continuously allowing fox News to pass off propaganda and opinion as fact and for allowing the Fox News network to operate under the auspices of a legitimate news agency while intentionally (and pretty much shamelessly) spinning and distorting its coverage with almost no regard for journalistic integrity or ethical standards of reporting.
Anyway, I'm not sure that this column has a lot of new things to say, but it makes its points pretty well.

In keeping with the anti-Fox theme, here's a sort of interesting article about an evangelical preacher who has called for a boycott of Glen Beck's show as well as challenged Beck to a public debate after Beck attacked churches which advocated social and economic justice (he compared them to Nazis). I've said it before and I'll say it again: the churches that I grew up in were definitely in favor of social justice and were very interested in outreach to the poor. I know that well-versed conservative Christians could probably swap Bible passages all day long with me, but for every Christian who thinks that the Bible is only about being judgmental and some sort of hard nosed, "pull yourself up by your boootstraps" ideology, there are other Christians who emphasize Bible stories about being a good samaritan with no expectation of reward (Luke 10:25), the divine grace that comes from sharing your possessions with others (anyone else remember the story of Jesus managing to feed a crowd of thousands by merely being willing to share a little bit of bread and fish? John 6:5), and even the advice that Jesus gave in regard to the ethics of paying taxes ("Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things which are God's." -Matthew 22:21).
Given the fact that, nowadays I have quite a few friends who didn't grow up in a religious household or a Christian tradition, it just sort of saddens me to know that when these people think of Christianity, they're often thinking of people like Glen Beck (who's a Mormon, I think- and I don't mean to imply that all Mormon's share his views) and other people who try to make it seem as if Christianity is squarely aligned with a right wing, conservative ideology and worldview. I know that a lot of my friends think of this right wing version of Christianity when they think of Christianity in general, and that's just a shame. Even if a person isn't ever going to be a Christian themself, they should understand that there are large numbers of Christians out there who are a lot more concerned with human empathy social equality than the "I got mine so keep your hands off", materialistic, judgemental, self righteous view of Christianity that many conservative Christians present as the face of the religion.
Whether you're a Christian or not, there are many reasons to have a lot of respect for Christianity as a religion. Of course, it's hard to see that when the nutjobs are getting most of the media coverage.
I guess that's all I'm saying.
Anyway, that Glen Beck is just a fool. I can't believe so many people watch him, and I think that a lot more people should rise up and challenge what he's saying.

I need to run.


wwide408 USA said...

Toyota and others knew they were having issues and attempted to hide it. All Car Companies should have came forward with a full disclosures of what car were dangerous. Instead of waiting for a huge media blitz and tons of public pressure. I never seen so many car companies GM - NISSAN - TOYOTA - HYUNDAI having recalls all at the same time. I had no idea my car was affected until I looked on and found I had a bad Anti Lock control unit on my 2008 Pontiac G8 , my co workers Ford Truck had a recall also. So be careful

J.S. said...

wwide408 is a bit confusing. It seems to be spam, but it seems like spam that's attached to a comment that's actually directly relevant to the topic of my post. In the event that it's not spam, I'm going to go ahead and post it, anyway. It's a little sad, maybe, when I'm willing to let spam pass for discussion, but I guess that these days I'm just going to take what I can get.

Anonymous said...

Jason, Thanks for your blog on Christianity. As you know, I am definitely a Christian, but also am out there doing what I can to help others, regardless of who they are, or where they come from. This is what Jesus told us to do. I do not think of myself as a socialist or any other name given to me. However, I am doing what I believe I am called to do be that working with the Spanish speakers in our community, going to Kenya and helping there, or helping my neighbor next door with the children. I love helping others and do not expect anything in return. Karebear

J.S. said...

I know, Mom. You do lots of good stuff. But Glen Beck thinks you're a commie, and you're a threat to the United States of America.