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Sep 222015
 

So it looks like Volkswagen has been fixing emissions testing in the US …

220px-Volkswagen_logo_2012.svg

It seems that they have probably built into the engine management software something that detects when the engine is being tested for emissions. This apparently detects testing conditions and switches to a test mode where the engine power is reduced sufficiently to reduce emissions below the legal limit. Real emissions are up to 40 times the legal limit.

Volkswagen are apparently very sorry about this, but probably more about being caught than anything else. It could be just a one-off aberation, but frankly it is more believable that this sort of thing only happens within a company that has a culture where deceiving the customers and regulatory authorities is seen as perfectly acceptable practice.

So what else are they up to?

In a Science Fiction story by Charles Stross (Halting State), auditors do a much more thorough job of checking companies for ethical behaviour and screening executives for sociopathic tendencies; Volkswagon's path out of this mess involves and up close and personal relationship with a savage group of auditors looking into the ethics of the company. 

But who else is using engines that lie to emissions tests? Not only do many other car manufacturers use Volkswagen engines, but other car manufacurers also have an incentive to do the same sort of thing. How much do we trust them?

How many Volkswagen engineers and managers involved in this "special" project have gone on to work for other manufacturers?

May 152009
 

So we have had a week since the Daily Telegraph stretched out the entrails of the mother of Parliaments for the public to pick over, and what has happened ? Not a lot.

A few MPs have paid some money back as though they had been caught sneaking biscuits out of the jar from their mother’s kitchen. A tiny number have lost their second job.

Has anyone been fired ? Has anyone been suspended pending an investigation ? Are the allegedly corrupt MPs still able to vote in Parliament ?

The majority of MPs who previously sat idly by whilst a few were riding the gravy train as hard as they could are now just standing around whinging about how the public is assuming that all MPs are corrupt. They are not actually doing anything constructive like refusing to cooperate with the Parliamentary process until the “corrupt” ones are excluded.

The key here is quick action … not waiting for some careful review to come up with something in a few months, but action now. It does not have to be permanent action – simply exclude those “corrupt” MPs and appoint a bunch of real vicious individuals as a review board, and make the “corrupt” MPs explain their mistakes in front of the board and explain why they should be allowed to continue as an MP. Sure that is harsh on the border-line cases, but being harsh in these circumstances is good.

And if at the end of the review process everyone is still an MP, the political system may never recover.

More ridiculously, the Tories seem to have decided that what really gets up the nose of the public is the cost of the political system. It is really rather amusing to watch the Tory leadership run off down the wrong road as fast as they can for political advantage because it is not the cost that is annoying the public, it is the tendency for some MPs to milk the expenses system for as much as they can get.

One of their suggestions to reduce the cost of the political system is to reduce the number of MPs … this sounds to me like an attempt at reducing the amount of democracy we have in this country. With our ‘first past the post’ system, the more people an MP represents, the less representative he (or she) is of their constituents. If you compare (using some very rough figures) the number of people each MP represented in 1800 and today, you get one MP for every 15,000 people in 1800 and one MP for every 100,000 people today.

That sounds to me like a gradual erosion of how democratic Parliament is supposed to be (and yes I know that the 1800 MPs were probably more corrupt and less representative than today’s). We need more MPs not less.

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