The New Barnum

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The Latin proverb audentes Fortuna iuvat is usually translated into English as “Fortune favors the bold.” It has been used by a variety a martial organizations in the West over the centuries. For example, it appears on the regimental insignia of the 3rd Marine Regiment. The British SAS uses “who dares wins” as their motto. The American idiom, “he who hesitates is lost”, is a mistranslation of Cato, but again, the appeal is obvious so it’s easy to see why it has become common.

The point being is that acting boldly has always been seen as a benefit. We associate it with the successful. It’s why mothers tell their sons to stand up straight. It’s why fathers teach their sons to have a firm handshake. The confident guy, who bounds into a room and takes charge will get little push back, because people naturally pick up on his confidence. Boldness is an essential element of leadership. Men will follow a leader who is confident, even if they have their private doubts about the plan.

Boldness is also a good way to rob people.

Victor Lustig was a confidence man living in Paris after the Great War. He read in the newspaper that the city was having trouble maintaining the Eiffel Tower. Lustig came up with an outlandish scheme where he would use that story to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap iron. He forged some documents and cooked up an elaborate story about how he had been tasked to secretly find some buyers. He found some interested parties, had them picked up in limousines for a tour of the Tower and then convinced one of them, Andre Poisson, to make a bid.

That sounds quite ballsy, but he went further. Poisson’s wife suspected that Lustig may not have been on the level. Lustig decided to use this to his advantage so he met with the couple and confessed that he was actually a government employee, not an agent hired by the city. He made it clear that he was not paid well and was hoping to improve on that by finding the right buyer. In other words, he wanted a bribe. This sealed the deal and Andre Poisson, not only bought the Eiffel Tower, he paid Lustig a bribe to do it.

Every time I see a story about Elon Musk, I think of Victor Lustig. The reason for that is Musk often turns up in the news attached to some bold new scheme to do something most people see as futuristic or massively complicated. He’s sort of a Phileas Fogg, that is always announcing some grand new adventure. The publicity stunts have no real bearing on his alleged project, but he puts a lot of effort into getting public notice for them. There is a P.T. Barnum quality to it that does not quite square with the official story.

The tunneling under Los Angeles story is a good example. There’s nothing new about this idea. The Crossrail is a giant rail tunnel under the city of London that was done using boring machines. It is a 26-mile tunnel that was threaded between the exiting tunnels under the city. There was a recent documentary on it, which is probably where Musk got the idea. The London tunnel is an amazing bit of engineering because there’s a ton of stuff under the city that the tunnelers had to dodge as they dug the thing.

That’s not to say doing such a thing under Los Angeles would be easy, but it is hardly a brilliant futuristic idea. In fact, people have suggested this in the past, but such a project would require tens of billions in tax money. More important, there’s no real reason to do it, other than the fact California is a failed state so building roads and bridges the old way is impossible. Musk is levering that reality to propose his futuristic “solution” for the transport problems of Los Angeles. What a guy!

That’s probably the point of the hype. Tesla, Musk’s one big “successful” scheme is entirely dependent on tax dollars. Take away the subsidies and it goes bust. The same is true of the battery schemes, the solar plant, the space program. According to the LA Times, Musk has netted close to $5 Billion in government money. Not all of it is tax money, of course. A lot of it comes in the form of grants for research and credits for doing government approved projects, like making solar panels. It’s not unreasonable to say the Musk is a tax sink.

There’s also a good chance that like Lustig, Musk works both sides of the street. He gets a bunch of attention for some new project, like digging a tunnel under Los Angeles. He then gets investors lined up, promising tax schemes that will multiply their investment, in addition to getting government support for the project. Since Musk appears to have skin in the game and is wildly confident his plan will work, investors line up. Once it all comes together, Musk is a minority share holder, but in full control of the project.

The formula is to use the media to promote the idea to the public. He then gets some other billionaires to back it on condition that Musk can get the government invested. That is used to pure the state into the scheme, which seals the deal with the private equity guys. From there it is just a churn as Musk and his buddies get their seed money out with interests as new investors demand to get in on the action. Since these projects take decades, the risk of it unraveling in the short term in minimal.

The best part of a scheme like this is he can get his seed money out early and still have equity in the new project. The investors and the government are on the hook and they will keep putting money into it no matter how many times a Space X rocket explodes or a Tesla bursts into flames. That’s not to say Musk is a con man like Lustig. The main difference is that Lustig was breaking the law, while Musk is well within the law. In fact, his innovation is to make the law his partner.

Musk is a modern incarnation of P.T. Barnum, pitching the attractions of the technocratic state via public-private partnerships. Barnum would find exotic acts to put inside his act, while Musk finds big technology projects. Instead of getting the public to buy a ticket to see the bearded lady or wolf boy, Musk gets the public to support the expenditure of public funds for his latest whiz bang idea. In the process, he and his associates get an exclusive investment opportunity and make millions from schemes that tend not to result in much of anything, other than hype.

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99 thoughts on “The New Barnum

  1. I have always failed to understand why people single out Elon Musk for selling, of all things, hype.

    The man created a line of electric cars that totally outclass the competition, and compete extremely favorably with petroleum-fueled cars, and, oh yeah, started the first successful car company since god-knows-when to do so.

    The man single-handedly reinvigorated space as a thing. Think of it: since the Space Shuttle was retired half-a-decade ago, if America wanted to get into space, we called up Russia and politely asked them for a ride aboard one of their Soyuz rockets. And paid—handsomely, probably—for the privilege. With no plans for a better system. And then Musk came along, and dumped like half his net worth into making a self-goddamn-landing rocket.

    And then there’s his solar thing, where he recently introduced a roofing-tile-thing that looks totally normal, is actually a bunch of solar panels, and (apparently) costs less than a regular roof.

    Elon Musk is PT Barnum, if PT Barnum had founded Ford, humiliated NASA, on its own turf, on 1% of its budget, and started the Standard Oil of the 21st century.

    • Except that Tesla goes out of business without massive tax subsidies. He makes tax funded toys for rich people. I’m at a loss as to why that is a good thing. If he was pumping out cheap electric cars for the masses, sure, but he is not and he never intends to. I give him credit for pulling it off, but I think Barnum is under rated too.

      Musk is a huslter. He’s not a crook anymore than Barnum was a crook. But, let’s not confuse the showman with the show.

      • I don’t think Musk caused the tax subsidies. Let us grant that Tesla is parasitic. Whose fault is that? Musk is just taking an opportunity that the state created. Of course, once you get a state demanding a business and a business that exists for the state, you do get into self-licking ice cream cone turf. So to some extent the charge of parasitism is

        Whether it is good: well, meh. I don’t see it as really good or bad. Wasting money is of course bad. But probably most of what the government does is much worse than wasting money on Tesla. We do get something in that deal. (Compare the ROI we get from subsidizing bastardy.)

        Also, SpaceX is (so far as I can tell) a solid business, at least unless NASA grabs huge gobs of tax money and undercuts their launch biz. There is substantial free market demand for launches to orbit. There is also substantial government demand, but much of that is arguably an actual legitimate use of taxpayer money.

        • Barnum did not create the market for freak shows. Tax eaters are not new. They have been around since the dawn of time. There are tens of thousands of small not-for-profits that do little more than apply for grants.

          Musk’s innovation is to take Barnum’s act and use it to exploit technocracy. Instead of selling monorails to Springfield and Shelbyville, he sells a big complicated concept to over educated technocrats in the managerial class. The lure is the futurism and the science! In other words, he sells the circus to the state, who then contracts with him to build the big top, supply the elephants and so forth.

          Space X is a great example. He pitched the idea of a private space program that could get around the bureaucracy and red tape of NASA. He just needed permission, which was easily obtained. That got $100 million in capital to match his initial $100 million. That got the attention of NASA which lobbied to get in on the act. They pitched in $400 million. So far, SpaceX has one client, the US government.

          As I said, Musk is not a crook. He’s simply an very bold and brash opportunist. He looked at the tax eaters and said, “Let’s do this at the billion dollar scale!” The result is he is very rich.

          • http://www.spacex.com/missions
            Japanese Space Agency
            Thales Alenia (Brit/Ital)
            ORBCOMM – mobile telecomm
            Several asian sat companies
            I didn’t know NASA had taken over several good companies. Kudo’s to their managament

            To some extent I agree he is less innovator than salesman, but fact checking is important

        • I wouldn’t go as far as dubbing SpaceX ”a solid business” but considering how lousy NASA was (the whole Shuttle program was a fiasco, mostly nonsensical PR missions, such as yes, the ill-fated Challenger one) perhaps the US space program is better spearheaded by him than anyone else.
          Not to mention there is no such animal as truly private enterprise space operations, and quite possibly (sorry, sci-fi fans) ever will be.
          I don’t hold the failures against SpaceX, it’s inherently high risk, just like flying was many years ago. It IS experimental, which means the odds of failure are high – and unlike NASA, so far, no one killed.
          Despite the fact that it literally has a US Senator https://infogalactic.com/info/Bill_Nelson (D-NASA) there won’t be gobs of taxpayer money. In the 60’s especially, there was a lot of ”PT Barnum” in NASA, which was gone by 1980.

          • Acknowledging the “risky business” of space flight along with the astronomical bloat of the Agency that has turned “light & fast” into “heavy & slow”, the program accomplished a lot not to mention the side benefits generated from advances in science and product technology.

            Here is a simple summary of the Space Shuttle program: “Since 1981, NASA’s fleet of space shuttles have been roaring into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center. More than 130 times, these amazing machines have traveled to Earth orbit, deploying and repairing satellites, and doing experiments. Since 1998, shuttle missions have delivered the components and crews needed to build and maintain the International Space Station.”

            Of course, one of the highlights that everyone benefits from is the launching of the Hubble Telescope, in addition to communications and military satellites, and weather monitoring just to name a few.

            Did failures happen? Yes. But the heroics and commitment of many Americans and other around the world, helped to advance our understanding of this planet we call Home, and the Vacuum that surrounds us. For more info, check out:
            https://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/the_shuttle/

      • how musk operates seems almost ideal for advancing the state of the art in key technologies. yes he gets government money, but so do many others who never produce anything of value. sometimes a promising new technology needs a little help to reach critical mass, especially with all the regulatory hurdles in place now. as long as Musk keeps pushing the state of the art forward, I am for letting him have the money.

        he is definitely a huckster, but he is also producing tangible success. also keep in mind *all
        * of his foreign competition receive huge subsidies. compared to the Cock brothers, Musk is a national treasure.

        • You hit on Musk’s angle. He sells the future and who does not love the future? The Cock Bothers sell the past so they stink. Musk sells the future, so he is glorious. Both of them are tax eaters, but one is bold and brash, selling puppies and starbursts, so he is the winner.

        • Between the Apple’s Job’s/Wozniack type innovators and the Solyndra “Dindu Nuffin’s”, sits Elon. Granted as the front man, and I am not sure how much of the ideas are “his” versus those on his “team” but he is certainly willing to take credit. His ventures cover the range from SpaceX being the most successful, then Tesla, then his solar endeavors (of which I don’t really know much), but I think it is a bit early to call him a “National Treasure.” That is akin to giving Obama the Nobel Prize just for getting elected as the First Black President. An accomplishment for sure, but worth of a Nobel Prize … hardly.

      • The intent of the Model 3 is to get the entry level price down to $35K. That is RAPIDLY approaching ‘for the masses’ territory.

    • Because of this: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-musk-subsidies-20150531-story.html

      It’s not unique to Musk. Lockheed, Boeing, and other large military/industrial companies do the same thing. The difference is that Musk is an actual person, so he’s easier to “single out”.

      That being said, I have only limited issues with what Musk does. This is actually one of those things that the Government should be doing. Like interstate highways and developing space orbital infrastructure. But NOT like the ITER in France which is a government-run boondoggle. There are just some things that individuals and startups cannot accomplish, but which are a net good for society. The Tesla X is down to about $80K for their entry model…down from over $200K. I remember in 1998 a buddy of mine called me up and said, “Hey, wanna go see a $16,000 television?” We drove to some exotic tech store in Denver to see……….

      ……a 42″ Panasonic plasma television. I think they’re running about $200-$300 today, and you can get them on eBay for under $100. The Tesla X can be fully charged for about $5 in electricity and go 200-300 miles on battery only. I pay $10-15 to go that far in my Subaru Outback. The next big investment is going to have to be electrical “gas stations” so people can fill up. You’ll see entire sectors of the economy reorganize around the pumps because you can sit down and have a decent meal in the 40 minutes it currently takes to get an 80% charge.

      It’ll take 50-75 years to get people transitioned over to electric, but the ground floor companies today will be the Exxon’s of my grandchildren’s generation. In fact, I bet the big gas companies will be the first to ride that wave.

      I’ve said for about a decade now that the day consumers realize that magnets can propel them 0-60 in about 4 seconds, the internal combustion engine is going to crumble. All you’ve got to do is make them reliable, accessible for your average $100K dual-income middle class family, and able to carry 4-5 passengers.

      • The difference between electric cars and flat screen TV’s is physics. The technology to make a high def TV was worked out before anyone started selling them. The first models cost a fortune because they had not worked out how to cheaply mass produce them, but that was mostly a matter of building market for them.

        We don’t know how to replace your gas tank with a quick charging battering that cost under a $1000. We have no idea how to roll out a new electric grid to recharge these cars in the backwoods of West Virginia. There are huge hurdles to overcome and decades of work before getting near the $16,000 TV era. There’s a pretty good argument that it is never going to happen, simply because better cheaper alternatives already exist.

        • “For now”. The first HDTVs suffered not just from prices, but from both the lack of HD content and the lack of ability to get that content to people over copper telephone wires. We’ve not only solved the copper wire problem, we’ve solved the entire problem of wires period. In less than 10 years. I still laugh at all the coax and Ethernet cables strung throughout my house that is nearly 100% unused. Are there still places where these things aren’t fully available? Yes, and it’ll take another decade to get those poor West Virginans off of their dial up modems. But most places? Problem solved.

          Sometimes the app has to precede the infrastructure. Also, if you’ve been in any Fed/State/Local building lately, you’ll notice that the Government is one of the biggest consumers of those TVs. So it’s not like that industry hasn’t been subsidized.

          It’s a nearly immutable law in consumer electronics (which cars are rapidly becoming) that retail access leads to lower prices, greater availability, and increased capability with each generation. And that growth is typically nonlinear.

          The Tesla X entry model is basically what a moderately equipped BMW 5 series or X5 runs…which means on their current arc, and assuming Tesla can win over Consumer Reports (which panned the car as klunky and impractical), we’ll see T-X vehicles in McMansion driveways within 5 years. I’ve already seen three driving around ski country here in CO as they are still mainly a status symbol car for the “condo in Vail” set. But that will change.

          Like you said, eventually the tax credits and subsidies go away, and we’ll find out who is right. History’s on my side though.

          • No, it’s not resolved in most of the country. It’s resolved in parts of the cities. I work for an ISP that provides coverage in a small regional area. We are in the process of putting in our own fiber optics but it’s only going in the bigger towns. Some areas are 5mbps max and there are areas we don’t service that are satellite only. There is money to try and upgrade services in these rural areas, but they don’t have the infrastructure to support high speed internet.

          • Bulls**t: https://www.broadbandmap.gov/demographics

            First of all, I said “most places”, and acknowledged there are a few areas remaining. Second of all, the actual data says you’re dead wrong. Third, we have SOLVED the problem of copper wires. We have:
            – fiber optics
            – cable/coax
            – satellite
            – wireless

            The problem of getting broadband to people is solved. That some people can afford broadband and some cannot is not anybody’s actual problem.

          • Excuse me, but I actually work in the industry. How many dialup customers do you deal with? Century Link is no longer providing dsl in the Tygh Valley area because it’s not profitable. I live in an area in Vancouver WA, where I have two options. I may be able to get Wi-Max type service or Comcast may not be lying when they say I can get business class (but not residential). Or I can do something through cell, which won’t allow me to work from home.

            If you look at that map you posted, take another look at the western united states. Don’t see a lot of dots in those areas, indicating high speed service. Satellite doesn’t work well for things like streaming or working for home because of the latency. And satellite and dialup are the two options people in rural areas have. And by the way, I’ve lived in areas that don’t even have cell coverage. You truly do not know what you are talking about.

          • I said, accurately, that we have solved the problem of low bandwidth copper wires which could not support HD content. I also said, accurately, that it’ll take another decade to get that capability to everyone in the USA – particularly very rural areas. There will always be small dead zones. I can’t get broadcast (antenna) TV channels at my house in Colorado because of all the 13,000 foot mountains around us. FiOS is only available in a few cities. I have a cheap ass 1.5Mbps DSL because I’m not going to sell my soul to Comcast.

            That doesn’t mean there are no ways to access broadband. It may not be optimal. It may not be perfect. It might be more expensive than some are willing to pay. But, the technology exists which solves the problem created by HD televisions, and that solution is widely available.

            And by the way, thanks for making this about the internet and not HD television sets which is what I was originally talking about. There are virtually no places in America where HD programming cannot be received and enjoyed. I dumped DirecTV last year and bought a $20 powered antenna for my TV instead. That means if you’re dirt poor living in a trailer park in Security-Widefield, but you have a $100 plasma TV you got on e-Bay, that you can watch the Super Bowl in high definition if you buy a $20 powered antenna at Walmart. (and technically, you can use rabbit ears and get HD, but drop the $20 to help avoid pixelation)

            In 1998, it was almost a 100% certainty that you or your neighbors – in virtually every home in America – were using a dial up modem over a copper telephone line to access your AOLonline (or whatever) email account.

            In less than 20 years, that technology has been made not just obsolete, but increasingly rare. Here’s a cool graphic just related to landline telephones nationwide:
            http://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2015/02/27/the-great-decline-of-the-landline-infographic/

            You’re just…wrong. Technology has solved the physics problem except in the extreme locations (e.g. my house in the mountains) or where ECONOMICS needs to solve what remains of the problem. The technical problem is solved. I live in Colorado, and if you drive more than 1/2 mile off a major road, you’re not going to have coverage. But that is a ECONOMIC issue, not a technology issue. You’re just whining about what was in my original point…that it will take time to get that technology out into the hinterlands.

          • I think the bigger issue is the physics. A car that has a 300 mile range and needs hours to refuel is useless as a car, no matter the price. The claims of charge time from Tesla are mostly bravo sierra, but even if they get to the three hour range, the charge time begins to grow as the battery is used.

            The quest for the super battery has another issue beyond the physics. That is, we have proven technology that is better. American is awash in natural gas. We have something like a 500 year supply, but in reality we have an infinity supply at decreasing cost. The technology to turn natural gas into gasoline is proven and in production at prices cheaper than refining crude oil. if we want to skip that step, converting IC engines to natural gas is simple.

            In other words, the IC engines we have are the books and whiz bang electric cars are the e-Books. The collapse of e-Book sales is a lesson the electric car people should notice.

          • Your right we have loads and loads of gas and no shortage of oil but I believe that strategically we need electric cars. I feel strongly that it is a defense issue. I also believe that it’s a freedom issue. If you have solar and an electric car it takes power away from the State.

            Personally I would rather cars be hybrids but for practical purposes most people only need to charge at night and most people rarely take long trips over 300 miles.

          • THe physics are against natural gas as a fuel source also. Natural gas cars have about half to a third the range of gasoline-powered cars. I had one. It was a huge pain to constantly find places to fill it.

            If gasoline didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it. It is very energy dense due to the numerous chemical bonds in its molecule and the energy is easily converted to power in the ICE. Batteries may be great at producing power but their energy density is poor and hasn’t improved much in 20 years. They are also toxic and prone to catching on fire at odd times, especially when they come from Chinese factories.

          • The difference is we can fairly easily built out the refill stations. There’s no need for a great discovery or a miracle. Regardless, we can make gasoline from natural gas as economical rates so it is a moot point anyway. Our IC engines are super clean now and super reliable.

            No matter how you slice it, electric cars a solution in search of a problem.

          • Why is it that people seem to think that an “electric” vehicle will free them from the clutches of petroleum? Where will the electricity be generated from? Obama killed coal but maybe that will make a comeback now. Hydro and solar are good while others are, eh!

            Zman is right. How does a lower cost per charge but having to wait 40 minutes (or longer) for that charge translate into productivity? The costs to “fundamentally transform” the fuel infrastructure to electric is cost prohibitive and you still don’t address the “emissions” problem as the number of vehicles continues to grow.

          • I don’t think everybody thinks that. As the technology improves, they’ll buy them for the same reason they bought an iphone: its faster, its easier (bye bye gas station trip), its clean and ultra quiet, it looks pretty cool, and it solves a “multiple device” problem (in this case, the idea of a “gas station”). 200-300 mile range? NO PROBLEM.

            The vast majority of people drive their cars to work and back and stay within 10 miles of home for 90% of their travel. And chances are, places like shopping centers at malls will start to incorporate charging stations.

            You cannot fill your tank from home with an IC engine. I was booking my summer vacation today at a FL resort, and they advertise the availability of their EV charging stations on-site at the hotel. Again, no looking for a gas station. You’ll see “gas stations” become restaurants where people can get expensive coffee, eat lunch, and use the free wifi while their car gets a 20 min quick charge.

            Have you seen the free charging stations at the airports? Obviously they’re not going to let people charge their cars for free, but that’s the cool thing about electricity: virtually zero environmental concerns (no spills, no tanker trucks, etc).

            On a power grid level, we don’t have to rewire the electrical grid “today”. It’ll evolve over time because EVs aren’t going to be everywhere overnight…though we’re one major supply disruption or “hey we figured out nuclear fusion” event away from that sort of thing becoming very plausible.

          • “Electric cars are a solution in search of a problem.”

            Isn’t that basically the theme of all of modern, Western society? 99% of the crap people consume solves a problem they didn’t even know they had. Hell, I saw a TV commercial the other day for a washing machine with a built in sink. WTF?

            The camera on your smart phone is about 100x more capable than you’re ever likely to need. Curved televisions. 20′ long Super Duty pickups that people use to drive to work on urban streets. Satellite TV (which has declined with the massive/cheap/nationwide availability of broadband…despite what that other commenter claimed). Cord cutters are everywhere.

            We’re going to see houses designed, built, and powered differently. Cars too. The IC engine isn’t going anywhere in my lifetime, but my grandkids? Definitely. And if for no other reason than because some future Nancy Pelosi pushes a law through Congress that requires IC cars (incandescent lightbulbs) to be phased out, and everybody has to buy an EV (LED).

            How did society react to that? At first, people were pissed. Then they hoarded. Now people are slowly converting their homes to LEDs…especially as the bulbs got better. Of course, what worked against Queen Nancy is that instead of one string of incandescent bulbs on the garage at Christmas, people now have 20 strands because it costs the same.

            EVs will have their ups and downs, but the technology will continue to improve. And when the regular person can buy a sports car that goes 0-60 in 3 SECONDS, which magnets can do, and IC engines cannot on a practical level, they’re going to buy them.

          • That’s one of the main reasons why we’re unlikely to find a lot of “intelligent life” in the universe. Without a few global mass extinctions, we’d have no petroleum products, and human civilization would have topped out roughly at the level of 18th century Great Britain. Scientists get all wet about the idea of liquid water, but really it’s fossil fuels that enable advanced societies.

            Unless we come across an entire civilization that evolved on a methane-planet, in which case we probably wouldn’t even notice each other.

          • It’s going to be interesting in a few years when that those Tesla battery packs finally start dying – as in no longer able to take or hold a charge. I can only speculate, but I suspect the battery pack alone is $20-$30k. I doubt many Tesla owners are going to be interested in ponying up that much to replace that – assuming they are able to find someone who even can do the job.
            https://infogalactic.com/info/General_Motors_EV1 was the Tesla of 20 years ago, also flashy, also zippy, but used a conventional lead-acid ”golf cart” battery pack – with about a three to four year useful lifespan (Lithium-ion batteries were the ”$16,000 TV” of that era, they existed, but were way too expensive to be a practical choice). That’s why GM never SOLD any of them, they leased them out with a 3 year closed-end lease – figuring (likely correctly) that most drivers were not going to shell out several thousand dollars to replace that pack.

          • The plasma/TV cost problem was fixed through the standard supply and demand market system. The more people that bought them, the more companies that built them, and the cheaper they got.

            My iPhone 5 battery died last year. That used to mean you were done, and had to get a new $400 phone. Instead, I got a new battery from Batteries Plus for $19.99, a $5 kit to help me pry the cover off, and got another year out of the phone.

            None of your arguments are currently incorrect. They will become incorrect over time as is often the case with incremental technology advancements.

            Btw, Tesla warranties for the batteries are 8 years including routine road damage (i.e. just don’t crash it). They can swap out your battery in about 90 seconds, but drivers like the superchargers just fine, so Tesla will probably ditch the battery swap program. Their new battery puts them on track to develop the Tesla model 3 which their goal is a $35,000 entry-level price.

            I love what Zman writes, and he’s right a lot, but he’s wrong on this one.

          • Musk is a marketing genius and somewhat of an innovator. His idea of marketing the Tesla to CEOs, VPs, and wannabes was good. He knows the Silicon Valley striver well. GM never really marketed the EV1 and the people who had heard of it were mostly middle-management types and below so it never became sexy or associated with status.

            Electric cars are a 100 year-old concept and they still haven’t taken off for reasons of chemistry and physics. I doubt Musk is ever going to make Tesla profitable. He really is a PT Barnum.

          • We’ll see, right? You know I’ve said for awhile now that cheap gas, natural and gasoline, is tied to some of the bigger tech revolutions coming in the country in the future (most notably, huge efficiency in logistics and delivery speeds). I didn’t say that those were going away. However, as prices come down, and as other manufacturers figure out how to take Tesla’s technologies and incorporate them into IC platforms, the batteries will continue to improve/shrink.

            17 years ago, the best I could hope for with my phone was a few hours, and all it could to was dial and maybe do some basic texting. If I wanted to bring my music with me, I had to have a CD or tape player with a couple of AA batteries that might last a couple of cross-country trips. If you had a GPS back then, same story.

            Today? My i6 does all of those things plus 1,000 more, and as long as I plug it in when I go to bed (and even if I don’t), I can use it on-demand. And it fits in my pocket.

            You asked awhile back what the big things coming down the pike are. Battery and energy storage will be the next thing. Right now, everybody is trying to eke just a bit more about of Li-ion batteries. That’s topping out. And giving historical trends, I’d expect that to break through in the next 5-10 years. Musk isn’t seeing it close, otherwise he wouldn’t have spent $5B on a Li-ion battery plant. But it also tells you what PT Barnum thinks about his technologies.

          • Small battery size is much more due to lower power requirements by the tranceivers than battery innovation.

        • People have once again fallen for the idea that unless we fund these “visionaries” some bad actor/s will. BS. We’ve got venture capitalists out there dying to give their money to anyone of genuine substance. Muck is nothing special.

          • I don’t neccessarily mean bad as much as I meant someone or an entity other than America.

          • Google and Fidelity own 10% of SpaceX (about $1B). Tesla is trading at $269 up from $17, yes, SEVENTEEN DOLLARS, in 2010. I’d say he’s got a few venture capitalists now.

        • Forget West Virginia, we’d need a new grid nationwide. LA already has rolling blackouts and brownouts in the summer when everyone is using their air conditioners. Imagine the strain on the grid with a couple million cars charging. Not only that, but we’d need new generation capability, too – and given that coal, oil, and nuke plants would all be tied up for decades in litigation, that ain’t happening any time soon.

          • LA has rolling blackouts because you fucksticks in CA can’t be bothered to build any goddamned power plants to, you know, GENERATE all that electricity to that you voraciously consume.

            So instead, you have to build hundreds of miles of transmission lines to get it from AZ and NV where people are sane enough to still build power plants.

            If the use of electric cars ramped up slowly, the grid would ramp up in unison to meet the demand, that’s straightforward engineering, no miracles need occur.

            Electric cars are NOT some panacea though. Out here in BFE, an electric car will be, not entirely useless, but not very practical, because it’s so far between everything (it’s ~30miles to the grocery store from my house, one way). Plus, I drive a one ton truck dual rear wheels because I haul shit around and tow heavy trailers all the time. An electric truck that can do what I need a truck to do is not coming in the foreseeable future.

            But some schmoe that commutes 15miles to work in the AM, stays in the office all day, and then 15miles home at night? An EV would be perfect for him. It’d be perfect for his wife who might just need to kick around town (a few miles here a few mile there) doing errands all day too.

            In fact, if they can get the auto-pilot thing to work reliably, they could BOTH use that same car to do those things. Drive it to work, then send it to the wife, who uses it all day, then send it back to work to wait for the guy to get off work, then he drives it back home at the end of the day.

            In a big city, that sort of thing would be wonderful, and people would buy the shit out of them.

            As a side benefit, the city gets a little quieter (less running engines over time) and the air gets better.

            I’m not saying they’re saving the planet, they’re just making air in that specific location have less exhaust in it, which for the folks in the midst of it, is a good thing.

            EV’s are not the Jesus of technology, but they might have a well appreciated role in some circumstances.

            The thing to avoid at all costs is letting the gov’t start banning or mandating anything to do with transportation tech. Let the engineers develop the tech and see what happens. No thumbs on the scale either for or against.

        • Pardon my contentiousness but…

          “…We don’t know how to replace your gas tank with a quick charging battering that cost under a $1000…”

          New Tesla cars have built in battery backs that are quickly replaced.

          https://forums.tesla.com/nl_NL/forum/forums/quick-battery-replacement

          “…We have no idea how to roll out a new electric grid to recharge these cars in the backwoods of West Virginia…”

          We already have the grid. Charge the cars at night when the demand is lower. Tesla is building lots of solar powered charging stations that require no grid at all.

          • Oh Crap! Can you imagine a field of solar panels on every other block generating enough energy to store in batteries waiting to “refuel” electric vehicles for a long time? You think gas lines in the ’70’s were long! Each gas station would need a parking lot, restaurant and entertainment park as people wait for their “charge” and to be able to get back on the road.

            Or maybe, they can have “pre-charged” packs that can be swapped out. A “Swap & Go” refuel model. Then the empties could be recharged “overnight.”

            What a frick’in joke!

          • Actually, Tesla experimented with swap and go power packs in CA. e.g. somebody drives to SF from LA, gets their battery swapped out (it takes about 2 minutes), so they can just turn around and drive home. Result? Nobody used it. The supercharger technology is so good (80% charge in 40 min) that they could go to their meetings, and the car is charged up by the time they want to leave.

            When your car becomes like your cell phone, that’s a long-term sign that the IC engine only has 20-30 years left in it.

            Also, the big solar farms are hugely wasteful. They take up too much land, cost too much to build, etc. Solar is ideally suited for distributed generation. It’s faster, easier and cheaper to get 100,000 solar panels on the rooftops in Denver than to build a 100,000 panel solar farm. Similarly, coal plants burn coal to heat water to make steam, right? What if your solar was pre-heating the water (which is the hardest, most energy-consuming, part of the process) reducing your need for coal? It’s not sci-fi:

            https://www.technologyreview.com/s/415156/mixing-solar-with-coal-to-cut-costs/

            Best part? The sun is free. That makes the electricity cheaper to generate, which in turn makes energy more affordable for everyone. Cheaper electricity also makes EVs more attractive.

      • How many Teslas do you see on the road? I actually saw one yesterday and it’s the first one I’ve seen. How to you expect people to charge these cars, when we aren’t building new power plants to generate the electricity? And how do you deal with the issue of the batteries? Not many folks want to spend thousands of dollars to replace all the batteries in the car.

        I like internal combustion engines. it’s a proven technology.

        • I saw a Tesla the other day. It was a dark, cold, wet day and it was doing 55 mph on a stretch where everyone else was doing 75, probably so he could conserve power to keep his lights, wipers, and defrosters on.

          I researched this the last time this came up and if memory serves me well, gasoline has 40 times the energy density of the best batteries. And while gas tanks do blow up, they don’t seem to do so with anything like the frequency of Li ion batteries.

          And while I concede that Hokoda’s argument has merit, our electrical utilities aren’t as agile as they were in the 20’s (practical heating elements and small electric motors enter the home market), 30’s (factories finish converting from steam and water to 3-phase 440) or the 50’s (large electric motors and TVs in the home). I don’t know if they could build the new generating and distribution infrastructure… the imagination, drive and creativity just aren’t there.

          • I think it could be done, except for the “green weenies” that seem to be allowed to hold everything up.

          • It’ll take time, but the “iPhone” nature of the Tesla and similar vehicles will make them broadly appealing. If we tried to put 1,000,000 of those suckers on the power grid next month, it wouldn’t work. But over a decade or two the infrastructure will meet the need. A lot of new construction today (homes) is done with things like fiber and wireless in mind (just like my current house has a lot of late 90’s IT infrastructure built into it…eithernet the main example).

            IC vehicles aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But Tesla is ramping up to put 1/2 million of their vehicles on the road over the next 5-10 years I think, so it’ll start the process of driving the needed infrastructure changes much like Plasma TVs led the HD and high speed internet revolution.

            Also, part of Tesla’s model is to sell people an in-home solar charging system for their vehicle. Charges all day while you’re at work, you come home and plug your car it, and it drains some of the solar storage to recharge the car. Cycle repeats the next day.

            That’s pretty cool when you think about it.

        • There are half a dozen within a 3-ish block radius, and I see at least 2 or 3 on the way to the grocery store and back.

          • You mean you don’t order online and have grocery delivery right to your door? Oh, the shame!

        • The charging issue is a non-issue. Most all the time people charge in the evening. We don’t need any new plants. Actually the large load differences during the day require turning on extra generators during the day. More costly than base load generators. With more charging at night it would even out the load lowering electricity prices.

          • Charging is a non-issue until you want to drive from Boston to Baltimore or LA to San Fran.

            I’m not convinced that you would not need more generating capacity. Utilities are always taking generators and boilers off line for maintenance. If you run the existing ones all day, you still need to build more capacity to acount for increased wear and tear and increased maintenance requirements.

          • True, however, I was booking a trip to Orlando this summer and the hotel we’re looking at advertises its supercharger charging stations on the hotel property. If you’re driving from LA to San Fran, you’re probably going to stop for coffee and a sandwich along the way. Plenty of time to recharge the car and use the free wifi at the attached restaurant.

          • Where does this idea that most people don’t drive 200-300 miles per day? Even if the average number says that is true, the others that do make that kind of trip daily will have a huge hit in delays and other productivity costs waiting for charge time. Yes, the charging issue is a non-issue. We have consensus. It is fact.

          • 75% (ish) of drivers commute less than 50 miles (round trip) each day. You’re going to see more and more companies with charging stations in their parking garages (as the kinds of people who will buy EVs likely are upper middle class and higher types). Charging is a non issue for a huge percentage of people’s annual mileage.

            http://www.statisticbrain.com/commute-statistics/

    • I agree with you King George and Leonard. The tax breaks are because we as a society think that these type technologies are good for the country. They had these before Musk got into it. I think they are a bargain for Defense compared to $1 trillion for the F35. (I must say I don’t believe all the tech in the E35 is a loser. The electronics seem to be very advanced. It’s the idea of making one plane do a bunch of stuff that screws the whole plane up.) Let’s not even talk about how Boeing is ripping us off on space launches. Cheap solar increases the liberty of the average person. Electric cars free you from oil monopolies. That solar shingle idea is the greatest thing since sliced bread if it works. If you build a machine that makes building roads cheaper and start building roads no one says you’re sucking off the government teat or gives you a hard time.

      I also think you’re (ZMan)wrong about the boring machine. Yes you’re right on the surface about it being talked about before but I think he’s doing something different. The reason is because I’ve thought a lot about boring machines. Look at how the whole head of this boring machine turns,

      https://arstechnica.co.uk/cars/2016/12/elon-musk-hates-sitting-in-traffic-so-now-hes-going-to-build-tunnels/

      I’ve often thought this was a bad idea because it’s hard to turn such a large thing, the rollers that crush the rock don’t do enough efficiently and the hole made is round instead of shaped like a road with an curved surface floor, gutters and a catenary roof. My idea was to have the same type boring bits as are used in oil drilling. They would only drill the outer surface of the tunnel being a whole line of them shaped like the finished tunnel as stated in the last sentence. The bits could be staggered with some in the front and some slightly behind to cut all the rock. A rock crusher, maybe like a big smashing veg-o-matic, could smash the center section of rock as it is peeled off after the outer outline of the tunnel is cut by the drilling bits. Why is this a good idea? One you only use energy to crush the outer section of the tunnel to a fine state. The inner section of the hole is just crushed into big chunks. So I see Musk’s boring machine and damned if it doesn’t look a little like a bunch of drills in the shape of a tunnel.

      https://thetechportal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/elon-musk-tunnel-image-e1486200491628.jpg

      Of course I could be wrong. There’s also new drilling options. There’s some guys making a plasma drilling bit that’s supposed to be real fast. He could be using that.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_deep_drilling_technology

      Whatever he’s doing I’ll bet instead of one big bit he has a bunch of small ones. Lots easier to use a lot of small bits VERY fast than one big bit slow bit. Also using oil company tech you’re leveraging mass R&D for a multi-billion dollar business instead of building one big boring bit at a time.

      Let’s add in his remote driving tech. He could have remote control carts that bring in water, cement and rebar on the gutter sides of the tunnel to the machine. When emptied of supplies to the machine they move to the middle of machine, catch dirt from the middle of the machine, drive to a dumping point and then return to the machine. The roof and walls could be continuously poured, see “gunnite” or “shotcrete”. Some concrete can dry to a fairly strong state very fast. The roof could be held up with sheilds just like coal mines.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longwall_mining

      Sorry so long but I’ve thinking about this for a bit.

    • Yeah, right! All thanks to his good buddy Barry. He practically kills the US auto industry while wasting resources (firing CEO’s, bailouts and Cash-4-Clunkers), transforms NASA into some Muslim “who knows what” while killing space exploration, and sends billions of tax payer dollars to failed “green” energy projects. The fact that Elon could acquire technologies and designs on the cheap, (he’s a marketing shyster and I’m sure he didn’t design all that SpaceX stuff with his own research and money; the taxpayers paid for most of it via NASA).

      You think he is great, go ahead, invest your own money if you dare. I will grant you, landing reusable space vehicles is a phenomenal act but we now have the technology to make that happen. That simply couldn’t be done back in the Apollo Program days.

  2. Always thought it was telling; while progs passionately hate corporate welfare, when it comes to Top Welfare Queen Musk, suddenly they discover a hero. Feeding from the public tax trough is okay, so long as you shit out shiny eco-toys priced for the 1%. Progs love the rich and the poor, but detest the tax-paying middle. They must be made to pay for exploding rockets and rich men’s virtue-signaling status rides.

      • The base model Teslas is $71K before taxes and the $10K bill for fitting the charging station in the house. I did the research on it and that’s what it costs around here, all in. What you get for your $80K is a car you can use on weekends, as it has a 200 mile range. Maybe you take it to work if you have a short commute and no risk of getting stuck in traffic.

        Now, that car does come with a tax break so you get some money back. It also comes with tax subsidies to Tesla for making it and the batteries. Pull the crutch of government out from Tesla and it either becomes a vendor for the super car makers or it goes away.

        • Here in California you get to drive the Tesla in the car pool lane with one occupant. That is a huge selling point because people crave bragging rights. Talking about it means you have gamed the system (so you are obviously smart and clever), you are saving the environment from big oil (virtue points), and you are rich enough to afford a car that goes, all in, for almost six figures. A bragging trifecta!

          There is a dealership nearby, and lots of Teslas are on the road in my area. I see them getting picked up by the side of the road by the triple A tow trucks out of all proportion to their numbers. I also see door handles askew and half broken on a lot of them. But, as a car guy, I love the idea of marketing your performance version as “ludicrous speed”. Yup, Barnumesque, now that I think about it.

        • In Vegas I can buy a two or three year old Mercedes all electric Dumbcar with 20k miles for five or six grand. Apparently there is not enough virtue to be seen driving around in these.

          • Tesla Model 3 anticipated base price is $35K before the government tax break for consumers. I can’t stand tax credits, but they do exist, and people will use them, and it’ll cover the cost of getting the supercharger installed at home.

  3. Z Man;
    I don’t get the Eiffel Tower Con. Ordinarily, the mark (M Poisson) is enticed by the lure of easy money at somebody else’s expense, sometimes even (supposedly) the con artist’s (Lustig). That’s why it’s hard to cheat an honest man: He doesn’t think that way. So, how was M Poisson going to turn owning the Eiffel Tower into easy money_? Admissions_? Scrap doesn’t pay much and the demolition would have been dangerous and expensive. Surely Poisson would know this.

    The Brooklyn Bridge Con’s connection between owning the bridge and easy money is obvious: I.e. charge tolls on a bridge lots of people have to use every day. But nobody HAS to go up the Eiffel Tower: Charge too much and they won’t. I guess I must be overthinking it due to not being emotionally invested.

    I see Musk’s con more as letting the government in on whatever the current scheme is as if it were a venture capitalist on ventures they can’t resist for religious reasons. Having been in on the edges of a few small M&A (merger and acquisitions) deals during the ’90’s tech boom, I can say that there is also a large measure ego stroking for the individuals involved on the mark’s (our beloved government) part in any such transaction. By analogy, under the con artist’s (Musk’s) spell, you go from being just another GS14 in the hallway to Captain Utopia, transforming the world through ‘smart technology’_! A press release or two including our GS14’s name and you’re there. Plus it’s easy to keep feeding the narrative with additional publicity from time to time. His genius idea is that easy publicity works as an enticement too, provided it’s somebody else’s money.

    • After the war, scrap iron had value. It always has value, but the massive rebuilding required after the war put a premium on it. Lustic was offering access to cheap steel. What made it work was the audaciousness of it. You don’t get more audacious than claiming you will build electric sports cars for the masses or privatize the space business. It’s why SpaxeX is now talking about Mars. What’s more audacious than that?

      • There was also the original plan that the Eiffel Tower was to be a temporary installation. There was likely still a rational assumption, at the time, that keeping the thing up forever was not going to be. The con played off of that.

  4. Musk is obviously brilliant, and next to him Lustig would feel justified in his last official job description, “salesman apprentice”.

    Just some of the ways that stand out for me:

    – Appropriated the name of a true genius, Nikola Tesla, to gain credibility by association;
    – Has the physiognomy and the body language of a TV-evangelist;
    – Uses enormous, emotionally moving applications for his projects that capture public imagination the same way high-profile stock IPOs do (regardless of their company viability);
    – Masterfully plays on people’s motivations: the government employees involved in his projects will never scrap them as a hopeless effort – their jobs depend on them continuing – they’ll keep requesting more and bigger budgets instead;
    – The buyers of his product are doing it to elevate themselves above the masses, no price is high enough, no product deficiencies are deal-breaking.

    But the main thing is, like the Dutch said in the comments in another thread, he is living life all the while keeping others, who believe that life is a series of problems to be solved, believing that is is actually solving their problems. It’s an amazing dynamic to behold.

    • “…he is living life all the while keeping others, who believe that life is a series of problems to be solved, believing that is is actually solving their problems…”

      The guy works like 100 hours a week. After selling paypal he could have sat on his ass for life but he bet most all the money he had on solar power for houses, electric cars and rocket ships. You people have some serious mental issues with Musk that I don’t understand. I don’t get the Mars thing but I’m very pro space program and he’s moving it along at wide ass open speed. I’m for that. We desperately need cheap access to space for Defense purposes. If he gets his jollies going to Mars and we get cheap space access it’s a huge bargain compared to the present cost. We relied on Russia for astronaut launches. That’s stupid mindless bullshit to do that.

      You can make a good argument that we don’t need electric cars right now but it’s hard to argue that we might not need them in 50 years. Starting now is a good thing. As for solar and rockets I think defense wise they’re extremely important.

      • “The guy works like 100 hours a week.” We’ve pretty much established that this guy is a first-class parasite. So you’re arguing that hard-working parasites aren’t really parasites? Funny logic indeed. This is the same logic that Wall Street bankers love to apply to themselves to justify their gigantic compensation. “Look how unbelievably hard we work, look how hard we compete with each other!” they never complete the sentence, which goes, “…in order to loot the productive part of the economy as thoroughly as we possibly can.”

        • Your response is completely disingenuous and a huge huckster propped up straw man. You know that what I was establishing was that the criticism of him ““…he is living life..” was foolish. As he “had the life” already. He was already a multi, multi-millionaire. He had to do nothing. He bet multi-millions of dollars on these businesses. NASA didn’t give him a dime until he was successfully launching rockets. He only got solar and electric car money when he sold them. Not before.

          “…So you’re arguing that hard-working parasites aren’t really parasites?…”

          You know that that’s another straw man as he’s actually building something which a lot of wall street types do very little of. A lot of them just churn money back and forth while shaving a little every time they touch it.

          “…in order to loot the productive part of the economy as thoroughly as we possibly can.”

          How is this so? You against having rockets? Can you deny that he’s vastly lowered the cost of space transport? Look at his solar city business. He’s putting pressure on the power companies by giving people the ability to be their own power company. In some areas it’s much cheaper to have them install solar and do without the power company.

          All the stuff he gets subsidies for are stuff that Congress subsidized before he got in the business.

    • Part of it too is he offers different things to different people. Tesla does nothing for me, solarcity too. Spacex and his lure of going to mars does it for me though and if the other two parts fall off down goes spacex. I am kind of forced to support all the myriad parts.

  5. This goes a little bit along with the talk about narcissists and sociopaths the other day. I stumbled across a text I made to someone that had this in it:https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/08/mailvox-how-can-you-tell.html?=1
    Less pertinent to today, but I thought worth posting.
    I, too think Musk is a bit of a grifter, but a very talented one who may be filling a void that needed to be filled by someone. If that void was going to be filled, better him than T. Boone Pickens, who wanted to cover the face of the country with windmills and transmission centers in a public-private partnership that would have been a monstrous boondoggle.
    Compared to what that would have been if successful, Musk is a piker.
    I still like the comfort and safety offered by massive vehicles that offer protection against anything short of a head on with a semi.
    Maybe when those are all on autopilot and have been shown safe for several years.

  6. Excellent ZeroHedge article on the con perpetrated against the taxpayer with the blessing of the US government:

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-09-06/how-elon-musk-used-broken-marketplace-play-us-all

    Brief summary of start-up finances for Tesla:
    $500MM required
    Musk: $38MM in VC funding generates $1.4BB payout for Musk
    USG: $465MM loan generates $12MM in interest for taxpayers.

    Funds from Tesla and prepayment funds from SpaceX were used to bail out SolarCity.

    In a sane world Musk would have been indicted. He’s really an example of what Z refers to when he asserts there are no repercussions for the Cloud People.

  7. You’re not the only one saying Musk is a (albeit within the law) con artist: http://ericpetersautos.com/2017/01/28/elons-carbon-con-elections-consequences-part-deux/
    With Tesla cars his main gambit is pushing ”carbon credits” (on Internal combustion cars) that can be ”offset” with his cars, particularly effective in CA – not to mention the subsidies on every vehicle he sells. The linked article also points out the shell game he’s playing to keep his ‘solar city’ project out of bankruptcy. Will Trump play along or not? I’m not confident he won’t.

    • Musk is probably part of the James Baker, who made an appearance today pushing a ‘carbon tax’ scheme, and Al Gore Carbon Tax Scam. These people need to be jailed for outright lies, collusion and false advertising. Grifter is the correct description.

  8. Reminds me of the confidence game being run in the venture capital markets right now. Suddenly everybody is a “corporate VC”. And getting sold B and C rounds that let the smart guys get their money off the table, lock a profit and likely have all the good liquidation rights buried in their agreements. Won’t end well.

  9. Elon just took advantage of the much bigger con, that being the global warming hoax. When he saw how completely the politicians and their handmaidens, the money men, had been seduced by Algore, he stepped in to “save” Tesla thereby getting a nice free ride on the scam.

  10. Waiting for 50 years for someone to take a can opener to the great crony con called “The D”. There is a very rich and savory stew to be exposed; rust belt city where the greatest concentration of wealth vanished without a trace.

  11. These rich idiots who virtual-signal with Teslas or Prius’s have all been sucked into the greatest con ever played on us: GlowBull Warming. They never have the intellectual courage to even ask where all the electricity comes from.

    Of course, the UN has glommed onto to this fraud and used it as a proxy as the best method of subjugating the masses initially with Agenda 21 and now Agenda 2020 on their stated path to a one-world government. 

    Google those terms and read up. It’s some real scary shit. While you’re at it buy and read James Delingpole’s short book “Watermelons” (green on the outside, red on the inside). It completely outs the entire climategate scandal perpetuated by those frauds Mann and Jones which that hoaxter Gore used to make his millions.

    This bullshit has cost the world tens of *trillions* of dollars in wealth, driven millions into fuel poverty, caused dams not to be built, nuclear to be discarded, forced is to buy that execrable ethanol for oir cars which destroys oir engines and diverts land from feeding people,  driven coal near out of business everywhere (except in China, of course), here in Mexifornia driven hundreds of farms in the central valley out of business from water poverty in the name of saving a 3″ bait fish and decimated tens of thousands of logging jobs in the north west to save a fucking owl and abetted the rise in Eco-terrorism.

    All in the name of a clearly transparent lie.

  12. Given that civil servants and politicos are generally sluggish, low IQ, dunces any sensible con-man would target them first.

    Besides, civil servants and politicos have very, very perverse incentives – the more tax dollars they are responsible for spending, the more they can rake-off, by way of a higher civil service rating, more salary, great expenses and travel, a bigger office and a zaftig new secretary with the big boobies.

  13. You folks have some serious issues with Musk that I see as completely irrational. Look at just one program that he will save us an ass full of money. The Space Launch System that they haven’t so much as launched a basket of air with,”…SLS program has a projected development cost of $18 billion through 2017, with $10 billion for the SLS rocket, $6 billion for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and $2 billion for upgrades to the launch pad and other facilities at Kennedy Space Center…”

    So they’ve spent at least $18 billion and have launched…nothing. Musk is building that big fricking rocket that will totally outclass this thing and it’s cost us nothing.

    My big thing is not Mars. I could care less about Mars but I do want some kind of space program to attempt to stop planet buster asteroids and also to do space asteroid mining. Asteroids are worth trillions and trillions.

    Every single thing he gets funding for was important enough for Congress to make subsidies for before he got into the business. He at least delivers something. Most subsidies deliver little or negative value.

    I also believe that governments can actually do great things that need doing. Like the dams out west. TVA. Rural electrification. Interstate highway system. The Moon landing which had massive political value in the war against Communism. Look at the subsidies for nuclear power plants and compare that to solar. I bet solar is much less.

  14. Eric Peters likes to make fun of Musk as well. I don’t disagree Musk is a brilliant guy with some interesting ideas, but he needs to fund these science projects himself.

    http://ericpetersautos.com/tag/tesla/

    Tesla’s do have great styling but that battery thing is still an issue.

    http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/electric-cars/

    Too bad that electromechanical battery can’t be built yet, then it would be viable.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flywheel_energy_storage

    • I agree completely with you on the flywheel storage. They can last decades or longer. Lithium batteries were already there and working. I think flywheels can be built but it would take a LOT of research to make it competitive. If carbon fiber or fused silica comes down it cost it help tremendously and they seem to be. There’s a new strong fiber from trees or brush or any plant stem materiel stem call nano crystalline cellulose that really strong and estimated to get down to a dollar a pound or so. Going to take a lot more production to get prices down. It might be good bet for an advanced flywheel.

    • Never go against people who have the capacity to loot the treasury, and have politicians in their pockets. Similar to the old Wall Street adage, “you never fight the Fed”.

  15. Explain how being paid for services rendered (or progress completed on large items still in construction) is a subsidy.

    When NASA has the Russians send up a payload, does it not pay them for this service?

    So what makes the same contractual relationship suddenly turn into a subsidy when the recipient of said payment is a US company?

    Your blind spot on this issue is the same as your blind spot on the automation/robots in MFG issue.

    You literally don’t have any idea how much you don’t know, so you assume that you know it all.

    The electric car and solar panel deals are heavily subsidized (or rather the customers are subsidized, but same end result), but SpaceX gets no money from the gov’t unless they provide a service or product to the gov’t (IE put something into space or design and build some spacecraft).

    Bag on the other two all you like, but you cannot deny that SpaceX is doing truly innovative things for an order of magnitude less money than anyone else thought possible, and they did it all without going public or being given grants or other free money.

    The gov’t needs to get things into space, and it has to pay someone to do it. Why is it somehow immoral or even economically unsound for that someone to be an American? Because he’s a shameless self promoter? Because you don’t like that he has other businesses that take advantage of pre-existing subsidies?

    The things those guys are doing on such a shoe string budget are epic in every sense of the word. They’re one of the very few super expensive gov’t hardware providers that actually produce on time and under budget. You guys ought to be jumping up and down and rooting for SpaceX to succeed, not falsely casting them as some kind of boondoggle generator.

    It really detracts from your other arguments (which are good) when you say things in the same breath that are demonstrably false (and easily researched).

    • So far, SpaxeX has not done much of anything other than blow rockets up in space. I’m all for letting private firms take over the job of flinging stuff into space, but so far, SpaxeX has been terribly unreliable. Yet, they have been given close to $500 million to try and learn how to do it properly. By any reasonable measure, SpaceX is looking a lot like a boondoggle.

      • “…So far, SpaxeX has not done much of anything other than blow rockets up in space…”

        That’s a flat out lie. They’ve launched several geo. orbit and several lower orbit satellites.

        I agree with NunyaBusiness. We desperately need our own access to Space. We let the Japanese and Chinese do a lot of stuff for us. Supposedly saving money now it affecting our ability to build defense equipment. I guess you guys won’t be happy until all our industry is the absolute cheapest cost and most Americans hew wood and plant soybeans for the Asians.

      • Yet again, you’re talking out of your ass Z-man.

        It is not a character flaw to not know everything about everything, it IS a character flaw to repeatedly say shit that is demonstrably false just from sheer lack of effort (IE very obviously having done NO research on what SpaceX has and has not done).

        I get it, you’re skeptical of Musk, everyone should be, but you’ve gone way beyond skeptical into being openly dismissive of anything the guy has been near, to the point that you’re talking completely out of your ass.

        Instead of just assuming that they’re grifters who fuck up everything they touch, you might spent half an hour and just read their fucking Wikipedia page (FFS), if nothing else.

        If you’d done that, you’d already know that they’ve accomplished a great many things already that a lot of people said were “impossible” or “cost prohibitive”, and have done so literally for an order of magnitude less money than NASA could have.

        You have no idea what you’re talking about vis a vis SpaceX.

        You’re in a hole here Z-man, observe the first rule of holes, and stop digging.

    • Forgive me for being skeptical. We have been subjected to so much crony capitalism and corruption these past years, even if Musk is the “real deal” it is hard to get past the defense mechanisms people have, like I do. However, I do see the ideas he is involved with as innovative approaches to problems. Maybe what gets lost here is his having made his initial fortune on PayPal and not being in a mode like Tesla of being the poor inventor using his last pennies scrounging materials to put together a “mock-up” for investors. Instead he has a bankroll, if he is using that, but we all know today’s mantra of “you don’t invest your own money, you invest someone else’s.” Hence, going to the bottomless pocket of the government. Bureaucrats and politicians have no concern for fiduciary responsibility as the funds they dole out are not “theirs” and if they need more, well, there always seems to be more.

      So, given the climate and past experience the public has had, those that are not part of the Venture Capitalist or risky-high return/high loss class, it becomes somewhat self fulfilling prophecy that people would develop negative opinions of a such a visible, high profile hypster for his stuff. As an INTJ, he is not self aware.

      • Tesla and the solar deals might very well be as you say above, the chances and past experience with other companies in those fields say they likely are.

        However, SpaceX is different, in that instead of founding, getting funding, and then cashing his initial investment out, Musk has continued to add money into SpaceX.

        His current position is north of $100million right now, which is something like 25% of the entire nut so far.

        People keep talking about that $500million from NASA, but that’s the value of a contract, not a lump sum payment that they just got dumped in their lap. They have to continue to perform and deliver to keep progress payments on that contract coming in.

        In other words, if they weren’t performing or if they stop performing in the future (IE they slide into boondoggle territory), they’ll stop getting paid.

        I’m not sure what you guys expect, honestly.

        Is someone supposed to just develop an entire interplanetary space transit vehicle and test it, all out of pocket, and then try to sell it to NASA as a totally finished package?

        Nobody can do that. Lockheed and Boeing COMBINED couldn’t do that, and it would piss NASA (your intended customer) off anyway because they will always want some things done their own own no matter what (so you’d build it, and then immediately have redo it again, pissing away a lot of money in the process).

        I’ll ask the question again. It all boils down to this:

        The US gov’t needs to put stuff and people in space. They are going to pay someone to do this. Why should this money not be spent with a US based and owned company, especially when they can do it for literally pennies on the dollar compared to current suppliers?

        All I’m seeing here is win, and all you guys can do is bitch about it because NASA is paying them to send shit into space.

        When NASA was using the Shuttle to do this stuff, they were spending dozens or hundreds of times as much money. Why was it OK to spend like that on space then, but not now?

        If it all boils down to the fact that Musk seems like a slimy kind of guy and you don’t like him, then that’s a shitty reason to bag on a company that is chocked slap to the gills with some of the most talented engineers working in the aerospace sector today.

        Musk owns the company and points the direction he wants the program to go, but the exceptional engineering team he has assembled are the people who deserve most of the credit for what SpaceX has accomplished, and it sucks to shit on those people (who are doing exceptional things) because you don’t like the owner.

        It’s like people who reflexively shit on Americans because they didn’t like Bush the lesser. One’s got nothing to do with the other, really.

  16. Amazing how many people here are making excuses for a con artist like Musk. Who cares that he’s selling snake oil, rockets are cool!! Teslas look cool and go fast!!! Besides it’s just gubmint money, everyone knows that just drops out of the sky like manna from Heaven, so nobody loses, plus did I mention, rockets!!!

    • You people are nuts. Whose making excuses. We need a Space program. It’s absolutely necessary for the defense of the nation. Boeing and Lockheed have been given 10’s of billions for new rockets and haven’t launched a damn thing. The only thing they do launch they charge us an arm and a leg for stuff we developed. Musk is doing the same thing at orders of magnitude cheaper.

      I don’t see any of you making logical arguments based on the needs of the country. If you believe that we should stop all of our space program then I could see it but are you all calling for that? Are you saying a space program with low cost launchers is not necessary? Are you saying we should stop putting satellites into orbit? If you’re saying all these things then fine but if you want any one of these then Musk has saved us a fortune compared to the business as usual Lockheed and Boeing who are raping us.

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