An Open Letter to Car & Driver

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In the September 2013 issue of Car & Driver is an Editor’s Letter with the title “Ban ‘Em.” It’s penned by Eddie Alterman, who I believe is the current Editor-in-Chief. It has to do with the dangers of drivers using smartphones. The gist of the piece is this:C&D cover picture

“Here’s my plan: zero tolerance. Disable smartphones in vehicles. … The only way a car should integrate the phone today is by putting a huge warning light on top alerting other motorists to its use.”

I was planning to send a letter to the editor of Car & Driver in response. Drafting it brought back fond memories from my teenage years, and I was reminded of how excited I would have been then to have a letter published. My sense of humor certainly wasn’t sophisticated then, but boy, did I get a kick out of the letters section! It became the first part of the magazine I read every month. The letters they printed were entertaining, and the interspersed remarks from the editor often had me doubled over in laughter.

But I decided against sending my letter to them. The letters section is as drab as the rest of the magazine these days, and I personally never bother reading it. I doubt anyone else does either.

Instead, I’d like to make it an open letter to the editor of C&D, and present it to you, my fellow readers of EPautos.com. This seems appropriate in several ways. For one, I expect the you guys will be more sympathetic to what I have to say. Moreover, it’s as much a tribute to this site as it is a complaint against the current C&D.

So I present you with my open letter to Car & Driver:

“Dear Mr. Alterman:

Let me begin by saying that I’ve been reading Car & Driver since the late ’70s. Ah, those were the days! Drunken tales of David E. Davis Jr., P.J. O’Rourke and others racing across North America in all sorts of automobiles, mostly exotic, but sometimes ironically pedestrian. Hilarious parodies of Consumer Reports and Motor Trend. Mockery of radical environmentalism and the safety-obsessiveness of Ralph Nader, MADD, and similar annoyances. (Remember O’Rourke’s idea for “DAMM” – Drunks Against Mad Mothers?) Not only was the magazine a wealth of useful information for car enthusiasts, it was well-written and honestly funny, with a devil-may-care spirit that was unique among its rivals.

So imagine my extreme disappointment at reading your Editor’s Letter, “Ban ‘Em,” in the September 2013 issue, where you make the case for disabling smartphones in all vehicles.

Let me repeat that: disabling smartphones in all vehicles. Ahem. Your magazine used to mock Consumer Reports for its Safety Uber Alles attitude, but I’d imagine even the CR editors would roll their eyes at that one.

First, let me say that I’m not a fan of smartphones and don’t have one myself. But whatever happened to individual responsibility? Because some people are idiots, the rest of us have to be punished? David E. Davis must be rolling over in his chrome casket.

Let’s follow your argument a ways. I’ll summarize it as this: ‘Drivers can’t be relied upon to be responsible for their actions behind the wheel. When we do, lives are needlessly lost.’ So we block smartphones now. But what next? Radios and GPS systems are a potential distraction, and I’m sure have triggered accidents. So we ban those. What about those other knobs and buttons on the dashboard? Too distracting – ban ‘em! Before long, the car interior becomes a computerized padded cell, and the driver is left with nothing to do but play with a smartphone, while Robo-Car whisks him to his destination.

I think the editors and writers of Car & Driver need to remember that they’re writing for car enthusiasts. If safety is of the utmost concern, then cars are a remarkably poor choice for transportation anyway – practically any other option is safer, not to mention better for the environment. Buses, planes – even walking is safer.

I don’t read C&D for the latest NHTSA crash ratings. I can get those off a government site. I read C&D because I actually like cars and what they represent, or at least used to represent – FREEDOM. I like to hear about cars that are fun to drive, and leave the driver in control.

C&D used to be THE magazine for liberty-minded car enthusiasts. That’s no longer true, I’m sorry to say. In fact, the spirit of the 1970s Car & Driver doesn’t reside at your magazine, or any other car magazine today. It’s alive and well, though, and lives at a blog: EricPetersAutos.com.

This is a sad ending to a magazine for which I have such fond memories. But alas, they’re only memories. Car & Driver, ironically enough, has become a parody of itself.

Thanks for hearing me out. You may resume work on your upcoming comparison of child safety seats.

Robert Miles

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41 COMMENTS

  1. The first crack in the ice for Car and Driver was when its old publisher Ziff-Davis sold it back in the 1980s. The final break in the ice was the cumulative retirements/chasing off of Brock Yates, David E. Davis, Jr., Patrick Bedard, and others in the old crowd. (Yates went to a short-lived sister magazine called mph that was a bit like the old C/D, but it ceased soon after. C/D did not pick up Yates after mph folded.)

    I had subscribed to C/D continuously since 1978 as a teenager. By the early 1990s it was the only car magazine arriving in my mailbox. But things changed; my subscription lapsed in late 2010. Since then I have had no serious thoughts of renewing it.

    • Thanks for the background, Ekrampitzjr. I wasn’t aware of mph magazine. I did subscribe to Automobile magazine for a while, and while I enjoyed reading DED’s columns there, the rest of the magazine was just too elitist for me.

  2. Concise and to the letter Mr. Miles – pun intended 😉

    BTW Eric and Dom, donation paid to help continue your site’s fight for freedom. It’s well worth it.

    • Hey Rev, we really appreciate it! Thank you! Everyday is a fight to keep this site up. We get the most random issues happening on a constant basis. -no joke

      • Just ran into one of those random issues, Dom. Clicked on the bubble that usually takes me to all of the comments. This time it links to cnn.com.

        • I emailed Dom about the same issue – redirected me to CNN.com. You the same?
          Do a scan for the Conduit toolbar / virus / Trojan.
          Vipre picked it up, looking at Malwarebytes, too.
          Tell Dom if you’re running IE, Chrome, etc; what the OS is. 🙂 Let’s make it as easy as possible for Dom to fix.

          • Also looks like a DNS “fix.” Would make a DOS “automatic” by denying people access – hack the DNS, the server/site disappears.

            Maybe Ghoul-gul would have an idea? THEY would have to be the ones fried.
            Need to change the site URL, probably – at least change the link in there. Trying to go direct to a previous page I had in history didn’t help (Tried for page 2 of the comments – no luck, still redirected the request to CNN.com).

            I’ll post if Malwarebytes finds anything.

          • Naw, i did it! Thanks for letting me know guys. I was messing with settings. Ideally I’d like to make a special url that registered members use to login. I’ll get it going sometime this week.

    • Thanks, Rev!

      I’m gonna post a longer update on The Situation in the next few days, but it’s looking like Google did us a favor. Reader support – if it continues – will cover our nut without all those obnoxious Google ads cluttering up (and slowing down) the site and, best of all, without us having any relationship whatsoever with that e-bully organization.

      • Hey Eric. I think reader support WILL continue, but we readers may need some prodding every so often. I like the idea that a couple of folks put forward of having a fund raiser/campaign once or twice a year. Justin Raimondo does that kind of thing for Antiwar.com periodically, and it seems to work. Set a $ goal and a date to meet it, and keep everyone updated on the progress.

  3. Oh I think he wrote the right editorial, just published it in the wrong venue. Huffington Post comes to mind.

    They will never ban smart phone devices in cars. They have spent too much effort on infrastructure for tracking their cows to cripple it that way.

    • Garysco,
      Don’t supposed for ONE SECOND that they’d BLOCK THEIR signal – only YOURS.
      YOU would still be tracked, you’d just be in a “Cell-phone Safe Space”. Your GPS will report where you are to TPTB, but you’ll be unable to use the GPS or phone inside (maybe even near?) the car.

      It will be an external program that is mandated to exist in all operating systems, where the government ensures you can’t be “distracted” by playing with the phone.
      My droids had a prototype of sorts: a suction-cup connected to the windshield, with a mounting bar. When you plugged the phone in, it went to “Driving mode” (Close enough, it had its own screen layout.)

      This is a minor change: a bluetooth pairing or RFID emitter will just trigger the cell phone to ignore incoming calls and texts, and lock the keyboard so you can’t use the GPS map program. Further, NO ONE will be able to use their phone in your car, as they’d then be “a distraction.” So, we’re back to paper maps and a mechanical compass – begging the question, WTF is the purpose of our technology anyway?

      Only two uses of technology are any value anyway: Weapons and fire. Fire allows cooked foods, killing bacteria and allowing better nutritive absorption. Weapons, in some ways an extension of fire, allow one to hunt and protect one’s self and one’s tribe/family.

      Anything else – despite our conversations here – is merely gravy.
      The important things remain the same: Inhale, Kill, Exhale, eat dinner.

      (And I don’t ignore other useful inventions, such as writing, math, art, stone carving, stained glass, gasoline engines, indoor plubming, electricity, etc. Just statign, we can recover those quickly, IF we have food, water, and means to trap and process food. But without clean/nutritive food and clean water, we’ll die before the rest matters. Weapons and fire allow you to process even things that are somewhat less-than-perfect into actal food and water: boiling water, cutting out pieces of infected carcass, etc. Try carving a steak with a cell phone, you’ll see my meaning quite fast.)

      • I agree, Jean — I expect phone blocking will happen more through technology than legislation. The carriers and the car manufacturers will be forced to disable smartphones once the car is in motion. It’s stupid rulings like this one (speaking of Noo Joisey) that leave them with no other choice.

        http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2013/08/texting_while_driving_a_new_jersey_court_says_you_could_be_sued_for_sending.html

        Robert

      • Thanks Jean. I know enough about networks, both RF-phone and computers, to know anything that relies on digital programming is possible.

        I also understand where the real world slavemasters want to take us. They have laid plans in their writings for almost a century to bring humanity to a post industrial world, while achieving god like power to themselves. Sadly we are very close now, and they expect the barn door to close by 2035. We are but cows on their plantation, there to be milked. Will it suceed? Will people wake from the trance and balk? I don’t know. We must never forget that humans are the most studied lifeform on the planet, and just like your dog or children, they know us better than we know ourselves.

  4. That Gattaca solar system map is so childish and incomplete.

    If enough capital and brainpower could be freed from militant flag wavers, a cooperative effort to mine a few EROs (Easily Recoverable Objects) could quickly solve all the current problems of fiat currencies and resource scarcities.

    http://www.asterank.com/
    Change query to most cost effective.

    Body AUs Value Profit VelocityAlter-km/s
    1999 JU3 1.190 12.40 trillion 2.88 trillion 4.664
    Vishnu 1.060 36.10 trillion 4.68 trillion 8.358
    2000 BM19 0.741 36.06 trillion 3.93 trillion 9.951
    1997 RT 2.245 35.97 trillion 6.01 trillion 6.484
    Heracles 1.833 35.98 trillion 4.04 trillion 9.637
    1989 UQ 0.915 12.92 trillion 2.19 trillion 6.402
    2000 RW37 1.248 12.74 trillion 2.22 trillion 6.225
    1994 AH2 2.537 36.37 trillion 4.95 trillion 7.952
    1996 FG3 1.054 12.58 trillion 2.06 trillion 6.607
    2005 YU55 1.157 13.04 trillion 2.05 trillion 6.906
    Poseidon 1.835 35.61 trillion 4.47 trillion 8.628
    1998 UT18 1.404 12.75 trillion 2.22 trillion 6.222
    1988 XB 1.467 12.54 trillion 2.12 trillion 6.411
    Aethra 2.608 100+ trillion 68.82 trillion unk.
    Klio 2.362 100++ trillion 100+ trillion unk.

    A great new magazine to be launched would be Rocket and Miner magazine.

    Forward looking articles on how nuclear waste will be jettisoned off-planet. How small amounts of resources will be returned to earth as needed. How the vast majority of the world’s tangible asset wealth will rapidly shift to near-Earth Outerspace, instead of Earthly vaults and facilities within reach of wars. How various SpaceCoins will become the new dominant supra-national transactional resource.

    AU = the mean earth-sun mutually co-orbital distance of 1 Astronomical Unit which is 149,597,871 kilometers apart.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_mining#Asteroid_prospects

    Deep Space Industries Press Conference

  5. C&D certainly has lost its sense of humor. And now that you mention it, it hasn’t run a decent article bucking government nonsense in ages. Not that I’ve seen. I at least skim every issue and I would have stopped to read one if it was obvious.

    On my shelf I have an April 1989 issue. 25th anniversary of the Mustang… but it has a classic piece of C&D humor in it. A parody mini-magazine. “Motor Trendy” and it’s ‘car of the year’, The Trabant.

    Other issues highlighted that the real emissions problems were everyday cars that people did not maintain, not just cars made before a certain date. They used to deride Joan Claybrook, Ralph Nader, and the insurance institute for higher surcharges… oh and evil Geico. The old C&D would have had a field day with all the Geico TV ads today.

    Yeah it seems that C&D is long gone.

    Now I know why I just don’t read it like I used to.

    • Hi Brent,

      I bump into some of their staffers at events. Brock Yates, they ain’t. Now, they’re nice guys, most of them. But that’s just the point. They’re nice in the way any well-adjusted cube farm McWorker is nice. They do not rock the boat. They are well-scrubbed. They ask the Right Questions. They Play Ball.

      I wonder what they think of me? I arrive without a suit – the only such – and just want to drive the damn car as much as I can as fast as I can and please, skip the helicopter ride, the mime show (no, really) and the three-hour dinner at a 5 Star.

      • Questions with Brock Yates Jr.

        PTB Co-opted Cannonball

        The Cannonball Run has been revived, in toned-down form, as a “one-lap” event. Contestants are now penalized for arriving too soon, effectively putting a speed limit on the drivers. Yates, meanwhile, has authored numerous books on all aspects of automotive arts, and remained something of an anarchist.

        Yates on Nader

        With a demagogue like Nader — and make no mistake about it, Ralph Nader is a classic demagogue — it is critical that he be surrounded by conspiracies, that every act of foolishness and incompetence be interpreted as a finely woven pattern of vicious deceit. Therefore in Nader’s mind General Motors never simply errs by making an imperfect car, it consciously markets a lethal junker and then goes to elaborate lengths to conceal its deadly qualities from the buying public.

        Yates on O’Reilly

        After appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s radio show in 2003: “The conversation went as expected, descending into a shouting match in which I accused him of being a New York City elitist who wouldn’t know a good automobile if it ran over him in Times Square. I was in turn written off as a feckless toady in the pocket of the automobile industry.”

        • Boy, I wish I’d seen that O’Reilly segment, Tor! I LOATHE O’Reilly — I really can’t bear to watch him. They should have his black-and-white picture in the American Heritage Dictionary next to “smug.” I love it that Yates told him off.

          • O’Reilly & Trump do the wave in Yankee Stadium

            8 Year Old Girl Discusses Bill O’Reilly

            O’Reilly Quote:

            President Bush is going to address the U.N. He says we must all be steadfast in battling terrorism.

            I’m sure all the U.N. people fell asleep during this speech. They don’t really care about anything over there at all.

            I only wish Katrina, instead of hitting New Orleans, had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else.

            Just had flooded them all out. And I wouldn’t have rescued a single one of them.

  6. This letter was written to single hair on the pinkie of the great black hand of the Car & Driver division of the $9 billion in annual revenue – Hearst Corporation.

    Hearst Corporation is 15 daily and 36 weekly newspapers, over 300 magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Elle, and O -The Oprah Magazine.

    Hearst Corporation is 29 corporate owned and operated television stations that reach a combined total of 18% of U.S. viewers. It includes ownership in leading cable networks, including A+E Networks, and ESPN Inc. It includes business publishing, digital distributing, television program producing, newspaper features distributing, and real estate venturing.

    Car & Driver, Hearst Corporation, AKA just one more soldier in the huge Trojan Horse in the great Mega Corporate Mega Socialist Mega Cartel Rodeo

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearst_Corporation

    CFS – Every thing you say or print in your magazine is suspect
    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=dcd_1377313059

    • Sorry wrong video, should be Bill Hicks Corporate F-ing Shills
      http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=b90_1338582769

      Hope no-ones libertarian journey is marred by the unrelated but darkly amusing Midget Hilary video I posted above in error.

      Never 2 Old 2 Have Fun – InspirationalGeriatricalMagical
      http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=7d8_1377375951

      Police in Brazil shoot from a helicopter a few feet above busy highway
      http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=6f9_1377279333

      • Cops in Brazil seem just as intent on becoming a hazard even if it means flying in a helicopter and stopping everyone else while they gun down someone.

    • Morning, Tor!

      I’ve been at this – writing about cars – for 20-plus years now. In organized journalism for several years prior. It’s a racket, like any other. The publisher makes it known what’s expected editorially, and the editor’s job is to make sure the staffers deliver it. This is never transmitted in the form of an explicit set of Thou Shallts (and Shall Nots). It is merely known by all.

      It’s quite remarkable the way this order is maintained – and enforced. In part, it is simply a function of like breeds like. The editor will not likely hire a reporter/writer who strikes him as having different anything from himself. Thus, the smart boy or girl wears the right clothes to the interview, delivers the right answers; has the right resume – and so on. In part, it is a function of the social instinct to “get along.” There is also ambition. One does not usually rise within any organization by being impolitic.

      Hell, look at me!

      • One of the first thing to go in the woods? Those g-d resumes. What are we? Poodles preening and yipping about the one time we got a best in show ribbon?

        I continue to believe a new mutually agreed on paradigm can arise. Probably less lucrative and more risky at the outset, but one totally unlike the Single Pharoah Owner and Million Propertyless Stone Mason McCapitalism America is ramming down the throats of the world.

        The socialists, fascists, communists, anarchists, hugenots, they all had valid criticisms of Taylorism and Industrial Subjugative Protocols and maybe a few pieces of something better.

        What is lacking, is someone with the Techne to make things happen. Someone with the earning power to devise new social modes of assembly and ownership of the means of production. Sort of like the Duck Dynasty ad hoc assembly line and voyage of efficiency discovery,

        Your independent mindset, and your hands on ability with machinery puts you in a band apart from today’s new school journalists, and trend chasing bloggerbots. You’re a frequency of light and existence their eyes and senses are unable to even perceive.

        Two random thoughts on driving – with a link about Clover
        http://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/two-random-thoughts-while-driving/

        • Indeed!

          Were I an editor interviewing a prospect, two things would be relevant:

          Can this person write well?

          Is this person reliable? (Will he or she finish work on deadline?)

          That’s it.

          If they never attended junior high, what does it matter – assuming they can write?

          • Yup. Here’s what I’d bring to an interview, or look for when hiring:

            1- attractiveness, this is a scarce always in demand good, hire it whenever you can
            2- youthful eagerness, take the youngest hungriest one who meets your needs, all other things being equal
            3- connectedness, always look for angles of who this person knows or is related to. Sometimes this leads to your own upmove, or of gaining influence. One-hand-washes the other. Keep a new bounty of grain in your own silo, don’t disperse it to the multitudes.
            4- reality grip, do they understand the underlying reality of work. jobs are fluid things, will they do what’s needed, not necessarily what is listed as official job duties.
            5- fit, you want someone just like the other good ones you already got. Not someone too good or not good enough. Not some with rare or unknown qualities or features.

          • Ah, for the old days when journalists were average Joes — real people who were just interested in the area they covered and could write something compelling about it. J-school ruined all that. One of the best writers I know personally just has a high school education — he worked his way up the ranks in a variety of jobs, including cab driver, firefighter, LA Times reporter, and PR executive. A very Mark Twain-like story. These days, he wouldn’t get past the HR department of a MSM publication. And neither would Mark Twain.

            But the MSM is a lumbering dinosaur, and itself will soon be extinct. The future belongs to independent journalists like you, Eric. You can connect directly with your readers, without dealing with corporate agendas and nose-in-the-air editors. And really, that’s better.

            Case in point: The Washington Post recently sold to Jeff Bezos for about $250 million. A once great newspaper is now just a hobby for an internet mogul. Contrast that with the Drudge Report. It’s not on the market, but estimates I’ve seen have valued that site at anywhere between $250 million and $1 billion. That for a website initially designed in a text editor, and run by two guys.

            To quote Jason: Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

      • That’s how the entire culture works.
        That’s how the powers that be implement their plans.

        There’s no grand conspiracy. They set what is expected of people to get ahead to get along and the rest just falls into place pretty much on its own. All it takes are small well placed inputs to get a big effect. Like an amplifier or a relay or a transistor.

        • I agree, Brent. No conspiracy is needed when everybody thinks the same way.

          When I first heard the word “diversity” used in a corporate context, the way it was explained to me was this: Successful companies are made of of people who don’t all think the same way. If everybody thinks the same way, you get groupthink, and you’re more likely to be blindsided by emerging trends. That kind of “diversity” made sense to me then, and I thought the idea was laudable. But somehow it was transformed into a racial and cultural thing.

          In short, I think that’s what’s lacking in these kinds of business: a diversity of thought and perspective. I’m sure any of these traditional publications would say that diversity is one of their key goals, meaning mostly racial diversity. But you can build an organization where skin tones vary greatly but everybody thinks the same way. I think that’s what’s happened in places like C&D.

          • I learned the whole ‘diversity’ thing is just words, or just something about physical appearance. Corporations want people who think alike.

            Every person who actually thought “outside the box” I’ve known went nowhere, was targeted for downsizing, etc and so forth. I’ve never known anyone to get promoted because he was different and succeeded. The reward was not being fired. Being different and failing is even worse.

            Go along to get along. Do what the culture says must be done to get ahead. Don’t rock the boat.

            For every guy who didn’t do those things and got ahead (there are a few, but I’ve never known any myself) there are thousands who ruined their careers by not going along to get along. That one guy is celebrated because as a people that’s how americans want to think we are like. The reality is quite different. Following orders and going along to get along is what this culture is about. Those who stick their neck out usually get their head chopped off. People are very critical of anyone who doesn’t talk, think, or act like they do.

            Corporations purge themselves of people who don’t fit. They have various ‘performance review’ mechanisms to do so. Ask any HR person. They are looking for the ‘right fit’. Real diversity, diversity of thought, is not welcome.

  7. Man, I used to love reading the snarky op-eds in C&D when I was a teen, especially the intros by the EIC (can’t remember who the editor was back then). Sarcastic, but always backed up with stats. One of my first libertarian moments was reading about how some states set highway speed limits based on what the 80th percentile already drove … assuming that they could count on ticket revenue from the other 20% without any consideration for safety. Or how the car companies set a safe speed for airbag deployment that wouldn’t kill children and small women, *assuming the occupants wore seatbelts*, but the feds over-ruled them and insisted on 200+ mph deployment to save idiots without seatbelts, thereby setting small female drivers up for death (including the wife of the EIC, if I recall correctly) and forcing the under 12 set into back seats.

    Since I haven’t read C&D for years, I can only lean on your presentation here, but, oh, how the mighty have fallen.

    • Hi Jason,

      As a kid – as young journalist – I aspired to write for a pub such as C&D. Today, they’d not have me – and I don’t want them, either!

    • Thanks for the comments, Jason! I remember their discussions on speed limits, especially how much they ridiculed the “Double Nickel.” They even had articles on DOUBLE-the-double-nickel competitions! And the op-eds were great — “snarky” is an apt description. But to Tor’s point, anything that advocated breaking the speed limit these days would be nixed by the bosses at Hearst.

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