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Planning to rent a car at Miami's airport? First, you'll have to walk, walk and walk

WALK, THEY SAID: After my flight from Newark to Miami, I picked up my luggage and set off for the rental-car center, using elevators, ...

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Trump lies about everything under sun, yet the news media still love to quote him

President Trump pushed back against mounting evidence that Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the murder of critic Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was writing for The Washington Post. Here, Cartoonist Kevin Siers of The Charlotte Observer and PoliticalCartoons.com shows Trump holding a bone saw.


HACKENSACK, N.J. --  Whether at a combative press conference or in a quick interview before he boards his helicopter, President Trump can't help but lying.

Trump was so used to making false claims as a New York developer that he apparently saw no reason to start telling the truth during the 2016 presidential campaign or after he was sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 2017.

And now, even though reporters who cover the White House and accompany him on Air Force One know he is lying, they still quote him and his tweets extensively, and the electronic media send those infuriating sound bites sailing around the globe. 

The print media, notably The Washington Post and The New York Times, do a far better job than the electronic media in pushing back against the lies, but by the time their papers hit the doorstep, the damage has already been done, and Trump's supporters are howling with delight.

All of this might change on Jan. 3, when the Democratic majority and other House members are sworn in, and start investigating everything from Russian interference in our elections to Trump's finances to his ties to Saudi Arabia and other autocratic regimes.

Then, the president who loves to go on the offensive and insult world leaders, judges and just about everyone else will finally find himself on the defensive in the last act of his chaotic presidency.

Cartoonist Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star Tribune shows Trump treating the people of California as cavalierly as he did residents of Puerto Rico, where he tossed rolls of paper towels to hurricane survivors. He blamed the California wildfires on poor forest management -- a complete and total falsehood.
Cartoonist Bill Day of Cagle.com returned to a familiar Trump claim for Thanksgiving: "No collusion!" 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Motor press association ejects writer after he slams free cars, meals, trips as 'bribes'

Members of the International Motor Press Association on the buffet line last November, when Subaru sponsored a free, multi-course lunch at the 3 West Club to mark the subsidiary's 50th anniversary in America. This afternoon, BMW paid for the free lunch to celebrate Mini entering its 60th year in 2019.
After cocktails, multi-course lunches usually include chicken, fish, pasta, steamed vegetables, salads and dessert. Oysters on the half shell also have been served occasionally. Lincoln will sponsor the annual holiday meeting in December.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Word that I am no longer a member of the International Motor Press Association came in a telephone call from Bill Howard, an auto editor and president of the group.

My use of the word "bribe" in a headline over a recent post prompted the board of the country's oldest organization of automotive journalists and public relations professionals to vote to terminate my membership, Howard said on Monday.

I told Howard I felt the word was justified in view of all of the free stuff, travel and dining automakers shower on writers in the expectation they will praise the vehicle they are evaluating.

Only Consumer Reports actually buys all of the cars they test for the magazine, which doesn't accept advertising from manufacturers or anyone else.

'Bribe' is justified

What I didn't tell Howard is that the word "bribe" was suggested by another member who objected to no longer getting the royal treatment from auto companies, and hoped for a return to "equal opportunity bribery."

Here is an excerpt from my post on the October event at Monticello Motor Club, a private racetrack for the wealthy:
"In an email, IMPA President Bill Howard reminded members:
"'Sponsors make the event affordable: $100 for the ticket, not $400. Say thank you as you relieve them of their coffee, bottled water, doughnuts and candy in the paddock.'
 "Tesla doesn't advertise or provide cars for IMPA events [or reviews], and that may be one factor behind all of the negative stories about the premier maker of all-electric cars.
"And in recent years, traditional automakers like the ones that sponsor IMPA events have restricted loans of new vehicles to writers whose reports have such a large exposure that there is a good likelihood they will translate into sales.
"That prompted one long-time IMPA member to say he'd like to see a return to 'equal opportunity bribery.'" 
The definition of bribe fits: "Persuade (someone) to act in one's favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducement."

I can attend lunches

After our phone conversation, Howard said that although I am no longer a member, I can still attend automaker-sponsored lunches at the 3 West Club in Manhattan as a guest.

I first joined IMPA in the late 1980s, when I covered Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar, Volvo and other importers based in Bergen County, N.J., as a business reporter for The Record of Hackensack.

I also wrote monthly reviews of new car models. I retired from daily journalism in 2008.

I rejoined the group about three years ago after I purchased a Tesla Model S, and started a blog on EVs and hybrids called Shocking Car News

More than 550 journalists, writers, bloggers, photographers, videographers and public relations professionals belong to IMPA, according to a member database I was sent three years ago. 

In July, Scotty Reiss, president emeritus of IMPA and founder of A Girls Guide To Cars, asked members to submit ideas for an ethics policy, but no such policy has been proposed or implemented.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Consumer Reports no longer recommends Tesla Model S, Honda Odyssey, 10 others

Consumer Reports no longer recommends the all-electric Tesla Model S, a low-slung 5-door hatchback, "largely because of [air] suspension problems reported by CR members."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of two posts on Consumer Reports' October 2018 issue exploring the reliability of 29 automobile brands.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Consumer Reports magazine no longer recommends 12 models, including the Honda Odyssey minivan and the Tesla Model S luxury hatchback, citing reliability problems experienced by owners.

"Our list of CR-recommended vehicles is determined, in part, by how the vehicles perform in CR's Annual Reliability Survey," according to an online report.

"This year, we collected data from CR members on more than 500,000 vehicles.

"On the flip side, the predicted reliability of 16 models -- from the luxury Cadillac XTS to the Subaru Impreza -- improved enough this year for these cars to gain a recommendation.

"Our reliability scores are especially valuable because we can use the extensive feedback from owners to help predict how well your new car will hold up," says Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports.

"In our survey, we also asked members to identify any problems they've had within the previous 12 months with 17 aspects of their vehicles, such as the suspension, electrical system, and paint and trim.

"New-car predicted reliability is a key element in CR's overall score, which also includes road-test performance, owner satisfaction surveys results, whether a vehicle comes with key safety systems, and results from crash tests, if applicable."

The Honda Odyssey minivan had much-worse-than average reliability, according to Consumer Reports, with such problems as the infotainment display freezing and power sliding doors that wouldn't close.

Tesla Model S

CR members reported suspension problems after Tesla made air suspension and all-wheel drive standard on its 2017 Model S.

"A Teslas spokeswoman told CR that some Model S owners experienced suspension problems primarily in 2017...," but added "the problem was supplier-related and the automaker [had] already addressed it."

Here are brief explanations for why 11 other models that fell to below average reliability lost CR's recommendation:


The X1, a small SUV, had reported suspension problems, premature brake wear and steering wheel vibrations.


BMW's redesigned X3 SUV had climate-system problems, including leaks, and seat controls that required the seatback to be replaced.

Chrysler Pacifica

Top problems were a frozen or blank screen display, navigation and radio problems, and problems with the transmission computer.

Ford Fusion

Problems included the Sync 3 infotainment system screen freezing.

Genesis G90

Reported problems in the Hyundai-made luxury performance sedan were transmission leaks, failed throttle body and warped rotors.

Honda Clarity

Owners of the Clarity -- a sedan available as a plug-in hybrid, all electric or fuel cell -- reported electronic glitches that led to multiple warning lights when there wasn't a problem, faulty cabin sensor and the trunk failing to open.

Honda Odyssey

Problems in the minivan included the infotainment display freezing and losing all functionality, and power sliding doors that wouldn't close.

Kia Cadenza

Owners of the sedan reported faulty thermostat sensors, the automatic climate control failing to work properly and fixes needed for the engine wiring harness.

Lincoln MKZ

Owners had problems with the Sync 3 infotainment system screen freezing.

Mazda CX-3

This SUV had climate-control problems, which included the condenser and refrigerant leaks.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

CR members reported problems with in-car electronics and the engine.

Least reliable vehicles

In another online report, Consumer Reports listed the 10 least reliable vehicles as:

Honda Odyssey minivan, Volkswagen Atlas SUV, Buick Enclave SUV, Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD pickup truck, Kia Cadenza, Chevrolet Traverse SUV, Honda Clarity, Cadillac ATS performance luxury sedan, all-electric Tesla Model X SUV and Ram 3500 pickup truck.

Most reliable vehicles

Seven of the 10 most reliable vehicles are made by Toyota or its luxury division, Lexus; and the rest are made by Honda, Mazda or Kia:

Lexus GX SUV, gas-electric Toyota Prius C, plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius Prime, Mazda MX-5 Miata two seater, Toyota Corolla sedan, Lexus NX compact SUV, gas-electric Toyota Prius, Honda Fit hatchback, Kia Sedona minivan, Toyota Highlander SUV.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Reliability of Volvo, other brands bears no resemblance to TV commercials or reviews

A photo from the Volvo Cars website shows the 2019 Volvo XC90, a 3-row, 7-seat luxury SUV, with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $47,200 to $104,900, above and below.
One reviewer called the Swedish crystal gear shift lever the "most beautiful gear shift I've ever seen ... a glowing beacon of shimmering gorgeousness in the center of the car."

Annual reliability survey flunks
 Swedish marque, Tesla, Cadillac


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Volvo's 2019 XC90, a 7-seat luxury SUV, gets high marks from the automotive media, but Consumer Reports is warning the stylish Swedish vehicles are among the least reliable on the road.

Volvo finished 29th and last in the magazine's brand rankings "based on the average reliability for vehicles in the lineup," according to Consumer Reports' December 2018 issue.

The Swedish brand lost 6 places from last year's ranking.

Tesla's three models were ranked 27th and Cadillac's six models finished 28th.

The magazine lacked data to rank Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, Mitsubishi and Smart.

Survey of members

Each year, Consumer Reports says, members are asked about problems with their cars, minivans, SUVs and trucks.

This year, CR's Auto Reliability Survey -- the largest of its kind -- gathered data on more than 500,000 vehicles and 17 trouble areas, including in-car electronics, power equipment, noises and leaks, climate system and body hardware.

"We based the ranking on the average problem rates for the 2016 model," the magazine said.

Among 11 luxury midsize SUVs, the Volvo XC90 finished next to last, with a score of 22 (21-40 is worse than average), sandwiched between the Porsche Cayenne at 24 and the Tesla Model X at 13.

The Volvo XC60, a luxury compact SUV, received a predicted reliability score of 32; the Volvo S90, a luxury midsize car, finished with a score of 12, last among a dozen competitors; and the Volvo V60 wagon, redesigned for 2019, was called "worse" than average.

Turbo problems

Consumer Reports' October 2018 issue also notes problems with the turbocharged engines in Volvos and other brands.

To boost fuel efficiency, "more than half of U.S. models offer turbo engines as an option ... along with multi-speed transmissions," but "it's clear from CR reliability data that not every automaker gets its turbos and transmissions right."

Out of 18 powertrains, Volvo's turbocharged-and-supercharged 4-cylinder engine was ranked 13th (worse than the average non-turbo engine), followed by Ford, Chevrolet, Lincoln, Hyundai and MINI.

The Tesla Model 3 finished last among five compact luxury cars in Consumer Reports' annual predicted reliability survey (Car and Driver photo).

What media say

"The XC90 is a fine SUV," according to U.S. News & World Report. "It gets top marks ... for its stylish, upscale cabin and ample space for passengers and cargo."

Kelley Blue Book says, "If you're seeking a luxury SUV with seating for seven, exceptional safety features, and a design and spirit that stands out from the crowd, you'll find it all in the 2019 XC90."

Edmunds.com says the XC90 in its highest trim level, the T8 Excellence, is "just not practical for most buyers."

"So skip the crystal glasses and backseat refrigerator and go with the mid-level T6 Momentum," which "gets the turbocharged-and-supercharged 2.0-liter engine ... leather upholstery, and a larger display screen for the driver."

"You," a Volvo TV spot that has an aria playing in the background, promises "one SUV that fits everyone's life."

EVs and hybrids

Consumer Reports' reliability scores for ultra-luxury cars are Mercedes-Benz S Class, 45; Tesla Model S, 36; and Genesis G90, 34 (41 to 60 is average).

(Although I'm a Consumer Reports subscriber and the owner of a 2015 Tesla Model S, I didn't receive a questionnaire on its reliability, which has been excellent.)

Among five luxury compact cars, Tesla's Model 3 finished last, with 49. Other rankings were Audi A4, 60; BMW 3 Series, 57; Lexus IS, 57; and Kia Stinger, 55. 

Among hybrids and electric cars, the Chevrolet Bolt EV scored 50 and the Chevrolet Volt hybrid finished with 32, above the last place Honda Clarity with 14 (21 to 40 is worse than average).

Toyota's Prius C hybrid scored highest, with 93, followed by the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, 91. 

The all-electric BMW i3 was third, with 89, followed by the Prius hybrid, 87; Kia Niro, 77, and the all-electric Nissan Leaf, 69 (61 to 80 is better than average).

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Record's onetime HQ on River Street in Hackensack is going, going, almost gone

STOP THE PRESSES: As demolition continued today, the most recognizable part of The Record's former headquarters in Hackensack is this section of a 3-story executive wing fronting on River Street. The wing included offices, a private dining room, a kitchen for the executive chef, a gymnasium and a hallway art gallery.
ELEVATOR TO NOWHERE: The 5-story elevator tower at the rear of the headquarters building also remained standing today. 
THAT EMPTY FEELING: No part of the building at 150 River St. remains standing between the section of the executive wing and the elevator tower.
SEPT. 2, 2018: The executive wing as it appeared in September. The Record closed its headquarters in 2009, relocating to an office building overlooking Route 80 in Woodland Park. Printing of the once-great local daily newspaper was moved to Rockaway Township in 2006.
FOURTH-FLOOR NEWSROOM: The newsroom was on the 4th floor of the headquarters building. The large windows framed the tower of smoke rising from the destruction of the World Trade Center in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001. See a short video of the demolition work, below.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

8 days after the Nov. 6 midterm elections, Democrats gain more House, Senate seats

Democrats won all statewide races in Nevada, including a governorship that has eluded them since 1994 (photo from The New York Times.).


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- More than a week after the Nov. 6 midterm elections, Democrats have turned their modest majority in the House of Representatives into a stronger one, and narrowed the margin in the Senate.

The party gained 33 House seats so far and could gain 35 to 40 once all the counting is completed, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

And in the Senate, Democratic losses look less serious, according to The Times, with the party losing a net of one or two seats rather than three or four as they feared.

The Times said:
"The underlying shifts in the electorate suggest President Trump may have to walk a precarious path to re-election in 2020, as several Midwestern states he won in 2016 threaten to slip away, and once-red states in the Southwest turn a purpler hue. The president’s strategy of sowing racial division and stoking alarm about immigration failed to lift his party, and Democratic messaging about health care undercut the benefit Republicans hoped to gain from a strong economy."

Voter turnout

The picture is brighter for Democrats despite voter turnout of 48% -- meaning 5 out of 10 registered voters stayed home. 

Now, the Trump administration's offensive will have to turn defensive once the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Only 5 of 10 voters turned out, cutting into Democrats' big election victory on Tuesday

In this photo from The New York Times, casino employees lined up to vote on Tuesday in Las Vegas.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- The Blue Wave broke early -- much too early.

Democrats scored significant victories in the 2018 midterm elections on Tuesday, gaining control of the House of Representatives, but didn't do the same in the Senate.

The reason may lie in disappointing voter turnout -- whether from apathy or laziness -- one of the major factors cited for the surprising victory of Donald J. Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

"It looks like more than 113 million people voted, which would be at least 48 percent of eligible Americans," The New York Times reported on Friday, based on preliminary -- but incomplete -- data made available by the states and analyzed by Michael McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida.

So that means fewer than 5 of every 10 voters cast ballots. 

"By percent of people eligible to vote, it was the highest turnout of any midterm election since at least 1970 and the first time midterm turnout topped 100 million," The Times reported, quoting Target Smart, a data analytics firm that studies voter data.

Races for governor

Democrats took the governor's office in Wisconsin, defeating conservative Scott Walker; Pennsylvania and Michigan -- the three states whose electoral votes provided the margin of victory for Trump in 2016.

Meanwhile, dysfunctional Florida began the first statewide vote recount in its history on Saturday to decide the contests for U.S. Senate and governor -- races Republicans appeared to have won.

And a record 35 new women won House seats, meaning more than 100 women will take their seats on Jan. 3.

Hackensack turnout

More than 23,000 Hackensack residents were registered to vote last Tuesday, and turnout in most of the city's 27 voting districts bettered the national average of 48%.

Turnout ranged from 43.03% to 59.94%.

Nearly 55% of the 567,568 registered voters in Bergen County cast ballots.

If more voted ...

You can only imagine how the 2018 midterm elections, the 2016 presidential election and other national contests would turn out, if more voters cast ballots.

What is turning off voters in states that don't have Republican officials trying to suppress the vote or disqualify voters, as well as gerrymandering congressional districts?

The news media's relentless focus on politics is a big factor when what voters really want is information on how candidates stand on a wide range of issues -- from health care to the environment.

And the media's addiction to sound bites means they spread Trump's lies without fact-checking or pushback, delighting his supporters.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

News media do another awful job, wasting our time in trying to call midterm elections

A voter entering the Fairmount School in Hackensack around 2 this afternoon to vote in the 2018 midterm congressional elections, as well as on county races and two ballot questions. Voting machines were set up in the cafeteria. Hackensack schools were dismissed after a half day.
A voter using a cane as he approached the doors to the Hackensack High School gymnasium, another polling place where voting machines were set up.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Nearly 2 years into the presidency of Donald J. Trump, not a single reporter has had the courage to confront him and say, "Mr. President, please stop lying to the American people."

Instead, they've covered every one of his partisan rallies, and spread his lies around the world with no fact-checking.

Then, days or weeks later, The Washington Post or New York Times thunder about all of the lies Trump has told.

Who will win?

Today is Election Day across America, and the news media have spent the past few weeks obsessing over who will win, and whether Democrats will be able to take control of the House and Senate.

Why not just wait for the results to come in after the polls close, and devote all that energy to laying out the issues instead of relentlessly focusing on politics?

Polls are notoriously inaccurate, yet their reports are filled with them, and updated every day, it seems.

Sensational ads

NBC, CBS and other networks accept the most sensational, deceptive or inaccurate campaign ads, signaling to viewers that only the bottom line matters.

It's no surprise there are so many apathetic voters in Hackensack and elsewhere across the nation.

The blame rests squarely on the news media, who seem cowed by Trump's campaign to portray them as the enemy of the people.

It's another sad day for the Fourth Estate.

Hackensack Councilman Leo Battaglia, in dark top and cap, in the Fairmount School cafeteria this afternoon.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Vote on Tuesday to help stop Trump lies, corruption, chaos and white nationalism

After President Trump claimed he could eliminate birthright citizenship from the U.S. Constitution, cartoonist Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch adopted a Halloween theme, showing Trump cutting out parts of the constitution as if he were carving a pumpkin.
Cartoonist Marian Kamensky shows Trump rushing down to the border and tossing children born in the United States to illegal immigrants over the fence.
Jimmy Margulies, onetime editorial cartoonist for The Record of Woodland Park, has Trump using white-out on the constitution.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- I never thought I'd miss those idiotic car commercials on TV.

But the onslaught of sensational political ads in the runup to the midterm congressional elections has me squirming on my red-leather couch.

I've been squealing with delight when I can fast forward through them on recorded programs, as I do with all the stupidity used to sell Chevys and Mercedes-Benzes.

Well, we've got only two days to go before Election Day on Tuesday. Don't forget to vote.

My wife and I, as well as our college-age son, have already voted a straight Democratic ticket, and sent in our mail-in ballots.

Voting for Democrats is the only way to stop Trump, as I wrote last November: 

U.S. Senate race

The choice for U.S. senator from New Jersey is so depressing the Star-Ledger and NJ.com noted in an editorial, "...Both candidates are slippery characters, even by Washington standards."

Another news site called the contest a choice between "Crooked Bob" and "Greedy Bob."

The NJ.com editorial noted, "Before he was caught in 2015, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., broke Senate rules by routinely accepting expensive gifts, including private jets to luxury resorts abroad.... He then used his office to promote the personal and business interest of the man who paid the bills.

"It's a miracle that Menendez escaped criminal conviction, and an act of profound narcissism that he stayed in the race ... putting a Democratic seat at risk while Donald Trump sits in the White House."

But the friend he freeloaded off, Dr. Salomon Melgen, a prominent South Florida eye doctor, was convicted of defrauding Medicare of $73 million, and since February, has been serving a 17-year sentence in federal prison.

He also was ordered to pay $42.6 million in restitution to Medicare, and could be ordered to pay more, the Sun Sentinel reported in February.

GOP challenger

Menendez's Republican challenger, Bob Hugin, "estimates he earned up to $200 million at Celgene, a pharmaceutical firm known for its vigorous fight to keep cheaper generics off the market so it could repeatedly hike the cost of expensive cancer drugs," according to NJ.com. 

Celgene also paid $280 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit alleging the firm covered up potentially fatal side effects of its cancer drugs, and defrauded Medicare, the Oct. 28 editorial said.

"Our hope is that voters remember Trump is on the ballot, that they choke down their reluctance and vote for Menendez. He's no gem but he's better than Hugin," NJ.com said.

In a broadside paid for by the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, John McCann, the Republican candidate for the House of Representatives from the 5th District, is being portrayed as a "Tea Partier" who "failed to pay more than $100,000 of his own taxes." The campaign material also says he raised "local taxes four times while on the Cresskill Town Council and voted for higher property taxes."