At Large: A note to the Commentariat

At Large: A note to the Commentariat

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The Comment feature at mvtimes.com is useful for commenters and non-commenting visitors.The latter category is, naturally enough, larger than the former. But, I am not complacent. I look for steady improvement in the quality and variety of contributions. There continues to be some bad behavior that has occasioned lots of deletions and a few excommunications. To avoid these going forward, I’ll remind mvtimes.com visitors of some of the terms of our comment policy, and include a couple of good models.

The rules:

“The Times invites comments on news, editorials, features, and other information posted on its site. Comments are not screened before publication. The Times welcomes constructive debate, but not personal attacks on other commenters. Comments that we regard as obscene, defamatory, vulgar, repetitive, intended to incite violence, or unreasonably long will be removed.

“If you find a comment offensive, you may flag it. Repeat offenses may result in removal of posts and revocation of posting privileges.

“Please do not post comments that are commercial in nature or that violate any copyrights.

“Except for brief excerpts from quoted material, comments must be wholly the work of the site visitor.

“MV Times staff members, full- and part-time, as well as regular columnists on the Editorial pages must use their own full names when they post comments.”

On the attack

The terms outlaw personal attacks on other commenters. I find that these occur in two ways, both equally nasty. Some commenters don’t write as well as others. Their grammar is not perfect, neither is the spelling and punctuation. When these participants want to criticize another commenter, they write “You’re an idiot” or “You’re a fool” or something altogether vulgar. Such comments will not be tolerated. Other commenters, just as hateful but more literate, use disdain and condescension to do the trick. Each tactic is an attack, and neither is welcome.

Going beyond

Implicating others, expanding on The Times’ published report with speculation or allegations that were not part of the article as published are out of bounds. You cannot post comments that make defamatory, unfounded allegations, or speculations about the subjects of published articles or — even more egregious — about people not even mentioned in published reports.

Once is enough

We don’t want repetitive posts. Make your observation, reply to another post if you like, but once you’ve had your say, let go. I have to read these things: don’t bore me.

Nobody cares

I’ve had it with the washashore versus longtime or native Islander debate. The labels are meaningless, add nothing to the debate, and never constitute a valuable observation.

Likewise, calling commenters liberals or conservatives. It’s tiresome, contributes nothing to an online discussion and raises questions about the good sense and good faith of the commenter.

Who art thou?

Similarly, the occasional debate over whether anonymous comments ought to be tolerated is pointless. Anonymous postings are welcome. Postings that violate the standards are not, whether you name yourself or don’t.

You’re out

If a commenter’s behavior doesn’t meet the standard, he or she may be blacklisted. Is it permanent? It’s a case-by-case decision. Sometimes the commenter’s remarks are so far out of bounds that the judgment of the participant is in question. Exclusion in such cases may be permanent. Despite the occasional view that the Comment feature is merely a device for nurturing visitorship to mvtimes.com, we know there are other forums for some kinds of comment posts, and we invite commenters unhappy with our standards to use them. For most others, I’m easy to reach, and a conversation in which we agree to abide by the terms of service going forward is enough to effect reinstatement. For me, it’s the desirable outcome.

Now, two examples of model Comment posts

Following are Comment posts to a story about a display of electric vehicles [Cars with alternative power, and plenty of it, September 28]. They are unedited.

farmer5

I noticed the Tesla on display at the Cronig’s parking lot the other day and decided to have a closer look. I should mention that in the past I have been generally lukewarm in my enthusiasm over all-electric cars. After I spent a few minutes talking with the representative from the Tesla company and taking a ride in the car I decided to look further into the company that produces the Tesla S.

I read independent reviews online by several companies including my favorite car mags. I also spent some time watching some youtube videos of the manufacturing plant in California which is nothing short of mindblowing.

The car is beautifully crafted and quite stylish in my opinion but what impressed me the most (besides the acceleration of a hot rod) was the advanced technology in nearly every aspect of the automobile. When I walked away and drove off in my Detroit manufactured truck I felt I had just been given a glimpse of the future.

The Tesla S is an expensive car but the cutting edge technology behind it will no doubt be commonplace in the years to come and the manufacture of an affordable, utilitarian car can’t be too far away in the future. My initial reservations melted away the more I did my research into electric cars. The performance is incredible by any measure. The efficiency of electric motors vs. internal combustion engines is a matter of science and indisputable. Of course there are no emissions of any kind. You often hear the argument that electric cars still cause pollution because the source of power is manufactured from fossil fuels but the amount of fossil fuels burned for each mile travelled is far less because of the efficiency of the motors they use. The range for the Tesla S is a respectable 300 miles without a recharge but they recently debuted a new technique which would allow the swapping out of the battery unit for a fully charged unit, automatically, in 90 seconds.

After looking under the hood of the Tesla (one finds a luggage compartment where the engine would normally be located) I couldn’t help but think about all the mufflers I had replaced, the valve jobs, the catalytic converters and fan belts, alternators and starter motors I had replaced in my lifetime. Seeing the Tesla made me reconsider the belief that manufacturing in the U.S. was a thing of the past.

And, a riposte

semmelt

The latest round of Tesla wonder came when it reported its first quarterly profit earlier this month. TSLA stock near doubled in a week. Musk then borrowed $150 million from Goldman Sachs and floated a cool billion in new stock and long-term debt.

That’s how we — the taxpayers — were repaid.Tesla didn’t generate a profit by selling sexy cars, but rather by selling emissions “credits,” mandated by the state of California’s electric vehicle requirements. The competition, like Honda, doesn’t have a mass market plug-in to meet the mandate and therefore must buy the credits from Tesla, the only company that does. The bill for last quarter was $68 million. Absent this shakedown of potential car buyers, Tesla would have lost $57 million, or $11,400 per car. As the company sold 5,000 cars in the quarter, though, $13,600 per car was paid by other manufacturers, who are going to pass at least some of that cost on to buyers of their products. Folks in the new car market are likely paying a bit more than simply the direct tax subsidy. Tesla isn’t actually making money selling cars. It’s making money from crony capitalist taxes of people who buy cars from other

companies. And even the customers who buy its cars get paid with taxpayer

money.First, there’s the $7500 taxback bonus that every buyer gets and every taxpayer pays. Then there are generous state subsidies ($2500 in California, $4000 in Illinois—the bluer the state, the more the taxpayers get gouged), all paid to people forking out $63K (plus taxes) for the base version, to roughly $100K for the really quick one.Tesla is still turning a profit, not from customers, but from money being seized from taxpayers to compensate its customers for buying Tesla. But of course everyone gets subsidies so Tesla should also.

Too long, but satisfying still

Each of these examples may be marked down for length, and grammar and spelling are not perfect, but as examples of thoughtful debate, they nourish the Comment collections. Some excellent comments are funny, some satirical, some bitter, some concise, but the goal here is to invite and host the better ones and suppress the dull and the nasty. The oversight of the Comment feature is an art, not a science, agnostic as to viewpoint but always hopeful that the good stuff will overwhelm the bad. With your participation, we’ve seen steady improvement, and we anticipate more.

This column incorporates part of a of column that appeared in this space in January. DAC

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