Morning Belz, July 13
Right to repair.
Whenever my Toyota minivan needs its oil changed, the above message comes up behind the steering wheel: “Maintenance required. Contact your dealer.”
This is a low-grade outrage every time I see it. Don’t tell me who to contact, you insolent inanimate object. I’ll contact whoever I want to contact. And if you have the wherewithal to know it’s time for me to get an oil change, tell me that!
Because here’s the problem with this message. The whole point of it is to drive business to Toyota dealerships. Pretty much every car company does this, so do tech companies, so do farm equipment manufacturers. The machines are full of software that knows exactly what’s going on, but the owner of the machine isn’t privy to that information. So instead of, “your oil needs to be changed,” we get “contact your dealer.”
Ridiculous. It’s my car. Not Toyota’s. I bought it. It doesn’t belong to Toyota or the network of Toyota dealerships.
This tendency of manufacturers to want to control the products they sell long after they’ve sold them means that customers don’t have diagnostic tools, and even independent auto mechanics often don’t have good diagnostic tools. And this is much more irksome for farmers than it is for car owners. Imagine getting this message in your combine and having to call the dealer to send out a truck because the $500,000 machine won’t move until an authorized mechanic comes out and confirms that an air filter needs to be changed. (I’m not sure that’s a great example but it’s not far off.) I wrote about this for the Star Tribune 18 months ago.
So when I see that President Biden has signed an executive order directing the Federal Trade Commission to do more to stop “anticompetitive” practices such as restrictions on diagnostics and parts for end users, I think that’s great.
“Right-to-repair” is a bit of an esoteric issue, but it matters, and even if the executive order isn’t as sweeping as everyone would like, it’s good to get more attention on this subject.
U.S. newspapers’ very poor record on race — NYT
Noah Smith interviews Matt Yglesias — Noahpinion*
Apparently anti-vax nurse dies of COVID in Louisiana — Advocate
Teachers union to promote Kendi nationwide — AFT
Chinese threat to Taiwan is growing — NBC
Miami groups head to Cuba to support protests — Herald
*the media discussion at the end is particularly interesting to me
“A clean conscience might help you to get into heaven, but it won't help your career.” — Mario Vargas Llosa, 1963
About: I send this email most weekdays in an effort to stay informed and in touch. I was a newspaper reporter for 14 years, most recently at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I explained why my family left Minneapolis here. Now we live just outside Chattanooga and I work on Scuffed News. Please share this newsletter with anyone you think might enjoy it. And please consider supporting this work with your money on Patreon.