Category Archives: General

Coronavirus Diary 19

So over the past week I had to do some *gasp* flying.

Frankly, I wasn’t all that happy about doing it but, in this case, it kinda had to be done. My daughter, who lives in Texas, has been holed up in our home for the past 3-4 months, hoping to ride out the COVID-19 situation, but finally it was time for her to return.

We worried her car -unmoved in all that time- might need some care and, frankly, she had to be closer to her work. Granted, she now works at home as her work is on the computer, but still, she wanted to get back to her home rather than remain in ours.

I guess we could have rented a car and made the trip that way, but that would have taken at least two and more likely two and a half days of driving to get to her city. Too much versus the 2 and 1/2 hours it takes to make that trip by plane.

But, of course, we were quite worried about the whole flying situation.

To have a group of people locked into a sealed aircraft for that time… to walk through the airport and be around so many others who could conceivably give you the virus…

…truly, its a frightening thing.

Luckily, the trip to Texas proved a breeze. There were very few people on the flight and, luckily for us, the aircraft needed to balance out the passengers throughout the airplane and my daughter and I got an unexpected and very welcome bonus: We were upgraded to first class!

Everyone on the airplane, I’m happy to report, were wearing masks, though the lady to my right and past the aisle did bring a Wendy’s hamburger meal on board and ate it. Airlines I don’t believe serve any foods during these times, offering you a small “goodie” bag with pretzels, a small bottle of water, and a small hand-sanitizer package.

Anyway, the lady removed her mask to eat but otherwise kept it on during the trip.

No huge problem.

But on the way back…

The flight was much more filled and, as my incredible luck would have it, I managed to get seated next to an asshole (for there is no other way to describe him) who a) would wear his mask over his mouth but not nose now and again (not always) and, after I took a small nap, I awoke to find he had his mask completely off his face.

Originally he was seated in the middle seat while I had the window seat. No one took the seat by the aisle so he moved there before the flight took off so we had some distance between us but not the recommended 6 feet.

Frankly, when I saw him without the mask I was enraged. I thought maybe he just finished eating his in-flight snack and would put the mask back on (it was dangling from his ear) but, no, he didn’t put it back on while watching some movie on his smart phone.

Finally I had enough and told him to put his damn mask on. Thankfully, he didn’t argue the point and did so right away.

Still, for I don’t know how long I had this total stranger sitting near me without a mask.

How risky is it for me to catch Corona when I have a mask on and the person near me doesn’t? Check out this handy dandy chart:

Ladies and gentlemen, if that wonderful fellow passenger had COVID-19 and wasn’t wearing his fucking mask while relatively close to me and even if I did have my mask on, the possibility of transmitting the disease to me is listed as… high.

Now, the guy wasn’t coughing nor looked sick at all, so I’m hoping -and that’s all I can do- that he wasn’t sick nor transmitted anything to me, but it is infuriating to see people take this illness and the very real danger of catching it so damn cavalierly.

Which brings us to this wonderful article by Gino Spocchia and presented on the UK’s Independent:

Ted Cruz caught on commercial flight without mask

Here’s the evidence:

Ted Cruz, for those that don’t know, is a Senator from Texas. He’s another of those very hard right-wingers who, based on this image, thinks he is above everyone.

At least the fool who sat beside me came on the flight with a mask and put it on when I told him he needed to.

In that photograph, I don’t see Ted Cruz with any mask at all, even one dangling from his ear.

It will be a long while before I fly again.

Hopefully, by that time people will finally realize the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation and finally, finally begin to take proper precautions.

Not just for themselves, but for everyone around them.

Coronavirus Diaries 18

We’re in some kind of Sisyphus-type nightmare, aren’t we?

Seems like a couple of months ago we locked everything down and it seemed like we were getting a grip on the Covid-19 situation… to a degree.

The infection rate was stabilizing if not dropping and people seemed to be practicing social distancing. Masks, we found out a little later, were considered a great help in lowering the transmission rates and, as of the past couple of months, the wiser businesses have required any clients who step in their stores wear them.

Then things slipped.

The rates of infection are rising through the proverbial roof and the mighty United States, the envy of the civilized world, has shown itself to be far from ready to take on this particular fight.

As with so many things, the fault lies at the top.

I know, I know… its probably getting tiresome hearing me bemoan our “President”, but the reality is that Trump and his bizarre, uneducated, and irresponsible manners has for the past several weeks played down the COVID-19 situation and, sadly, so too have too many state governors.

When the states were “re-opened” there was this sense -incorrect, as it turned out- that perhaps we have turned the corner and could go back to normal.

Restaurants and bars opened in far too many places and without enough safeguards present.

In the end, too many people congregated too close to each other and, today, we keep seeing record numbers of infection rates. What follows, even more sadly, are deaths from this virus.

You can’t blame Trump for everything. I know that. I don’t blame him for this virus but I do blame him for his too blasé -bordering on criminal- attitude toward it.

He thought people wearing masks were dumb… and he even to this day refuses to wear one because, I can only guess, he feels it makes him look weak.

Or something.

This despite statistics and the professional immunologist advice that wearing a mask makes you less likely to contract the COVID-19 virus.

With someone as powerful as the President poo-pooing the notion of wearing masks, it was only nature that we’d see too many people doing the very same.

And they did.

And now we’re here, with the rates going through the proverbial roof with no end in sight.

I genuinely fear what’s coming next.

The economy has been severely hurt and if the rate of infection continues, it can only get worse. Europe is opening up but, given our infection rates, United States citizens aren’t allowed to travel there.

Can you imagine?

Our mighty country so far behind in dealing with this situation that we’re considered a danger for travel?

I don’t know what lies ahead but I genuinely wonder how much long responsible people in government are going to let this go on.

I also wonder how much longer regular citizens will have patience with this.

Are we in for another lockdown?

I have to admit, a part of me hopes this will happen.

But, once we do, will we again let our guard down and again open ourselves up too much and yet again find ourselves with far too many infections as before?

And so it goes…

This just can’t be…

I mean, please tell me this isn’t true.

Yes, tell me it’s “fake news”. Please!

Written by Bill Hutchinson and presented on abcnews.com…

Alabama students throwing “Covid Parties” to see who gets infected: Officials

The upshot of this article is even more frightening than the headline suggests. Read the whole thing, I urge you.

These are the first three paragraphs of the article:

Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been attending parties in the city and surrounding area as part of a disturbing contest to see who can catch the virus first, a city council member told ABC News on Wednesday.

Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry said students have been organizing “COVID parties” as a game to intentionally infect each other with the contagion that has killed more than 127,000 people in the United States. She said she recently learned of the behavior and informed the city council of the parties occurring in the city.

She said the organizers of the parties are purposely inviting guests who have COVID-19.

I mean, come on! This has to be a joke, right?

Please…?!

While its tempting to simply blame youthful stupidity, the reality is that stupidity seems to be all too plentiful these days.

“President” Trump refusing to wear a mask and still (still!) saying he feels the pandemic will miraculously “disappear”… even as our rates of infection are back to where they were when everything was first shut down.

The congress -sadly mostly Republicans- keep their mouths shut instead of screaming from the top of their lungs while citizens day after day die from this deadly disease. Many refuse to go to meetings with masks on because… I dunno… I guess its more manly to risk infecting other people?!

Is it so fucking hard for people to get it through their heads that, yes, the disease exists and that, absolutely yes, it can be deadly? And, sometimes when its not deadly, it can leave you with medical issues you may have to deal with for the rest of your life?

Is it so hard to tell people to please, please wear a mask and social distance?

Is common sense in such a limited supply?

I just don’t know anymore.

Rough Night In Tulsa…

I really, really try not to get too political in these postings but it’s really tough lately.

“President” Trump, who, if you’ve come ’round these parts now and again, isn’t exactly on my list of favorite politicians. (Quick aside: Is it just me or have the Republican presidents been going from bad to incredibly terrible from Nixon on? I mean, even those who love the admittedly very charismatic Ronald Reagan have to admit his administration had plenty of problems, especially in the second term, and what he opened up lingers to this day…)

The other day he had the first of his rallies, intended to kick start his re-election and…

…the whole thing was a gigantic failure.

Kevin Liptak and Kaitlin Collins over at CNN write about…

Sick and empty seats: How Trump’s triumphant return to campaign trail went from bad to worse

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, the last few weeks (years, it seems!) have been full of protest following the death of George Floyd, the rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and it seems the Trump White House has no idea how to deal with it. Worse, they used the protest time to stage a very ill advised photo-op at a church which backfired spectacularly on them…

Nothing wrong with Trump's Bible-toting photo-op | Letter ...

Then, “President” Trump seemed to dig his grave even deeper with conspiracy theories regarding the police pushing -and subsequently lying- about Martin Gugino’s fall…

See the source image

There were more things that happened (I don’t even want to get into the botched firing of Geoffrey Berman or the release of John Bolton’s scathing book), but suffice to say the Trump re-election is, at this moment, on very shaky grounds.

In fact, in recent days (and we must bear in mind the election isn’t until November, so much can change) the odds of re-election have dropped pretty significantly, and I suspect “President” Trump, shrewd enough to realize this was the case, decided in the middle of this pandemic that it was time to start holding his rallies.

His first one was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a state which overwhelmingly voted for him over Hillary Clinton in the previous election, as “safe” a state as one could find for Republicans and, by extension, Trump himself.

To Trump’s re-election campaign, things were looking really positive. There were a lot of requests for tickets and he was expecting the venue he was in, capable of fitting some 19,000 people, would be full to capacity and he would then go outside and give a speech to the overflow.

Only, things didn’t quite work out that way…

See the source image

Yikes! Want more?

See the source image
See the source image

Even official images, which had the sparse attendees crowded around Trump, revealed the emptiness…

See the source image
Check out the upper part of this photograph

Estimates were that only some 6200 people showed up for the event, less than half of the stadium’s capacity.

Even worse, reports came out that the Trump campaign tweeted during the event (one imagines, quite desperately) that there was still plenty of space available and for anyone interested in coming to please come on in!

Only, they didn’t.

The event was such a bust that the very few people by the outside platform were told to go into the convention center and the various staffers started dismantling that outside platform even as the main event was still going on.

“President” Trump was reportedly furious about the event and the lack of people who showed up and, in this case, I can totally understand.

This has to be concerning. A sitting President -even one as loathsome as I feel he is- should be able to get a decent turnout at any event and especially one that takes place in a voting stronghold for him.

The fact that so few people showed up has to be worrisome. If even his supporters aren’t that encouraged/motivated to come in to see him, how encouraged/motivated will they be to vote for him?

Again: The election is still a very long way away.

However, going by this alone, it seems his support is sagging.

Perhaps very badly.

Re-Evaluating Our Statues/Memorials

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement comes a needed re-evaluation of many of the memorials and statues both in the United States and throughout the world.

The fact of the matter is that with the passage of time, we’ve come to re-evaluate some of the statues and memorials in light of these more enlightened times and deem some of these items need to be gone.

I wrote about the Stone Mountain Memorial and the many Confederate statues and monuments which are currently being -rightfully, in my humble opinion- re-evaluated and/or taken down (you can read about that here), but when I heard the other day that a statue of Teddy Roosevelt was being removed, I thought… really?

I mean, Teddy Roosevelt never struck me as a historical figure quite in the same vein as the various Confederate characters we see paraded around far too much in the South… why him?

Then, I read this article, by Ed Mazza and presented on Huffingtonpost.com, and it all made sense:

Teddy Roosevelt statue gets evicted from outside Museum of Natural History

In this case, the removal of the statue is not so much because of any nastiness in Teddy Roosevelt’s history but rather because of what the statue depicts…

Equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt in NY New York City US

…and from the other side…

Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt" (1940), bronze statue by ...

From the article:

“The statue has long been controversial because of the hierarchical composition that places one figure on horseback and the others walking alongside,” the museum said in a statement. “Many of us find its depictions of the Native American and African figures and their placement in the monument racist.” 

You know… I can see that. It sure does make Roosevelt look like some kind of “giant” alongside the others.

Again, from the article, even the relatives of Mr. Roosevelt, the Museum itself, and it seems just about everyone else involved are fine with the removal of the statue. Further, there is no implication Mr. Roosevelt himself is being removed because it is somehow distasteful to show him… just to show him in this very questionable mileu, which is more on the artist and the people who commissioned the statue originally.

Whew.

Sometimes its nice to hear how everyone can agree about something without it going nuclear!

Coronavirus Diaries 17: Nothing To See Here

It’s one of the funnier jokes presented in the hilarious The Naked Gun:

The not so funny thing is that the Trump administration seems to have decided that if they can’t figure out the Coronavirus situation, their best strategy is to deny reality and act like its already done and the vaccine is just about here and, as Frank Drebin said above, “there’s nothing to see here.”

If only.

I truly don’t like to wade into politics that much and for the same reason I don’t like discussing religion. If people are perfectly capable of losing their minds over whether or not you like Batman v. Superman, then moving into the realm of religion and politics is just supercharging that nerve.

But, I’ll do so anyway…

At least in politics.

So, yeah, that seems to be the Trump message of late. Don’t worry about Corona. Absurdly, they state the only reason we’re seeing larger amounts of Corona cases is because of testing. If we eliminate testing, then everything will be fine and we won’t see those numbers (huh?!).

They plan to continue their rallies in closed off/indoor stadiums. They encourage people not to bother with masks (Trump himself seems allergic to them, I suppose macho-man thinks it makes him look like a pussy or something) and if/when those rallies come to be, we’re going to have a bunch of folk who feel Covid-19 is “fake news” and I doubt we’ll see too many of them bother with masks.

Which makes the fact that Trump and company are forcing people who do come to his rallies sign a contract which absolves them of getting sick or dying that much more hilarious…

…if it weren’t so fucking sad.

Yeah, I’m surly today.

We’ve got a guy in the White House who gassed peaceful protesters so he could do a stupid photo op in front of a church… where he looked like it was the first time he held a book, much less a bible.

This is a guy who is repeating stupid conspiracy theories about Martin Gugino, the 75 year old man who was pushed by police, and whom the police subsequently lied about what happened to him, claiming -until the video proved otherwise- he “tripped”…

It’s been reported the man suffered a skull fracture, brain damage, and is unable to walk.

But… let’s scream Antifa, amiright?!

Here’s the thing, though: It seems like Trump’s latest moves have exposed him to a very harsh backlash. His approval numbers are going down to historic (for him) lows. Polls in must win states are dropping and in some, he’s losing.

By a lot.

All this while Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, is essentially invisible.

Thing is: why should Biden do more than he is at this point?

The saying goes when your opponent is falling, give them space. Let them do your work for you.

Problem is: The election isn’t today. It’s in November, five months from now. An eternity in politics, surely.

Hopefully, Biden’s “down time” will allow him to sharpen his rhetorical knife and create a more powerhouse public machine to promote his candidacy.

At this point I’m at least cautiously optimistic that perhaps -maybe!- those people who voted for Trump because “what the hell, he’s better than Hillary” (as opposed to those who are still his most rabid fans, who will obviously vote once again for him) are finally waking up to what Trump is really all about.

I doubt very much there are many who did vote for Hillary Clinton who will now back Trump. He’s done nothing at all to make them want to vote for him… indeed, quite the opposite.

But again: November is still a long way away.

And it can’t come quick enough.

Please, don’t do as Trump. Wear your masks. You’re helping yourself, you’re helping others around you.

The Covid-19 pandemic isn’t through. It isn’t over. Magically thinking doesn’t stop it but wearing a mask might just help do so.

Please.

If not for your sake, then for your family members (elderly or not), friends, and co-workers.

Dawn of Change… Stone Mountain

The death of George Floyd has ignited something both in this country and throughout the world:

People are galvanized not just against police brutality but a cold focus is being placed on systemic racism throughout society, whether it be subtle or only too obvious.

I think I wrote about this before so excuse me if I’m repeating myself: I’ve lived in many places throughout my life. My early years were spent in four different countries, the longest sustained time of which was spent in South America -Venezuela to be precise- before permanently moving to the United States.

My first semi-permanent “home” was in a High School, specifically a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. When I got there, there were plenty of new and interesting things for me to experience, but one of the stranger ones proved to be sightings here and there of the Confederate flag.

You might see someone with a T-Shirt or baseball cap with the Confederate flag on it or perhaps a passing car -often pickup trucks- would sport such flags on their rear windows or perhaps emblazoned on their door or, the smallest example I can think of, it might be a bumper sticker.

While it might have been a relatively small number of people, there was a definite Confederate flag culture, if one could call it that, back then. Please note: We are talking about Jacksonville as I experienced it nearly (*gasp*) forty years ago and my most recent visits, the last one I did not even two months ago, show the place to have changed quite a bit. I don’t see what I saw back then and, in that respect, the city has certainly matured.

Yet those memories persist and I distinctly recall when I first got to the city being bewildered by the sight of any Confederate flag.

Why?

Because up to that point though I had been raised in “American” schools (there was one!) in Venezuela, the history books I read and what I was taught tended to be pretty straight-forward regarding the Civil War rather than being suffused with revisionism and/or the glow of nostalgia or something far more sinister.

When studying the Civil War, the history was simple: The North wanted to get rid of slavery while the South wanted to keep their slaves.

However one tries to cut it, this is what that war ultimately was about and when looked at that way, there is simply no “kind” way of looking at those who fought for the South and what they hoped to achieve.

For what they sought was a continuation of the cruelty of slavery, no matter how one tries to frame it now.

Over at CNN.com, George Shepherd offers a fascinating opinion piece regarding the various Civil War monuments and one in particular, that found at Stone Mountain in Georgia…

Stone Mountain and other monuments to the Confederacy should be wiped clean

Mr. Shepherd, far better than I, provides a history of these various monuments/statues to the Confederacy and the dark reality of what they represented: A visual reminder to African Americans -and any others- that though the Civil War was lost by the Confederacy, the defenders of that cause are still very much around.

Or, as Mr. Shepherd puts it:

Like so many Confederate monuments, the carvings on Stone Mountain were not an innocent artifact of Civil War history. Instead, they were a middle finger both to African Americans and to the federal government that was trying to end discrimination.

If you’ve been to Stone Mountain -I have- there is no denying seeing those massive sculptures is an incredible sight.

But there is also absolutely no denying the subject matter, General Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis represents exactly what Mr. Shepherd noted above.

Considering what the Confederacy was fighting for, it is difficult to argue that statues and monuments to that cause should remain. We do not see statues or monuments dedicated to Joseph Stalin or Adolph Hitler. We see no monuments dedicated to Benito Mussolini.

Indeed, any building or park that once displayed material identifiable to these individuals in Germany or Italy or Russia has been stripped. In Germany, whatever monuments you see are dedicated to the victims of these people, not to the people who inflicted their cruel harm.

So it should be, Mr. Shepherd concludes, with the case of the Confederate monuments and statues. Instead of honoring those who fought to keep the brutal institution of slavery, we should instead have monuments dedicated to the victims of that heinous institution.

As Mr. Shepherd so eloquently concludes:

African Americans should not have to encounter each day the equivalent of state-endorsed swastikas. Museums should be established not to explain the Stone Mountain carvings and other Confederate memorials, but instead to explain the scar on Stone Mountain that will exist after the images of the white-supremacist leaders are blasted away. Like the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C., an apt memorial for the Confederacy is a scar, not an heroic statue. True healing will begin only when the pressure of racist monuments is removed from African Americans’ necks.

POST SCRIPT:

Just as I was posting this, the following news appeared online.

The article is by Steve Almasy and is presented on CNN. The headline tells all:

NASCAR bans Confederate flags

Rather incredible -and welcome, IMHO!- turn of events.

Coronavirus Diaries 16: How Are We Doing?

Seems like a very long time since normalcy.

In the past week plus we’ve had the death of George Floyd which has touched a very raw nerve, leading to major protests and, hopefully, a re-examination of the way we police ourselves.

Lost, it seems, in all this furor was what led the police to be called on Mr. Floyd: My understanding is that he was at a store and tried to pay for items with a false $20 bill.

The man lost his life for $20, something so hard to get into your head that even the store that called the police on him have stated they wouldn’t have called had they know the over-reaction (to put it bluntly) it would have caused and have sworn off calling the police for any minor matters like this.

Its incredible, nonetheless, that someone lost his life for a measly $20.

While it is certainly possible the man knowingly tried to pass off the phony bill, its just as possible he received it in a transaction beforehand and innocently tried to use it.

I’ve worked in places where we have received phony bills. Hell, I recall one person tried to pass off a $100 bill that was actually -believe it or not- a $1 bill which was bleached clean and then the $100 pictures were pasted on it. Thus, the bill would, if the clerk checked, come out as “real” even if the value of it was phony.

Other times, the person who tried to pass it to us was -we thought- genuinely shocked to see the bill wasn’t real.

And there have also been times where I’ve gone to make a deposit in the bank and found that among the bills we had for the business, there was one -usually a high value bill- that was phony.

The bank didn’t call the police on us and we lost the money and time spent writing where we likely collected the bill and, if we could recall who gave it to us. Understand, this doesn’t happen every week but in some 30 years of business I’d say its happened at least two dozen times. Not bad, I suppose, for the length of time, but it happens and it sucks and I wish people wouldn’t do it but to lose your life for $20?

No.

Moving along, we are also seeing some weird reactions.

“President” Donald Trump has been consistently doing the wrong thing, it seems, but its almost like we expect it from him now, so inept is his administration and he in particular.

It is disheartening to see looters setting fire to stores and robbing all items within, but it appears these provocateurs were a small number and, as time goes on, it appears they are being frozen out of the major protests which are -again it appears from watching the many news stories/perusing the internet- being led by people who don’t want these characters around them.

It is also disheartening to see some of the Police Officers and their overreactions, another number I fervently hope is very small when compared to the total number of people in the force.

Granted, no one wants to stand at the front lines and have people yell and curse -or worse- at them but some of the images we’ve seen, of officers abusing protesters who clearly weren’t doing anything that merited their overreaction, has been chilling. No one wants to see images of people bleeding or the aftermath of being hit with a rubber bullet and having their eye explode in its socket.

What has been heartening, however, is seeing the police officers who have shown empathy to those protesting or have maintained order without going crazy.

Yeah, I feel like there are more of them.

Reforms will come, I’m confident, because this time around we’re seeing almost everything filmed and no longer can a “bad apple” try to lie their way out of something ghastly they did.

Louis Brandeis is credited with writing sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants and, while he wasn’t necessarily writing about social movements, it applies.

Which brings us to the next thing, and its another depressing one: While one appreciates the peaceful protests and the changes they seek, we are still in the middle of a pandemic and I can’t help but think that in the next few weeks we are going to see a significant rise in people infected with Covid 19.

Perhaps the numbers won’t be so bad but I worry.

I really do.

We’re still in the middle of it, sadly, and the end doesn’t look to be in sight.

Yet.

That day will come.

Soon, I hope.

The System Has Failed…

It’s been a whirlwind of a series of days, hasn’t it?

The Covid-19 situation is clearly still on everyone’s mind but the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police, every heartbreaking and disgusting moment of it caught on camera, has opened a wound that, along with the pandemic we’re facing, has caused an eruption in anger and protests.

Over the weekend and around these parts, we had a couple of cars -one a police car- set on fire and some looting. Nothing as big as what happened in other parts of the country but worrisome nonetheless.

Because, sadly, one sometimes focuses on the destruction rather than the causes of it.

It is perfectly fine to be horrified by what those four police officers did to George Floyd. It is perfectly fine to believe that not all police officers are as barbaric as those four. It is perfectly fine to want a top to bottom revision and changes to the police forces, to demand they be held more accountable so that what happened to George Floyd, and any other people (of color or otherwise) never experience anything like this again.

They shouldn’t have in the first place.

Further, its perfectly fine to protest for these changes.

Perfectly fine.

Do it in large masses. Be loud. Make yourselves heard.

But please, don’t destroy property. Don’t loot.

I know reports indicate some of the looters may well have been provocateurs. People who don’t care about the protests and are simply taking advantage of the situation to instigate anarchy and/or steal whatever they can get their hands on.

I know they represent a small part of the protesters as I hope those who murdered George Floyd represent only a small part of the Police Force.

What makes me happy is reading reports on protesters who turn in looters and/or stop them. Also, it makes me happy to see Police Officers talking to protesters, expressing sympathy and, in some cases, joining in with them. It makes me happy to see protesters giving police water. It makes me happy seeing some officers kneeling to show a solidarity with protesters.

This is what will bring us together.

Kindness.

Empathy.

We can do this together.

The system failed, but it can be repaired.

Unfortunately, what makes me incredibly unhappy -surprise, surprise- is our “President” and his reaction. Yesterday, in particular, was -stop me if you’ve heard this before- yet another new low for him.

As reported by Stephen Collinson and presented on CNN.com…

Trump responds to protests with a strongman act

What exactly did “President” Trump do? As Mr. Collinson put it:

Trump on Monday turned security forces on peaceful protesters in front of the White House, as tear gas and rubber bullets flewbefore declaring himself the “law and order” President. Then, in one of the most bizarre moments in modern presidential history, he strode across the park to stand in front of an iconic church holding a Bible aloft in a striking photo op.

Oh my.

Our “President” essentially cleared out -with heavy handed methods- those protesting in front of the White House just so he could go in front of a closed up church, hold a bible in his hand, and take photos of himself with it.

I mean, how do you go about describing what’s wrong with that? How does one even start? Trump, a man who has about as much religious conviction as your average jar of mayonnaise, tries to show himself off as a strong man on the one hand and a religious person on the other… of which he just proved he’s neither.

The Bishop of the Church he allowed himself to be photographed in front of, by the way, was aghast at his stunt…

I’ll let Mr. Collison continue:

It was a moment of vanity and bravado — orchestrated for the cameras and transparently political — as Trump struggles to cope with protests sweeping the country after the killing of  George Floyd and tries to cover up his botched leadership during the coronavirus pandemic.

At this point, one shouldn’t be surprised by the lows “President” Trump will go to. It seems like each day, each hour, each minute he finds a new way to go lower than before.

What is wrong with this man?

What on earth could he possibly be thinking?

Incredible.

Simply incredible.

Tesla Auto-Pilot Failure…?

Yesterday a story regarding a possible Tesla Autopilot failure was making the rounds. Here’s one article about it, written by Jason Torchinsky and presented on jalopnik.com:

Tesla Model 3 drives straight into overturned truck in what seems to be Autopilot failure

Here is a news report about the accident, presented on Taiwan’s news (the accident occurred there).

Mr. Torchinsky, in the article linked to above, makes the following statement:

Tesla’s Autopilot system primarily uses cameras for its Autopilot system, and previous wrecks have suggested that situations like this, a light-colored large immobile object on the road on a bright day can be hard for the system to distinguish.

This is very much true and reminds me of a similar incident which happened to a Tesla fanatic whose car, on Autopilot, plowed into a truck towing a trailer. The accident occurred in 2019 and the driver was killed.

Tesla Model 3: Autopilot engaged during fatal crash

If you’ve read my ramblings here, you should know that I own a Tesla Model 3. You should also know that I absolutely love the car to death and, yes, I have used the Autopilot quite a bit, especially when on long highway trips.

I find the Autopilot a great driving aid.

Yet I never let my guard down and am always focused on what’s going on in front of me when using the device.

There are those who criticize Elon Musk and Tesla because they’ve been playing fast and loose with the whole “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving” terminology.

The two are very different things and you need to understand what each is.

Full Self-Driving is a theoretical idea so far and not a reality. That you can get into your car, in your driveway, and instruct it to take you to, say, your work. The car does everything from that point on, backing your car out of your driveway, moving from street to street and stopping at traffic lights/stop signs, moving from regular streets to highways then back to regular streets and dropping you off at your destination.

No, that doesn’t exist yet, though Tesla and several other companies are working hard to make it.

Autopilot, on the other hand, is like an advanced version of Cruise Control and it does exist in Tesla vehicles.

In Autopilot, the car “sees” what is in front and around it and adjusts the driving for you, slowing down when cars are stopped before you and speeding up to the velocity you have specified for it to go at a maximum. However, it doesn’t take you to locations and, once off a highway, it will disengage.

I tend to use Autopilot only in situations where the car is driving mostly “straight”. Yes, Autopilot can take curves -and has done so- but in city driving Autopilot will not take you from your home all the way to your job. In the version I have (there have been advances since then and I’m still waiting to get my updates central processor) it does not see traffic lights or stop signs.

Autopilot is an aide to be used for mostly straight forward driving and nothing more.

In the case of the accident presented above and the fatal accident from 2019, both cases highlight a problem that Tesla’s Autopilot has and which the company needs to address: The Autopilot system seems to sometimes get confused when a stationary large object, especially if it is white, is directly in front of your car and on a straightaway.

The accident in Taiwan and the fatal accident from 2019 had the same general elements: A Model 3 was indeed moving on a straight highway/road and in front of it appeared a large white object, be it a trailer or overturned truck. In both cases, the Autopilot feature did not detect the fact that they were there.

Having said that…

It appears these two accidents are the only ones thus far which have happened under these circumstances. The loss of life in the earlier accident is a tragedy but some 90 people die in automotive accidents every day.

The fact that we have 2 accidents -one non-fatal- involving this Autopilot technology in a span of some 2 years (2019 and 2020, thus far) indicates this is a situation that occurs incredibly infrequently.

Still, Tesla should get on top of this situation, infrequent as it may be.