An even older correction

If you go back in this blog far enough, you’ll see a number of posts, the most recent one being this one, about what I voted for in the various countdowns that WXPN in Philadelphia had done from 2004 to 2014, along with a grid of what I had voted for and how they fared.

The 2011 list was dedicated to the greatest World Cafe artists, with World Cafe being a nationally syndicated show since the 90s, originating from XPN itself.

I had been saying in the grids I used to track my votes for all of the countdowns, that I didn’t vote that year but I had vague recollections of saying something about the band Fisher.

It turns out that Facebook reminded me this morning that I did in fact vote that year. Here’s the exact post:

I haven’t yet checked to see if any of those artists got mentioned in the countdown but please consider this post a correction to my older posts of this nature. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Edit: five of the artists I voted for (Charlotte Martin, Cousteau, Eliza Carthy, Tori Amos, and Vienna Teng) made the final list.

It’s not too late to make a correction

Back in December, 2019, I wrote a blog entry in the lead-up to what we now know as Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, wherein I ranked all of the presidents in order of how impeachable their actions were.

It recently came to my attention that I made a mistake in one of the entries in that blog entry. When I ranked Harry Truman as our 37th most impeachable president, I said that he had fired General William Westmoreland. That was an error. in fact, he fired General Douglas MacArthur.

I apologize for any inconvenience this error may have caused.

The future has arrived

On March 26, 2016, I went into a local car dealership and left, driving a shiny new 2017 Chevy Volt. A couple of years later, I had an electrician set up the wiring in my house to install a Level 2 Charger in my garage, so I could charge the car more quickly.

I have now been driving this car for longer than I have had any other car in my lifetime.

And I will tell anyone who will listen, that Chevrolet is one of the two brands to which I actually have any real loyalty. (The other is Apple.) With the exception of the Dodge Grand Caravan I bought after my kids were born, I have been a Chevy guy for my entire driving life.

So earlier this year, when Chevy announced the launch of the Bolt EUV Launch Edition, I decided to pre-order one of them.

Right now, that car is being slightly delayed by the worldwide chip shortage. I have test driven one and I absolutely loved it. So it’s basically a waiting game for me now.

So while I’m waiting, I figured I’d take a test drive of some of the closest competitors to the Bolt EUV. Although I can certainly wait for the Bolt to roll off the assembly line (I don’t owe any money on my current car and am enjoying not having any car payments, to be honest), that doesn’t mean that I can’t at least look around to see what else is out there, right?

The only real rule I have right now, is that it has to be fully electric.

If I don’t get the Bolt, the strongest contenders, at least based upon the reviews I’ve seen, are the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Kia Niro EV, the Hyundai Kona EV, and the Volkswagen ID.4.

(I should note that I’m not completely closed off to a Tesla, but their proprietary charging system is not compatible with the charger I already have installed and would prefer not to have to do anything different.)

So this past weekend, I figured I’d see what was out there, and take whatever I could for a test drive. To start with, nobody near me had the Ford, Hyundai, or Kia models. I did, however, find a VW dealership with an ID.4 that I could test drive so I tried it out.

The short review is that, given the choice between the Bolt EUV and the ID.4, I prefer the Bolt. This is based upon multiple factors, although, to be sure, some of those factors are kind of trivial. Both of them are a comfortable ride, with plenty of legroom in the interior. (Which is important for me, since I’m a big guy and in almost all cars, I have to push the drivers seat all the way back in order to be comfortable. My girlfriend sat directly behind me and found that she had plenty of room in the rear seat.

The total mileage you can get on a single charge in the ID.4 is greater than what you can expect to get on a single charge of the Bolt. (Approximately 260 for the ID.4 compared to just below 250 for the Bolt.) What’s interesting about this comparison, though, is what the EPA calls Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, or MPGe for short. Since electric cars don’t use actual gasoline, they translate a gallon of gas into a total number of KWh and test how far the car can go on that much electricity. The Bolt gets about 130 MPGe, while the ID.4 gets about 100.

That means that the battery that propels the ID.4 is larger but less energy efficient than the Bolt. This makes sense, given that the sales rep informed me that the battery literally covers the entire undercarriage of the car.

I’m sure that VW, when they designed this, made the battery and its enclosure more than sufficiently durable but something about having it as a part of the chassis doesn’t strike me as the safest place to put a battery with that kind of power. Who knows how many small rocks and pieces of gravel get thrown up on a regular basis when you’re out driving? I’m no expert on optimum design in this place, so I guess that works, but it still makes me wonder what the shelf-life of that battery enclosure is. And that’s not even getting to my concerns about the safety and durability of the battery in the event of an accident.

It also means that it’ll take longer to charge from a completely (or nearly) empty charge. That’s significant and not to be discounted.

The car handled smoothly. When I started the test drive, I put it in Eco mode (the most energy efficient means of driving, but at the expense of having less pick-up), and set the car to the regenerative braking mode. (All EV or hybrid-electric EVs have that mode. Basically, ease your foot off the gas and it recovers your potential energy to add a little bit of charge back to the battery; I’ve gotten used to that feeling in my Volt.)

I didn’t like the gearshift. It’s not a stick but instead it’s more like a crank handle positioned behind the steering wheel, close to the dashboard. It’s a bit too responsive to the touch, as I was able to move back and forth between reverse, drive, and regenerative braking without any difficulty, but I couldn’t quite find the right “touch” to get the car into neutral. Putting the car in park, involved pushing on a button on the crank handle, so that was no problem. It felt awkward to be reaching for it, though.

The entertainment system clearly has a lot of bells and whistles to it, but to be blunt, it seemed excessive and a potential distraction while driving. And that stood in very vivid and stark contrast to the very flimsy joystick-like knob that is used to adjust the positioning of the outside mirrors. It felt like VW hasn’t changed that design in two decades.

One thing I absolutely did not like about this car was the way to turn the car on and off. I recognize that the days of inserting a key into a spot on either the dashboard or the gearshift are long gone. But this car doesn’t even have a push button to turn the engine on or off. To turn it on, you get in the car, sit in the drivers seat, and take it out of park. To turn it off, you get out of the car. I keep a portable air pump in my trunk at all times in case I need to add air to my tires. And that, by necessity, requires me to plug it into the DC outlet in the car. Some outlets have power going to them while the engine is off, while others require the engine to be on. How would this work in the ID.4?

This is a minor niggle, but still noteworthy. The charging port on most electric cars are somewhere near the front of the car, on the drivers side, as that’s generally where the battery is. With the battery taking up the entire undercarriage of the car, the charging port could literally be anywhere. And they chose to put it on the passenger’s side of the car, near the rear of the car, so it looks like a gas tank. My charging station in my car is near the charging port on my Volt (and near where the Bolt will be). I’m sure the cord is long enough to reach around to the back of the car on the opposite side, but that’s inconvenient to get to for a driver at any rate.

25 years ago, Volkswagen’s big advertising campaign was Fahrvergnügen, which literally means pleasure from driving. Although the drive was definitely enjoyable, it didn’t really excite me. It’s a worthwhile car that might serve as a substitute if I get tired of waiting for the Bolt EUV, but at least given everything else going on, I’d rather wait. All of the good things about the ID.4 are also true about the Bolt. And the Bolt has some nifty features that the ID.4 simply doesn’t have (like cooling seats in the summertime and a rear view mirror that takes advantage of the rear camera to give a much better view of what’s behind you.)

I actually agree with Bill Donahue

Okay. I concede that the subject line of this posting is a bit misleading, but it’s still true.

I talk about Bill Donahue, the president of the Catholic League, with some frequency on this blog (most recently, about two months ago). I admit he’s an easy target. A couple of years ago, when my local humanist chapter hosted Rob Boston of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, I asked him what he thought of Mr. Donahue and Mr. Boston said that he’s just a sad old man.

But Donahue’s latest essay is noteworthy because, as the subject line of this post attests, I actually agree with something he said.

I’ll grant you: most of the essay is not something I agree with. But Donahue’s conclusion — which admittedly is something he arrived at from a very different perspective than I have — is one that he and I can agree with.

Specifically, Donahue concluded his essay by saying that Joe Biden should “simply trash this Office [of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships]. It is obviously a bust.”

And yes, I agree. George W Bush created the office twenty years ago and it’s been a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the constitution ever since. If nothing else, the lack of oversight into the way money is given out by that group, gives us no assurance that the religious groups involved in the office are actually doing anything other than proselytizing or doing work on the churches themselves. It never should have been created in the first place.

Donahue’s complaint about the office is that, under President Biden, the office is actually meeting with *gasp* secular groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Humanist Association, and American Atheists (among others). Mind you, these groups do at least as much to support local communities as churches do, albeit without the proselytizing. And I’ve been a proud member of all of these groups for years.

Religions aren’t the only organizations capable of doing charitable work in local communities. Joe Biden is acknowledging this very point in the way the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives is being run. Ideally, we should do away with this office entirely, but if that’s not about to happen, the least he can do is allow secular voices a seat at the table.

If that’s a problem for people like Bill Donahue, that’s good. He arrived at the correct conclusion, even if the logic he followed to get there is flawed and, well, illogical.

But I can still say, at least on this one issue, that he and I can agree on something.

Quite the experiment…

We’ve known this for a while now. The Republican Party is still in the thrall of Donald Trump, as evidenced this past week by the change in House leadership that replaced a solid conservative who happened to denounce Trump’s lies, with someone less conservative but “all in” on Trump.

It’s Trump’s party, for better or for worse.

But that’s an interesting observation. For the first time in my lifetime, the defeated presidential candidate still stands as the effective leader of his (or her) party. (I’m not counting third party candidates like Ross Perot in 1996 here…)

The last time a previously defeated presidential candidate was immediately re-nominated by his party was in 1956, when Adlai Stevenson Jr was the Democratic party’s candidate, despite his loss four years earlier to Dwight D Eisenhower. The rematch went about the same as the first match-up, electorally.

If we take out the word “immediately” then we can say the same about the loser in 1960, but winner in 1968, Richard Nixon. But Nixon was far more reluctant about this return to politics than Stevenson.

A couple of paragraphs ago, I pointed out that this is the first time in my lifetime that the defeated candidate is continues to be the leader. It’s the first time in the lifetime of anyone currently living where the aforementioned defeated candidate had actually been the president. The last (and to be fair, the only) time a defeated president was re-nominated by his party, was in 1892 when the Democrats named former president Grover Cleveland as their standard bearer. (The oldest person in the world, as I write these words, was born eleven years later.)

There’s a major difference between Cleveland and Trump, though. Cleveland only returned to politics because he thought the person who otherwise would have gotten the nomination, David Hill, was too corrupt. Cleveland wasn’t really regarded as a leader of the party immediately following his election defeat in 1888.

It is an extremely rare thing to find a major party clinging to its defeated candidates. And, Cleveland notwithstanding, they’re seldom successful the second time around. (Or more. See William Jennings Bryan for more details.)

I pointed out nearly eight years ago that the Republicans have a history, at least in the past fifty years or so, of choosing their primary runners-up as their standard bearers the next time around. I suppose this could be considered a logical extension of that.

But this fealty to Donald Trump is quite unprecedented. Consistent with the cult of personality that I have frequently bemoaned about the man, but still new and novel in American politics. Whether they want to engage in this experiment or not, they’re about to see if this is an appropriate gamble.

I observed this a few months ago about the last time a party went all-in on an attitude like this. These recent developments are somewhat consistent with that history, albeit without a single figure at its center.

The incompatibility between decency and fundamentalism

Let me come right out and say one thing that needs to be said before I get into the meat of this essay: I don’t care much for Caitlyn Jenner. Andy Warhol once spoke about how everyone gets 15 minutes of fame. Caitlyn Jenner has been milking that fifteen minutes since she aligned herself with the Kardashians. (And arguably before that after she did so well at the 1976 Olympics.

I’d also like to say that I think California needs to rethink its laws on having a recall election, which, by all appearances, is about to happen for the second time in California history as the Republican party tries again to overturn the will of the people, like they did in 2003.

Caitlyn Jenner has announced thst she wants to be the next governor of California, something she is clearly not qualified to be. Whatever the faults of Governor Gavin Newsom, he’s far and away a better governor than Caitlyn Jenner would be.

But that’s not really the point of this blog post.

The point of this blog post is the way the people over at Rapture Forums have been discussing the fact that Caitlyn Jenner is running.

I really don’t recommend following the link I’ve provided to the thread of the conversation. It’s filled with cheap shots at her, deadnaming, refusal to recognize her by her preferred pronouns, and just plain cruelty. As I type these words, the thread of the conversation is on page 7, when each page is separated into twenty unique posts. And not a single post about Ms Jenner shows the slightest bit of decency or compassion for her. There are some thread derails where they pat themselves on the back for having found godly spouses, but at least at the point where they discuss Ms Jenner herself, they’re mocking, cruel, unsympathetic, and just downright horrible people.

One person called her an amputee. Someone else said that instead of being on a Wheaties box, she should be on a box of Froot Loops. And those are among the nicer comments about her.

The closest anyone in this entire thread comes to being even remotely sympathetic is a poster whose username is AWillow, who, on page 3 of the thread (post number 56) said, in part:

I have to say when I was a teen I did go through a period where I wanted to be a guy not because I was attracted to the same sex I was not but I thought being a guy would be easier you’re respected and you’re a guy you’re strong so it was hard I kind of understand it in a way but I don’t agree with it- At that age you’re so confused on everything-

Okay. That’s not exactly what I’d call sympathetic, but it’s as close as you can find in this entire thread. And she does come close to getting it kinda sorta right in that societal expectations of all genders have an intrinsic unfairness to them. Should I not be judged by what I am capable of doing and how I do it, rather than what happens to be between my legs?

Of course there are posts in this thread that see increasing acceptance of the transgender community as a sign that the world is about to end and that they’ll soon be raptured away.

These people are just a sad spectacle, waiting for a Biblical prophecy to come true and missing out on all of the things that life has to offer. Rather than trying to build on what they already have, rather than trying to expand their own horizons and get to know people who might, for whatever reason, be a little bit different from them, they retreat into their own little shell and make fun of the weak, the poor, the downtrodden.

It’s too bad the rapture won’t ever happen. I, for one, would like to be rid of them.

Caitlyn Jenner may be a lot of things, and there are legitimate reasons to dislike her. Her gender identity is not one of them.

I wonder if they realize…

It’s been a while since I last wrote about the evangelical group, the Minnesota Family Council, but they haven’t really changed much since I last called them out.

They’ve got a new essay on their site, this time bemoaning the fact that a procedure they have long advocated, which they euphemistically call “conversion therapy” (but in reality is closer to abuse if not outright torture) is being banned in cities throughout the state of Minnesota.

I concede that I’m not really an expert on the matter, so if you want to know what “conversion therapy” really is, may I recommend this explanation, courtesy of The Trevor Project?

But reading the MFC’s defense of conversion therapy, I was struck by something. This paragraph in specific struck me as being incredibly tone-deaf and dripping with hypocrisy:

It is not the place of elected officials to determine who gets counseling care and who doesn’t, and yet that is exactly what these bans do. These bans prevent families and individuals from pursuing and licensed professionals from offering counsel that accords with their Christian beliefs.

Fancy that! They don’t want the government to get between a person and someone licensed to care for that person? Isn’t that exactly what they want, when it comes to a woman who might seek to terminate an unwanted pregnancy? (Here’s a representative sample that expresses how they feel about abortion. You don’t need to read it; they absolutely want the state to get between a pregnant woman and her gynecologist.)

Now I readily acknowledge that by pointing this out, you could accuse me — who advocates for fewer state regulations surrounding abortion while simultaneously applauding bans on conversion therapy — of being equally hypocritical.

That’s a fair criticism, or at least would be if it weren’t for the fact that (1) I’m all for reasonable, science-based regulation on all medical and psychological procedures so that everyone is protected, (2) the science backs up both of my positions to the point that conversion therapy is widely recognized as dangerous whereas abortion is safer than a tooth extraction, and (3) the theory behind conversion therapy is rooted in the unscientific notion that someone who has same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria is somehow wrong, mistaken, or in need of correction.

The Minnesota Family Council is not alone in their hypocrisy here. I just wonder if they realize how easily their own arguments can be turned against them.

The crack in the solid blue wall

So earlier today, former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all charges in the death of George Floyd, an event that kicked off a summer of massive protests last year.

With a few outliers, most of my social media are rejoicing at this event. Although I share their appreciation that justice has been served, I’m not sure that joy is the correct emotion for how I feel.

After all, no verdicts and no amount of money will bring George Floyd back. The best that I can hope for is that George Floyd’s family can find a modicum of peace in knowing that, at least in this one instance, a bad cop has been held accountable.

I admit it: I’m in awe of the very fact that so many of Chauvin’s former colleagues were able and willing to speak out against him. After all, up until now, whenever a cop would kill an unarmed black man (or boy) the internal police review of the scenario would usually yield a finding that the cop acted “by the book”. And I’ve been saying for years that if that truly is the case, then they need to burn the book to ashes and start over.

It’s why arguments about how those kinds of things are the actions of a few bad apples within the police force, are so unconvincing: if the good cops being unwilling or unable to speak out against the tactics and attitudes of their malintentioned comrades, then how can we even tell which ones are the good ones and which ones are the bad ones save for the ones we read about in the news?

And I know that it can be hard to speak out against injustice when you’re the only one speaking out. I get it. After all, I didn’t even kneel when I had the chance and should have.

That’s partially why I feel as though my home town has been somewhat tone deaf in the past year. Last summer, I started seeing signs going up in various neighborhoods that read that the people who put up the signs support our local police department. No other neighboring towns have signs like this. They started going up at around about the same time as the riots last year started. And in most of the neighborhoods in the immediate area, I’d estimate that they’re on maybe about one out of every three yards around here. (Including, unsurprisingly, the neighbor who yelled at my son.)

Let me make it clear that I’m not aware of any incidents of bad actors within my local police department and, at least in my limited engagements with them, I haven’t had any major problems with any of the cops who patrol my town. (And that does include when I’ve had black friends over to visit.)

I would like to believe that none of the cops in my home town would do anything like the scores of bad cops who are making news for what appears to be excessive use of force, but the truth is, I don’t know if that’s universally true.

Do I support my local cops? Only if by “support” you mean “not actively oppose”. I certainly don’t need to advertise to the world that I “support” them. Because doing that, in this day and age of increased scrutiny of police procedures and tactics, makes it look like you don’t care about when and where mistakes are made.

That these signs first started cropping up after numerous high profile abuses of force around the country, that’s tone-deaf at best. Shameful at worst.

And the police in my town are better than that. Or so I’d like to believe.

The son is worse than the father

When it comes to buffoonish, prudish, amoral, hypocritical religious leaders, Donald Wildmon never achieved the notoriety of, say, Jerry Falwell Sr or Pat Robertson or Billy Graham.

(And that’s saying something, considering that Wildmon founded an actual hate group.)

George Carlin called him out by name in his 1988 comedy special What Am I Doing in New Jersey? And Wildmon didn’t come out looking good for it.

Donald Wildmon’s son Tim has been running his hate group for twelve years now. Tim appears to also be giving his father a run for his money about being more loathsome a person.

Take, for instance, his latest essay on the AFA’s website. Filled with lies and willful ignorance of history, civics, and what it means to be a decent person, the article would be funny if he didn’t want to be taken seriously.

He starts by invoking a false patriotism about the Pledge of Allegiance, a topic covered by one of the oldest entries on this blog. I should expand on that old entry by pointing out that it’s ridiculous that we teach it to young children and tell them to recite it before they know what the words actually mean. Anyone who waxes nostalgic for young children speaking it, should be ashamed of their nostalgia as compelled speech is light-years away from what America truly stands for.

(That said, I have no qualms about waxing nostalgic for it if you said something like this. That’s more like how some kids might really have handled it. I personally recall saying that I led the pigeons to the flag, and that we were one nation, invisible…)

He jumps from the pledge to the national anthem. I can think of scores of songs that actually speak to the greatness of America, that are far better than the Star Spangled Banner in every way possible. There’s nothing wrong with kneeling during whichever song we sing, though. It’s the American thing to do.

I hate the phrase “founding fathers,” as it implies a unity among the people who laid the groundwork for the nation that simply wasn’t there. The musical Hamilton does a great job of showing just how little unity there really was among the founders. They were human and had very human failings and do not need to be deified unless you’re looking to mislead.

But by the time he conflates the constitution with the end of slavery, he has truly gone off the rails. I don’t need to reiterate how ashamed we should be that slavery was even thought to be a worthwhile institution, much less that it required a devastating civil war — which in some ways we’re still fighting — to put an end to it.

The rest of his essay is hateful word salad.

It looks like Tim might have done what Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr achieved independently in the past couple of years. How is it that all three of them have managed to make their respective fathers look like decent, honorable men by comparison?

It’s very telling…

People out there are hurting during the pandemic. Physically, emotionally, financially. And, as usual with these things, the people who are most in need in good times, are getting slammed even worse.

That, of course, is nothing new.

That’s what makes the recently signed relief bill such a good investment: it helps the people who are most hurting in this pandemic in more ways than one. Criticisms that it’s a giveaway to the poor ring hollow mainly because the poor watched as the rich made money off of their suffering this past year and with past relief bills.

But before this bill was passed, something interesting happened that I honestly didn’t expect. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement in opposition to this bill because it said nothing about abortion.

Bill Donahue of the Catholic “League” wrote about both his agreement with this assessment and added more detail to this perspective.

I read this and couldn’t help but think “wow!” (With an added “who are these people?” thrown in for good measure.)

(Side Note: Donahue makes a reference to “CNS News, a site of dubious journalistic integrity. Are they trying to snatch viewers away from CNN or CBS?)

I find myself bemoaning the fact that the issue of abortion has become so poisonous to civil discourse in the United States. I hesitate to even call it an “issue” since, as a matter of dispute between two parties, it’s best resolved with a resounding “mind your own business”.

But to actively oppose a law that is intended to alleviate suffering on so many levels simply because it doesn’t expressly prohibit money funding the procedures? Has the so-called “pro-life” side of the debate gone insane?

I know that you can’t reason with antiabortion zealots, but still…

By doubling down on abortion here, the USCCB (and by extension the Catholic Church as a whole) appears to have abandoned all pretense at caring for the sick, poor, or downtrodden.

You know, all of the things that they claim Jesus stood for per the New Testament? Forget those. At least when there’s a woman who might want to make her own choices out there.

Congress needs to pass a law reaffirming the right to an abortion before the activist SCOTUS takes it away.

Between the myriad child molestation scandals and now this, I sincerely wonder if the Catholic Church is trying to hasten its own demise.