An open letter to Senator Graham

Dear Senator Graham:

I, and I think many of my neighbors, are anxious these days in the wake of the recent election of Donald Trump. I am concerned that a Trump administration will not respect the basic rights of Americans, hurt the most vulnerable of our citizens, and take the country along a destructive path relative to the environment.

For example, Donald Trump recently tweeted a suggestion that people who burn the American flag lose their citizenship. You went to law school. You know that there is no way under the US Constitution to take away someone’s citizenship (unless obtained fraudulently). I’m no fan of flag burning, but the Constitution must be followed.

Trump is taking the lead from Alex Jones, one of the nuttiest crackpot conspiracy theorists on the Internet, on several issues including his unsubstantiated claim of massive voting by illegal immigrants. And this nonsense about climate change being a Chinese hoax? And don’t forget that until recently Trump was a birther!

The rule of law, science, common decency and competence go beyond party lines and political differences. I hope that you and your fellow senators will provide checks and balances against the most extreme excesses of any executive, and particular the poorly-prepared one we just elected. I hope you will not rubber stamp incompetent and extremist nominees for executive positions and the courts.

I want President Trump to succeed and I want America to be great under his leadership. He’s going to need a lot of help doing that. Please help.

Sincerely,

Kevin Davidson

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Will Donald Trump release his tax returns when he becomes president?

I was looking at President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s federal income tax return from 1937 just now. It’s a quaint historical document. Roosevelt is the first president to my knowledge for which we have income tax returns. He didn’t release them during his presidency, but they were made available through his presidential library later, 25-years worth of them. President Truman released his returns during his presidency, as did Nixon, Ford (summary), Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Cheney, George W. Bush, Biden and Obama (years 2000-2016).

Add to that the tax returns of presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton (16 year worth), Cruz, Fiorina, Kaine, Kasich, Pence, Rubio, Sanders, Stern, Romney, Ryan, Gingrich, Santorum, McCain and Palin, to name some readily available ones.

Much was said about Donald Trump’s refusal to release tax returns as a candidate, despite a strong precedent. Will Trump now follow the presidential precedent to release tax returns? Particularly for a president with extensive financial holdings, it would seem important for the public to know whether their leader is working for them or for himself. As NPR’s Peter Overby said: Donald Trump brings “to the White House a unique potential for conflicts of interest.”

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Video: self-driving car

This video, showing the hardware now shipping on every new Tesla Model S and Model X, plus self-driving software scheduled to be available by the end of next year, just blew me away.

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Prius to Tesla Transition Part 4 – Transition complete

It’s been quite a week. I drove the car home, and then did all the things I normally do with a car. As I become more familiar with the car, I like it a lot more.

Summon

One of the big sighs of relief came when I found that the car was able to park itself in my garage, something I found difficult to do myself. Now I can monitor parking from outside the car with a perfect view of everything. Should something go wrong, I can abort the process with a press of the key fob. I just wish I had tried that sooner.

Interest

Within 25 miles of where I live is the BMW factory and the North American Headquarters for Michelin (also an R&D facility). There are lots of car people around, and a lot of BMW’s on the road, a surprising number to me. Whether it’s my peculiar geographical location or something else, my car is turning heads. I drive conservatively, +5 MPH on the Interstate, and when cars pass me I see some rather extreme head turns. One Audi driver turned his head, and I could see him catching me in his rear view mirror. I was at the county recycling facility dumping paper and plastic. The fellow parked next to me said that he had taken a test drive in a Model S, and owning one was on his bucket list. I’ve had at least four people ask me about the car in detail. I had no idea that so many people are interested in Tesla.

Music

In the Prius, even though it had the premium JBL sound system and a 6-CD changer, I rarely listened to music, rather more to news radio (NPR) and audio books on a long trip. This morning on the way to church I asked the Model S to play some songs by Enya, and it dutifully streamed some from the Internet. The combination of the smooth driving, the low noise, and the smooth music was a very pleasurable combination. I own a fair amount of music, mostly classical, and I plan to put it on a flash drive and listen while I’m driving on the Interstate.

Prius compatibility

I turned off Mild Regeneration and Creep, things that make the car drive more like a Prius. I’m starting to accelerate more briskly than I did with the Prius. I washed the Tesla, something I rarely did with the Prius. I’m still interested in mileage, in this case reduced energy consumption per mile. Today I passed 500 on the odometer.  My average consumption is 274 W-hr/mi. That’s better than the EPA combined estimate. I don’t know whether it is just the kind of driving I do, or if I am just an energy-efficient driver having driven a Prius with it’s energy consumption displays for 12 years. Whatever it is, it pleases me. I have removed the Energy app from the Instrument Panel (it was usually on in the Prius unless navigating) as not providing any information I need. I ended up doing what most Tesla photos show: I put the Music app on the Panel, something I didn’t think I would do.

Transition complete

As of today, I declare my transition complete. The only thing I have left to do with the Prius is to find out how much it sold for, and deduct the donation on my taxes. To answer the question I raised in my first post in the transition series: if I had it to do over, I would have not gotten the air suspension, and I would have gotten the all-wheel drive version. Maybe I would have gotten red too, like my old Prius.

Update:

The Prius sold for $4,200.

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Prius to Tesla Transition Part 3 – Owning

Day 2: Grin rising

I must say that today was a much more positive one than yesterday. I had a good night’s sleep and I put in a work day with Habitat for Humanity, something that always picks me up. I checked off some things on my to-do list: transferred insurance on the car and got HomeLink working.

Autopilot

I realized that one mistake I made driving home from the delivery was to use Autopilot. Autopilot is designed to take some of the stress out of tedious driving. Getting to know a new car is, not tedious and Autopilot was a distraction. Today I drove without Autosteer entirely and only used TACC when the traffic bunched up on the Interstate. It’s really fun to drive.

Wide

Did I mention that the Model S is a good bit wider than the Prius? I was aware of this and was concerned about fitting in the garage (it does), but I didn’t take into consideration driving. Model S has a Lane Departure Warning that vibrates the steering wheel if you start to exit your lane without turning on the blinker. I kept getting the warning because I was conditioned all these years to a car of one width and now I have a wider one that extends further to the right. I have to learn to re-center the vehicle. This may take a while.

Badge envy

When I visit the Tesla forums and watch YouTube videos, it seems that everybody has a bigger battery than I do, and most drive performance versions that go zero to sixty in some ludicrously small amount of time. I just have a bottom of the line S60. Whatever concerns I had about not experiencing the exhilaration described by other owners has been were blown away with the actual driving experience. I didn’t go anywhere near flooring the pedal, but I did things I’d never have dreamed of in a Prius. For example I was merging onto an Interstate highway in a crunch that required me to stop right at the entrance to the freeway. I saw a space and accelerated right into the line of traffic from a dead stop. So I no longer have badge1 envy. I have all the power I can use.

Range exuberance

I’m going to take “range anxiety” and turn it on its head. My Model S 60 kWh has an EPA range of 210 miles. At the beginning of my Tesla journey, I started with the premise that “nobody gets EPA rated results.” Then I started taking more away from the range. I deducted air conditioning. I deducted hills. I deducted not charging to 100%. I deducted a buffer. I deducted wind. The range number in my head kept shrinking down to somewhere around a pathetic 150 miles on a good day with a tail wind. Now that I have the actual Model S, I discovered that I am using a little less energy in my own typical combined city/highway driving than the EPA. So leaving a 21 mile safety margin, I could travel 194 miles. That number would be lower in the mountains in the face of a stiff blizzard, but I don’t do much of that.

Interest

I took “New Adventure” (my car’s name) to the Habitat build today and nobody seemed to notice, except one young fellow who was parked in front of me came over as I was leaving. He said that the Tesla was his “dream car” and that he had never seen one so close. Of course I have him a quick tour.

Loyalty

It’s not reasonable to ascribe emotions to a machine. Still, I got the feeling that the car is loyal to me because when I walked up to it, the door handles presented themselves. It’s just an affirmative feeling. The Prius, by the way, turned on the interior lights when I approached, but I didn’t approach it at night very much.

Day 3 – Crunch

Day 3 started off well enough with a day trip to Black Mountain, North Carolina and then over to Asheville to the Supercharger at the Outlet Mall.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the garage, only it’s not funny. My car barely fits in the garage. It was dark. The garage is uphill, and the Model S has to be accelerated to go up the hill, otherwise it rolls down. The view out the back of the car is very limited. I ended up hitting the side of the garage door and putting a 3-inch dent in the side of the car.  This brings up a very large negative about owning a Tesla. The aluminum body requires special training and equipment to repair. One Internet article said that a “small dent” requiring no parts costs $7,000 to fix. That’s 10% of the cost of the car, and frankly outrageous in my mind. The nearest Tesla-approved body shop is in Charlotte, NC. This is going to take days to work out and a huge expense.

Update: That $7,000 repair cost I found on the Internet may be an exaggerated figure, but I’ve solved the “dent” problem. I’ll just wait until another car hits me in that spot and let their insurance pay for the repair. That’s what happened with my 1996 Taurus. In that case it was the right front bumper that hit the garage entry while I was backing out. I didn’t fix it. Some time after that, a truck backed into the same quarter panel, doing much greater damage. I got it fixed then.

For the conclusion to the transition, see Part 4.


1The “badge” is the model designator emblem on the back of the car.

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