Monday, November 27, 2006

Why I hang onto cars until they start to rot

Every few years the car I'm driving finally gives out and it's time to get a new one. The sunroof turns into a Y2K-compliant drinking water collection system with repairs that would cost more than the car was worth. The old Ford pickup was like the Wonderful One Horse Shay, It ran and ran until everything gave out at once. When one of them goes I feel that old cavalry sergeant in the classic Bill Mauldin cartoon.

This time the car was running fine until some idiot rammed his Nissan into it while it was parked in front of the house. He didn't have a driver's license. After this he didn't have a working car. But he did have the stupidity to tell the cops that he was under the influence of "pain pills". Fortunately he also had insurance.

The last time I bought a car I didn't really understand how useful tha Intrawebs were for little guppies like me swimming with the car sharks. Thank you Autotrader and special thanks to Consumer Reports for their in depth analyses. A few hours pretty much told me what the best cars were in my price range and mirabile dictu some of them were even new. The best choice is new and in limited production; there didn't seem to be but half a dozen in Oregon.

There were two dealers close by with similar cars at about the same price. I made an appointment with one for late afternoon and called the other to come in for a test drive.

The contrast couldn't have been greater. Jay Lee Honda started the pressure right away. "There are three other people interested in this car. First one in with MSRP gets it." After the test drive lo and behold there was an extra $2000 "ADM" (Added Dealer Markup - thanks Consumer's Union for the heads up) package, "I need to talk to the manager in the backroom. Sorry, if you could just add a few hundred more dollars. No the invoice isn't available. What will it take to let you drive away in this car." And any time a salesperson starts a sentence with "I was honest with you" you can be sure of one thing.

It was a positive pleasure to say "What you want isn't what you said on the phone. Your deal is unacceptable", walk out and ignore the half dozen phone calls.

The experience at Ron Tonkin Honda couldn't have been more different. They were happy to show me the invoice. MSRP was within Consumer Reports' acceptable range. In fact the margin was awfully narrow, so right upfront they said "We want you to buy a couple hundred bucks worth of dealer accessories." All weather floor mats - a good idea in Oregon - and cargo cover for the trunk took care of that. There weren't any attempts to upsell except the traditional stab at an extended warranty. I ended up with a somewhat better model for a fair bit less money.

I guess it's a game-theory problem for both of them. Jay Lee is willing to have a few people leave if the rest will buy at a higher price. They aren't really expecting repeat business. And there are miles of car dealerships on 99E between Portland and Oregon City. If you leave they've lost you. Tonkin has a number of dealerships. If you want something a little different they can send you to get a Toyota or a BMW. They're counting on a bit of repeat business and customers who don't like the hard sell or don't become emotionally attached to a particular car in the showroom.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

James Baker III Duc de Richelieu Comes Back to Washington

As Bush Senior saw the trouncing the Republicans were about to get at the polls it was obvious that something would have to be done for the good of the nation, the Party and his son. He seems to have decided on sending his old counselors to the White House to straighten things out.

It was brutally quick. Rumsfeld carried out the only successful military maneuver of his career by falling on his sword right after the election. According to wonkette some of the more outrageous claims of what happened behind the scenes have been confirmed. A tame treatment is in the current Newsweek.

And I reinstalled Photoshop. Shakespearean tragedy? Maybe. There's definitely a little Richard II here. Something Roman Empire? It's a stretch. Besides, Baker isn't Cincinnatus. Then I thought of a time when someone outside the royal family took charge of the country because, dammit, someone had to.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

If I Grin Any Wider the Top of My Head Will Fall Off

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I've been running ever since
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die
Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me don't hang around
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knockin' me
Back down on my knees

There been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

--Sam Cooke

And damned if it didn't.

If anyone shows up here in the next week the Santorum Shots are on me.

I went into this election afraid that once again the Democrats would snatch Defeat from the jaws of Victory. Or maybe the Republican dirty tricks - voter suppression, letters to Democrats, Blacks and Latinos that they'd be arrested if they voted, Saddam Hussein's finely timed verdict in the Court of Judge Wallaby, Diebold, poll-switching and all the rest - would steal enough votes to swing the election.

It didn't matter. The Democrats took back the House, the Senate and the governor's mansion in the biggest mid-term reversal in recent decades. No Democratic incumbents lost at the national or gubernatorial level. Not. One. Single. Seat.

The Progressives will point to their get out the vote effort. The DLC GOP-lite will say that their "triangulation" strategy carried voters in Kansas or Indiana. The foreign press is pretty much writing off the Bush presidency and sees it as a massive repudiation of him and his policies. Polls seem to show that people have gotten tired of the Republican strategy of appealing to raw fear. "The faggots are coming! The faggots are coming!" and "If you vote against us the terrorists will come and steal your precious bodily fluids" just stopped working. Even 30% of evangelicals voted Democrat this time. Here in Oregon it was nearly as good. The "vulnerable" Ted Kulongoski was easily re-elected despite Saxton's enormously expensive campaign. He will start his second term in the same Party as both Houses in the Legislature. It would have been nice if Measure 42 had passed and 47 hadn't.

What will the Democrats do? Will they take a Progressive turn? Will they do a Tony Blair and position themselveds slightly to the right of the GOP? Will we see deadlock? Dare we hope that they will shine lights into the dark corners and watch the roaches scuttle? Those are all tomorrow's questions. Right now I'm basking in the warmth of the first good political news in twelve years.

Thank you America. You did the right thing.

[Note: It was really, REALLY hard not to make Santorum jokes.]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On a Lighter But Still Political Note

<br><A HREF="http://not-a-real-namespace/">FCFU</A><br>

The good people at FCC-FU have some great material in defense of the First Amendment including a passionate speech by Carlos Mencia.

Also making the rounds...

Things You Have to Believe to be a Republican Today

Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary.

Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "We can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

HMO's and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

A president lying about an extra-marital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

What Bill Clinton did in the 1960's is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80's is irrelevant.

Gays and lesbians are a moral threat to the sacred institution of marriage, but it's okay to be a pedophile as long as: the cause can be linked to alcohol abuse, sexual abuse when an adolescent by a member of the clergy, and your attorney announces you're 'gay' in a press conference.

If you don't send this to at least 10 other people, we're likely to be stuck with more Republicans in '06 and '08, and remember:

"Friends don't let friends vote Republican!"

Time For One More Pre-Election Rant

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. -Sinclair Lewis

Just about a lifetime ago one of our greatest Presidents, Franklin Roosevelt, said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Today the worst President ever tossed up by the electoral process has said "All we have is fear." The only thing he and his Party have to run on is fear of terrorists, fear of homosexuals, fear of women, fear of Mexicans, fear of sex, fear of non-Christians.

We've seen the USA PATRIOT Act which dealt body blows to our civil liberties.

We got no-fly lists.

We got a war which we are losing at a cost that would pay for gold-plated health care for every American for the next ten years. It's trashed readiness and America's stock of military materiel to an extent not seen since the end of the Vietnam War.

We've seen American prestige put in a hole it will take a lifetime to dig itself out of.

We've seen corruption on an unprecedented scale where the Vice President's company gets billions in no-bid unaccountable contracts and personal supporters of the President are given unfettered access to the White House and the public purse.

On October 17th a craven, cowardly, treasonous Congress gave the Executive the right to declare anyone an "enemy combatant" with no rights, no habeas corpus, no trial by jury, no access to lawyers or the courts. Any one of us can be disappeared - tortured, sent to a third country to be abused or worse - if the President so decrees. Yes, yes, yes. The Military Commissions Act forbids torture. But it lets the President decide what is and isn't torture with no Congressional or Judicial review. The very same day we got the John Warner Defense Act which lets the President, again at his whim and with no checks or balances, declare martial law, rule by decree take over the National Guard and put "potential terrorists" and "undesirables" into camps. There is no appeal. They have no rights and no recourse. Congress and the Courts have no power to stop him. Oddly enough the camps are being built by Kellogg, Brown and Root a Halliburton subsidiary.

This is the same Administration which claims the power to crush the testicles of an innocent child to make his parents talk and says that no law can stop it.

Now our right to travel is on the verge of becoming a privilege. The Department of Homeland Security proposes that no citizens be allowed to enter or leave the country without official permission.

George W. Bush now has powers equal to Stalin or Hitler. How much worse does it have to get before people realize what we have lost? Do they care? Even old line conservatives like the editors of American Conservative Magazine are calling for a repudiation of the Bush doctrine.

We have a chance to reclaim some of what we gave up. The mid-term election gives us one more chance to set things right. The Democrats aren't great. Many are spineless consultant-ridden triangulators. They are the only real force opposing our slide into authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

Get out there and vote. Throw the bastards out.