Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jerry's World of Wheels

Right now, I'm doing more mechanic work than I've done in ten years. That greasy, slimy, wounded Nissan Sentra engine is sitting on a pallet in my friend's print shop ready for its makeover. My wife's water pump just gave up the ghost. Well, actually, her water pump is fine. Her Toyota's water pump ground to a halt literally so I'm replacing it two days before Thanksgiving with all the shopping left to do.

Unfortunately, the water pump housing is corroded to the point where it leaks. Only Toyota dealers sell the housing and the only way one can procure said housing is with a factory water pump. So my 32-dollar Bosch Lifetime Guarantee water pump from Pep Boys just turned into a 120-dollar Official Toyota Factory Parts water pump and housing. Jeez. There must be 32 million dollars worth of parts in every Camry. Mechanical inclination provides no immunity to shelling out money for auto repair.

While I got my voice-over act together, I had a little auto repair business called Jerry's World of Wheels. I came to your house and fixed your car in your own driveway. Or on the street. Or on the lot at Warner Brothers. It got to the point where I farmed out some work to real mechanics looking for side jobs. The whole enterprise came to a screeching halt when thieves stole four grand worth of automotive tools from my apartment storage space. I did not have insurance. The cost of insurance in LA for four grand worth of automotive tools is four grand.

There are many auto mechanics in Hollywood. Some are as fine as anywhere in the world. Others prey on the acute knowledge gap of the area's artistically inclined citizenry. I knew a comedy writer so mechanically inept, he could not tell the difference between any keys on his key ring. Every time we got in his car, he jammed every key into the ignition until he found the right one. That was my customer base.

So is this:

Except for spark plugs. Everyone knows what spark plugs do. They spark, right? This one nugget of automotive knowledge becomes the linchpin of conversations with the mechanic.

Mechanic: "The flat tire is unrepairable. I'll have to replace it."

Customer: "Maybe it's the spark plugs. Did you check the plugs?

The rip-off shops figured it out pretty quickly, which gave rise to the $49.95 "tune-up" (6 & 8 cylinders higher). For 50 bucks, the mechanic installs four spark plugs. That's it. The job takes 15 minutes and the materials cost is $5. That's $180 per hour for labor, far greater than the 50 or 60 bucks an hour charged by the typical shop back then. The satisfied clientele goes home flush with the knowledge their own spark plug diagnosis was correct. Never mind why the plugs got fouled in the first place. If they foul up again, the customer will be back for another set. In a modern engine, the plugs should last 30-40 thousand miles or more.

Which made it hard on me. When a customer needed a tune-up the following conversation inevitably ensued:

Me: "All you need is a good tune-up."

Them: "Great. How much?"

"One hundred dollars"

"Wait a minute. Achmed's Auto charges $49.95. Tune-Up Guys charges the same thing plus I get a free pine-scented air freshener."

"Well, for a hundred dollars I actually tune up the car."

My second favorite dodge is the 99-dollar two wheel brake job. Of course, "some cars extra." Unfortunately, "some cars" means pretty much every car on the road except for 1964 Chevy Novas. Disc brakes are extra. Try to find a car without them. Brake pads capable of actually stopping the car or lasting more than six months are also extra. Extra parts required to restore your braking system are way extra. So your 99-dollar two-wheel brake job is now over 300 bucks. I would charge $185 from the beginning. Some cars extra, of course.

The upshot is many shops do business in a way having little to do with what's actually wrong with your car. They exist to separate you from your money using your own car as bait. How to spot the frauds? Have some familiarity with what's going on under your hood. You don't have to take the car apart. Just know how things work well enough to talk to your mechanic of choice.

I don't understand cheesy mechanics. A reputation for honesty is worth far more over time than the Quick Buck. Hoards will beat a path to your door, especially since new cars get more complicated and the knowledge gap grows greater and greater.

You're on your own for the pine-scented air freshener. I hate those things.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Alaskan Turkeys

Yesterday, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin pardons a turkey. No big news there. As we all know, governors pardoning turkeys is a well-worn tradition around this time of year. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger pardons turkeys, which takes on a whole unintended life of its own given his thick Austrian accent.

Usually, some functionary of the local turkey farmers association brings a well-coiffed bird to the governor's office or some other neutral site where a state governor reads a very slightly humorous proclamation over extemporaneous gobbling and some wing flapping. There's a few ha-has and a softball question or two. Then everyone goes home including the turkey who probably ends up dead much to his or her chagrin.

Here's where it gets good. Governor Palin travels to an Alaskan turkey farm to preside over the ceremony. She reads a prepared statement over the incredible din inside the turkey coop. After the "pardon," someone asks her to hold a turkey, which she refuses to do, and settles for hugging it. Prudent behavior since the bird is rather filthy.

After the ceremony, the governor does a stand-up answering questions and chirping out a few poorly constructed run-on sentences echoing snippets of Republican Party platform rhetoric she remembers from cramming for her debate. Meanwhile, farm workers are sticking turkeys into a funnel device where the birds are beheaded right behind her! Underneath the funnel device is a trough running red with...Wait a minute. Why am I describing this to you? See for yourself:

Governor Palin approved the stand-up location herself. She and her staff show an appalling lack of attention to detail. Unfortunately, that is one of the job requirements for Vice President or even City Alderman.

Now don't think for one minute I don't know how turkeys are raised or slaughtered. That's not the point. When I was about four years old, my Uncle Pat took me along to buy a fresh killed chicken for Aunt Agnes at the local poultry butcher on Legion Avenue in New Haven. Uncle Pat went into the back for a moment and I wandered in after him. Just as I turned a corner, the butcher laid the chicken's neck across a chopping block and deftly relieved the chicken of all further responsibilities. The headless chicken flapped its wings for a moment, then all motion ceased.

Once the commotion was over, Uncle Pat looked around and saw me standing there. I wasn't supposed to see dinner meet its demise but I did. I remember being more surprised about the process than anything else. So from a very early age I knew how my food gets dead. Auntie Ag's chicken was delicious, too.

My problem with the Governor and her staff is their total failure to think things through. Instead of controlling the situation, she and her staff were controlled by it. They can't even do a stupid post-turkey-pardon stand-up correctly. Would you talk about prison reform while someone was receiving a lethal injection in the background? Didn't they realize the national press was hovering in the background rejoicing in the delicious irony of the situation? The Republicans are thinking about running this woman again in 2012? Governor Palin makes Dan Quayle look like William F. Buckley. At least Quayle listens to someone else once in awhile.

There are dozens of Republicans more qualified for the office of Vice President. However, the ham-handed out-of-touch right wing of the GOP didn't want to be the child left behind on the whole change thing:

"Look! We're gonna make history too! Sure, the Democrats have that colored guy running for the top job but we got us a girl Vice-President! She kills moose and believes evolution is intellectual gobbledygook just like you do do!"

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I'm in the middle of pulling the engine on the Nissan Sentra I wrote about last week. Plus, my lovely wife and I are holding an estate sale this weekend with a friend so we're spending our evenings shlepping furniture back and forth. I'm also on a deadline for getting the engine out of the car so I've been remiss in adding new material. Please forgive me while I microwave something instant for you. As with real microwave dinners, the heavy lifting is done by someone else. Just heat and eat.

I read a very good column by Rosa Brooks from the LA Times. She outlines all the last minute legislation the Bush administration is rammrodding through before they steal the silverware on their way out. Presidential pardons and wacko legislation are a time-honored privilege of a lame duck president but this stuff goes beyond the pale. It may take the incoming administration years to undo it all. You can read more about it by clicking here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Apocalypse Home Makeover

Yesterday, the sun was little more than an orange disk in the sky obscured by tons of airborne ash kicked up by the three large wildfires burning in our vicinity. Though the closest fire is about 25 miles away, the smoke burns the back of all our throats and ash falls out of the sky all over the county. So if it's not Armageddon, it's a little bit of Pompeii.

We painted some furniture in the garage over the weekend but we may redo it because all the ash flying around in the air stuck to the wet paint. The particulate matter makes the air too foul to run. I've run in 110-degree heat, 24-below cold, monsoon rain and blizzard conditions. For me to say it's too smoky to run is a lot.

So far, the fires immolated about 850 homes. These are not your average house fires. Back in my Boston days, I had a temp job salvaging the ruins of structure fires. Sometimes the framework remained standing so I'd comb through the wreckage looking for anything salvageable. That job ended when a worker complained about the dangers of negotiating fire-weakened structures. The work was dangerous and dirty but finding a cache of relatively untouched family photos in the water-soaked wreckage provided some comfort for the families involved.

With a wildfire, the temperatures are so high, the building materials burst into flame spontaneously from the heat without any fire actually touching the structure. Or an ember drifts into a roof vent and touches off the attic insulation. Regardless of the ignition method, the end result is a concrete slab, a freestanding chimney and a pile of ash. Take it from one who knows. These people are lucky to find a pottery shard after wildfire consumes their house.

Some of the victims are wealthy people up in Montecito. It doesn't matter really when fire vaporizes all the pictures of your children, all their first grade finger paintings, the Father's Day cards they made for you, or videotapes from their fifth birthday party in 1991. Plus, any mementos from previous generations turn to ash and fly away with the breeze, only to land on my car or sting the back of my throat. No wonder the taste is so acrid.

No matter how wealthy the family, those days will never be recaptured. A lifetime of little thisses and thats telling a family's story goes poof. That's why we keep many of our most irreplaceable memories in a concrete and steel storage unit about a mile from our house. We live on a hillside just below Forest Lawn Memorial Park. A fire sweeping up our hill could be at our threshold in a few minutes. We'll have enough time to grab some clothes and a few files before we're boxed in.

My lovely wife Robin's maternal grandfather was Dr Corwin Hinshaw. Google his name and you'll discover a Nobel Prize candidate for his work in curing tuberculosis. Dr Hinshaw also worked with Charles Lindbergh studying the effects of high altitude on the human body. We are caretakers for quite a bit of this great man's memorabilia including rare 16mm footage from a lifetime of world travel. Personally, I'd feel better if a university held these effects but as long as they're under our protection, they'll be stored where their loss is less likely.

So what can we do for people losing everything in a wildfire? Aside from helping them with immediate needs, buy an empty scrapbook and fill it with every picture of the victims you can find. Call other friends and relatives to contribute. Everyone has pictures taken with other people in them so comb your archives. Check your videotape library for appropriate footage as well. Help restore a family legacy by replacing the irreplaceable. Clothes they can get anywhere.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Sale Wags The Blog

Advertising dollars are the de facto censors of our media. Since advertising pays the freight in this country, advertisers often determine content by sponsoring material compatible with their products or services. Controversial content can send advertisers running for the hills. My previous post on Proposition 8 even strained friendships.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about fixing old cars as an antidote to
car dealers' deceptive practices. Since Google sends a bot to crawl my blog, the ads accompanying it changed to automobile manufacturers, dealers and bad-credit loan providers. More importantly, people clicked on those ads more often as opposed to the pro-Prop 8 ads accompanying my anti-prop 8 entry. Nissan: Good. Politics: Bad.

So what's a blogger to do? Write stuff to attract a better class of ad? Or write what I really want to write about regardless of the revenue consequences?

Let's have some fun. Since blog content drives ads, I'll add some irrelevant non-sequitor words and phrases to my post in order to steer the ads in a direction counter to the relevant content. We'll see what pops up.....Jiffy Pop.

In some parts of the country, it seems our last election created as many questions as answers. Senate races in MN, AK and GA are still up in the air, plus the passing of CA Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriages caused a flurry of lawsuits and constitutional challenges. The 50-50 split in all these contests guarantees controversy no matter what the final outcome. Advil for pain relief caused by stress.

Though the measure did pass, supporters of Proposition 8 are howling over the lawsuits, especially since the City and County of Los Angeles filed suit as well. They feel the People have spoken and that should be the end of it. If this is what the People want, then by God, the People should have it. Worship this week at a church, synagogue or mosque near you.

The suits filed fall into two categories. First, amending the state Constitution requires a two-thirds majority. Sylvan Learning Center can improve your child's math scores. So at the very least, the measure must be re-filed. Also, the statute may run counter to the US Constitution's right to equal protection and due process. Regardless of the final outcome, this measure is going to court. I wouldn't be surprised if it goes all the way to the Supreme Court. Judge Judy: Weekdays on Channel 9.

For all you Pro-Prop-8-ers, don't think the conservative-leaning court will tilt your way automatically. Those nine judges are all Constitution hounds. New K9 Advantix controls fleas and ticks. They will side with the Constitution. Regardless, the main beneficiaries of this fight will be the lawyers. See the Great White Sharks at Sea World.

Last night I read the US Constitution over again. Looks to me like the Prop 8 opposition has a case. The State of Connecticut now approves same-sex marriage because they see where the legal argument is going, not because Nutmeggers have a greater affinity for gay people. Virginia Is For Lovers.

The more moderate pro-Prop elements argue the original law allowing same-sex marriages changes the definition of marriage. They believe marriage is a religion-based institution meant to codify the sexual relationship between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation. Cialis: Any time the moment is right.

Here's where it gets sticky. Formula 409. Marriage is also a civil state of being. It alters tax structure for the participants favorably and generates revenue for the state in the form of licenses, etc. H & R Block. A US taxpayer cannot be barred from taking advantage of every deduction to which he or she is legally entitled. Other than age or species, the government cannot dictate who can marry whom. The New Wild Kingdom on Animal Planet.

The government cannot meddle in religious arguments, nor can religion alter government policies as long as those policies refrain from discrimination. Going to court will either strike down barriers to same-sex marriage or cement opposition in place forever. Concrete: The flexible construction material. The way I see it, the odds of a favorable outcome to either group are about 50-50. Las Vegas.

Then there are the less moderate who believe homosexuality is both a choice and a sin. NASCAR. Was heterosexuality a choice or did I miss something? Know the warning signs of Alzheimer's. I don't remember being in any line or being asked, "You attracted to the female equipment? Step right this way".....Victoria's Secret.

Frankly, thinking about how gay people do it makes me squeamish. Pennzoil. Then again, thinking about my parents doing it makes me squeamish too. Sunrise Senior Living. My squeamishness Pepto-Bismol is not enough to Ban deodorant certain groups from their inalienable Star Trek rights.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cleansing the Political Palate

Spent the last couple of days using other parts of my brain than the Political Lobe. A friend of mine hired me to pull the cylinder head of his 1989 Nissan Sentra to determine the damage caused by the disintegration of the stationary timing chain guide and the subsequent loss of the proper relationship between the cam and crankshaft.

Not following along? My friend's engine went boom. My job was to determine the size of the boom. It was a pretty good boom (four bent exhaust valves and some correspondingly dented pistons) but not Armageddon. The question now is whether to fix what broke and leave the rest of the very-high-mileage bits in place or do we pull the whole engine and rebuild it? Either option is not conventionally cost-effective.

So why even bother repairing an almost 20-year-old car? Why not punt and buy a newer Nissan with more pizazz? Who uses the word "pizazz anymore? People who like words with three "Zs" but I digress. Some people would rather spend money fixing their old cars than spend ten seconds with a car salesman.

The automobile sales business has very little to do with automobiles. It's all about separating you from as much of your money as possible using cars as bait. Most people are clueless when it comes to buying cars. They don't realize the entire industry probes its constituents for every little psychological weakness. You, the consumer, are the rat in a B.F. Skinner experiment.

For instance, the great majority of car buyers care only about two things; how much down and how much per month. As long as the dealership gets close to those figures, they're happy. I've never seen people so happy to pay thousands more than the sticker price for a Toyota or Chevy or Ford that won't be worth what they owe until about ten minutes before their last bloated payment. This is the rule rather than the exception. People leave the lot overjoyed because they think they got "my price" on their new Honda. Well, if folks bothered to do a little arithmetic or even bring a calculator, they would add up all those monthly payments plus the up-front whip-out and realize their price was thousands higher than the factory sticker.

Here's how it works. The average sticker price markup for a new car is about 15 percent for the base and 17 percent for the options. GM, Ford and Chrysler are slightly higher while the Japanese manufacturers are a little lower. That doesn't seem like much, does it? If you think that's fair, then you also think most auto dealers buy their cars at wholesale and sell them for retail. Sorry, but most dealers floorplan their fleets. The manufacturer "loans" them the new car. The dealer owes only the interest on the loan until the car leaves the lot. If a new Subaru sits on the dealer's lot for two months, that might be $400.

Now comes Mr & Mrs Down-and-Monthly. They don't know it but they just paid three thousand over a sticker price already marked up by 15 and 17 percent. Plus, the dealer hits them for an "extended warranty" costing $1200 for which the dealer pays about $200. Most new cars are capable of a quarter million miles with any kind of care, yet the dealer makes it sound like the engine will blow up tomorrow like a hand grenade and kill your kids. The "Finance Manager" convinces them their credit is poor because they paid their cable bill two seconds late, not to mention running their credit once for each dealer in their 250-dealer network to lower their score. That's good for an extra point on their interest, plus the "fee" for writing the loan in the first place.

So for an investment of a mere $400, The dealer makes about five grand. Mr & Mrs Down-and-Monthly are delirious because they got the Subaru for the payment they wanted. Would you like to make five large on a $400 investment? Multiply that by 200 cars or more a month.

One would think the sales force makes a killing. Nah. Average pay for a car salesman in this country is about 28 grand a year. The majority of cars are sold by people who will be out of the business completely after six months or less. Dealers overhire sales staff, pay a minimum wage base, expect a 60-hour week, then scam their way out of paying full commission. When I sold cars, not one of my managers could explain the commission structure to my satisfaction or even repeat it the same way twice. "Well, Jerry, this month your kilograms-per-donut ratio overflatulated, so that eats up part of your check." Uh-huh.

My Sales Manager wants blood so at 10:30 one evening (our store closed at 11:00 pm even on Sunday nights). I convince a young man to buy a used Honda Accord Coupe from me for three thousand dollars more than the already exorbitant asking price by focusing him on down-and-monthly. Meanwhile, the buyer thinks he broke me down. The Finance Manager sells him a warranty (cha-ching), then falsifies his income so he qualifies for a loan. Suffice to say, it's not a discount loan.

Since the young man is "only looking," he neglects to bring his checkbook. Therefore, I borrow a used Nissan off the lot and follow him 35 miles to his house. There I wait for a half hour in a dark garage with two growling pit bulls while this guy makes himself a snack. Check in hand, I blister back to my house by 3:30am. The dealer wants the check immediately so I wake up at 7:30am on my day off to get it there. Six weeks later, I wonder what happened to my $650 commission.

"Oh we had to take that car back. The kid couldn't even make the first payment. We had to "unwind" him. Grabbed his old car just before it got auctioned off. It's your own fault. You should've known he didn't qualify."

This is auto dealer treatment in a nutshell and I'm on their team. It's why I teach people how to buy cars without jeopardizing their kid's college educations. It's also why my friend wants his car repaired.

NOS factory short block: $395.
Rebuilt cylinder head: $230.
No monthly payment: Priceless.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Good Afternoon, Mr Precedent.

My lovely wife wakes up this morning a full hour before the alarm with tears of joy in her eyes and optimism about facing the challenges of the day ahead. Trust me, this is highly unusual weekday behavior. By mutual agreement, we usually interact as little as possible before her morning cup of coffee. It's too dangerous and the potential for serious injury too great.

This morning is different. We talk about the election, John McCain's concession, Barack Obama's victory lap and the issues still undecided as of 5:30am PST. Seeing my wife renewed as she is this morning, I realize today is the first real day of the 21st Century.

For better or worse, what we remember as The Sixties started on November 22, 1963. The 21st Century had its defining jump-off point yesterday. We as a nation threw off the cloak of fear left over from the last century and today bask in the warmth of hope for the future.

There are many reasons why Barack Obama is the President-elect. First and foremost is the man himself. Though he possesses a fine intellect, he is smart enough to know he doesn't know everything. Last night, he even asked for our help. The man is a consensus builder. He will raise the level of political discourse in this country for sure. Through cheap shot after cheap shot, he remained even keeled and unflappable during the campaign.

It's also nice to have a president finally who can speak. The English language is not an obstacle course for Barack Obama. Most importantly, he pronounces the word "nuclear" correctly. After hearing Sarah Palin, I don't think the American public could stand another four years of nu-cu-ler.

Future historians will point to the youth or the rising power of Black and Latino voters in this election. They'll point to age being a greater concern than race. Someone will mention the Democrats' excellent campaign strategy or their ability to forecast accurately the mood of the country.

Three main agents responsible for this Election Day tidal wave will not receive any credit. Barack Obama could not win this election by himself. He could not win if every African-American and Latino in this country voted twice.

Give some credit to two generations of Moms and Dads teaching their children to look past the color of a person's skin and into their hearts and minds. These people ignored the well-burnished prejudices of their forebears. Instead, they support and applaud the excellence of their darker skinned teammates, schoolmates, neighbors, class presidents, business partners, Aldermen, Mayors, Congressmen, Senators, Cabinet members and, yes, cherished friends and family members. They pass those traits to their kids.

The products of such an upbringing voted yesterday along with their parents in record numbers. Therefore, the man with vision and ideas won, regardless of skin color or age.

Give credit also to the religious Right. Over the last three decades, they prey upon their constituents' fears, make tolerance a sin, publicly slander two decorated war heroes with lies and innuendo and tell us 9/11 is God's retribution for homosexuality and liberalism. They attempt to destroy a war hero's reputation with outright lies perpetrated by disgruntled frauds who accept money and favors for lying. They do this because their own candidate has no heroic qualities, a less-than-stellar public service record and affects a Texas accent even though he was born in Connecticut.

In this election, The religious Right decides they like one of the war heroes they slandered previously, replace his ideas with theirs, then pimp him as the "traditional family values" candidate, even though the candidate cheated on his first wife while she recuperated from a crippling car accident. They do this because this candidate's opponent is a devoted church-going family man with a lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. Meanwhile, they point to the man's name and float lies about his religious affiliation to the more clueless in their flock. When they find out Obama is Christian, they savage his crazy pastor, all the while forgetting about their own crackpots spewing their own brand of hate, intolerance and vitriol.

Twenty-eight years ago, Ronald Reagan opens the door and welcomes the religious Right to the table. Since then, they hog more than their fair share and leave their dirty laundry all over the house. They forget the whole basis of their religion is a tablet upon which is written, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." The religious Right defeated by Karma, of all things. Revel in the irony.

Finally, let us remember countless nameless people of color who gave their lives unwillingly for this day. The images of their lifeless forms hanging from trees, or attacked by dogs, or dragged away from a lunch counter, or beaten senseless by corrupt law enforcement, or knocked over with fire hoses, or bombed during Sunday School, or spat upon while trying to educate themselves are burned in our collective consciousness. As a white man, I may not know exactly what I want this country to represent. However, I am certain about what I don't want this country to represent.

Happy 21st Century, America. You taught us right, Ma. Got a lot of work to do. Let's get going.....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Barack Obama For Change

Let's make some history today! VOTE!

Monday, November 3, 2008

"I think we need a bigger boat."

Remember that scene in Jaws when Roy Scheider's character throws chum in the water, then the shark breaks the surface right behind him? Maybe if Dick Cheney screened the movie before he endorsed John McCain, he could avoid feeding the Democrats. Checkitout.....

I Oppose California Proposition 8

We lost enough due process and individual rights the last eight years. Unfortunately, the little blog bots picked up "Proposition 8" and flooded my site with supportive ads. I'm trying to remove them now. Regardless, they'll be gone tomorrow.

Read my blog entry below outlining my opposition to Proposition 8.

The Biggest Banana Republic Ever

The Right wing of the Republican Party turned the United States of America into the World's Largest Banana Republic. For that alone they should be knocked off the Executive Branch for a good long time.

Don't believe me? Here's how they did it:

In 2000, Dubya runs a campaign platform stating in effect, "Vote for me and I'll give you 200 dollars." Heads in several small Caribbean islands as well as a few rogue African nations nod in approval. Then they argue with each other over the idea's origin and from whom Dubya stole it.

The networks "call" the Florida election For Al Gore. Florida Banana Republican officials call the networks, telling them don't count Dubya out so soon. About ten minutes later, the pendulum swings in the other direction. I started watching election coverage in 1968. Never saw that before. Probably won't see it again.

Suddenly, this great nation of ours can't seem to count votes.

The vote counting problem occurs in a state run by the brother of one presidential candidate. Hi Jeb. No, we didn't forget you. Hear that sound? It's your future political aspirations circling the bowl. So happy to know you gave them up for so little.

Anecdotal evidence surfaces in the state run by the brother of one presidential candidate regarding certain people being denied voting opportunities by false rumors, veiled threats, and bald-faced lies. The evidence gets far more factual and far less anecdotal as impartial witnesses corroborate stories. By the way, those "certain people" denied their voting rights? They vote for Democrats traditionally. Spell "Florida" M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. Anybody seen George Wallace lately? Good, solid Banana Republic move.

Banana Republican lawyers and election officials outmaneuver calls for recount or re-vote. Al Gore bends over because destroying the original ballots and starting over may contribute to global warming.

Now the Dubya Banana Republican regime begins in earnest. The attacks on September 11 interrupt the sacking of the federal government. Dubya retaliates by attacking the perpetrators' neighbor (IRAQ) on trumped-up "evidence" of WMDs. That's like me coming to your neighborhood and punching you in the face. You retaliate by coming to my neighborhood and punching my neighbor in the face. Start a pointless theater in the War On Terror. Distract the Press and constituents. Go back to sacking the government.

My vote for the best Banana Republican move: High ranking government officials (Hi, Dick) profit directly from starting the Baloney War with Iraq. See, the first Afghan campaign ended too quickly. Starting a war in Iraq means a nice, long, complicated campaign and ensures a second Afghan campaign when Al Quaida and the Taliban renew themselves. Three wars for the price of one. Imagine the profit potential.

The Dubya Regime is the most cynical administration ever foisted upon the American people. Oh, I forgot. It wasn't foisted on us. We were caught napping when a bunch of zealots who don't know the difference between debating the issues and attacking the messenger snuck this one by us with a little help from his bro.

Debatably, the boldest Banana stroke might be inviting Sarah Palin to join the ticket. Evidently, Republicans are so sure of a win tomorrow, they spotted the Democrats a vice Presidential nominee. Ms Palin is totally incapable of listening. Ask her a question and the answer has nothing to do with the question.

"Governor Palin, why haven't you released your medical records?"

"John McCain is a maverick and we're gonna send him to the White House."

Every time she doesn't know the answer to a question, it's a "Gotcha" question. Yes, it is a "Gotcha" question. Answer it anyway. All the other candidates do. Glad the press woke up finally.

Last Friday, Governor Palin was scammed on a Canadian radio show. She thought she was talking to French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Meanwhile "Sarkozy" has a cheesy accent, tells the governor his wife is "hot in bed" and he enjoyed the Hustler documentary, Nailin' Palin. He asks her about the Canadian Prime Minister and the Premier of Quebec by name, yet it does not register that the names are fictitious. One would think Governor Palin should know the names of the highest-ranking government officials from a country sharing a huge border with her state. The woman is totally oblivious but don't take my word for it. Listen for yourself....

A good Banana Republic President knows when the jig is up and it's time to grab the silverware on your way out. Someone should tell Dick Cheney that time has past. In a last gasp of clueless arrogance, Cheney endorses Senator McCain this last weekend. Who's next? Idi Amin? Hey Dick, 75 percent of the country hates you and your boss. Don't do the Senator any favors.

A special note for the Big Boss: Dubya, if Barack Obama wins the election tomorrow, it means your Banana Republican administration is the worst ever. No one else in history screwed up the presidency badly enough to prevent a rich white man from winning the next one.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Johnny We Still Hardly Know Ye

I like John McCain. He has the best environmental record of any national-class Republican, he attacks pork-laden bills like they were stealing his own wallet and he served his country with distinction both as a military man and as a Senator. I told my lovely wife, "Boy, the Democrats will have their work cut out for them if McCain wins the nomination." Lots of people in the middle felt the same way.

Here's why I won't vote for him on Tuesday: Everything I liked about John McCain has been beaten out of him or paved over by people and institutions who don't give a damn about who he is and what he really believes. Which means they don't give a damn about the grand majority of moderate Americans he represents.

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across an old copy of Esquire magazine dated August 2006. Senator McCain is the cover story by Chris Jones entitled One Of Us. The article relates an appearance at a Darien, CT fundraiser hosted and attended by moderate Republicans. These are John McCain's people.

The attendees worry about the religious Right and their grip on the GOP. The Senator tells them, "I urge my friends who complain about the influence of the religious Right, get out there and get busy. That's what they do! Now, if we believe in the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, the big tent party, then we have to get together and show that. The fact is, some of us have sat idly by while those very active people have basically set the agenda for our party. I get attacked every day because I'm working with Ted Kennedy. How can I work with Kennedy? because I want to get something done!"

Can you imagine those words coming out of John McCain's mouth today? His conservative minders would have a fit. They would issue a "clarification" having little to do with the actual meaning of his actual words. Talk about media filters!

The religious Right dislikes the man but they realize the good Senator is the only chance they have to retain the White House after Dubya wiped his butt with the country. However, they can't resist backing this horse without gelding him first. Unfortunately Senator McCain wants to be President McCain so badly, he'll help them do the job.

That's why I won't vote for him. In 2000, he won the New Hampshire primary. The religious Right boys asked him to stand down so Dubya could waltz to the nomination without spending too much of their money. When McCain refused, they let him have it like Cain slew Abel.

During the South Carolina primary, Jerry Falwell's people called voters and asked questions like,"Would you vote for John McCain if you found out he fathered a black child? Would you vote for him if his wife Cindy was a drug addict?"

Now there is not one atom of truth to either of those queries. South Carolinians thought, "Wait a minute. If Jerry Falwell is asking these questions, they must be true." Unfortunately, the media ran with the story for awhile because they didn't bother with that small detail I like to call fact checking. So the "push polling" worked perfectly.

Regardless, McCain was gone. His own party helped twist the knife. Now he jumps into bed with the very same people who did him in once before. All he had to do was sell out almost everything he stood for. Everything he suffered for.

Case in point: After the whole Abu Ghraib affair broke. Senator John McCain told his President he would not stand for torture by the United States, seeing as he was the only one in the room who had any practical experience with torture. A couple of days later Senator John McCain backed off that stance, in effect telling everyone the United States really practiced Torture Light. All the great taste of regular torture but with fewer calories.

Here is a man who endured years of unthinkable atrocities at the hands of his captors. The North Vietnamese refused to set his broken limbs properly, which is why he can't comb his own hair. They subjected him to mental cruelty. They tortured his fellow prisoners when he refused to cooperate and vice versa. If there is anyone in America who is sick at the thought of Americans participating in anything smelling like torture, it's John McCain. But the man walked away from his own dearly held and hard won principles because his new handlers didn't like them so much.

What happened to THIS John McCain?

Another case in point: Just this last summer, John McCain realized Big Oil's hue and cry for increased offshore drilling to offset high fuel prices was a scam. The reserves would not affect oil prices for years. They would be depleted in eighteen months anyway so it wasn't worth the risk environmentally. Two days later, McCain's ready to put on a hard hat and start drilling himself. Evidently there were meetings where he received "the facts." One wonders whether "the facts" involved a cattle prod.

Meanwhile, the man debates Barack Obama, a past president of the Harvard Law Review, and doesn't lose by much. Not a bad showing considering Barack Obama believes every word coming out of his own mouth and John McCain does not believe everything coming out of his. Some other entity drafted most of his policies du jour. Try debating positions you don't believe in personally. Pretty tough, isn't it?

If John McCain allows himself to be pushed around by fringe elements in his own party, how tough will he be on the enemies of America? Maybe I'm just a jerk with an opinion, but I'm a jerk who votes.

It's very sad for me to see this fine man held in captivity again, this time by his own ambitions. This time around, John McCain seems a lot more compliant than the last time he found himself in this predicament. Perhaps it is better to kneel down than bend over.