Thursday, May 28, 2009

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

My car needed servicing. Regular servicing to be sure, overdo for an oil change, replacement of air filters, windshield wipers worn out when it's been raining pretty consistently for the past two weeks (we really needed it and I have no problem with it continuing as long as we get some sun time to let the steam rise on the weekends). The thing that nagged at me was the squeaking noise that seemed to be emanating from the wheels and was telling me I had a brake issue developing. Some things I will let go for a while, like a general washing of the vehicle, or changing oil somewhat beyond 5000 miles instead of at 3000. But tires and brakes have to be right or they become dangerous very quickly.

So as soon as I had more than an hour to spare, I went to my dealer (who does oil changes as cheaply and quickly as any quick change specialist and allows me the chance to gaze longingly at the Ferraris next door) and told them what to look for and then call me before starting any work. I was gonna wander. By the way, in addition to the necessary servicing, my car is on a lease which is up in 4 months, and I was also already on the verge of crossing my yearly mileage allowance, which I knew would happen the day I got the car not quite two years ago. The gas tank was on fumes. Ok so maybe I had some ideas when I got there.

Instead of going to the Ferrari side of the shop, I went to the regular side and immediately saw my salesman Husein, from whom I have bought every new car I've ever bought, and who came right up and greeted me by name. This means I've seen the guy once every year and a half or so for six years, exactly 4 times, today being the fourth. I would like to think I am just that memorable a guy, but honestly, I think Husein is just a talented salesman and has learned the art of memory. At that moment the call came from the service department that the brakes were weirdly shot and everything altogether was going to run between $400 and $500.

My intent was to essentially do a straight swap and exchange the '07 Honda Civic I was driving and extremely pleased with, with a new one and keep the same payment, extended terms, more mileage and no cash out. Apparently my return customer status granted me a little juice since my credit score though excellent in normal times, was just under the current ridiculous line for top-rated credit. They gave me the top rating anyway. Sure maybe that was a car sales hose job, but I came in with an idea of what I wanted anyway so they could puff my ego all they wanted. I retained the power of no which is the key to any bargain oriented negotiation. As long as "that one" isn't "the only one" or the stuff that dreams are made of, you can walk away and go anywhere else and get another version of the same thing, or maybe even the exact same thing, especially if it's a car you're talking about. Yes my current car wasn't going anywhere without the servicing, but Husein didn't know that.

So Husein had me hooked up pretty quickly and assured that it would be a smooth transition from one Civic to another. I was hoping that the 2010s were in because I expect that I may wish to get out of this car before the new lease expires because I hope that the economy will improve, bringing my fortunes with it, and my kids are growing and hopefully inspiring me to make roadtrips like I did with my family as a kid. So I was thinking ahead to my best trade out value and having a 2010 will be better than a 2009. No luck there, the 2010 Civics weren't out yet. Oh well.

We went to go look at the cars in the lot and choose a color. I was leaning towards a sharp looking silver, although there was an interesting red one as well. For a variety of reasons though I can't say I will ever allow myself to buy a red car. Can't have black where I live because the heat makes it truly hot enough to sear flesh, and then there was the same blue I already had, which seemed boring now. But there was one that was such a dark blue it was nearly purple; pimpin for sho' and my kids would love it, but it had a black interior, which is even worse to have around here than a black exterior.

So I was about to say ok on the silver when as an aside I asked about a hybrid. Was there anything comparable in my price range? "Well," says Husein, "there's the Insight, which is about the same with a smaller rear than the Civic but besides that, more or less the same for your purposes. But it's a more expensive car because of the demand and limited production." So I asked him to see what he could do, and he comes back with a price $70 a month more than my current payment. So he figured it was out of the question because I'm really tight right now as a real estate guy in this economy.

But I thought about it a moment. Gas is already popping $2.50/gal again and slowly drifting higher. I'm of the opinion that the current crash in oil prices is temporary as the notion of peak oil is real as is increasing Chinese and Indian oil demands. I think we'll be looking at $4.00/gallon again for good sometime in 2010. I'm also unusual in that probably 90% of my driving is not on the highway. I'm basically the prime driver for a hybrid. At 40 mpg in the city, it almost doubles what the Civic gets. I will be cutting my gas consumption in half. That savings will essentially make up the difference in the monthly car payment, shifting from the oil company to the car manufacturer. If I get any break at all on my insurance for whatever reason, I'm ahead of the game. And my kids can say their daddy is cool 'cause he reduced his carbon footprint (if that's how they would describe it at kindergarten and pre-k). And I can give a little room to stretch my hippie proclivities while being a Mighty Liberal, all at once. As long as the speakers sound good, basically, I'm good. The deal is done.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

San Fran Gran Says Spies Lie, Makes Them Cry

Let's be clear here (again). Our government is not allowed to torture. That is the law. Waterboarding is torture. If members of our government wish to authorize torture then they must be prepared to accept the consequences of breaking the law. Whether the technique is effective or not is irrelevant. If they do not wish to take the consequences for authorizing torture then they either refuse to authorize the illegal act, or they get the law changed so that it is no longer illegal.

If I want to drive across the country quickly, doing it at 200 mph in an Indy car would be the best way to do that. But it's illegal so if I do it, I better expect to get pulled over at some point (probably by a helicopter or after I crash). And if I tell Nancy Pelosi I'm going to do it, whether she says it's ok or not, or whether or not she remembers that I told her doesn't matter either. I make the decision and I engage in the act, I'm the one who broke the law, not her.

So stop the whining and get on with the prosecutions.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Go Ahead and Spend Time in a Desert of Your Own Creation

I haven't been posting as much lately because business has picked up during the day and I've been engaged in other mind-distracting enterprises during my down time. But this article passed by my eyes a few minutes ago and I wanted to post a blurb while it is still fresh in my mind.

So Oklahoma wants to try to opt out of the federal government's spending and bailout plans. I say let them try it out for a while and see how it feels. Perhaps some readers can send me updated info on this but a few years ago I was doing a little research and confirmed that for the most part, red states like Oklahoma, among the reddest of them all together with Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho, receive significantly more federal tax dollars in grants and services per capita than they pay in. It's not even close. Big Blue states like California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and purplish Florida pay in way more than they get back (and if you split Florida down by its relative red and blue areas, the pattern is maintained).

The bailout strategy initiated by the prior Republican administration but continued by the current Democratic one may indeed be questionable if you look at it in terms of saving the individual banks concerned. They were DOA and have now become zombies with the infusion of federal money. But that wasn't really the strategy of it. The strategy was to save the entire economic system from sudden collapse. The bailout was an emergency parachute to stop the crashing of the world economy. That it was set up to be a slush fund for the folks who caused the crash in the first place is just another example of how the Bush people did business and failed, did politics and failed, and gave not a rip about anyone worth less than a few million dollars.

So if the fine representatives of the people of Oklahoma wish to exercise their Constitutional 10th Amendment rights over the actions of a federal government exercising its authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, then let the legal battles commence. Good luck to the yokels. Let's cut them off from the largesse for the duration and hold the funds in escrow and see how they do.

It's a nice idea and would be fun to watch from the sidelines, but it probably violates the 14th Amendment right to Equal Protection under the law. On the other hand, could this be considered treason? Maybe that's a bit much. Oh well. Let the children rant then.