Friday, September 29, 2006

Florida's wacky triumvirate

What the hell is wrong with Florida? Between Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, and now Republican Representative Mark Foley, the state has the perfect See No Evil, Hear No Evil, IM No Evil triumvirate of political neer-do-wells. Worse, Foley looks to be guilty of something far more serious than mere pandering or incompetence. What follows is but a small part (and by no means the most graphic bit) of his instant messaging exchange with an underage congressional page that took place in 2003 ("Maf54" is Foley):

Maf54 (7:33:39 PM): i am in pensecola…had to catch a plane

Xxxxxxxxx (7:33:47 PM): oh well thats fun

Maf54 (7:34:04 PM): indeed

Xxxxxxxxx (7:34:14 PM): what are you doing in pensecola

Maf54 (7:34:21 PM): now in my hotel room

Xxxxxxxxx (7:34:39 PM): well why did you go there

Maf54 (7:35:02 PM): for the campaign

Xxxxxxxxx (7:35:29 PM): have you officialy announced yt

Maf54 (7:35:45 PM): not yet

Xxxxxxxxx (7:36:06 PM): cool cool…

Maf54 (7:37:27 PM): how my favorite young stud doing

Xxxxxxxxx (7:37:46 PM): tired and sore

Xxxxxxxxx (7:37:52 PM): i didnt no waltzing could make you sore

Maf54 (7:38:04 PM): from what

Xxxxxxxxx (7:38:34 PM): what do you mean from what

Xxxxxxxxx (7:38:42 PM): from waltzing…im sore from waltzing

Maf54 (7:39:32 PM): tahts good

Maf54 (7:39:32 PM): you need a massage

Maf54 signed off at 7:39:37 PM.

Maf54 signed on at 7:40:35 PM.

Xxxxxxxxx (7:40:44 PM): got kicked off?

Maf54 (7:41:24 PM): must have

Xxxxxxxxx (7:41:57 PM): ugh tomorrow i have the first day of lacrosse practice

Maf54 (7:42:27 PM): love to watch that

Maf54 (7:42:33 PM): those great legs running

Xxxxxxxxx (7:42:38 PM): haha…they arent great

Xxxxxxxxx (7:42:45 PM): thats why we have conditioning

Xxxxxxxxx (7:42:56 PM): 2 days running….3 days lifting

Xxxxxxxxx (7:43:11 PM): every week

Xxxxxxxxx (7:43:14 PM): until the end of march

Maf54 (7:43:27 PM): well dont ruin my mental picture

Xxxxxxxxx (7:43:32 PM): oh lol…sorry

Maf54 (7:43:54 PM): nice

Maf54 (7:43:54 PM): youll be way hot then

Xxxxxxxxx (7:44:01 PM): haha…hopefully

Maf54 (7:44:22 PM): better be

So, clearly, Dateline NBC's Chris Hansen needs to take his "To Catch a Predator" crew to Washington for their next installment. Just disturbing to think that Foley was chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children. No one is safe, people. No one.

"No, really, Mr. Hansen, I meant horny as in 'toad' -- I have a scientific interest in amphibians, you know!"

Thursday, September 21, 2006

And the Abramoff noose tightens

Jack Abramoff. The very name is greeted in some Washington circles with the same horror that "E. coli" brings to California's Salinas Valley. And it appears the Abramoff political spinach was served at the White House many more times than we originally suspected.

CNN is running a story about White House visits made by Abramoff cronies Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed. Reportedly, the White House released the Secret Service visit records to settle a lawsuit by the Democratic Party and an ethics watchdog group seeking visitor logs for the two GOP strategists and others who emerged as figures in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Norquist and Reed shared 115 visits between them, with the lion's share going to Norquist.

The article goes on to list seven other suspect individuals in the Abramoff circle that made repeated visits to the White House. Nothing surprising here, and no one of import will hang for the influence peddling that is rife in the current administration. Just the status quo in Washington, so please shake your heads and move along, people.

Ralph Reed confronting a skeleton: "My point is simply this: Even if I had posed for photos and video dressed in stiletto heels, bare-buttocked black leather chaps, a studded dog collar with leash, and a leopard print cowboy hat covering a flowing mullet, while riding a mechanical bull in an indian casino, that, that naive lobbyist is not the man you see before you now!"

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

So much for brand loyalty

I've had a transient problem with brand loyalty -- clothing, golf equipment, book publishers, trivial stuff, mostly -- but one that hasn't bitten me until my latest car purchase. I owned an Audi A4 2.8 Quattro for nine years and liked everything about the car. (I say "liked" because no one should love a car. If someone claims to love their automobile ask them if they would freely give a kidney or some bone marrow to save it. There are some who will answer yes to such a question, without hesitation, but to paraphrase Mark Twain: Suppose you were an idiot. Suppose, too, you would freely give a kidney to save your automobile. But I repeat myself.)

Back to my much beliked A4. An accident required the removal of the car's dashboard and other structural work, and left lingering questions about safety (did the guy who removed and reinstalled the dashboard and airbags really know what he was doing?), so in March of this year I traded it in on a brand new Audi S4. The car had everything I wanted save for good mileage, but as my commute is very short and I don't drive too aggressively I am fairly easy on the gas, week to week.... Now, how a card-carrying member of the Sierra Club rationlizes the purchase of an autombile that gets, optimistically, 15 MPG in city driving is the topic of another post.

So I get the S4 home and am basking in all the irrational joys of new car ownership until the morning after my purchase when, upon starting the engine, putting the 6-speed manual transmission in neutral, and letting out the clutch, I hear a high-pitched whine coming from somewhere under the beautiful black leather and aluminum stick shift. Thus began my transmission travails.

Suffice to say that a reverse gear bearing had completely failed in my transmission, probably before or immediately after I took delivery of the car. I called the dealer that second day, before driving anywhere, to report the problem and was told, "They all do that." I drove the car another two weeks and noticed that the whine was loudest when starting the car cold, but would disappear after a few minutes driving. Into the third week of ownership I took the car to the dealer for a complimentary detail, and once again mentioned the problem to the service rep, but was again told it was likely nothing and that I shouldn't worry about it. So I blithely drove on for four months and the whine never appeared to get worse, that I could tell.

Things did get worse on the evening of August 9th, however, when my wife took the car to the grocery store. She got one block from our home when she heard a loud clunk followed by a very noticable whine/rattle coming from the transmission, which had now become very difficult to engage. She limped home and parked the car in our driveway, where we stared at it in disbelief. We found out a couple days later, after the car was towed to the dealer and inspected, that the failed bearing had finally destroyed three gears and a gear shaft in the tranny, and that the car would be out of service at the dealer for at least two weeks. I demanded a new transmission. Audi's mysterious "field rep" decided against me, that the existing unit should be rebuilt. After innumerable calls to six different talking heads at Audi of America, including one supervisor, the transmission was still rebuilt, but I'll save that rant for another post. The car had just under 2,500 miles on the odometer when it failed.

The dealer had my car for just over one month, but was gracious enough to give me a loaner car while mine was in the shop (apparently something that Audi of America no longer offers, so the onus is on the dealer). But on the day the mechanic was moving my rebuilt tranny under the car for installation he noticed that the clutch slave cylinder was leaking like a sieve. Parts were ordered from Los Angeles and I was informed of further delays.

By this time I had, of course, investigated the California Lemon Law and had discovered that I qualify because my car has been out of service for more than 30 days during the warranty period. Handily, even. I called Audi of America and heard a new term when I mentioned the Lemon Law -- I was asked if I wished to "sever" my relationship with the vehicle. I answered in the affirmative, grudgingly, and was told I'd get another call in a few days. That call came the next day, actually, and the nice gentleman with whom I spoke offered me the following to stay with the car: a 1-year and 12,000-mile extension to the warranty plus $650, roughly one month's payment on the loan. When asked about a new replacement vehicle I was told the above was Plan A, and that if I decide against it we move to Plan B, the new vehicle.

And that's where things stand. I have my car with the repaired tranny and clutch and have been driving it for a few days, and to be honest I still really like it. But everyone I've spoken to about this thinks I should demand an identical new car and be done. What do you think? Keep the existing car with the extended warranty and cash, or get a brand new replacement vehicle? The decision isn't an easy one for me, for reasons I don't completely understand. Perhaps ... perhaps I love my car?!

Time to molder for five weeks in the dealer's service lot.