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  • Thanks for the Miles Mazda

    Mazda North American Operations

    P.O. Box 19734

    Irvine, CA 92623-9734

    Attn: Customer Assistance Center 


    January 10, 2011

    Dear Mazda-

    My 1995 Mazda 626 (DX) just hit 300,000 miles and all I can say is, “Thank you for such a fantastic car!”

    When I originally purchased this car in Lincoln, Nebraska, I had no idea what a dependable vehicle I was getting. At the time, all I knew was that the 626 looked good, drove good, and had that groovy “swing” feature for the central air vents. I remember thinking that those oscillating vents were the coolest feature I’d ever seen in a car, and the “swing” button was quite the conversation starter.

    Now, well over a dozen years later and road trips across the country, this fantastic car has more than met my expectations for what a quality car should be. For the record, I am not a “car guy.” I don’t perform vehicle maintenance myself (though I do have some mechanical abilities). In fact, when it comes to regular servicing and such, I am pretty lackadaisical about following regular guidelines. I frequently would let the mileage go 5-7 thousand miles beyond the recommended time between  oil changes! But for all the driving and “abuse” that this car has seen, I couldn’t have asked for a more reliable vehicle.

    I have had NO serious mechanical or performance issues with this vehicle-EVER! Sure, I’ve replaced the timing belt twice, put in a new radiator (some time ago), had the front axle replaced, and swapped out catalytic converters twice, but the motor and manual transmission are all original, as is pretty  much everything else except for filters, tires and brakes. From a mechanical perspective, this car has been unbeatable. (I should note that I have owned several vehicles to date, both foreign and domestic.)

    The exterior paint is still original (Sahara Gold), though it is now fading badly in several areas, and the interior’s better days passed by several years ago, but all things considered, I’d keep driving this car for another 300,000 miles if I could. Sadly, these past few years (and tens of thousands of miles) have made it very difficult to continue to pass ever-tightening state emissions testing and I can’t continue to justify pouring hundreds of dollars (or more) to keep it on the road, since the resale value is next to zero. So from a financial stand point, it just makes sense to retire it now.

    But I’m retiring it with much sadness. Where else could I find a new car that can so readily achieve 30+ MPG both in town, on the freeway, and stuck in rush hour traffic- even after all those miles? Where else could I find a car with such tight handling and smooth driving performance- even after all those miles? Where else will I ever find another “swing” feature???

    I know that 300,000 miles isn’t any kind of vehicular longevity record, but it sure is for me, and considering that I’m still running with the original engine and transmission, I think this proves that somebody in your company knows how to make a car that will last. For this, I sincerely thank you all.

    I’ll be taking over my wife’s ’02 Mitsubishi Lancer now, which is also a nice car, even with its 105,000+ mileage, but not nearly the performer that my good old 626 has been.

    I have not yet decided just how I’ll retire this wonderful car of mine. I’ve been thinking of donating it to one of those charity outfits and taking the tax credit. I’ve been thinking of sending it off to the car graveyard (read-junkyard). I’ve been wondering if I could even sell it outright for a few hundred dollars to some needy person. No matter what I decide, I know this- I will surely miss this car a great deal…from its manual hand-crank windows to its non-power locks to its unreadable stock AM/FM/Cassette stereo system (by the way- these stock speakers really can put out the tunes!) to the very special “swing” feature. 

    I even considered giving it back to you as a testament to its greatness-(when researching how to reach you to send this letter, I noticed that your corporate headquarters is just up the road from me in Irvine. I live in Oceanside, California.)-but doubt you’re actually interested in getting back an old 626. (If you are interested, drop me a line- we could work something out!)

    In closing let me just say that the next time I’m in the market for another vehicle, I’ll be shopping the Mazda’s first, hoping to find something as reliable and affordable as this 1995 626 (DX) has been for me. I can only hope you folks will still be producing such great cars when that day comes.


    Ken Grandlund

    One VERY Satisfied customer

    PS- I’m enclosing a picture of the car and the odometer reading for you. Maybe you have a nice bulletin board like they have at the vet’s office that you can pin these up to.




















    Posted in General, Life, transportation | 3 Comments »

    So Tired of Politics….


    This was always meant to be a place for politics and government.

    From the time I started this blog in 2005 and all the way into late 2008 to early 2009, I immersed myself with the state of American politics. At first, I strived to define my sense of political reason and rational government as it meshed with my personal sense of right and wrong. I was surprised initially at the interest I received, both in favor of and against, sometime vehemently so, my thoughts and ideas. Little did I know then that I was a small part of a large wave that became known as the political blogosphere- a vast collection of interested citizens engaged in partisan conversation for no other reason than to persuade and/or cajole each other in a direct experiment of anonymous democracy. Anonymous for some at least. I have never been anonymous. 

    For the first several years, it seemed as if we political bloggers could, and sometimes did, make an actual difference. As individuals with similar frames of mind collected in the corners and cafes of cyberspace, they…we…defined an outlet of outrage. We were different from the street protests of an earlier generation, but seemed convinced that we too could change the course of events. Many of us felt empowered, often for the first time, and hopeful that our digital shouts would be even more effective than the marching banner holders of yesterday. I know I felt that way anyway.

    Officially, on the political spectrum, I am an “independent,” registered neither democrat or republican or green or anything else. Realistically, I am more liberal or progessive on most social issues, but more conservative on normal fiscal issues. Take that for what you will, but in the political blogosphere I was more aligned with the “lefty moonbats” than the “right wingnuts.” And frankly, that was just fine with me. I cringed at Bush era policies and wrought my keyboard angst through one misfit blunder after another by people on both sides of the aisle. I was enamored by my own insights, emboldened by my co-warriors intuits, engaged with the issues of our time. It was tireless and transforming and important.

    And then all of a sudden, my side won. Change would come. Reason would be restored. Hope rings eternal.

    Except when it doesn’t. Or didn’t. Or wouldn’t.

    Inertia is a terrible force, strong enough to wipe out even the best intentions and ideas. Stronger still when there are no courageous men or women to stand against its suffocating mass. Inertia is the power of the old guard refusing to gracefully leave governing to subsequent generations. Inertia is what overwhelms the fresh forces of democracy and ensures that the deeds done in the past continue to haunt the future. Inertia hides and dodges attempts to break it down.

    American government is lost to inertia. Politics has replaced it. Elected leaders serve not to create a better tomorrow, they serve to feed the beast of inertia. They do not yearn to protect the masses, they live to protect each other, their benefactors, and their outdated vision of perfection. Politics has put the needs of inertia above the needs of the people. Governing no longer matters so much as perpetuating the status quo.

    Sadly, too many people have lost sight of the fact that politics is not governance. Partisanship for the sport of it only exacerbates the worst inertia of the past, all but guaranteeing that any attempt to effect change is doomed and any claim to real change is little more than a shell game with a better name. Yet politics is what passes for governing in the minds of the elected and the electorate alike. Politics is not what defines us; it is what tears us apart.

    Well, I for one am tired of politics, and am ever more cynical of even those elected officials I think could actually make a run towards fixing our perverted system. I tire of reading about it. I tire of hearing the spin from the left and the right. I tire of bad ideas or stupid acts of the past coming back and causing catastrophic destruction to people, places, and things. I tire of elected officials parsing words to make a point. I tire of pundits spinning the events of the day to inflame the partisan followers towards the latest outrage. I tire of a lack of governing in favor of all this nonsense.

    For the last year, I have let politics fade away from this blog known as Common Sense. In fact, I have let the blog wallow in simple, sporadic posts that offer little to the reader and even less to the writer inside of me. It has been surprisingly easy to do too. And this admission from someone who wrote primarily in-depth posts on two political blogs up to 5 days a week for almost 4 years. As easily as it started, the need to examine and parse all things political just faded away. And while I still keep up on the realities of the day, I no longer feel compelled to pursue an opinion on every twitch of congress or sign every online petition that hits my inbox. I have run the gamut and feel no worse for the effort. But I also see little practical sign of impact-beyond that of the connections I have made and the mutual affirmation we all created for each other.

    I’m not giving up writing on this blog though. It has been a productive outlet in many ways and it will remain my corner of opinion and thought moving forward. But politics? Sorry friends, I’m so tired of politics.

    Posted in Common Sense, General, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Important Public Health Warning

    The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of an old disease.  The disease is called Gonorrhea Lectim.  It’s pronounced “Gonna re-elect ’em.”

    The disease is contracted through dangerous and high risk behavior involving putting your cranium up your rectum. Many victims contracted it when their politiations were first elected, before term limits. Now most people are starting to realize how destructive this sickness is.

    However, Gonorrhea Lectim is easily cured with a new procedure on the market called Votemout! You take the first dose in 2010, the second in 2012 and simply don’t engage in such behavior again.


    Posted in General | 2 Comments »

    The American Dream -Part One

    Dream or Trap ?


    You know that feeling you get when you find out you’ve been had? The one where you roll your eyes back a bit and think to yourself, “You sure fell for that one.” Sometimes you can laugh at your own empty-headedness and appreciate that the joke is on you. But sometimes, like when you never even perceived that a joke was afoot, realizing you’ve been had is like a swift kick in the gut. Sure, you catch your breath after a few panicked moments of gasping, but then you go on with things, albeit a bit more cynical and wary.

    No, I did not send my bank account number to a prince in Nigeria in exchange for a bazillion dollars. Had I, such would fall into the first category of being “had.” Instead, I think that I’ve finally reached a moment of clarity, an epiphany if you will, regarding the mythical American Dream.

    (Cue sound effects) What a sucker.

    Maybe more accurate to call it the American Delusion, for like the magical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the American Dream is always, by deliberate design, just out of reach. No matter where you are in the pursuit of the dream, the hazy promise of more or better something convinces you that you have not yet achieved the success that the American dream represents. It is both alluring and insidiously rotten, and yet it is as much a part of who we are as is the air we breathe. And as invisible as the oxygen that passes into our lungs, so too do we fail to see the trap slowly springing until we are too far in to make a clean escape.

    The American Dream (capitalized, probably trademarked by some corporation somewhere) is vaguely described as a society where the “citizens of every rank feel that they can achieve a “better, richer, and happier life.” But better than what? Richer how? Happier by what measure? How does a person know if they have reached the dream? Is it an individual dream for us each, a particular dream for similar groups of people, or a generalized dream determined by the behavior of the majority?

    Actually, it’s all of the above. There is a societal, generalized version of the American Dream that includes a well paying job, owning a home and car(s), having a familial unit of some sort, taking nice vacations and having lots of things. One layer down there is a second dream layer applied to particular groups of people-groups divided along ethnic or professional or religious or educational criteria, for example. This dream gets more specific in how the generalized dream gets flushed out. Add the final layer-the personal dream-then squish them together and “Voila!” -your American Dream-customized, but always within the parameters of the larger, pre-determined dream variables.

    Let’s take a step sideways for a moment. In a normal dream-the kind you have when asleep- things are often fluid and non-sensical as they play out. Sometimes these turn scary, other times confusing, but you always wake up knowing you’d only had a dream. In a daydream-the spaced out for no reason kind of thing-the desired outcome almost always is realized, and with the minimum effort required, but you snap out of it and get back to your business. Now step back to the American Dream. In this dream, things are often stuck in slow motion, non-sensical and scary and happy and wierd, but you know you won’t wake up because you aren’t asleep. And you also know that no amount of hard work will guarantee a happy ending. Because it’s still just a dream, stupid. And reality never follows the script in our head.

    To ever even come within reach of achieving the classic American Dream, there are certain steps that you must take, and once taken, you must take them again and again and again until your legs finally stop working altogether. At the heart of the classic American Dream is the source of its power- money. Without this key resource, the American Dream can not be yours. So most of us work and toil day in and day out to amass as much of this magic ingredient as we can. Then we can feed it back into the dream machine and claim our prizes. The more we work, the more money we may get. The more money we get, the more things we can buy. The more we can buy, the closer we are to having the things that make up the American Dream- in whatever shape it takes for us. We measure our worth through wealth; our mastery of the dream by the size of our warchest. We equate happiness to treasure, and never more than when we are surrounded by our material things. We trade relationships for e-lationships. We abandon the real world for reality-based entertainment. We prefer sensation to real feeling. And yet somehow, we never quite reach the dream. It’s always just a little bit farther away than we thought.

    And so we keep doing the same things. And so does everyone else. And so the dream continues to wield its silent power, keeping us in line by keeping us reaching.

    And mostly, we just go along with things, because that’s just how things are supposed to go. This is how we live, at least most of us do. Those who don’t clearly don’t count anyway, because they aren’t part of or striving for the American Dream. And if you’re not going to have the American Dream, what, really, is the point?






    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    Congressional Reform Act of (2010)

    Received in an e-mail from a friend….not a bad idea really, except for the obvious fact that Congress would have to pass this into law, and there’s only a slightly better than zero chance that any of our career politicians would so willingly make changes that would return our politics and government to the people- they’d miss their corporate overlords way too much!

    The Congressional Reform Act would contain 8 provisions, all of which would probably be strongly endorsed by those who drafted our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Congress has the lowest approval rating of any entity in government. I would surely think that the voting public could get their arms around something like this. Something that would create and sustain real change and hope.

    Congressional Reform Act of 2010

    1. Term Limits: 12 years only, one of the possible options below.

    A. Two Six year Senate terms
    B. Six Two year House terms
    C. One Six year Senate term and three Two Year House terms

            Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

    2.  No Tenure / No Pension:
        A congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office. 

        Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

    3.  Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security: 
        All funds in the Congressional retirement fund moves to the Social Security system immediately.  All future funds flow into the Social Security system, Congress participates with the American people.

        Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

    4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan just as all Americans.

        Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

    5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.  Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

        Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned  citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

    6. Congress looses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

        Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

     7. Congress must equally abide in all laws they impose on the American people.

        Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

    8. All contracts with past and present congressmen are void effective 1/1/11 . 
        The American people did not make this contract with congressmen, congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

        Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned  citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work. 


    Posted in Common Sense, Democracy, Government, Politics, Reform | 35 Comments »

    Back From The Darkness of Computer Code Hell

    Shortly after my last post in August 2009, this site experienced a disruption in the back end code that sent Common Sense into a tailspin of unreachability. After much patience and the coding talents of my friend (and site designer Anna) this blog is back in business…just in time for a new year!

    If there is anyone left out there who actually comes here anymore, be ready…I’m back!

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    The Reunion-20 Years Later

    Freedom, in the modern American teenager vernacular, came to me 20 years ago. By freedom I mean, of course, high school graduation. Finally, my own man…FOR REAL! Well, at least sort of. I can almost recall the elation at the prospects which lay before me. I had plans…and alternate plans too…one way or another, things were going to be great. 20 years ago….the world was my oyster.

    But not just my oyster alone. My friends and classmates were also jumping into the world, each in their own fashion, each in their own direction. Some were headed to college, others to the military. Some, like myself, went right to work in an attempt to support myself while I figured which plan to follow. Looking back on 20 years, I’m sure very few of us kept to the path we so headily envisioned. Life has a way of keeping things interesting.

    Almost immediately after attaining freedom things began to go awry. At 18 years old, aspiration and reality are almost always at odds, and reality, unfeeling as a stone in its never ceasing march forward, usually wins out in the end. I never did go to college in Arizona or marry my high school sweetheart or travel around the world. I ‘ve never owned a BMW and I didn’t make a million bucks by the age of 30. I’m not really sure if I ever actually had a path to follow…I sure can’t remember what it looked like if I did. The basic outline above was about as far as I’d figured things…as if envisioning the goal magically made it real. Sweet reality.

    My actual journey has actual details, steps along the path from there to here. It is filled with places and things I would never have imagined in those days after receiving my high school diploma. It has been my own adventure through life and it’s been fun. I might have done a thing or two differently. We all would. But here I am, 20 years later, and life is pretty good.

    I don’t spend a lot of time looking back. I prefer to live in today, with half an eye on tomorrow. Not that I don’t enjoy some mental reminiscing now and again. It’s just that I don’t spend much time reliving what was already lived. It’s taken me a bit by surprise then to realize that I’m looking forward to doing just that. I’m curious to rekindle some of those ancient friendships and strengthen those that have endured. It’s been 15 years since I was even back in town. Came close 2 years ago, but turned east on the edge of town and never turned back. I’ve seen several of the guys over the years, but many of them not for almost 10. I want to hear about the paths my friends have taken since achieving their freedom, and I want to laugh at the insanity of our shared youth. I want to raise a beer, swing a club, share a photo, eat a pizza….I want to grab a piece of yesterday and hold onto it for just a few hours. And I’m so surprised by this, really surprised.

    So off I go, like a time traveler, to a time 20 years removed and a place that holds so much of who I am today. The combination of 20 year old memories paired with 20 years older faces will be interesting, I’m sure. And while we can’t ever really relive our youth, I think that this might be close enough. Because really…who wants to it all over again anyhow?

    Posted in Common Sense, General, Life | 1 Comment »

    Apparently NOT Too Big To Fail

    Back in November, we were told that GM (and Chrysler and Ford) was just TOO BIG to let fail, and as such it was IMPERATIVE that $35 Billion of tax payer money be given to the auto industry or MILLIONS would be instantly out of work, PLUNGING the economy into a spiral death unlike any known before.

    So they got the money (OK, not Ford) and LIFE AS WE KNEW IT was saved for another day (or several months at least.) Chrysler used some of that money to pay for a full page newspaper ad in many markets thanking the taxpayers for the bailout money. Talk about stimulus. All those millions of jobs were kept on, workers building cars and trucks at full speed, and facotry orders kept up at usual paces, all because of that generous tax payer funded infusion, right?

    WRONG! Not only did that initial tax gift NOT fix the massive problems in the US auto industry, both companies who took the cash are now in BANKRUPTCY. As in FAIL. We’re into GM for upwards of $50 Billion now and lucky us, “we” own 60% of a worthless behomoth. Too big to fail? Apparently NOT.

    So now, we’ll surely see even more massive layoffs, since 1 in 10 jobs in this country rely on a strong US auto industry, right? Isn’t that what they told us last fall? Not just auto workers, but parts plants, plastic mills, cloth manufacturers, and down the line?  If financial “armageddon” hasn’t hit us yet, it must be right around the corner, right???

    Would we have been better served just giving that $50 Billion to the estimated 1.5 million affected workers to the tune of $32,000 and change and let the auto industry and related industrues just close up shop?

    Too Big to fail? When failure is inevitable, as it surely was with GM and Chrysler, what possible good came from prolonging the inevitable and dishing out multiple billions of dollars? Is our economy the better for it? Are those workers?

    News of GM going into bankruptcy have indeed begun a “sky is falling” mentality at that bastion of sanity called Wall Street- the market is UP 200+ points.

    Who was president when this whole financial disaster really began? Who was making the rules so lax in Congress for the last decade or two? I guess it must all be Obama’s fault.

    (cross posted at Bring It On)

    Posted in Common Sense, Economy, society | 1 Comment »

    The Difference Between Being President and Being Presidential

    President Obama spoke this morning to discuss major policy initiatives regarding the handling of terror suspects at Gitmo, national security, and the need for transparency and the rule of law in government. It was a fantastic speech in both content and tenor, fairly discussing the actions and goals of the previous administration and contrasting those with his own administration’s actions and goals in dealing with the same problems. (If you didn’t get to hear it or see it, you can read the full text here.)

    Obama rightly debased the rationale of the previous administration for many of the actions they took over the last 8 years, but he did so in a way that was not (to me at least) designed to inflame partisan passions. Rather, he presented this information as a way to cause us to reflect on what America is supposed to be, how it was designed by our framers, and how it can be so easily derailed by weak minded officials faced with problems too big for them to handle and hard nosed ideologues whose only goal is to exert unopposable power without regard to moral and legal right and wrong. Obama also spread the blame for the savage departure from American values and ideals of the last 8 years to all politicians left and right-for the truth of the matter is that we, the American people, were let down on all sides by cowardly politicians and even more cowardly bullies. For 8 years, our elected officials threw out their responsibilities of due diligence and oversight in favor of political posturing. The actions, and inactions, of those who held elective office during the Bush administration and helped create the national nightmare or did nothing to prevent the fall into the abyss, has caused this country great harm both domestically and abroad. The blame is shouldered equally, and recent partisan bickering only further cements this as fact, for those who protest to their own defense most loudly are likely also those whose actions may seem most detestable.

    Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. And I believe that those decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that – too often – our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us – Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens – fell silent.

    In other words, we went off course. And this is not my assessment alone. It was an assessment that was shared by the American people, who nominated candidates for President from both major parties who, despite our many differences, called for a new approach – one that rejected torture, and recognized the imperative of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.” (Obama-5-21-09)

    Obama has a tough road ahead. Calls from the left scream for investigations and “truth” commissions. Calls from the right demand an “end to persecution.” This balance is hard to manage while retaining the desire to right the wrongs of American governance. But again, Obama takes the right path, for he is the president, not the judge and jury of this nation. While recognizing the wrongs committed in our names, he also understands that to rectify those wrongs requires a return to rationality and legal principals that this country was founded on. It is not for the president to declare guilt or innocence or to demand trials for grevious wrongs done in the name of “freedom.” That is why we have a Justice Department and a court system and a Congress with investigatory powers. By promoting direct legal action, Obama would be unnecessarily politicizing what is in effect a legal matter, albeit one that goes to the heart of what it means to be America.

    That is what I mean when I say that we need to focus on the future. I recognize that many still have a strong desire to focus on the past. When it comes to the actions of the last eight years, some Americans are angry; others want to re-fight debates that have been settled, most clearly at the ballot box in November. And I know that these debates lead directly to a call for a fuller accounting, perhaps through an Independent Commission.I have opposed the creation of such a Commission because I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability. The Congress can review abuses of our values, and there are ongoing inquiries by the Congress into matters like enhanced interrogation techniques. The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of our laws.

    I understand that it is no secret that there is a tendency in Washington to spend our time pointing fingers at one another. And our media culture feeds the impulses that lead to a good fight. Nothing will contribute more to that than an extended re-litigation of the last eight years. Already, we have seen how that kind of effort only leads those in Washington to different sides laying blame, and can distract us from focusing our time, our effort, and our politics on the challenges of the future.

    We see that, above all, in how the recent debate has been obscured by two opposite and absolutist ends. On one side of the spectrum, there are those who make little allowance for the unique challenges posed by terrorism, and who would almost never put national security over transparency. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who embrace a view that can be summarized in two words: “anything goes.” Their arguments suggest that the ends of fighting terrorism can be used to justify any means, and that the President should have blanket authority to do whatever he wants – provided that it is a President with whom they agree.

    Both sides may be sincere in their views, but neither side is right. The American people are not absolutist, and they don’t elect us to impose a rigid ideology on our problems. They know that we need not sacrifice our security for our values, nor sacrifice our values for our security, so long as we approach difficult questions with honesty, and care, and a dose of common sense. That, after all, is the unique genius of America. That is the challenge laid down by our Constitution. That has been the source of our strength through the ages. That is what makes the United States of America different as a nation.” (Obama 5-21-09)

    At the end of the day, it’s not just what he says that marks this president as a class above his predecessor, but the way he says it, and the way he understands his role in American government. Obama embodies the difference between being president and being presidential- a difference as marked as that between being the class leader and the class bully. Perhaps the juxtaposition of these two quotes is the best illustration of all.

    “I’m the decider, and I decide what’s best.” George W. Bush

    “In our system of checks and balances, someone must always watch over the watchers – especially when it comes to sensitive information.” – Barack Obama

    It’s nice to have a real leader back at the helm.

    (cross posted at Bring It On!)

    Posted in Barack Obama, Democracy, Government, Justice, national security, Politics, Terrorism | No Comments »

    Economic Sleight of Hand

    So here we are, 6 months after the brink of “financial armageddon,” upwards of $7.5 Trillion-yes trillion with a “T”- promised, printed, and perq-ed away, and what have we gained?

    After being told that our major financial institutions and banks were so nearly insolvent that only massive amounts of taxpayer funded infusions could save life as we knew it, we now have the major banks of the country boasting huge quarterly profits-in some cases, record profits.

    Either Obama’s economic policies (built on the back of the Bush recovery plan) are as close to a miracle as it comes or something smells rather rotten. If you ask me, its time to put on a gas mask.

    How is it that banks who were tens and hundreds of billions of dollars down the rathole such a short time ago can now be running profits? As far as I know, the federal government hasn’t actually taken over any (or at least many) of those toxic assets that start this ship a-sinking. And so far as I’ve been able to ascertain, home foreclosures haven’t come to a screeching halt, meaning those still-on-the-books toxic assets are still as deadly to the bottom line as ever before. With all that bad debt still remaining in the hands of the banks, and with the bail-out money spent gobbling up other troubles banks and funding “legal obligation” bonuses, just where are these record profits coming from?

    Welcome to the ongoing world of inverse reality. If this is the beginning of a recovery then I’m the next American Idol.

    Truth is truth, and hype is hype. These records profits are no harbinger of golden times around the corner. They are little more than the the same-old, same-old accounting tricks that made Enron a household name. Record profits? Sure, you’ve all jacked up your credit card interest rates and customer fees; you’ve all but stopped lending money to anyone without their own Fort Knox for collateral; but how does that erase the hundreds of billions of dollars of toxic debt you carry on the books? Face it friends…it doesn’t.

    Recent changes in the mark to market accounting practices allow these banks to revert to the good old days of relaxed financial standards that made the Bush years such a boon for the shady and the immoral. Under the revised rules, banks can choose to value these bad debts any way they want to. They can pretend that the assets still retain the value they did when originated. To make it more clear, a mortgage held by the bank for $500,000 can still be considered as $500,000 in assets to the bank despite the fact that true market value today could be just half that amount. With such leeway, banks can pretend to be profitable all they want and still be buried under massive as-yet unrealized losses. And the federal government is playing right along.

    They say that the key to a strong economy is consumer confidence. Perhaps they mean consumer stupidity. Becasue that “glimmer of hope” that was recently claimed to have been seen may well be little more than cheerleading. And sleight of hand.

    Give the Obama administration for credit in trying to get things moving…they at least haven’t been paralyzed like Team Bush seemed to have been. And at least they are putting some restrictions on the money that goes out, instead of the blindfolded hand-out engineered by former Sec. Paulson. But allowing these banks to gloss over the reality of their financial solvency will likely prove to be a mistake, eventually eroding consumer confidence far longer and far more deeply when the piper comes calling again. Better to continue to face the music as we’ve been doing-bad news and all-than to falsely create a sense of improvement where none really exists. Reverting to the old way of faking it until it feels better isn’t exactly what I hoped for from the administration of CHANGE.

    Listen, if these gilded reports allow people to keep working, then I guess that’s a good thing. But let’s not kid ourselves so readily. This isn’t the beginning of the recovery. It’s more like taking several steps back. Which means we’ll just have to relive it all again, and on top of the losses we already have and aren’t likely to get back soon enough.

    Don’t be lulled. Keep your eye on the ball.


    (cross posted at Bring It On!)

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