Saturday, December 13, 2008

Regulators Napping (Yet Again)

Once again the financial world is rocked by news of fraud, impropriety and deceit and once again the SEC have failed in their role as the police agency for the US markets. This time it's famed trader Bernard Madoff whose lengthy and simple Ponzi scheme has bilked investors large and small of around $50B. Apparently the SEC were tipped about Madoff's actions as early as 1999 but chose to ignore the information and subsequent questions from other investment professionals. Like Enron, Fannie/Freddie, Bear Stearns and a whole host of institutions it was supposed to regulate, the SEC has shown a complete dereliction of duty time and time again. If it wasn't for family memebers turning him in, Mr. Madoff would still be trading today.

This is an organization whose website proudly proclaims:

During his tenure at the SEC, Chairman Cox has made vigorous enforcement of the securities laws the agency's top priority, bringing ground breaking cases against a variety of market abuses including hedge fund insider trading, stock options backdating, fraud aimed at senior citizens, municipal securities fraud, and securities scams on the Internet.

Mr. Cox needs to step down immediataly and his organization disbanded and replaced with one that can actually do the job required. Mad Money's Jim Cramer has offered his services, perhaps we should take him up on it?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Time To Brown Bag It?

Recently Amazon decided to address the issue of packaging. Although motivated by a desire to cut down on customer injuries and frustrations as much as to help the environment it was a step in the right direction. However, today a trip to the Apple store to replace my Nike+ sensor (another piece of less than green technology) prompted me to envision a world where packaging was entirely optional. The benefits would be twofold, firstly a reduction in waste and secondly a cost saving for the manufacturer.

For many retailers like Apple it would be a very easy plan to implement and still give the customer choice. At checkout you could elect to either have your purchase put into the box or merely be given the goods with a suitable bag to hold all the bits and bobs. The receipt could be easily marked so as a return without the packaging would be easily facilitated. Immediate gains in both the environment and the pocketbook. Obviously the issue of display and theft would need to be addressed, however, re-usable packaging could be developed which allowed the product to be removed at the register.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why Do They Hate Us?

Not a post about OBL but a word to the boardrooms of America. The general public consensus regarding the health (or lack there-of) of various corporations so far has been a resounding "let 'em fail." The public's ire is not just confined to the auto industry but a broad range of retailers in general. This should be doubly worrying to the captains of industry who should be asking themselves, why do our customers hate us so much? Sites such as the Consumerist are full of first hand horror stories from the full range of businesses.

Of course there are the standout corporations, the one's that customers do love and would fight to protect (and are the subject of endless books on branding) but they are a tiny minority in a sea of blah. For the others, it seems as if years of treating churn as business as usual is finally coming back to haunt them. Their list of crimes is long but outsourcing technical support, byzantine rules and policies and products that fail to deliver the marketer's promises rate high on the list. The American consumer is completely fed up with their treatment at the hands of these operations which does not bode well for those looking for a bailout to continue in business. The list of teetering companies is long, nevertheless you do not see groups campaigning to keep Gap, Circuit City or Linens n' Things alive. Quite the reverse seems to be true, customers are almost reveling in these corporate failures in a kind of "well they finally got theirs" way.

Although the symptoms are myriad, I think the public perception of a company can be directly traced to the way that company treats their own employees. Outsourcing, benefit cuts and endless rounds of layoffs have all contributed to create soulless organizations whose bottom line may look good on paper but is no stronger than the paper itself. Conversely, companies that are known for their fair treatment of workers are seeming to be able to hold on much better when the times get tough. Perhaps decisions made with the human factor in mind turn out to be better long term strategies. Or maybe it's just Karma?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanksgiving with...Yorkshire Pud?

One of the best things about living in a multi-cultural country is the opportunity to mix favorites from many traditions. Thanksgiving's my favorite holiday and I enjoy my turkey with both candied yams and Yorkshire pudding. This British staple seems to fascinate Americans and is incredibly easy to make. So for those who would like to try some at the table this month the Guardian has posted a recipe from the austere crowd at the Royal Society of Chemistry. Now just imagine dropping that into the conversation mid-meal! A dish with a Royal Warrant no less.

One caveat; the Guardian's picture shows pompous little "restuarant" puddings, but as any fule kno, the best ones are exactly as pictured above, in a roasting pan happily cooking alongside the meat and absorbing all the good stuff floating around in the oven.

As they would say in Yorkshire, "aye, that looks grand pet,"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Today KERA's consistently excellent Think! featured Y&R Chief Insights Officer John Gerzema discussing the "brand bubble" (downloadable mp3 is here). He believes that many renowned brands are over valued in the eyes of the consumer and a brand crash is looming. This seems especially pertinent as cash wary consumers start to truly question the elevated cost associated with a name brand versus a generic.

He also briefly touches on the folly of marketing to a demographic rather than an interest group, citing the case of advertising directed at seniors falling into a trap of assumptions. Be sure to check out his Brand Asset Valuator.

Neil Young - Truth or Cover Up?

Citing an unwillingness to cross IATSE picket lines, Neil Young canceled his show at the Los Angeles Forum, October 30th. Insiders are now asking if the less than stellar 6,000 tickets sold (The Forum seats 17,000) had more to do with the decision?

Bailout? Schmailout!

The mortgage bailout programs being touted by both the public & private sectors are all fine in theory but miss the point in one huge way.

So many of the homes currently under threat of foreclosure were bought by speculators looking to either flip the home or sell out and profit in a year or two. They, and even people who bought a place to call home, can not be expected to have much interest in deals that give them 40 years of low interest to pay for a home that's worth a fraction of it's original value. In areas like California, Florida and Las Vegas most would have to wait decades to see their value return. Even with affordable payments I believe most will do the math and walk away at their earliest opportunity.

Stop The Madness

Recent news has shown that once again, the American people are right & our elected representatives are wrong. The multi-trillion dollar bailout of our financial system has done nothing to alleviate or correct the underlying problems facing our economy & now the financial institutions are calling out for further cash injections. All the while they are using taxpayer's money with little or no transparency or accountability.

Next on the table is a bailout for the US auto industry. What next? Surely the airlines deserve some relief? What about the credit card companies, hotel chains and home builders? The list is endless. During the good years many US companies grew lazy. They built high risk accounting schemes, signed unworkable labor agreements, produced substandard products & paid their executives fat bonuses. These times are gone & it is not the job of the US taxpayer to wipe their noses, pat their bottoms & send them back out to play again.

The auto industry does not have the management structure or R&D pipeline to make our investment sensible. They are years away from producing the type of vehicles already available from Asian plants. They ignored long term trends in the energy markets for short term, easy credit fueled profits. I see no reason why they would be able to compete any more effectively with our money than without.

Update : Apparently CBS agrees with me.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama flickr Set

The Obama campaign has uploaded a complete flickr set from Chicago. The photos are brutally honest and capture the evening beautifully from the dour backstage rooms to the triumphant stage call. The comments make interesting reading too as so many congratulations pour in from around the world.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Worth Saving?

The news for the US automakers gets worse and worse. Sales dropped 30% in October and with the continuing crisis on Wall Street, lack of consumer credit, lots full of unwanted vehicles and an approaching tsunami of default auto loans, things don't look like they're getting better anytime soon.

Detroit is continuing to lobby Washington for bailout cash and although President-Elect Obama has offered assistance for the development of fuel efficient vehicles, those funds may be too late to save the industry today. So is it time to give up on the US Big 3 Automakers? Painful as that sounds it may be the best path since, even with large cash injections, Detroit cannot exist in it's current form. A glut of dealers, products no one wants to buy, bad loans and hugely complex and restrictive labor practices are not going to be fixed cheaply or fast and the clock is running out. Both publicly traded brands are currently worth less than their physical infrastructure.

I can envisage a scenario where Tata Motors (Mkt Cap: 81.52B) buys Ford (Mkt Cap: 4.73B) but a combined GM (Mkt Cap: 3.15B) and Chrysler looks to be best left on the curb to be picked over by the parts pullers.

The Bifecta Pt. 2 - Check

In the late 1980s I was working at a studio located in a federal building originally constructed in the early 1960s. My wife (then girlfriend ) was visiting the US for the first time and accompanied me to work one day. She noticed the two identical water fountains side by side outside the bathrooms and commented on the needless redundancy of such a design.

To quote the Grateful Dead once again, "what a long strange trip it's been."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Bifecta Part One - Check

After a race which nearly required use of the defibrillator paddles on your truly, Lewis Hamilton was crowned Formula One World Champion. After 18 Grands Prix it all came down to the last corner of the last lap of the last race. If a Hollywood script writer had written this he'd have been laughed out of town, proof again that truth is stranger than fiction. Anyway this post is a reference to my June writings.

Read the full race report here. Hope for the Bifecta Part 2 at around 11pm EST tonight.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Not Election, Not Economy!

National Geographic have just released their Best Wild Animal Photographs of 2008 and they are stunning.

1st Horseman Arrives?

Spotted in East Plano. You know you're a redneck over-leveraged when you're selling your $200K Bentley Continental with a piece of day-glo card & a sharpie in a store parking lot.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Obama Infomercial

Nobody can really predict what we have in store for the next 4 years. But if Obama is elected at least we can be confident that the production values will be high!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Finally...Good News

MTV has reportedly put all of their video archives online. Whilst I doubt that (there are some huge artist holes) the catalog does include some classics including this one from Madness. What makes it all the more interesting is the location, namely London's Hope & Anchor pub, home to both the burgeoning New Wave & Ska movements. A favorite of the Stiff Records acts it succumbed to Wine Bar (Fern Bar in the US) status but was rescued in the late 90's and re-opened as a music venue.

Interestingly enough it was located across the street from Islington's infamous Skunkz club, home of the hardest of the Skinhead acts where yours truly was the house mixer for awhile!

'Palllin Around

This just in. Hot on the news that Obama has been 'pallin around with even more terrorists comes this unquestionable evidence that Our Own President has been doing the same! Yes, this is President Bush clearly 'pallin with a figure who until July of '08 was still on the US list of known terrorists! We have to thank Palin & the McCain campaign for unearthing this National Scandal and I believe we should appoint a Blue Ribbon committee to investigate just how many other lawmakers are quilty of such Anti-American associations.

Hate To Say I Told You So But...

The good news is that those annoying (and un-secure) pre-approval notices are no longing cluttering up your mail box. The bad news is that just as consumers are having trouble with their mortgage payments, as expected, many are defaulting on their credit cards. The average US credit card customer owes over $8,000 on their card for a total of 2 trillion dollars with around 43% of Americans who actually spend more than they earn each year.

And this is the tip of an iceberg. The 800lb gorilla is car loans, many of which were issued under the same lax oversights as the home sub-primes and were packaged & traded as such. Deliquencies on sub-prime auto loans rose to over 4% in September which is further bad news for the manufacturers & dealers as repossed vehicles (more often than not, SUVs & trucks) find their way back into the marketplace further depressing prices.

I believe the forces against the US auto industry to be too strong for the industry to survive. A bailout may do nothing more than waste taxayers' money by only temporarily staving off the ineviatable. Don't think it can't happen here, years of union/management battles, a lacklustre product line and appalling build quality killed off the auto industry in Britain.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Finally, Good News For McCain

AP reports that Joe The Plumber is backing McCain. This has to be good news for the Republican campaign since there's nothing like an unlicensed tradesman with an IRS lien on his home to turn the endorsement tide away from Obama who only has Colin Powell, a number of prominent Republicans and nearly every major newspaper in this country on his side.

Apparently Mr. Wurzelbacher, was particularly concerned about Obama's commitment to Israel. And being familiar with The Communist Manifesto, he also expressed reservations about Obama's Marxist sympathies. Really, I'm not making this up.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Dear Republican Party, here is a Muslim for you. Quick note; the Crusades ended in the late 13th Century.

Thank you Colin Powell for bringing this brave young man to our attention.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Grab A Kleenex & Read On...

What with the economy collapsing around us, political candidates slinging mud at each other and the general malaise that has taken over our country at this time, it's nice to find something that reminds us of the qualities we share in common.

Last Friday at the Aledo High School football game, Senior Kristen Pass was elected Homecoming Queen. What makes this particular monarch different is that Kristen suffers from Down Syndrome and when this winner was announced the entire stadium erupted into a pandemonium of support.

Like all good fairy tale stories the new queen took her crown to bed with her that night.

From the Dallas Morning News.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cry "Havoc" And Let Slip The Dogs Of War

Thus rages Anthony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. With much assistance from Gov. Palin the McCain campaign did just that last week. Desperately trying to distract voters from the subject of the economy the RNC went on the attack with suggestions that their opponent was associating with terrorists. It certainly seemed a successful strategy with recent rallies including cries from the crowd of "kill him" and "terrorist" and even threats made to black TV crew members.

Obviously scenes of howling bloodlust do little to sway the undecided voter and now Sen. McCain is desperatly trying to tone down the rhetoric from his audiences even today even giving praise to Obama, claiming that "he is a decent person, and a person that you do not have be scared as President of the United States."

The problem for him and the Republican party is that once the dogs of war are gone it's very hard to leash them again. This is the YouTube generation and the site is becoming filled with videos featuring McCain supporters hurling epiphets at the cameras. Currently the most viewed video on the site is labelled The McCain-Palin Mob, another is The Sidewalk To Nowhere, both feature party supporters with some very nasty and angry sound bites ("Commie Faggots").

This has the potential to completely derail not just the campaign but the entire Republican party. An act of actual violence perpetrated by a member of one of these mobs could have devastating and long lasting political effects and would rightly bring the wrath of decent society to bear directly on those who let slip the dogs in the first place.

Repeating History - Again

Note to McCain campaign : It's not Reverend Wright or William Ayers, it's not that his middle name is Hussein. It's not even that he partied it up in school.

It's The Economy Stupid!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

For Those About To Leech, We Salute You!

Hard rockers from down-under AC/DC have certainly listened to the money talk and after finding that it's a long way to the top (if you wanna rock n roll) signed an exclusive with Wal-Mart for their new album. That's right, no iTunes, no Amazon no MySpace, just Wal-Mart.

Seems like the plan may have backfired already. Not actually scheduled for release until October 20th, "Black Ice" has already leaked it's way onto the torrent and P2P networks and is no doubt by now in the hands of all AC/DC fans with half a brain and an internet connection.

Wal-Mart must be thunderstruck with this development. Although the sums paid to AC/DC were not disclosed, I'm sure they were substantial. It was pretty certain that after the official release the album would find it's way online fast enough, however, now even the launch is old news. This may be the end of the road for the exclusive album release deal, better grab the money now while it's still on the table.

Edit: Wouldn't it be awesome if this is what the band intended all along? Think about it, they get their money, the fans get their music, the tour sells out. The only loser is Wal-Mart & it's hard to feel sorry for them. It's like Robin Hood & His Merrie Men vs. the Sheriff of Bentonville.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Follow The Money (Or Lack There-Of)

In the first quarter of this year, container shippers were worrying about a shortage of containers. Global trade and the weak dollar had boosted shipping to levels beyond their capacity.

What a difference 6 months makes. Eivind Kolding, Chief Executive of shipping giant Maersk declared last week that his company will do whatever it takes to keep their share of the transportation markets. This is in the face of container rates that have dropped over 70% on some routes in the last 12 months.

Companies like Maersk, Cosco, Evergreen and their competitors are at the very front of gloabl trade. Unlike the silent movement of monies, they carry the actual tangible items that make up the international economy. I liken them to a thermometer under the tongue of the world's trade bodies, they don't tell you exactly what's going on but they can give a pretty good indication of the health therin.

A Couple Of Questions Mr. Senator

Sen. McCain, a couple of things you mentioned during last night's debate got me wondering:

1) You plan to buy up mortgages that are in default & refinance them at fixed rates based on the actual value of the home at this time? Doesn't that reward the property owners who bought way more than they could afford (once values go up again they can profit handily from their foibles) and penalize those who acted responsibly with loans within their means? And what is to stop a homeowner declaring themselves unable to pay their loan merely to take advantage of your amazing offer? How do you plan to vet every applicant for this program without it taking longer than some of the loans issued?

2) Drill Baby Drill! Your battle cry for domestic production with which you plan to give American's "relief at the pump." This all sounds well and good but wouldn't oil sourced in ANWAR, the continental shelf or anywhere else in the US still be subject to world oil prices? Or are you suggesting that say, oil on the spot is selling for $110 a barrel but US domestic oil would be held artificially low at $75 a barrel (or some other pre-determined amount)?

And I thought you were for less government? You sly old maverick you, getting harder to pin down every minute aren't you?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Saving The Labels - Part 57,423

Not only does EMI have a museum piece of a home page but they've also come up with an innovative new way to save the record industry through clothing. Teaming up with the UK grocery chain, Sainsburys, they will offer apparel bearing "the lyrics to some of the greatest songs ever written" according to the team.

I was swept up in the excitement of the announcement and went rtight to Cafe Press to create my own. I hope you like it. If the idea takes off I'm sure no Hong Kong apparel manufacturer will figure out that you could put lyrics on shirts all day long without infringing anything.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Bush Has Company

Ever the achiever, President Bush now joins President Nixon with the second lowest approval rating ever recorded for a president. His 24% ties that of Nixon's right after Watergate in 1975.

I am not a crook!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Hey It Could Be Worse, We Could Be In Iceland!

Iceland, long thought of as a country of stable, hard working Norse people has been on one long party. Flush with funds from deregulated banking, fishing quotas and large pension funds, the Icelandics went on a spending spree sweeping up stocks, primarily in Europe. The average family in the Island of 320,000 saw their income rise by nearly 50% and luxury goods raced off the shelves.

Now it's the morning after and the hangover includes huge losses as the world's banks crumble. Grocery chains are claiming they do not possess enough cash to buy staples. The currency is in free fall, inflation is at 12%, banks have been nationalized and people are lining up to move their money into the safest accounts possible. The government seems unable to cope with the crisis which deepens as foreign banks cut off any possibilities of financing.

Perhaps we don't have it so bad after all?

Iceland Melt-Down via The Guardian

Divine Provenence?

This blur of red is actually Ferrari driver & World Champion contender Felipe Massa pulling his car out of the pits in Singapore with the fuel hose still attached. This lead to a lengthy delay at the end of pit row and ultimately put Massa at 13th place, a big blow for a driver who was only 1 point off the championship lead going into the race.

Perhaps it's all karma though? Hamilton's unfair penalty at Spa after a completely legal maneuver, handed Massa the race victory. Fate has a way of evening up the odds in F1 just as in life.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

Sometimes you come across something that gets it completely right:

But it was a reckless choice. Palin has proved herself to be spectacularly unprepared for a national campaign and embarrassingly inarticulate and unreflective. She is held in protective custody by a campaign that trusts her less and less. A few conservatives have suggested she should be dropped from the ticket. - E.J. Dionne Jr. Washington Post

In this and his recent to & fro'ing on the bailout, maverick is looking increasingly more like reckless.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Bailout Plan

According to statistics on the White House's web site there are about 75M homeowners in the US. Instead of sending the $700B to the organizations that, as Ollie would say "got us into this mess" why don't we split the funds up amongst these US homeowners? The math comes to about $10K per home which in turn represents about 6 months of payment on the average mortgage. The money could be directly deposited into homeowner's mortgage accounts which in turn would save the banks and give the economy a kick start in re-energizing.

Now I don't have one of them fancy economics degree but this seems to be a win-win to me, unless you're a Wall Street type looking to get off scot-free that is.

Tainted Baby Milk & The Olympics

According to some news outlets the current Chinese baby food contamination may have been known about prior to the Olympic games. However, in order not to detract from the World's media and political leaders gushing over their new found Chinese friends, the problems were covered up by the Beijing government. I can only hope that we did not deliver them a public relations bonanza literally over the dead bodies of children.

Also from The Daily Telegraph.

Payback's A Bitch

Is it only me who sees the irony in us returning the favor to the Chinese? They sell us toxic toys, toothpaste and food additives and we sell them toxic investments. Seems like a fair trade to me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pondering The Questions

With Congress not exactly falling all over themselves with the Fed's plan to save the US economy I have some questions.

1) Let's just say we don't bail out Wall Street, what is the likely scenario beyond the "it'll be really bad" line which only reminds me of an old Castlemaine beer commercial?
2) How does the proposed bailout stop the flow of mortgages going into foreclosure?
3) What about other financial commitments held by those in default? Presumably people who can't pay their mortgage will also default on their credit card, car, HELOC and other loans. Will we be bailing out GMAC and the like?
4) If companies receiving taxpayer's money return to profitability do we recoup the funds issued plus fair consideration for our risk?

These and many other questions we are left to ponder upon Grasshopper.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Palin, Yahoo & Anonymous

All over the internets is the story that VP candidate Sarah Palin's personal e-mail account at Yahoo was hacked by the lovable, anti-Scientology folks at "Anonymous." Why is this more than just an invasion of privacy? Because Ms. Palin used this unsecured account to conduct official Alaska business, thereby keeping the e-mail's contents off the legally required record keeping radar.

Originally posted on Wikileaks, which of course is down right now, the screen shots are starting to make their way around the web. I found mine here.

Now we can sit back and watch the illegal wire-tapping Republicans scream about privacy rights! What fun and japes eh?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Google Pipped To The Post

Chrome, the new & well received browser from Google is based on open source code and while the original creators are dragging their heels on Mac and Linux versions the guys at Wine have ported it to both systems. Obviously this is proof of concept stuff, but fully functioning nonetheless.

File Under: Couldn't Give A Crap

Just in: Zune owners will be able to access free WiFi (via Wayport, purveyor of the slowest hotel connections imaginable) at McDonalds' restaurants. Since the Zune doesn't have a web browser or e-mail client, the only thing you'll be able to do whilst getting burger grease on your player, is to download music. It's a match made in heaven I think.

Warning - Reprint

I ' m a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight…

If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."
Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, you’re a quintessential American story.

If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic “Muslim” (who, by the way, is a Christian). Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a “maverick”.

Graduate from Harvard Law School and you are unstable. Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you’re well grounded.

If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law Professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs Committees, you don’t have any real leadership experience. But if your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you’re qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive and next in line behind a man in his eighth decade of life.

If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian. If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and then left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a true Christian.

If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control and only teaching kindergartners how to avoid strangers who might be sexual predators, you are eroding the fabric of society. However, if, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's. If your husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until
age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA , your family is extremely admirable.

Save The Bigs Banks By Making Bigger Banks?

As the news from Wall Street deteriorates further, the recent agreement from Bank of America to purchase ailing Merrill Lynch seems to be just more of the same. Isn't creating giant financial firms through unregulated banking what got us into this mess in the first place?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 9/11

Today is the 7th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and attempt on Washington DC. Yet there are now children headed into 2nd grade classrooms who were not even born when it all happened.

My feelings are terribly mixed on the subject. Of course there is the indignation and sense of affront, the respect for the tremendous bravery of the mostly doomed rescuers and the sadness for the thousands of people who stood no chance in the buildings and in the air. Sometimes, as I schlep my bags and coffee aboard another early flight I think that about that day and the passengers just like myself, sleepy and a little grumpy, headed for the exit row, little suspecting what their day held for them.

However, there is another side to 9/11 that troubles me. The constant invoking of that day as an excuse to subvert and trample on the rights of law abiding citizens both at home and abroad. The egregious use of the attacks to trample on portions of the Constitution our forefathers fought so hard for. Their use as a partial justification for the war in Iraq. It seems barely a day goes by without some politician or official touting 9/11 as an explanation for some dubiously legal action.

Yet seven years later the almost mythical Osama bin Laden is still at large and the World Trade Center site is still a construction zone mired in politics, inter agency infighting and greed. A single "enemy combatant" has been tried in the US (and found guilty of lesser charges). Our forces are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan remains largely under Taliban and militia control. So called terrorist arrests in the US have turned into damp squibs and in the UK attempts to convict the liquid bombers have been frustrated. All we seem to have achieved is the creation of another huge government agency and the rightful suspicion of the civilized world around our use of off-shore prisons and interrogation methods.

In the seven years since the attacks, 9/11 our spirit of shared suffering has become a cause célèbre to be manipulated as needed to fit the political aspirations of the day. Perhaps that's the biggest and final tragedy?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chili Cheese Fries? Not Today, However...

Straight out of a movie this one. We were grabbing a bite to eat at Goff's Hamburgers in Highland Park. My friend decided that some chili cheese fries were in order but was told at the counter (by Rose, in no uncertain terms) that "we don't have that." "OK, how about a side order of chili, some fries and a side of grated cheese? Sure that'll be $4.50 please!"

Monty Python would have loved it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Java, E-mail, Webmail and Vulnurabilities

I can feel a slight twinge of sympathy for Newegg, they seem like a nice company and I've used them for purchases in the past. However, I think they're in for a bashing on the internets as this morning they sent out an e-mail flyer with a Java script that opened a dialog box requiring a non-existent user name and password. You could not cancel out of the box, rendering your entire e-mail acount useless. Compounding the problem is that using webmail via a browser caused the same actions. Since the webmail pages are Java based, disabling Java in the browser denies access to your acount!

I fixed the problem with some skullduggery which eventually required me to completely delete my e-mail acount from Mail, I am currently re-downloading 21,000 e-mail messages which is not what I wanted to do on a busy work morning.

Newegg may have done us all a favor though in showing that e-mail readers and webmail systems that do not allow the suspension of Java are incredibly vulnarable to this sort of flawed code. In this case the problem was merely incompetence, what if the intent had been malicious?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Best Of Craigslist - Scooby Doo Edition

Nice ad in the local Craigslist. "Meddling Kids Not Included!"

Republicans Need To Hire A Songwriter

Disclosure: The fact that I spent many of my idle teenage hours staring at this album cover no way influences the opinions expressed in this post.

Joining John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne and Boston are the Heart sisters who, like their fellow musicians are objecting to the use of one of their songs, in this case "Barracuda," to promote Palin at the RNC.

From an e-mail sent to Entertainment Weekly by Ann & Nancy Wilson -

"Sarah Palin's views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song 'Barracuda' no longer be used to promote her image...[It] was written in the late '70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women...There's irony in Republican strategists' choice to make use of it there."

Looks like the Republicans are running out of classic rockers to promote their candidates. Might I recommend Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" as a suitable alternative?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Food Fight!

I'm not sure which is stranger, a food fight at a Donna Summer concert in Chicago OR the the fact that it was a sell out?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Fox News Makes Racist Remarks About Kettle

Fox News, America's Election HQ and ever the bastion of fair and unbiased reporting has accused gossip rag US Weekly of "blasting" VP nominee Sarah Palin. At issue is a cover and story that is markedly unfriendly to the Alaska Governor. Apparently, by contrast, previous issues have devoted much ink to the happy Obama family of whom, the publisher is a big supporter.

I'm not a reader of US Weekly, however I am so terribly appreciative of Fox's one network crusade to keep election media reporting fair and balanced.

High Speed Longboarding

Rumored to be a Canadian, the video features a fearless longboarder hitting speeds of 100KM/H (62 mph) on the A8 autobahn (map) between Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. He better keep going as apparently the German police would like a word with him about the stunt.

I'm partial to longboards myself (I have a Surf One) but even though we share the same wheel setup I'm not planning to hit my local freeway anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

From Rock God to RIAA Tool

"I hope he rots in jail," said Slash, the former Guns N' Roses lead guitarist. "It's going to affect the sales of the record, and it's not fair."

So says the former guitar player for Guns & Roses in the LA Times. He's referring to music industry blogger Kevin Cogill (a self-confessed GnR fan) who posted 9 yet-to-be-released tracks from GnR's long awaited new album on his blog. For his efforts Cogill received a visit by the FBI, was arrested and is currently out on a $10,000 bond. Suffice to say, his defence against the music industry heavyweights will be a public defender.

ADA Craig Missakian, prosecuting the case claims that Cogill's actions caused "significant damage." If by that he means the world discovered that the new GnR album sucks than I guess he's right about one thing. As for Slash (real name Michael McKagan), yeah, that's the spirit of rock n' roll, big bad rock star that you are. Why fight the man when you can work for him?

Browser Wars - New Forces Arrive

Hot on the heels of Microsoft's announcement of IE-8 comes a new entrant into the increasingly crowded browser space. Yesterday Google announced that it's browser project Chrome will be available for download sometime today. Google are claiming via an online comic book that this is not your father's software but a complete re-think of the way a browser should work and interact with the web and the user. They make a compelling case too.

A Bono style leak of some screen shots appeared yesterday and were subsequently removed. Currently (9am PDT) the Chrome download page takes you only to Google's search page.

Update: Press conference at 11am PDT, CNET will be live blogging.
Update: Windows version for download today at 12:00pm PDT

Strange Days Indeed

Palin seems to be an odd choice for VP for a candidate who is running on a platform of experience. The pairing seems a little like a Vegas wedding, the 2 having met only twice before and smacks of a desperate attempt to lock in the dissatisfied Clintonites. The Republicans are talking about her integrity and that she and McCain are like soul mates, or could it be that no one else (chris, Jindal, Romney) actually wanted the job?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Phil Hill R.I.P.

Lat night the USA's only Formula One World Champion Phil Hill died from complications associated with Parkinson's Disease. Hill dated from an era where so many of his co-drivers perished practicing their sport that his 81 years seems remarkable.

A very complex character, Hill seized the F1 title in late 1961 behind the wheel of his Ferrari. Tragically, the same race at Monza killed his team mate and fourteen spectators, a dark cloud always hung over his achievement. Hill went on to win 3 times at Le Mans before retiring to his native California.

The drivers of today stand upon the shoulders of great men like Phil who literally risked everything in their pursuit of speed. Next week's F1 round will be the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa, coincidentally a race Hill also won in 1961.

Phil Hill at Formula