Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Last Mystery: The Standel 25L15

One of the last great mysteries of the musical world can be posed as a question: "What's inside the Standel 25L15?". 

It's also a question that may soon be answered, although if Bob Crooks, the creator of the 25L15 was anything like Leo Fender, there were a lot of changes made along the road without a whole lot of documentation.

Here's what we know about it:

The 25L15 guitar amplifier was developed and built by Bob Crooks in the early 1950s. It's unusual in that it used 807 output tubes instead of the more commonly available 6L6 variants. As was common in those days, it was probably seen as good practice to put the power supply in the basement and the preamplifier stages upstairs. This arrangement could certainly cut down on crosstalk between the power supply and the preamplifier.

Crooks also used a JBL D-130 speaker, and it was probably the best choice for high volume, distortion free reproduction that could be had in those days.

Probably the mojo's in the preamp and tone circuitry and that's been the subject of much speculation. I've seen at least two schematics that are alleged to be 25L15 clones, but one of them is, according to Ted Weber the Hoosier Electronics Wizard, "not even close." Ted is contemplating releasing what he calls the Pennebaker 25, and if he does, then the cat will be well and truly out of the bag because he is a fellow whose veracity is unquestioned. 

A fellow named Bill McKenna has also produced a schematic on DIY audio that you can obtain and read with jschem, a freeware utility.

Much of the speculation centers around the circuitry and its relationship to the Williamson circuit that was popular in the old days of high fidelity.  That may well be so, although I cannot vouch for it and nobody who hasn't seen an original 25L15 circuit laid bare on the autopsy table or has an original schematic can.

We also know that production of the 25L15 by Crooks was very limited. There were maybe 100 or so built and they command astronomical prices on the rare occasions when an authentic one appears on the market. According to the list maintained by the good folks who are reissuing the 25L15, most of the originals are unaccounted for.  

There are a number of people around who say they've reverse engineered the original 25L15 (as the people in California allege) or that they've reproduced it in some way, but they're bound to silence by a dark and bloody oath. 

One thing's for sure. There're some rumblings that may well let this cat out of the bag. Then, and only then will we see where the mojo is hidden.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Oxford Town, Oxford Town

I first heard of Oxford, Mississippi with this little tune by an itinerant folksinger named Bob Dylan:

Oxford Town, Oxford Town
Ev'rybody's got their heads bowed down
The sun don't shine above the ground
Ain't a-goin' down to Oxford Town

He went down to Oxford Town
Guns and clubs followed him down
All because his face was brown
Better get away from Oxford Town

Oxford town was the site tonight of a presidential debate, the like of which has not been seen in this country.  It is a big step up for that fair city to go from what it was to what happened there today.

For people watching, James Meredith said this "They will see a new Ole Miss. The shadows of 1962 will not be here."  

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mortgage Meltdown Revisited

Just as a little perspective on the subject, the odor of decomposition in the housing market was in the air nearly two years ago, perhaps more and there was plenty of past history for anyone to read about, particularly if you had spent any time living in southern California in the eighties and nineties-as I did. Ample time for anyone with a lick of sense to 'know when to fold 'em" as the tune goes. 

In the spring of 1929 Bernard Baruch was on his way to his office and as usual had his shoes shined. He received a hot stock tip from the shoeshine boy. He thought about what it meant to receive the next great tip from a shoeshine boy and quietly proceeded to liquidate his holdings. I'm quite sure the smart money did exactly that.

But the job description of the average citizen of "flip this house" nation does not include watching the instrument panel carefully for signs of overheating. A lot of people who probably thought they were going to cash out big time and live without working got clobbered and are still getting hammered-they're the ones who have had to give up the McMansion for a two bedroom apartment in a seedy part of town along with the section 8 people. 

Ultimately, the entire edifice, from sea to shining sea, was predicated on a very simple bedrock assumption, that property values would continue to increase 8 or 10 per cent or more a year, forever and ever, world without end, Amen. In the end it was a classic bubble and unsustainable. People took on mortgages they never could have supported based on that assumption. Mortgage brokers wrote unverified mortgages and flogged them to the banks who were ready buyers, again based on that assumption. The banks homogenized, chopped, flaked and formed such loans into mortgage backed securities and they found willing buyers the world over, again based on that original flawed assumption of perpetual increase which turned out to be like perpetual motion machines-it was false.

If the past is prologue, there were parallels in the housing market in Southern California in the late seventies and early eighties, the era of what was euphemistically called "creative financing" and "balloon payments" in five years. The idea was, you get in, you build enough paper equity to refinance to a conventional loan in five years and we're all happy people. At one and the same time house flipping and price jacking went on a massive jag.

My buddy Lenny who lives in Santa Monica informs me there were people hosting block parties for the first $2 million sale on the block a couple years ago. One of my friends in the eighties lived in an apartment building that changed hands twelve times in one year. He ended up scraping up enough money for a down payment and proceeded to plow up the back yard and plant a big garden because he actually needed the food for his blended family.  

There were people on late night infomercials back then saying "Get all the credit cards you can get. Take the maximum cash advance on all of them. Put a down payment on a house. Flip it and cash out before the bills come in next month." And people were doing it, too. Some made money with this gambit but by the time it becomes common knowledge the smart money has, of course, moved on.  

About that time (1980) me and the Dragon Lady went out to Corona to look at some new houses in a development. The back yard could house two lawn chairs and a grille, and you could literally stand in between two houses and put your hands on the walls of both houses. They were about $80k at the time and we couldn't swing it so we stayed renting in Long Beach and avoided the long commute too. In 1992 when I was in the process of getting laid off from Douglas and the Southern California residential housing market was in a downturn, I met a guy trying to lose one of those same places and it took him two years to sell it at a loss. He hadn't owned it more than 3-4 years.  

There's also a glaring parallel in the farm crisis of the late seventies and early eighties here in the midwest. 

A speculative bubble in farmland prices collapsed and a lot of people went into foreclosure. Something else happened that I'll talk about in a minute.  

Now....many of today's toxic loans now look as if they'll never make the kind of money they were supposed to are sitting out there on the books of the people who bought them, and they're looking for ways to get rid of them. A lot of people who acquired title to the homes that underpinned the edifice either can't make the payments or never intended to and walked away. There was also fraud on a massive scale because *remember*? no verification of income was in place, because it didn't matter, you see? So the people who have those loans and *securities* on their books are looking for a way to dump them, and they've identified the taxpayer as the only remaining big pot of money that'll let them shed the securities and loans.

A couple of good things and some bad things have happened along the way as byproducts of the meltdown. Home prices are rationalizing themselves, because ultimately a mortgage loan is only as good as the ability of the person making the payments to earn money. That gap is narrowing fast, because there's excess inventory, and it's become a buyers market like no other in recent memory-if you've got front money and a good credit rating. Buyers are being carefully vetted-as they should have been all along. Down payments are required. Dodgy mortgage brokers are being purged from the system, because they're having a lot of trouble flogging loans on suddenly wary banks. The banks, institutions, and pension funds that have a stake in the dodgy loan backed securities are losing a lot of dough-that ultimately gets made up from the holdings of small timers like us. Business credit is a lot harder to get because there's less to go around because of the millstone of toxic loans hanging off the necks of the lending community. 

The insurance companies like AIG are losing a bundle because of their direct investments in the same toxic loans, or because they wrote credit default swaps (insurance policies) on loans that went tits up.  

Ultimately, as someone once observed, "Don't worry about the blame. There's plenty enough to go around."  

In the case of the farm crisis in Iowa we determined that it was in the best interest of bankers and farmers to sort out the loans that could cash flow and that could not, and reorganize them that way. Mandatory mediation prior to foreclosure on a farm operation helped a lot of people out and got the banks more money than foreclosures and short sales would have. There's no reason to think that this could not work today to salvage a lot of home mortgages where the people are willing. Because remember, ultimately people can and do walk away from loans they can't pay-it's called survival. Nobody needs more foreclosures.  

For the same reason, the courts ought to be able to cramdown loan rates to affordable levels if the homeowners are willing and able to make the payments and share the increase with the lender when they sell. A loan that pays is far better than one that doesn't. I think that we will probably see this, or some mechanism to restructure loans for people willing and able to pay. 

In addition there should be vigorous prosecution of mortgage fraud on every level with certain prison sentences.  

As far as the dodgy securities and loans that the banks want to flog on the taxpayers, well, we're going to have to do something about it to free up the flow of capital and satisfy our creditors that we're serious people, but I do not think that "something" requires giving the SecTreas a blank check and the ability to operate unreviewably.  

If ordinary citizens are going to be stuck with the bill, we ought to be able to minimize the cost and share in any profit that accrues and we ought to call senators and congressmen to account who do not act in our interest.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Still More From The News

Fresh from his duet with Tom Jones, Bono, the frontman for U-2 is reportedly going to meet with Sarah Palin and other world leaders where she's going to get the intro. 

It's reported that the duet was a song called Sugar Daddy.

That's food for thought for the paranoid.

Lemme see, where was I....oh yes.

I wonder what they'll talk about. 

The Straight Dope continued

US News and World Reports tells us this day that John McCain's campaign manager-that's right folks, the manager, he's the guy who runs the show, sets the strategy, steers the Hummer H3 over the bodies of naysayers and whiners...yes, that campaign manager isa fella named Rick Davis.

Rick Davis was paid better than $30,000 a month for five years  as el presidente of an advocacy group set up by Freddie and Fannie do make sure thay didn't get bogged down in too much regulatin' thar. 

McCain has recently been critical of Freddie and Fannie and the lobbying effort that got government off their backs so they could do best what they knew how to do.

Which, as we now see, was sucking up mortgages where the originator and the borrower and the lender all knew that the borrower did not have a chance in hell of repayment.

Glass houses, anyone?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More News From The Straight Dope Express

We're reliably informed by a gentleman of impeccable credentials who watched 60 Minutes that th' gennelmun from Arizona says that Andrew Cuomo would be a nice pick for SEC Commissioner even though he's a Democrat. 

If you're discussing this sort of bipartisanship with the average Republican it's code. What it really means is that his family is a bunch of baby murdering queers who are itchin' to get married to each other and perpetuate the reign of Jews and Freemasonry but he may have some uses, to wit, hoodwinking the rest of his odious tribe.

In other news he also allowed  as how he'd get politics out of the White House by moving the political office into a rented trailer somewhere on the White House grounds. But the coil cords on all the telephones will stay as is, and a high speed escalator will be installed, and someone, most likely the veep will take a stencil and paint some of those yellow footprints on the sidewalk so nobody gets lost, you see.

images courtesy Disney, this is all non profit.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

From The Phenomenal Waste Of Money Department

Well, there's a lot of money being wasted this week on bad loans and dodgy hedge fund conspirators, but I was referring to the Large Hadron  Collider that just fired up to the accompaniment of much Eurotrumpeting as the largest machine ever built. 

It seems that the Collider, being operated by the European Center for Nuclear Research, is, well, broken and not expected to recover for a while. 

It's also noted that the CERN lab shuts down to save power during the winter, but it sprung a helium leak and after everyone stopped talking in funny voices they realized that it really was broken. That followed on the heels of the failure of a 30 ton transformer and a superconducting magnet failed.

The CERNmobile cost $8 billion US and it took fourteen years to build. It's broken but it follows in a grand tradition of European schlong envy.

Despite the setbacks the inauguration party is set for October 21.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This Week's Plastic Truth Award: The Mavericks

This one goes to John McCain. Here's what he said recently in reference to the Fannie/Freddie meltdown. This is a quote, folks.

 "Sen. Obama did nothing, and actually profited from this system of abuse and scandal. While Fannie and Freddie were working to keep Congress away from their house of cards, Sen. Obama was taking their money. He got more, in fact, than any other member of Congress, except for the Democratic chairmen of the committee that oversees them…Using money and influence, they prevented reforms that would have curbed their power and limited their ability to damage our economy. And now, as ever, the American taxpayers are left to pay the price for Washington’s failure."

Here's the G2 on who works for the self described Mavericks.

Rick Davis, Campaign Manager, led the Homeownership Alliance that fought for Fannie, Freddie and others.
Charlie Black, a top adviser, earned huge sums lobbying Fannie and Freddie.
Fred Malek, a national finance co-chair, is a former Freddie board member.

McCain Fannie lobbyists:
Wayne Berman – National Finance Co-Chairman
Kirk Blalock - fundraiser 
Kirsten Chadwick – fundraiser
Arthur Culvahouse – Headed the veep hunt
John Green – Congressional liaison 
Richard Hohlt – fundraiser 
Aleix Jarvis – fundraiser 
Mike Kennedy – fundraiser 
Alison McSlarrow – Women for McCain Steering committee
Aquiles Suarez – Economic adviser 

McCain Freddie lobbyists: 
Wayne Berman – 
a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lobbyist who is a McCain national finance co-chair.  

Carlos Bonilla – economic adviser 

Melissa Edwards – fundraiser 
Juleanna Glover Weiss – fundraiser 
John Green – Congressional liaison 
Susan Molinari – Women for McCain Steering committee
Don Sundquist – Tennessee State co-chair 

Dan Crippen — a policy adviser and a finance lobbyist.

David Crane — a policy adviser and finance lobbyist

Janet Grissom — a steering committee member and a finance lobbyist.

Vicki Hart — a steering committee member and finance lobbyist.

James Hyland — a fundraiser; steering committee member and finance lobbyist.

Arthur Culvahouse — a Fannie Mae lobbyist who headed McCain’s veep search.

John Green — a Congressional liaison and lobbyist.

Susan Molinari — a steering committee member and Freddie Mac lobbyist.

Don Sundquist — Tennessee co-chair and Freddie Mac lobbyist.

Alison McSlarrow — a steering committee member and Fannie Mae lobbyist.

Aquiles Suarez – an economic adviser and Fannie Mae lobbyist

The following are McCain fund-raisers and financial lobbyists for ailing financial firms: Melissa Edwards, Juleanna Glover Weiss, Richard Hohlt, Aleix Jarvis, Mike Kennedy, Kirk Blalock, Kirsten Chadwick, .Peter Madigan, Steve Phillips, Judy Black, Kirsten Chadwick

And last but not least, there's Phil "Americans are a bunch of whiners" Gramm, economic policy adviser who wrote the Financial Modernization Act of 1999 that many blame for opening the floodgates. Also wrote the Enron loophole in 2001.

The Obama campaign does have some people connected with this group, and in the interests of full disclosure (which is more than the Maverick Party seems to be capable of), here they are:

Robert Rubin — The former Clinton administration Treasury Secretary who advised Bill Clinton to sign Gramm’s legislation.

William Daley — the former Commerce Secretary and an Obama adviser and lobbied for Fannie Mae

Jim Johnson — was a veep search adviser and fundraiser until quitting over loans he got from Fannie Mae, which he ran before the firm dipped so deeply into subprime territory.

Penny Pritzker — Obama’s national finance chair, her familiy co-owned Superior Bank FSB, which went belly up in 2001, and runs credit reporting giant TransUnion.

Brandon Hurlbut — a liaison in New Hampshire, lobbied for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.

Broderick Johnson — an informal adviser and high-powered lobbyist for a number of finance firms.

Obama also has fund-raisers who lobby or are leaders at big finance firms. The Obama campaign says these people have no input on policy. They include: Timothy Broas, who lobbied for AIG’s loansfast.com; Ted Janulis, John Rhea, and Nadja Fidelia, of Lehman Brothers, Eric Schwarz, Todd Williams and David Heller of Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup’s Michael Froman and J. Michael Schell.

My apologies to the NY Daily News and Mike McAuliff for grabbing a buncha stuff, but this shit is BIG.

Read the Daily News, people. They'll set you straight.

Which Rapids Is Dat?

It seems that Governor Palin arrived in Cedar Rapids and told the crowd who was, of course, hanging on her every word, that it was good to be in Grand Rapids.

Image courtesy of Disney, this is definitely not for profit.

They End Up Devouring Their Young, Don't They?

We're informed today that the only American victim in the recent suicide bombing of the embassy in Yemen was Susan El-Baneh, an American 18 year old who'd gone there to be married to a Yemeni fellow.

The newlyweds were wiped off the face of the earth by al Qaeda operatives.

There's some familial connection to Jaber El-Baneh, who currently occupies a slot in a rather exclusive club but he was not available for comment.

Her brother, Ahmed, said this:

"They say they do this for a cause, but there is no cause," he said. "A cause is when you sit down and talk, not when you kill millions and millions of people, now including my sister among them. What is the cause for that?"

To that we sadly say "Amen". 

Photo credit WKBW

Late Night In the Straight Talk Express

Everyone that says Sen. John McCain is firm on the issues listen up.

McCain was in Michigan this day and after an appearance at a General Motors plant laid on the sympathy for the poor downtrodden auto workers of the state. He's now in favor of offshore drilling as a means of improving the market for truck sales, and he's in favor of a $25 billion line of credit for the automakers.

This is the same fellow who said a month ago at a visit to the General Motors Tech Center in Warren that he wasn't going to be in favor of any loans to the auto industry.  You remember that, don't you? Or are you a nation of whiners like Phil Gramm thinks?

I don't know about you but even if I gotta live in a dumpster I'm glad that none of those homos are going to get married when John and Clarabelle are running the show.

"Honey, they're on the phone again." "Oh, OK....tell them 100 more years of war or something like that. That oughtta get their minds off Michigan for a while."

Foto pix credit Detroit Free Press, bes' li'l ole scandal sheet in the Motor City, doncha see?

Guess Who Doesn't Understand Information Security But Wants A Clearance Anyway?

That's right folks.

Sarah Palin's been using a yahoo account for personal and governmental commo and someone hacked her account.

It's characterized by one security boffin as an "incredibly dangerous" practice.

For Chrissakes, people.  Give me a break.

Is this who you want with her thumb on the button?

Glenn Greenwald over at Salon has a lot to say about the outrage and posturing over this incident by the authoritarian Right.

Image of Clarabelle courtesy of Disney, this here's a non profit show.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

AIG On The Ropes, Gets Pulled Back From The Edge

I was doing a little reading on this subject, yr lordship, and here's what I found.

Let's say that Shanahan the mechanic and Gallagher the carter have themselves what you would call a little side bet. Shanahan agrees to give Gallagher a bit of his paycheck iviry Friday over t' Dooley's saloon fer the benefit of Gallagher's poor impoverished relatives in the ould sod, the sort that are known as investors, who have advanced their pennies to Gallagher for divers purposes.

While this is going on, Gallagher and Shanahan are watching the representations of McFadden the man from the brewery, O'Reilly the meter reader from th' gas works, and Wong Sun from th' laundry what does the linens for Dooley's foine establishment.

If it appears that Dooley has stopped paying his bills, Gallagher delivers the keys to his car and his house to Shanahan in fee simple absolute to the eternal discouragement of his wife and young 'uns.

And that, yr honor, is the story of AIG and credit default swaps and why they're in the news these days.

Oh, the fellers over at Lehman's Dry Goods? A lad named Orwell stopped by for a Guiness and he remarked as how all animals were equal only some are more equal than others, which means that maybe Gallagher and Shanahan knew more than Dooley gave 'em credit for.

With apologies to Finley Peter Dunne.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pollyanna Speaks On Wall Street Crisis

Well, golly gee and gawrsh, guys and gals! Governor Palin weighed in on the crisis that's got Wall Street in a tizzy today, and here's what she said more or less.

The country's economic problems need some "shakin' up and fixin.' " 

She blames the GOP's favorite whipping boy for all this, saying "Our regulatory system is outdated and needs a complete overhaul. Washington has ignored this. Washington has been asleep at the switch and ineffective and management on Wall Street has not run these institutions responsibly and has put companies and markets at risk....we are going to reform the way Wall Street does business..."

Is it just me, or is this really the GOP speaking? I mean, who's been in office for the last 8 years and who built a political edifice on the maxims of St. Ronald Reagan, he of 'government is the problem not the solution' and all that? 

Let's review. 

If this is the real deal, then McCain and Palin are running as independents because they're biting the hand that feeds. Does anyone here believe that? How are they going to do this? With more tax cuts?

I mean, when you think about it it's stunning. They must think we're really stupid.

Image credit to the fine folks at Disney. This is definitely non profit.

News You Can Use This Week

It's a masterpiece of convergence, really, when you consider that a lot of people on Wall Street and elsewhere may be out on their asses before the week is over.

Ars Technica informs us that at least 22 percent of employers routinely vet candidates for employment through so called "social networking" websites such as facebook and myspace with the usual predictable results, to wit: people are incapable of keeping their mouths shut.
  • 41 per cent disclosed drug use
  • 40 per cent posted "provocative" photos and information
  • 29 per cent had poor communication skills
  • 28 per cent said bad things about previous employers
  • 27 per cent were liars
  • 22 per cent made offensive statements about race, gender, religion and so on
  • 21 per cent were linked to criminal behavior
  • 19 per cent disclosed confidential employer information.

Helter Skelter, 21st Century Style

We heard last night that Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street investment banker was getting ready to file for bankruptcy as soon as the ink was dry on the petition.  This was so because Uncle's wallet was not going to guarantee the purchase to any potential buyers.

To add to that, Merrill Lynch, the investment house,  is no longer bullish on America because Merrill Lynch for all intents and purposes has ceased to exist as a standalone entity. Henceforth, Merrill Lynch will be bullish on America if, and only if, the Bank of America allows it to be.

As if to demonstrate that bad stuff happens in triplicate, we also heard that AIG, the insurance company, has gone hat in hand to the G  looking for a handout and its future is in doubt if it does not get its hands on a bundle of Uncle's cash to avert a looming downgrade of its credit rating. 

The parlous state of AIG and the others are tied to-what else-shitty investment plays tied to the subprime mortgage market. 

In AIG's case the smoking gun is losses on credit default swaps that AIG bought to protect fixed income investors.

According to the usually reliable source a credit default swap is the following:
"A credit default swap (CDS) is a credit derivative contract between two counterparties, whereby the "buyer" or "fixed rate payer" pays periodic payments to the "seller" or "floating rate payer" in exchange for the right to a payoff if there is a default[1] or "credit event" in respect of a third party or "reference entity".

If a credit event occurs, the typical contract either settles by delivery by the buyer to the seller of a (usually defaulted) debt obligation of the reference entity against a payment by the seller of the par value ("physical settlement") or the seller pays the buyer the difference between the par value and the market price of a specified debt obligation, typically determined in an auction ("cash settlement")."

What that sounds like to me is Joe and Willie agree that Joe will give Willie a piece of his paycheck every week, with the understanding that if O'Malley the bartender stops paying his bills Willie delivers the keys to his house and his car to Joe.

And these people get how much in bonuses and golden parachutes for this kind of advice?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tanker Competition Shelved-Days Of Our Lives Upstaged

The long running saga of the future air tanker competition and who's going to sell the airplanes to the guv'mint just got a lot more interesting. 

Let's review. 

It's been evident for a long time that the G was in need of a new flying gas station, as the current fleet of KC135s are mighty long in the tooth. 

The KC135 is a modified Boeing 707, which was itself a replacement for the previous iteration, the KC97.The last KC135 was built in the middle sixties, and although they are carefull maintained and upgraded they are about through with their useful lives.

The Air Force agreed to lease tankers from Boeing that were to be based on the B767, but that deal came unglued because some people at Boeing ended up going to prison over it.

A new competition was started and ultimately the program was awarded to Northrop Grumman, fielding an entry based on a modified Airbus A330, which, it is alleged, would be "assembled" in Alabama. We here at the Dougloid Papers have always maintained that this "assembly" would consist of applying decals and checking the oil, but we're cynics. It's a village that Potemkin himself would have approved of.

Boeing seemed to have lost with its KC767, but after an appeal, the DOD reversed itself and reopened the competition. Boeing asked for more time to work up a new even better presentation, and threatened to abandon the project entirely if they didn't get their way.  

However, considered against the potential $100 billion contract value, that seems a little contrived.

And that brings us to today, in which it was announced by the DOD that the competition would be shelved and a new, clean sheet of paper will be unveiled when the next administration takes office.

Of course, the DOD did buy the KC10, and had McDonnell Douglas survived it's quite possible that the new procurement would be for a raft of KC11s and I'd still have a job and not be writing this when I should be working.

Here's my pick, based on nothing more than a scientific wild assed guess.

KC777, anyone? It's been talked about before.

He's Baaaaack!

We're reliably informed by a correspondent that Lance Armstrong, arguable the best that ever climbed on a bicycle, is coming out of retirement and will race in the Tour in 2009. It is rumored that he will ride for Astana and his old boss Johan Bruyneel although that is as yet unclear.

What makes this story interesting is that Floyd Landis' suspension for doping is up in 2009 and he may well ride in the Tour if he gets a berth with a team that gets invited. 

Floyd, the enfant terrible of cycling, has really got something to prove here. I'd like to see him kick ass and take names, artificial hip and all. 

Either way, the 2009 Tour just got a whole lot more interesting. 

It is the biggest road trip, soap opera and grand spectacle in the world -in July, anyway- and only Amaury Sport Organisation could pull it off. Every year the naysayers cavil against it as a viper's next of deceivers and scoundrels, but the Tour goes from strength to strength, if the folks along the roadside with their picnic hampers and umbrellas are any index.

Lemme see, where's my calendar? 

Crime Scene Photos

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Out in the yard with your wife and children
Working on some stage in LA
Did you stand there in shock at the site of
That black smoke rising against that blue sky
Did you shout out in anger
In fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry

Did you weep for the children
Who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below

Did you burst out in pride
For the red white and blue
The heroes who died just doing what they do
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself to what really matters

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Teaching a class full of innocent children
Driving down some cold interstate
Did you feel guilty cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone
Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her
Did you dust off that bible at home
Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Speak with some stranger on the street
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watching
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some stranger
Stand in line and give your own blood
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day

Verse by Alan Jackson.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We Screwed It Up For 8 Years, Let Us Fix It?

Recently we've been hearing a lot of the lady over on the left. That's right folks, Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska and one time mayor of beautiful downtown Wasilla, Alaska and VP candidate in the McCain campaign.

Parenthetically, we here in Iowa like small towns. We have plenty of 'em and we have plenty of experience with politicians who come from small towns, and the general rule is that what you learn as a small town mayor is place centric-it doesn't travel well. 

She's got a way with words and a pleasing look about her, and a way of treating truth like silly putty, even when it's been repeatedly pointed out that, as in the case of the airplane sold on eBay for a profit that really was not, that she's....ahem...telling a whopper.

Why is this woman important? Because a vote for McCain is a vote for Palin because John McCain is an old geezer. Because of his age and his health he's much more likely to die in office than a younger fellow.

As Matthew Dowd said on NPR this morning (more or less) the message McCain is delivering in co-opting the notion of change is "We had it for 8 years and we screwed it up. Give us 8 more years to fix it."

However, there is hope, and I do not mean Hope, Arkansas.

Ultimately Mrs. Palin will have to rise and fall on where she stands on the issues of the day.   

And that will settle the matter.  

Friday, September 05, 2008

Chrome Plated

The fine folks at google-who are also the people who provide blogger to lumpen proles like me-have recently released a beta version of Chrome, their entry into the internet browser field.

I've had it on this box for two days now, and for the most part you could stick a fork in Internet Explorer 6 because it's done.

There have been some minor quirks because some websites like eCollege are optimized for IE, and some features don't work as well as they soon will. In eCollege I couldn't do any editing and you can't copy and print off of some sites.

It's that fast and it's that good. Really. It changes everything.