Thursday, December 17, 2009
Buttenmandl and Krampusse traditionally accompany Santa Claus (St. Nick) on his visits to homes across central Europe. This I like. These guys really capture what Christmas means to me. Can you see these guys with Santa at the mall? Kids crying because they want to see santa but his helpers scare them? From now on, I think Buttenmandl and Krampusse should ALWAYS be seen with Santa.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Here is Jon Meacham writing an op piece for Newsweek, "Gallup is not asking about him in its prospective polling, and his daughter Liz's recent Fox News Sunday allusion to a presidential run provoked good-natured laughter, as though the suggestion were just a one-liner. Float the hypothetical in political conversation, and people roll their eyes dismissively.
But I think we should be taking the possibility of a Dick Cheney bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 more seriously, for a run would be good for the Republicans and good for the country. (The sound you just heard in the background was liberal readers spitting out their lattes.)
Why? Because Cheney is a man of conviction, has a record on which he can be judged, and whatever the result, there could be no ambiguity about the will of the people."
I disagree, Cheney is a man who SHOULD BE CONVICTED. Those thinking of a cheney run for President should read this article about Angolagate, guns for oil deal in which the french, the israelis, the russians, and the US were involved. The source is a very liberal paper, however, I think they have the cast of suspects correct. Dick Cheney and Halliburton and KBR are involved, as is Condi Rice (who served on board of Chevron, oil company, which also named a supertanker after Rice, since renamed). long and short of it, back stabbing the government of the Angolan leader (Reagan called him the George Washington of free Africa) and instead giving guns, money to his opponent, all in the name of oil contracts. thus, guns for oil. Also, blood diamonds are thrown in too. So we have guns, diamonds and oil contracts. cheney and Rice were involved, this is a major political scandal in France, no mention of it here in US (so much for free press, investigative journalism, Ha!). First, I believe Cheney is the source of the bs yellow cake Saddam was seeking in Africa, never happened, he set up Sec of State Powell to make a fool of himself in UN; second, cheney is figure in guns diamonds for oil scandal in Angola; third, cheney is source of leak in the Joe Wilson affair outing wilson's wife Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. All of these must have been impeachable offenses while cheney was VP, in two of the cases, outright treason.
Heres another piece on cheney from CorpWatch, calling cheney the benchmark for the "revolving door" of Washington DC:
Vice-president Dick Cheney has brought new meaning to the term "revolving door" says Bill Hartung, senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York. His easy transition from the army to private industry and then to the White House has earned him millions, Dallas-based Halliburton billions.
Cheney made a fortune in the oil industry when he took over as chief executive of Halliburton, the world's largest oil services company in 1995. In 1998 he took home $4.4 million in salary and benefits and in 1999 he was paid $1.92 million, according to the company's own financial reports. In May 2000 he cashed in 100,000 Halliburton shares to net another $5.1 million and then sold the rest of his shares in August 2000 for $18.5 million, adding up to a total of almost $30 million in just two years, a fortune for a man with no previous experience in running a company, let alone an oil multinational.
Well, Cheney comes with even better qualifications; he was Secretary of Defense during the Gulf War and worked in the Washington scene for 25 years before he took the job with Halliburton. He brought with him a trusty Rolodex and his former chief of staff, David Gribbin, whom he appointed as chief lobbyist. In the last two years the pair of them notched up $1.5 billion dollars in federal loans and insurance subsidies compared to the paltry $100 million that the company received in the five years prior to Cheney's arrival.
The federal subsidies supported Halliburton's oil services contracts in Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh and Russia. In addition the company garnered $2.3 billion in U.S. government contracts in that time, or almost double the $1.2 billion it earned from the government in the five years before he arrived.
Most of the contracts have been with the U.S. Army for engineering work in a variety of hot spots, including Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo and Haiti. Not surprisingly all this work stems from a new scheme to privatize operations of the U.S. military that were drawn up by Halliburton itself under contract to Cheney in 1992.
Today the company is working on major contracts to build oil infrastructure in Brazil and Nigeria for companies like Chevron, Petrobras and Shell. And Cheney also oversaw the company's merger with Dresser Industries, one of the companies that helped Saddam Hussein rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure after the Gulf war despite the fact that Cheney was one of the architects of the economic sanctions against Iraq. Under his leadership, Halliburton used two foreign subsidiaries to do $23 million worth of business with Iraq, more than any other U.S. company.
Get that? Cheney wanted sanctions against Iraq while Sec of Defense, paid Halliburton to conduct a study of contracting out with the Army, then became CEO of Halliburton after leaving office, obtained $1.5 billion in contracts and loans for Halliburton , also negotiated contracts with Iraq to rebuild oil infrastructure after the gulf war, of which he was a key architect. Whats that expression? Heaven doesnt want him and hell's afraid he'll take over?
Cheney for President in 2012 would divide the country, he didnt get any pardon in advance upon leaving office, I dont understand why he isnt charged with something right now. Probably Obama is afraid of Cheney's friends, opening up a can of worms about US policy toward Angola, who knows how many democrats were in on these deals?
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I think she should sell it on ebay.....you can make your own burned celebrity toast here for the original virgin mary on grilled cheese, check out this site, it has everything anyone could imagine about Mary and grilled cheese sandwiches. and yes, I know i am going to hell for posting this.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Almost every multiple choice test has question with one of the possible answers, "Stompin' Tom Connors." for the record, this is Stompin' Tom Connors, a popular Canadian folk singer. yes, he stomps, an old canadian tradition.
And Stompin' Tom Connors is NEVER the correct answer.
And Stompin' Tom Connors is NEVER the correct answer.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
I read this story, thought at first, how pathetic,stealing a 9 yr old's birthday gift card at Walmart. Then I looked where it happened: Bedford, PA. Why would they do this? Desperate? The poverty and near poverty rate (up to 200% over the poverty rate, the "working poor") is at least 1/3 of every rural county in pennsylvania, including my county, Butler County, which includes Slippery Rock Univ an institution that pays good professor salaries. That means Bedford must have more than 1/3 poor or working poor, I bet approaching 50%. What leads people to steal at a Walmart? Drugs - I dont know, stealing gift cards and shop lifting cant get you much drug money, unless you shoplift and then try to return purchases for cash. Stealing a girl's birthday gift card? No, I think poverty. Being dirt poor, having no hope, living in Bedford country, looking for a steady job, a full time job, with benefits, above minimum wage. Thats very hard. So these two women were humiliated for 4 1/2 hrs, instead of GOING TO PRISON. And the congressional bastards who take trips to Europe for "fact finding missions" and charge the american taxpayers arent also crooks. another estimate just released: 50% of all current children will be fed from food stamps at some time during their childhood. I think the Judge in this case is nuts: should have told the women to repay the child, apologize, and then get them set up for social services - do these women get food stamps? WIC coupons? housing vouchers? TANF payments? Are they disabled? so much is left out of this story. What happened to investigative journalism?
BEDFORD, Pa. -- A woman and her daughter are outside the Bedford County Courthouse holding signs saying they stole a gift card from a 9-year-old girl on her birthday.
Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins says in exchange for 56-year-old Evelyn Border and 35-year-old Tina Griekspoor, both of Bedford, agreeing to hold the signs, he'll ask for probation instead of jail when they plead guilty.
The signs read: "I stole from a 9-year-old girl on her birthday! Don't steal or this could happen to you!" The mother and daughter were to be outside the court for 4 1/2 hours, until 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Higgins says they swiped a gift card which the girl set on a shelf while a Wal-Mart employee helped her.
The girl's mother planned to drive by the courthouse to teach her daughter the importance of obeying the law.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Opponents of wind farm on Cape Cod include environmental groups, a native American tribe and the Kennedy family. Look, if you are going to be liberal and are concerned about global warming, then NIMBY is self defeating and down right phoney (Not In My Back Yard). I think wind farms are way cool, look great, and i am constantly reminded about how much energy they are producing that doesnt involve oil from the GD middle east or from coal. And its renewable. yes, wind farms kill birds, thats a major problem, so lets fix that. there must be a way to keep birds away from wind farms - on SRU campus, we keep pigeons away from ball park by broadcasting calling sounds of birds of prey (yes, it is spooky, hearing hawks and eagles screech and not seeing anything, but pigeons and ball parks don't mix).
Instead of drill baby drill, lets blow baby blow. Lets also have more solar farms, and start developing wave farms. Lets eliminate our reliance on middle east oil, and then work on eliminating reliance on all non renewable energy.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Following an absolutely remarkable preformance by Monsieur Thibaudet on piano, the packed audience in Heinz Hall gave him a standing ovation, he came out repeatedly, finally sat down to play an encore. As the orchestra sat and waited, along with the audience, Jean-Yves thought for a few seconds, then said, ah yes, Chopin's Waltz in D minor. What else? What could a pianist play for an encore after so many ovations than a Chopin piece. The moment was so incredible, In political film, I try to explain why Chopin is played throughout the movie The Pianist, about Chopin's music, the emotion, the beauty, the heartbreak it captures. What else could accompany a film by Roman Polanski about his memories of the holocaust as a young boy?
So yes, jean-yves had to play Chopin, and he was amazing.
The performance after intermission was Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, written while he was high on opium. What? yes. Carlos Santana dropped acid and then was told he had to go out and perform at Woodstock (oops, bad timing) and Berlioz got high on opium and wrote his first symphony. It was great, the sheer number of bass violins, violas, tympany, large drums, and tubas suggested a loud and full range piece. We werent disappointed. What i liked was the second Tuba player, he had to wait until the last movement, final part, to finally play. It was worth the wait, the Tubas were important, including his part. Great performance.
If you know me, you realize I am a big Joel and Ethan Coen film fan, or else you're obviously not a golfer, man. I absolutely had to see this film, tried to go thursday night but noooooo i had to do the Afghanistan program. The film was very cathartic. I understood what Larry Gopnick was going through, with all of the disasters and expectations thrown on him (at least I havent yet had to hold a Mishnah for my ex wife's dead lover) and the dreams that made him wake up screaming at night (I dont have those anymore). The humor was incredible, and the symbolism/metaphors were not all that subtle (Dr. Gopnick is a physics professor at one point explaining Heisenberg's uncertainty principle mathematically, as fast as possible, to an auditorium full of overwhelmed students, funny to rush through a presentation on uncertainty, then he says, "You probably will not understand this but you still need to know this for the mid term" - great metaphor ) (Gopnick is constantly trying to adjust the TV roof antenna for channel 4 so his son could watch F Troop, bad reception, life depends upon reception, all for a mindless or meaningless messages - F Troop as a metaphor for our meaningless existence) (the film starts with his wife complaining about his impotence, that Larry manages to get out of bed in the morning is itself amazing) and the Rabbi's who had no answer (except the last one who spoke to his son, from the Jefferson Airplane classic song: "When the truth is found, to be lies. And all the joy within you dies...what you gonna do then?"). But the ending was a shocker. Not funny. Really hard to be a human being on this planet. Funny funny film, until the end. nothing funny about that.
I think in many ways this is the Coen brothers best film. Profoundly spiritual (the old jewish dilemma, "why do the wicked prosper?") profoundly philosophical (our understanding of the world is dependent upon our perception) and dead-on existential. I really, really liked that ending.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Remember the Nixon Krushchev "kitchen debate?" Kruschchev said the example of an American kitchen was misleading, that Americans didnt have that many luxuries. Nixon disagreed (Krushchev was correct, there was vast poverty in the US then, TVA had just recently delivered power to Applalachia) anyway, there is a part that is left out, dont know how or why, it was "untranslatable" and Nixon said with pride, "My father owned a dry goods store, and sold many luxuries to his customers." and Krushchev said, (this is great), "All shop owners are theives." I also think Krushchev called him some kind of name, an SOB at one point. I still have to laugh at that, Krushchev, a committed Bolshevik, defender of Stalingrad, lost his first wife in the Ukraine famine, his entire adult life spent fighting for the workers dictatorship, essentially telling Nixon he was full of shit. I really liked Krushchev, but he blew it with the missles in cuba
Butya's Lounge is for sale ! I couldn't believe it when I drove by ! Here is my chance to have my piece of the American dream. If i could buy it outright i would. But I think financing it would mean really running it hard to make enough profit to pay the mortgage, and have anything left over as profit. then again, I could eat at the bar, live over the beer barn....wait, the beer barn must bring in lots of cash...but they must want alot for it. But this is a good investment, a classic pittsburgh bar, name recognition is fantastic, I mean "Butya's" is a name so good, even a Manhattan marketing company couldnt match it. And the business will never depreciate. Instead of money in the bank, put the money in the bar,run it for fun, if you make a profit, good, if not you're still operating a business that will preserve your capital. I mean, you might lose money in stocks, but buying Butya's is like buying gold bars.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Largest solar panel array in US, in florida, powers thousands of homes, gave work to hundreds of carpenters and electricians during housing slowdown. Solar energy produces electricity, produces jobs, and is of course renewable at least for the next billion years or so.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Great BBC video on Michelle Obama. What really got me however, was Dee Dee Meyers, Pres Clinton's former Press secretary. Dee Dee says during the primary, Michelle made speeches that made her look "angry." So there has been a strategy to soften her image, including her pictures, the magazines in which she is featured (Women's Day) and the events she hosts, vegetarian meals, gardening, child health and so forth. According to Dee Dee, this is a strategy to help her husband's approval ratings and so forth. Now i am as cynical as the next political scientist, but Dee Dee is off the scale. Afterall, she worked with the Clintons, two of the most self serving opportunistic people since....George H W Bush, and the W. Bush after that. My own opinion, is that Michele Obama sees her role as historic, as the first black first lady, born of working class black family, she goes to Harvard law, eventually is the wife of first black president. Her role is a model not only for American women and mothers, but for Black women and mothers. I dont doubt that Michelle has a staff who organizes and spins events and places stuff in magazines and decides which pictures to go with, but Dee Dee Meyers doesnt get what the Clintons didnt get, that Michelle and Barack are authentic people, they havent "invented" a personality for themselves nor are they acting out a role that has been written for them - the Obamas are cool, I mean, they redefine what cool means. While other politicians are reinventing themselves (Hillary as suddenly the hero of the blue collar crowd drinking a beer and a shot with factory workers in Pennsylvania, a state she still lost despite the drink she obviously was gagging on) the Obamas are authentic, just being who they are, as much as their political roles will allow.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Here's a good news story about jamie dimon, the ceo of JP MorganChase, who spoke at Duke Univ over their homecoming weekend, he was there to visit his daughters who attend Duke. In his speech, he discussed how he was told about buying Bear Stearns,turns out, he was in the Village eating dinner with his wife, cell phone went off, no reception, went outside, finally got the word, they had to raise $1 billion to buy it, plus Fed would cover $29 billion (potential future losses). that was the "bail out," a loan of up to $29 billion, turns out, they only needed $25 billion from Fed, and have ALREADY PAID IT BACK WITH INTEREST. This guy should be Treasury Sec at least, maybe next VP for Obama's 2nd term. he was humorous, intelligent, seemed like good dad, and was walking around at the football game like any dad. I like him. Good Wall Street guy. Coupled with the AIG save by the Fed, Jamie Dimon led the way to save our economy.
Other firms have filled the void, becoming even more prominent. One of them is JPMorgan Chase, whose chief executive, Jamie Dimon, has largely escaped the pitchforks aimed at his fellow Wall Street CEOs. Over the course of the financial crisis, JPMorgan Chase remained profitable, a pillar of relative stability in the midst of an earthquake. The bank absorbed the failed Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, while accepting $25 billion in bailout money that it paid back with interest once the government allowed it to. Through it all, Dimon consulted frequently with officials in Washington, and news reports have even depicted him as President Barack Obama's favorite banker. A new biography of Dimon, Last Man Standing by Duff McDonald, describes Dimon as a diligent and trustworthy executive who has risen above the swill of Wall Street.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Pamela's Diner has numerous locations in pittsburgh, including squirrel hill and the strip district. I didnt make the connection until i did a search - I guess the name Pamela isnt that common, its that she (or whoever runs it, "is there a pamela?") has multiple locations. I guess thats because the profit margin for breakfast diners is slim, esp since they stay closed the rest of the day. anyway, Pres. Obama ate ata Pamela's on 21st in the strip District during the PA primary, Hillary was chugging beer and shots with steel workers, while Obama was eating his waffles. I agree with Barack: waffles and better in the morning than beer and a shot, unless you are going to spend the day as Hillary Clinton. Anyway, he wanted more of Pamela's waffles during the G20 summit. Pamela's is near St. Stanislav's church (St. Stan's) and is near where i park my car when biking in the burgh on sundays - I figure leaving my car near St. Stan's might get me divine intervention so my car wont get stolen. anyway, its a small diner, and I wonder if it will be ruined since so many people now want to eat in it. The pancakes are the best, like blintz's. Of course, now Pamela's will be a national franchise chain, and then will come out with frozen Pamela's pancakes in you local retail store, Sam's Wholesale club will sell Pamela's pancakes by the case....
Obama asked the press, "Can't I just eat my waffle?" during the primary, when he was deluged with reporters at Pamela's. I guess, no, you can't, not if you are the next President and no longer have privacy. BTW, OBAMA'S 2/3RDS EATEN WAFFLE ENDED UP BEING SOLD ON EBAY ! That's as funny as the guy who saved Richard Nixon's hamburger from 1968 when he visited pittsburgh - the guy had it frozen in his refrigerator. He was thinking of autioning it. What can you get on EBAY for Obama's half eaten waffle? For Richard Nixon's half eaten hamburger? I bet that burger has venom on it left by Nixon, like a Gila Monster leaves venom behind on their kill.......
But I admire a man who likes his waffles in the morning. My favorite: chocolate chip waffles with real vermont maple syrup. Just enough carbs and sugar to get you going.
The strip district is a great place, I almost rented a loft there on 23rd st and Liberty, in the old Westinghouse Brake Factory. I could see living there, walking to Pamela's for my waffle every morning, eating Bicotti for a mid day snack -
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Here is a link to Afghan Star trailer, a movie about the Afghan version of American Idol (or british idol or wherever that horrible show originated). I have watched a few minutes of American Idol, and it is crap, the groups that appear are awful, I end up wanting to stab my hand with a steak knife to realize my own existence (from a Sartre novel, I am exaggerating...a little). anywho, this is a documentary about Afghan Star, and how the country enjoyed its freedom to watch something entertaining. Of course, the celebrity status the participants received was less than modest, and so incurred the wrath of Islamic fundamentalists. One of the women who appeared was sentenced to death, a Fatwa, from the Talliban. Another woman hid at her family's home in Herat, afraid to go outside. People watched on their satellite TV's, powered by generator (Honda, those Japanese make great generators) or car battery. On a side story, the story of how these batteries get rented is shown, very young boys are in charge of keeping the batteries charged and then wheeling them to renters. I guess you rent by the night or something. of course, the boys were filthy, out of a Dicken's poor house novel, and their hands were caked with....i dont know what, battery acid? Hey, but its a job, it was their rice bowl. anyway, the film shows the participants, and also the reaction of the audience, and everyday life in Afghanistan. Surprisingly, some of the scenes almost looked like life is normal - fairly good looking buildings, people dressed almost western, modern conveniences (like electricity, lights in the studio, makeup and so forth). so i guess the whole country isnt a recycling center surrounded by baked clay huts. I just find Afghanistan so depressing, its hard to discuss (see below for my lengthy rant about how f*cked up our policy has been to the Afghans for some many decades now). But, fascinating movie. Not as good as Nazi zombies getting chain sawed in Norway (below) but still entertaining. Watch for this film next semester in political film.
Here it the Link to the Independent film from Norway, Dead Snow, a movie that pits medical students on a ski trip (sex, booze, fun) with Nazi zombies.
Why is this political? Ah ha ! got you there. Norway revisits WWII, this time, they slice and dice those Nazi motherf**kers for keeps ! Yeah, Nazis go back to hell where yo come from, bitch ! We modern Norsemen, dont play that Nazi shit ! So this time Norway defeats the Nazis, who really seemed like Zombies when they invaded decades ago. Oddly enough, not a big hit in Norway. I dont get it. You would think that the government would make school children watch this....so if the Nazis ever invade again...you know what to do. believe it or not, this played in pittsburgh, AND I MISSED IT. YOU GOT IT, I MISSED THIS FILM. How you may ask? It played only 4 days, at night, every night i had to teach or do something on campus. Damned intellectual univ crap - made me miss the ultimate norwegian zombie movie. I found it on DVD 2, from england, but wont play on dvd player here. Damn it ! I will have to wait. Definitely a film for next semester's Political Film class.
Obviously, Roman Polanksi is not familiar with Hollywood American justice. The idea is you hire a team of lawyers for several million dollars, and they conclude that the original "sentence" (which was weird, he was evaluated in Calif prison after his court appearance) could be added to the days he has been in prison in Switzerland, plus whatever time it took to bring him back to LA for final sentencing. This guy has enough money to fix this, American style. The whole story is disgusting, starting with the 13 yr old's mother who thought it was OK for her daughter to be alone with Polanski for some "pictures." I mean, come on - Polanski "likes" the girl, she immediately gets in a movie and so forth. Thats how its done in hollywood, city of whores. I mean men and women whores, like Polanski, like the poor girl sent there by her mother, like everyone who knows the price that has to be paid for hollywood success. I mean does anyone know a hollywood star who isnt nuts, addicted, in jail or dead? BTW, I am a big fan of his movies, The Pianist, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Rosemary's baby, Knife in the Water, he is brilliant. But jaysus, a 13rd old? even by Hollywood standards thats sick (well, a little sick, this is hollywood i am referring to).
Director Roman Polanski is feeling depressed two weeks after his arrest in Switzerland to face U.S. extradition for a 1977 case involving the rape of a 13-year-old girl, his lawyer was quoted as saying on Sunday.
"I found him to be tired and depressed," Herve Temime told the Sonntag newspaper, one of two newspapers he talked to after visiting the Oscar-winning director in a Zurich prison.
Afghanistan is at the tip of the iceburg about what is wrong with the US, diplomatically, militarily, and economically. Ironic that a country with so little to contribute to the US economy (other than Heroin) should nonetheless be at the center of the US efforts militarily for decades. What did the Afghans ever do to us to deserve the destruction of their country? (BTW tank picture is left over Russian tank from decades ago).
Ok, Sec of State Danielski will pontificate about what is wrong with Afghanistan. First, even though the Iranian revolution was boiling over at the same time, fueled by Islamist extremists who were popular because of their opposition to our man in Tehran, the presumed Shah, who was put in power by the popular movement called the American CIA, even so, we didnt connect the dots with the USSR invasion of Afghanistan. the soviets said they were entering Afghanistan at the invite of the Afghan socialist leader, but of course, the Soviets didnt want any Islamic extremists to gain power. The soviets had many muslim soviet republics to deal with, like the province of Chechnya. Instead of ignoring the soviet invasion of Afhanistan, we helped arm the Mujahedeen, the holy warriors, who were a combination of warlord kinda nationalists (although no warload wants a strong Afghan nation so to speak) and future Talliban religious nuts who wanted Afghanistan to return to the glories of the 13th century. We relied on Pakistan to allow us to send arms to these "freedom fighters"(Ronald reagans term) in Pakistan, who would then use mountain paths and donkeys to take the arms into afghanistan (sound familiar?). Pakistan's leader at the time, Benizar Bhutto, wondered out loud if the Americans knew who they were dealing with, because the very groups we were arming were groups opposed to Bhuttos regime in Pakistan. One more time, Bhutto allowed the US to arm the very people who were her enemies, but we must have given her a great deal (arms? loans?) so she put up with it, thinking that these groups had the Soviets to deal with, and Pakistan would only be next (safe for the time being).
Sooooo, the various armed groups that together defy any single description chased the soviets out of Afghanistan, and then turned on each other. At this point, the US left. The Talliban took over almost all of Afghanistan, and i mean, why would the US care, its not like they have oil or anything valuable (other than heroin). Then they sheltered Osama bin Laden, who thinks he is the moral and religious conscience of the Islamic world, and he decides to attack the US in such a way that the US will HAVE to invade Afghanistan, and be defeated just like the Soviets were defeated. However, he goofed: no more cold war. the Talliban dont have any country who will give them surface to air missles and so forth. However, our invasion was different than he planned.
Instead of sending our marines and army all the way around the world to Afghanistan, we left most of them in Iraq, and only a small force in Afghanistan. This worked well for his benefit, because the Talliban can fight effectively a relatively small US and UN force. Meanwhile, Afghanistan was a side war, received little support. Afghanistan has the worlds second smallest energy footprint, meaning that the only energy Afghans have is their own muscle. They farm irrigated fields if they are lucky, the best crop is poppies, for heroin. War lords get rich, farmers barely live. Malnutrition, infant motality, life expectancy is horrible. When I die and am reborn, if I am born in afghanistan, somebody please put a gun to my head. Talk about abject human misery. You think we have bad health care in this country, try living in 13th century Afghanistan, were even childbirth is often a fatal condition. Remember Yorick of Kent, Steve Martin's routine about medieval doctors, well Yorick has a thriving practice in Afghanistan.
So the Afghan people get caught up in the cold war, which is a disaster for any country other than the US. Vietnamese nationalism got caught up in the cold war, so did Cuba's revolution (they were marxists but not alligned with USSR during the revolution, in fact, USSR didnt like Castro, he was too extreme, his wars of liberation threatened the peace of the Mutually assured destruction of the cold war stand off, thats why Che left Cuba to do his own thing in Bolivia, without the blessing of the USSR, and only a wink from China).
Still with me...ok, the present. The Talliban are back, because the country is just as god awful as it has ever been. the US invasion didnt help the lives the most Afghans, so what do they care if we are there, or if the Talliban are? Their lives are still shit. So we are now increasing the troops. Which should work in the short run. But how long do we plan to stay there? Occupying a medieval country ? While we still need to keep troops in Iraq?
How long can our army and marine corps take this? Joining the military means possibly being abroad for most of your tour. Some units have come home for one year, but even one year is too long for our troop needs. We can hardly afford to send troops home for a one year rotation. Troops are deployed for well over a year at a time in Afghanistan and Iraq.
What about our equipment? Tanks, armored vehicles, even the M4 auto rifles, are wearing out. I just read we have 400,000 M4's in operation - is that ALL? Should our troops have a better rifle than one designed for european warfare? I mean, our troops are in the sand and dirt in Iraq and Afghanistan - we are not fighting a European war with Russia.
How long can this continue until our army and marine corps wears out? Can you imagine the psychological toll its taken on our troops? Meanwhile, back home, Rush Limbaugh has just become a judge on the Miss America pageant - is our country schizophrenic? What we are expecting of our troops, their condition, is in contrast to the shallowness of our culture back home. We have little connection with out troops, only those whose loved ones are over there.
I visited Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetary, in part, to feel our loss as a nation. I wanted to see the loved ones visiting the fresh graves. I chased down flowers blowing away in the wind, some the relatives thought I was one of them, putting back flowers on graves, trying to make them stay put despite the wind. I tried to film it but I couldnt talk, i was so choked up.
I am disillusioned with my government. We need to somehow connect with the Afghan people, to make their lives improved: health care, clean water, nutrition, security for their children and for shopping at the market place. I dont think an Islamic nation is necessary bad, after all, there is a Jewish State of Israel, and it is a democracy, and 20% of their citizens are non jews. a religious state is not a problem in itself, the muslims I know would like a government as good as their people. The problem is EXTREMISM - what are the causes of it? We need counter insurgency to pinpoint eliminating the causes of extremist movements - we work from the village up, connecting to the people.
Can we do that in Afghanistan? Yes, but it would take time and effort. We need to focus on our non military efforts in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, back home, unemployment is up to 10%. Can we focus on Afghanistan (or Iraq) when we have developmental needs back home? How can we afford these wars given out broken economy?
We are now experiencing foreign nationals LEAVING the united states, especially once their education here is done. Why? Because THINGS ARE BETTER ELSEWHERE. You come from Nigeria, get your PhD, and stay in US? hell no. Go back to Nigeria - it has oil, democracy is almost in place, you can make it better there than here in the US. These days, Barack Obama's father would have come here and left as soon as he could, because things are better for Kenyan PhD' in Kenya than they are here.
I dont think the Democrats, or the Republicans get this. I have heard that the tea baggers (my god, what a term, do they know what that means, are they that clueless?) are challenging Republicans in primaries. What is it they want? Does anyone see the impending collapse of our would be economic and military empire? Or has it already collapsed, but we are blind to it? What are the symptoms of collapse? Huge national debt that cant be paid off? A military that is constantly deployed overseas? Military equipment worn out? american unemployed? The best selling american car is the camaro, hardly fuel efficient, and the government keeps gas prices lower than market - at what point does gas go up to market price, and the economy totally falls off? You think 1929 is impossible? We just avoided it, by going into debt to bail out the banks and wall street - that's it, we dont have any bail out money left, the debt is too large, if the banks and wall street break again, that is the end of the line, there is no longer an economy in the US, and other countries will start failing too. Right now, China almost owns us, and if the economy breaks again, there wont be anything left for China to collect.
And, we are increasing troop levels in Afghanistan (which is what this post is about) without the money to pay for it, and that wont solve the security problem in Afghanistan for the long run. Its a short run fix.
I plan to apply for a years sabbatical in Mongolia. I think they will let me teach in english. I can speak nim noga Russian, a little. Mongolian women are supposedly the most beautiful in the world (this is true of all women everywhere, I always say that - Kazakhstan has the most beautiful women, Japan has the most and so on). And of course I want to see the statue of the great Khan. Is there a better reason to see mongolia, if only to see this amazing kick ass statue? I mean, this statue is worth the trip. BTW, the Mongolian empire united modern day russia, it was the only bright spot during the middle ages. I cant help but think about the thousands of years the mongolia people have survived, having a one time the worlds largest empire, and then think about our feeble attempts to pacify Afghanistan. But our mistakes in Afghanistan deserve another post.
So who is Najibullah Zazi? A 24 yr old Afghan living legally in the US? A bomb maker who planned to blow up Grand Central Station? If this guy is a terrorist, then he is the Robert DeNiro of terrorists, because he sure acts like he is innocent. An informant worked with the FBI to crack the case: but did the Informant have a hidden agenda? Working with the FBI to cover his own rear end, to avoid prosecution on some charge the FBI had him on? The informant actually let Zazi know he was under surveillance, and the FBI had to arrest Zazi earlier than they wanted because the informant blew his own cover. Is Zazi that stupid, not to figure out that he is being watched, even after he is told about it? During interrogation, police can lie to you, manipulate you, play the old prisoner's dilemma on you - but what about before you are arrested? Can the FBI use an informant to set you up, to arrange to have you do or say certain things the FBI wants to hear? The headlines have this guy as a mastermind of a plot to blow up landmarks, and the list is long so far, the latest being Grand Central Station - do most americans know where or what grand central station is? I mean, a train station? How many americans have ever been on a train, other than light rail or subway in a city? Would an Afghan terrorist pick grand central station even when most americans dont know where it is or what the station does (trains, the transportation that ended in the US over half a century ago)? All we know is what the FBI has leaked to the press, we havent heard from Zazi yet. I am skeptical.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Great movie about Holly Martin, a marginally successful "western" writer, going to Vienna in 1949ish for a job arranged by his friend Harry. Turns out, Harry is dead, or is he? the Third Man is a moralistic tale by writer Graham Greene (i loved him in Bonanza) and screenplay also by Greene. Orson Welles plays Harry, Joseph Cotton (Orson's old Mercury Theater player) plays Holly. Harry is evil incarnate: no Kantian moral imperative here. I love this film for many reasons, but the exploration of evil, or moral bankruptcy, is frightening. Harry has no moral sense. Life is a big hustle, to enjoy while you are here. Other people? Fu*k em. Holly is more than a hack western writer, like his western novel characters, Holly believes in old fashioned morality: you dont cripple children to make a quick dollar. in the end, Holly is the sheriff who rids the town of the bad guy. Never read the book, but i will - Greene's books are such hard reads, the settings are always so exotic, so "british empirish" or rather, the decay of empire. Perhaps we are in the decay of our own empire. anyway, Graham Greene is a fascinating writer, and this movie is perfect. here are some great harry quotes:
You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax - the only way you can save money nowadays.
Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs - it's the same thing. They have their five-year plans, so have I.
Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
I have been watching Letterman since he first came on night TV, in 1982 i think. I really liked his old show, he and Paul Schaeffer had some great guests and music. He once had Sly Stone as a guest musician, and Paul and the band and Sly played all the old Sly and Family Stone classics, with a much smaller band. anyway, I always thought there was something going on with Dave and Stephanie, I mean I could sense it how they interacted. When I heard about Dave's "live in girlfriend," I assumed it was Stephanie. I thought they made a good couple. I always wondered why Stephanie was no longer on the show. The really nasty part of the whole story is that Stephanie's ex boyfriend, the guy who was extorting money from dave, stole some personal items of hers, including parts of her diary. Stephanie had nothing to do with this extortion, but was exploited by her ex boyfriend. I guess this just underlines how hard it is for a single woman to be successful in any organization, esp one that is so dominated by the "boss" like the Late Show is. I still watch Dave, although some nights he is really obnoxious, and starts talking about himself too much. I really miss the old Letterman show - he didnt own the old show, and NBC refuses to sell the rights to the old tapes. I think if his old show was syndicated it would be a real hit.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
All you have to do is search the above title and the photo of Ms. Kim Phuc will come up on internet - she is running, naked, with burns over her back and arm. I just saw the film "Hearts and Minds" from Netflix, I saw it before at Harris theater in pittsburgh, cried through most of it, second time around it wasnt so bad. In the film Kim Phuc is shown running, and the extent of her burns, and her anguish, is extended. It took over a year for her to recover, lucky to be alive, in a burn center in an American hospital in Saigon. The photographer got her immediate help, probably saved her life. The picture, and the film of her running, is terrifying for me - I wanted to scream the first time I saw the film. As a father.....well, you have to be a parent i guess.
anyway, she is a peace activist now, living in Canada (she received asylum there). She is married, mother of two. Still has terrible scars, pain from nerve damage. But she is UN Ambassador for peace, world traveler talking about help for burn victims.
Its amazing how something so terrible can turn into something sacred.
BTW, the plane that dropped the napalm was Vietnamese. An american pilot was told to hit the village days earlier, he refused, he was familiar with the territory, said that the village was not a viable target. American pilot said maybe the Vietnamese regional chief wanted to punish village, he couldnt figure out why the village was targeted, after he refused and explained it wasnt a target. So who knows why it was bombed, maybe it was just a general fuck up. The point being, that the village wasnt a target, shouldnt have been bombed.
I love Cheetahs, my favorite animal. I like them more than human beings. Anyway, Sarah is the fastest Cheetah on earth. She ran 100 meters in 6.19 seconds, which is.....ah.....99mph? there is some arithmetic here, she ran a 5 min 5 k? which is 99 mph? Is it too late for me? (10:45 pm) or is my arithmetic just wrong?
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
"I told Jim Bob and he couldn't keep it in, he was so excited," she says. That's what Michelle Duggar said about her husband, Jim Bob. The Duggars have 18 children, number nineteen is on the way. They name their kids with names starting with J, they have a contest now to name the 19th, a name starting with "J." I suggest, "Jesus," as in, "Jesus, you're having ANOTHER baby? !" The above quote is about Michelle telling her hubby, Jim Bob, that she was pregnant. Although it sounds like something else (funny...) They live in Arkansas. Men in Arkansas always have two names, thus "Jim Bob," or for their new baby, "Jesus Christ another baby Duggar."
Which reminds me of the old legend about Groucho Marx and his show "You bet your Life." Contestant comes one, says he has 12 children. Groucho asks why. Contestant says "because I love children." Groucho says, "Well....I love cigars, but every once in a while, I take it out of my mouth." Supposedly this never really happened, but its a Groucho legend, and a great story nonetheless.
I mean, I love Blow Pops, Jim Bob, but every once in a while I take it out of my mouth!
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Here is my past entry about Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick scandal.
I agree with the analysts, that Sen. Kennedy became a very effective, moderate voice in the US Senate after his marriage to Vickie Reggie. I think she saw the potential in him. I think the assassination of his brother Robert was what pushed him over the edge. His loneliness, the drinking, the infidelities, became his own perfect storm.
His behavior after Bobby's death, up to and including his run for the Presidency in 1980, are his worst years. Described as the last true liberal in the US Senate, he forgot his brother John F. Kennedy was no liberal, but a moderate. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, was no liberal, broke with FDR over many things, including the socialist policies of the new deal,and of course, the alliance with Britain before US entry into WWII - Joe didn't like the english (he was irish) and thought we should tilt toward Germany. Which is why FDR essentially fired him from being ambassador to britain.
I think many people like Ted because of his brothers - the real Ted Kennedy didnt emerge until after his marriage with Vickie. He finished his life well. Perhaps that made up for the failings earlier in his life, as a husband, father, and US Senator.
So god bless him, he did the best he could given the family he was born into, and many people have benefited from his work in the US Senate.
While scientists have documented trash's harmful effects for coastal marine life, there's little research on garbage patches, which were first explored extensively by self-trained ocean researcher Charles Moore just a decade ago. There's also scant research on the marine life at the bottom of the food chain that inhabit the patch.
But even the weather-beaten, sunbleached plastic flakes that are smaller than a thumbnail can be alarming.
"They're the right size to be interacting with the food chain out there," Goldstein said.
The team also netted occasional water bottles with barnacles clinging to the side. Some of the trash had labels written in Chinese and English, hints of the long journeys garbage takes to arrive mid-ocean.
Plastic sea trash doesn't biodegrade and often floats at the surface. Bottlecaps, bags and wrappers that end up in the ocean from the wind or through overflowing sewage systems can then drift thousands of miles.
The sheer quantity of plastic that accumulates in the North Pacific Gyre, a vortex formed by ocean and wind currents and located 1,000 miles off the California coast, has the scientists worried about how it might harm the sea creatures there.
A study released earlier this month estimated that thousands of tons of plastic debris wind up in the oceans every year, and some of that has ended up in the swirling currents of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Katsuhiko Saido, a chemist at Nihon University, Chiba, Japan, told the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society last week that plastic actually does decompose, releasing potentially toxic chemicals that can disrupt the functioning of hormones in animals and marine life.
The Scripps team hopes the samples they gathered during the trip nail down answers to questions of the trash's environmental impact. Does eating plastic poison plankton? Is the ecosystem in trouble when new sea creatures hitchhike on the side of a water bottle?
Plastics have entangled birds and turned up in the bellies of fish, and one paper cited by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates 100,000 marine mammals die trash-related deaths each year.
The scientists hope their data gives clues as to the density and extent of marine debris, especially since the Great Pacific Garbage Patch may have company in the Southern Hemisphere, where scientists say the gyre is four times bigger.
"We're afraid at what we're going to find in the South Gyre, but we've got to go there," said Tony Haymet, director of the Scripps Institution.
Only humans are to blame for ocean debris, Goldstein said. In a blog entry posted a day before the science ship arrived in Newport, Ore., she wrote the research showed her the consequences of humanity's footprint on nature.
"Seeing that influence just floating out here in the middle of nowhere makes our power painfully obvious, and the consequences of the industrial age plain," she wrote. "It's not a pretty sight."
Thursday, August 27, 2009
10 yr old Nujood was married to an old man by her family. Her family is poor, lives on less than $1 a day. after two years of rape and beatings, she escaped and went to a court, sat outside until a judge would talk to her. The judge surprising arrested the father and husband, and after the trial hearing, granted Nujood a divorce. Catch is, her dad has to pay $200 to the ex husband under Saria law as compensation (for a defective wife I guess). Meanwhile....Najood has become a spokesperson for exploited child brides everywhere, has received donations for schooling. However, her family says they dont have the money to send her to private school for transportation or something. Nujood is mad, angry, refuses to go to school (abused children are often angry and mad). So, no happy ending. child marriages continue in many countries. Families are poor, "selling" a child relieves them of a burden, they hope their child will be well taken care of by the "rich" man who buys her. This must also go on in Afghanistan. there are parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, by the border, where it doesnt seem any "law" exists in some constitutional sense. Its the law of their own parochial version of Islam and tribal customs. I cant see how the US can change this.
But thats not to criticize the Afghanistan invasion, I think we should have invaded after the USS Cole attack in 1998, but Pres. Clinton was busy at the time ( denying he likes his own version of child brides, women younger than his own daughter ).
I love the movie, Thank You for Smoking, I LMAO all through the movie. I esp liked the scene at the movie producers corp office,a shinto monk raking sand in a japanese garden, and the young cocky assistant says, "That sand won't rake itself, Meiko" or something like that. The incredible BS facade of new age corporate hipness. anyway, Pres Obama, who still sneaks out of the oval office to have a smoke in the rose garden, signed into law a bill that would give the FDA much more power to regulate cigarettes. One thing up, is warning labels. The US has the weakest warning labels of any country in the world. So get ready for the pics you see here, from Brazil, a country with the most graphic warning labels.
Monday, August 24, 2009
When I get depressed about my life, I reflect on the lives of others around this planet. Here are three pictures: (1) a mother is watching over her burned young daughter, who was forced to marry a 70 yr old man, but was discovered with a young man her age, and her family now disgraced, she decided to burn herself to death, unsuccessfully; (2) a boy rescued from a child labor factory in India (3) bangladeshi workers taking a break from dismantling a ship, full of toxic waste, by hand using hammers and welding torches.
Oh well, call it a life, eh?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
This is an amazing movie, (trailer here) about following your dream, even if it isnt someone else's dream. Asa is a sailor, who wants to manage a herd of sheep in the Steppes of Kazakhstan. That in itself is a twist. Asa lives with his sister and her family until he c an get his own place. however, to do that, the "boss" who finances herds wants him to get married, because life is harsh on the steppes, and poor, and he needs a wife to help him survive the life of a herdsman. Asa is in love with Tulpan (who we never see - she is the unknown beauty he imagines he wants to marry) but Tulpan and her mom have a different dream for her. Asa loves life on the steppes, such a harsh, barren landscape, but he sees the beauty in the land. He lies back, on his back, and feels the earth beneath him, the sky above, he is "anchored" you could say on the land. in the end, no spoilers here, he follows his dream. Will he achieve happiness? His sister and her husband dont seem very happy, they are poor, nomadic. Will Asa also experience this? Will his dream result in unhappiness, frustration? Isnt that a universal paradox, that our dreams can never be realized, that life is chasing our dreams, and we have to find happiness where we can, our dreams are ephemeral. So I almost cried just before the ending, but then the ending occurred, and I took consolation in the human spirit - believe in yourself, have courage, suck it up, follow your dream. great movie. I loved it. absolutely beautiful.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
So this woman wanted to swim, but wore her burguini, head to ankle covered swim attire. France does not like fully covered women, its the law, Pres. Sarkozy thinks it imprisons women. France has a large muslim minority, the results of its collapsed empire. I understand the public health issue, you dont want street clothes being worn in the pool. But as long as the woman changes into this in the dressing room, as long as she showers first with it on, why not? Dress codes are hard to enforce, and I know if muslim women can wear a burguini to the pool, some knucklehead will try to wear his street clothes into the pool just to be a jerk. but cant we all just get along? Muslim women cover up out of modesty, before their god, its a sign of humility and reverence. thats what some young muslim college students told me. they are proud to cover up. There has got to be a solution to this. our local high school does not allow any religious insignia to be worn, not cross necklaces, nothing. but what if a muslim woman wanted to wear a hijab to high school? or a jewish young man wanted to wear a kippah to high school?
Isnt there some middle ground here?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A 60-year-old Pennsylvania man has been convicted of groping a woman in a Minnie Mouse costume at Walt Disney World.
John William Moyer of Cressona, Schuylkill County, told the judge he is innocent. His son said before sentencing that his father would never inappropriately touch a woman.
He was convicted today of misdemeanor battery and sentenced to write the victim an apology, serve 180 days probation and complete 50 hours of community service. Mr. Moyer must also pay $1,000 in court costs and possibly undergo a mental evaluation.
The victim says she had to do everything possible to keep Mr. Moyer's hands off her breasts.
When I first read the headline I thought, "I haven't been anywhere NEAR Disneyworld for years." But it was someone else, in the picture. The guy gropes minnie mouse WHILE his picture is being taken. The Horror. The Humanity.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Here is William Shatner reciting Sarah Palin poetry. He is the man.
If you liked that performance check out more shatner performances here.
Friday, July 31, 2009
a movie about Seraphine Louis, an expressionist painter 100 yrs ago, who lived in poverty while painting in her off time. She is self taught, or a "primativist" and is not discovered until after her death. The film looks really good, about love and squalor. I am not familiar with her work, but attached is one of her paintings, really beautiful. I always thought that the great impressionist masters were students of art, but their success was their ability to go beyond what they were taught. So a self taught painter, is by nature, someone not influenced by mainstream art styles. Right? Or am i missing something.
BTW, I presume to appreciate art, but i like what i like, am not an expert. But I can distinguish between low art (you buy it because the color fits your wall, or the size fits your bathroom wall) and art art that you can't stop looking at. I still remember being in National Gallery, in the room with Cubist paintings, I stood in the middle and turned 360 degrees, of all the paintings, one stood out. I walked up to it and.... Picasso. What a coincidence that in a room of cubist art, one painting is so distinctive. (!?) I'll type more about the movie when i see it.