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.