Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran's Crisis

As a realistic but ever hopeful lover of democracy, I will be crossing my fingers that the people of Iran can choose their destiny and will not suffer a Tiananmen Sq style crackdown and suppression. If you have been paying atention, reading news on the internet for years, web articles on their culture & society, even reading that guy on National Review's Corner who collects news inside Iran, you know that a country with 70% of the population under 30 living in a thugocracy was going to reach a boiling point. If you read econ blogs, you know that Iran has had horrible inflation, the clerics are getting crushed by lower oil prices, and they even had to import wheat from the USA last year for the first time in 20+ years. A democratic Iran would be amazing. An Iran so focused on crowd control that they can't fund terrorists & mess around with the world is a nice consolation prize.

A warmongering 'idiot' once said to the Iranians in his state of the union address: "And tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our nation hopes one day to be closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran."

The smartest President ever (trademark this site) has said: "I have deep concerns about the election," he said yesterday at the White House, when he finally did find his voice. "When I see violence directed at peaceful protestors, when I see peaceful dissent being suppressed, wherever that takes place, it is of concern to me and it's of concern to the American people."

Way to stick your neck out there, Barry. As leader of the free world, sometimes you have to lead and show some support for a side that might not win. This could be an earth shattering event in the Middle East. To turn a theocracy into a fragile democracy would be startling, and my expectations are low, but hopes are high. It's been a tough enough road in Iraq, but what is in Iraq now is waaaay better than Saddam. Having a President who is a supposed 'rock star' in the Muslim world give the people fighting for their freedom a show of support would be a huge boost to their cause, embolden them, and help strike at an enemy without firing a single missile. Voicing support for people to freely decide their lives is not meddling with Iranian affairs. It is an expression of a basic foundation of America: liberty. Wasn't living in oppressive regimes a reason hippies gave for terrorists striking us on 9/11? Wouldn't Iraq (with our help) & Iran both removing the chains of dictatorship be grand? Can't Barry see this? Barry gave a speech in the Czech republic asking "who ever thought a prez like me would speak here?" Well BO, if you knew your US history, you would know some people worked for the fall of Communism and hoped that the US could have relations with eastern Europe once more. A man named Ronald Reagan once was mocked for challenging Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" (Family Guy still made a joke of it 20 years later). Sometimes just a few words can go a long way. I've grown to expect Obama, on every single issue, to talk a big game, give a good speech to make me feel good, and then not deliver tangible results (banks, gays, foreign policy). Here's something that only needs "words" and a pretty phrase or two. Come on Barry, cowboy up.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Weekend with Family 2

How could I forget the random topics covered in our discussions this past weekend? With my propensity for talk and my cousin's being smart we covered....

crazy family members, not wanting to let little ones down, zombie contingency plans, college, ohio kids, obama, lesbians, being idealistic, becoming disillusioned, music, beef, brazilian style service at other restaurants, nicknames, obese people, health, the future, dystopian books, sci-fi, fan fiction, erotic lit, people who are gay but say they are bisexual to not make their parents mad, robots, cliche action movies, travel, moments where you're in way over your head, making american psycho an HBO series, no good young actors in Hollywood, reality, dreams, lesbians, musicals, BGSU, OCD, BDSM, OSU crossed with BDSM, being aware of one's insanity.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Weekend with Family

This weekend I got to spend time with two readers of my blog, wait that's self centered, two dear relatives. They took me to see "Wicked", which is that cool update of the Oz world. I loved that they went to Shiz University. Their slogan should have been "It's the Shiz". That is so stupid that it had me laughing for most of the school scenes, but I could tell no one out of shame. I'm laughing right now. I had not seen a musical in years, and this one was very entertaining. Phantom of the Opera was better, but I think that has to do with the wonderful story of "Phantom". Wicked had some good songs, and did not suffer from that "all lines are sung" trait that some musicals have. I dislike that (even though Phantom does that). Best part was that my cousins won tickets at the lottery that afternoon. Woohoo.

My side of the new experience weekend was taking them to a Brazilian steakhouse. Nonstop food, great service, and some of the best cuts of meat you'll ever have. You have to like a place that gives you a red light-green light coaster for when you want beed. More places should be set up like that. I also showed them Mulholland Drive and Boogie Nights, which all people should watch. These movies are must sees. Boogie Nights is a movie they could have turned into a fantastic HBO series. Mulholland Drive always makes me question what is real. Recently, I have had 2 different moments thinking "this can't be real". Sometimes you can't plan something better that it happens. Other moments are straight out of bizarro world.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

MTV's The Duel 2

MTV gave people looking for mind numbing television another buffet to munch on called "The Duel 2". Here's their reality challenges: they take men & women who never grew up after their experience on MTV that were crazy and attractive, send them to a wild location, have them do goofy stunts and challenges, give them prizes, and get them to make asses of themselves for a month, film it, and in the end, give a couple folks triple the average American's salary. This formula works for great insanity and unintentional comedy. I don't watch much on MTV. I stick to Audrina Partridge in low cut tops and Real World Road Rules challenges such as The Duel 2.



The rule to being on the Duel is you have to be crazy. You don't have to be crazy all of the time like Dunbar or CT, but you have to have the potential to get craziest person in the bar crazy. There must be an element of danger. You also have to be so self absorbed that you would leave your family and everything you love behind for a month just to compete for a 1 in 12 chance of winning 100K or so. The men are generally on steroids. Most of these guys you see on RW or RR and they are normal looking, but then once they get to a challenge like the Duel, they are 40 lbs heavier and have rage problems. The women are generally enhanced as well, and are usually of the bi curious nature. There is romance in the air, and it could be of Sapphic nature. The challenges are fun, but the real joy is the events shown of idiots stuffed into a house with no tv, music or entertainment but plenty of booze. Whatever behaviors someone had on RW or RR are kicked into the 20th gear on these challenges.

There is something odd about these people acting so childish in a pursuit of small fortunes. The fee for appearing must be very small if 3rd place is only 15K. Is it worth it to look like an ass on TV for a couple grand? Some hard work could earn them 100K. Do these people see their parents or siblings afterwards and go "that wasn't me, that was the Patron talking"? I hope they just shrug it off, and are at peace with it. I'd hate to think they cry at night over being jackasses that can't hold jobs and have to hope they are being just wild enough to be invited back for the next challenge. Wait, no that would be enjoyable. Maybe this ties into the desire of any young people to be famous now. This might be similar to those old 70s porn stars who thought that since they were on film in theaters they were actors like the movie stars. Look, I am on TV so I must be a TV celebrity.
My favorite guys on the show were 1. Mark - the guy from RR 1, who is 40-ish and seems geniunely nice. He seems like the older brother you wish you had. 2. Dunbar - this guy is insane and could easily kill someone at a challenge. He's like a mix of the Marquis de Sade and Bart Simpson. Childish and dangerous. 3. Landon - my wife thought he was pretty to the point where he'd take longer to get ready than she would. he's also the gayest straight man i've seen in a while. he'll come out at the next show.
My favorite ladies were 1. Rachel - Kind of the bi queen of the show. Everyone dug her, she was very confident, and she seemed slightly intelligent. She didn't have that air of desperation so many of the girls on the show have (unlike Shauvon). 2. Paula - Friendly, insane, low self esteem, lots of fun.... What is there not to like? She had a good sense of humor. 3. Brooke - She is a fine brunette. Didn't really stand a chance with all of the butch girls around.
I did not think anything would top the Island season of challenge when people where recreating the 1st season of survivor but with alcohol substituting for water. The Duel 2 had a terrible into Haka chant. The Duel 2 put a number of bi curious women in one room. It was non-stop middle school flirting and sorority house romping around with those ladies. There was a "genuine" relationship between Jenn & Rachel, but the ladies set the women's movement back 10 years. Add in their behavior with the men, and there's one strong woman on the entire show, Rachel. The duel 2 also added the genius challenge of a spelling bee. Even before the bee begins, Mark asks MJ to spell 'gnarly'. He spells it with a K and incorrectly during two attempts. You knew it would be on when the bee began. They split it up into grade level difficulty, and you got to know who was retarded. Arithmetic became "arthmatic". Exercise became "excerise". Freight became "frate". Throne became "thron". "Frate" was my favorite as it was accompanied by the most confused look the entire challenge. The men were slightly better than the women, but it was a beautiful demonstration of the semi-literate people who populate MTV's universe. This challenge had my wife and I in howling fits of laughter. I hope this becomes an MTV reality challenge staple. Kind of like how Mark is over 40 but still on MTV. I will return, but will Mark.
You stay classy MTV.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Balancing Budgets

The LA Times has a cool little tool on their website that allows you, the reader, to come up with whacky ways to balance the huge budget shortfall Cali faces. My solution took 8 minutes. No one time fixes, and only sin tax increases. There are some interesting options left off like privatizing prisons, completely eliminating some govt departments, etc.

Still, this is not rocket science, it's balancing a checkbook. A biggie was ending in home health care for 440K people who would otherwise be in nursing homes getting the same frickin' care. I'm sorry, this is a luxury, and in times of crisis, you can't afford luxuries. Another big group I took on were state workers and teachers. Sorry, this just has to end. Private sector workers are forever worrying about losing their jobs, govt workers are virtually guaranteed employment no matter how bad they are for life. Then these same workers get pensions better than private sector pensions/401ks??? Only thing I spared was the state park system. I did not touch the MediCal eligibility line. I also raised taxes only on cigs and alcohol. Sin taxes seem a bit better since if you do not use those items, you never pay the tax. It is voluntary in a sense except for the addicts. I felt the worst about closing the community college system. I think privatizing the prison system would probably save enough money to keep some of the "nice" services.

Krupp

It just dawned on me that a couple years ago I quoted on the modern American division of the firm that I am reading about right now in The Arms of Krupp. They would have been a great customer to write at the time, sadly, they were paying a tiny amount of premium in comparison to the risk that they carried. It's weird knowing the weapons this family designed & manufactured were used against my family members. My maternal grandfather told me that after fighting on continental Europe for a short while, he could tell the difference in artillery used by the Germans. The Big Berthas did not scare him, no, those were from an earlier time & freaked out my great grandfather.

Friday, June 05, 2009

"Music high and sweet, then she just blew away..."

Replaced the Mick Fleetwood drums with smooth music. I will leave you all with some Steve Winwood (it was this or Steely Dan)...

So wild, standing there, with her hands in her hair
I cant help remember just where she touched me
There's still no face here in her place
So cool, she was like jazz on a summers day
Music, high & sweet, then she just blew away

Now she cant be that warm with the wind in her arms
Valerie, call on me-call on me, Valerie
Come & see me-I'm the same boy I used to be

Love songs fill the night, but they dont tell it all
Not how lovers cry out, just like they're dying
Her cries hang there in time somewhere
Someday, some good wind may blow her back to me
Some night I may hear her like she used to be

No it can't, be that warm with the wind in her arms
Valerie call on me, call on me Valerie
Come & see me, I'm the same boy I used to be

So cool, she was like jazz on a summers day
Music, high & sweet, then she just blew away

Now she can't be that warm with the wind in her arms
Valerie call on me call on me Valerie
Come & see me, I'm the same boy I used to be
I'm the same boy I used to be

You Play Those Drums Mick Fleetwood

special meaningless
confused, sure, roll rocks uphill
all left in your hands
Mick Fleetwood coaine induced drum sets in my head.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Leadership

Is explaining a position, staking it w/o cover, and persuading others of it's value. Is sometimes ordering people. Is sometimes making decisions without getting proper sign offs. Is getting people to do things after they have waffled for hours. Is figuring out what's the best solution for another party while protecting your interests. Is listening to all sides but not pandering to all sides. Is getting people to do things and not feel burdened. Is making feel confident in their actions because you agree.

Corporate America should be fun and engaging.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Abdication

The Arms of Krupp centers on the family that armed Germany (and most of the world) from its formation to the horrible era of Nazi barbarism. It's a good read so far (300 pages in, at the eve of WW1). In the book, Kaiser Wilhelm II is spotlighted as the Kaisers were so entwined with the Krupps it was as if the Krupps were royal cousins. While in a college course and as an adult, I have read about Germany, their peculiar problems, the start of World War I, and this Kaiser figure is very interesting in a historical context. He rises to power after his father consolidates the German nation with Bismarck's political skills and Krupps cannons. He spends years saber rattling and itching for a fight. He thens picks a fight with just about everyone. His people suffer total warfare, his military fights in horrible trench warfare, and the country loses without a soldier ever marching on German soil. He abdicates the throne and lives peacefully in the Netherlands for 20+ years. Life goes on. Germany has the horrible experiment of the Weimar Republic, to only be followed by the horrible Nazi regime, and this kaiser lives to see both exist. This is not the dictator of some banana republic hiding on the French Riviera for the last 10 years of his life (Shah of Iran style). This was the head of a major nation, a small empire, a huge industrial power, etc. that caused the "Great War" with his instructions, and he just went away, never to return. To think of that being allowed & accepted, to think of a time of monarchs with true power, it all feels like a different world.

In my mind, the only current comparison I could make would be for Putin to start a war that involved both Asia on it's east side and Europe on its west side, knocked europe out quickly, left the eastern border a wasteland, demoralized China, unleashed horrific gas-bio weapons, got America involved, created a circus democracy in Russia, and ended with him chilling in North Korea untouched. That sounds ludicrous.