11 May 2011

Mao & Guevara- Two Biographies

I recently finished reading two excellent biographies, "Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life" by Jon Lee Anderson, and "Mao: The Unknown Story" by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. These books examine the lives of two of the most important figures of the 20th century and offer an unflinching look at their upbringing, rise to power, impact on the world and ongoing influence on the nations of Cuba and China. Regardless of your opinion of these individuals, both books offer a compelling read.

Guevara comes across as the more accessible character. The profane, cigar smoking, asthmatic, alternately lazy and tireless doctor turned revolutionary with a passion for the ladies is a fascinating character. Mao elicits very little sympathy as an asexual opportunist quite willing to throw his comrades under the bus for political gain. Guevara seems genuinely concerned about his fellow guerrillas and the peasants they encounter versus Mao who sells out his own troops by feeding intelligence to the enemy when it benefits his cause and starves millions during his consolidation of power (I have to add a caveat that one of the authors of the Mao biography writes from a Nationalist Chinese perspective so their is some inevitable bias in the work.)

I highly recommend both books.

The Final Countdown

According to the ebible people, we have 10 days left until the world ends. Unfortunately for the San Jose Sharks, the end is coming too late to postpone game 7 of their NHL playoff with the Detroit Red Wings. The individual behind the doomsday claim is Harold Camping, civil engineer, radio maven and repeat offender in the world of failed prophecies and prognostication.

My interest in this is not that I think the world is going to end- it is going to end, we are all going to end, all things are impermanent. My fascination with the subject is what happens if they are wrong ? Will there be some pronouncement that it was all allegory, that they didn't mean an actual doomsday but rather some type of rebirth, cosmic cycle or God knows what ? On the other hand, I sincerely hope that they result isn't some type of mass suicide among believers that have invested so much in this theory only to see it evaporate before them.

Spiking the Ball

The recent demise of Osama Bin Laden set off an eruption of ball spiking, fist bumping and back slapping across the U.S. Loud cries of "we got him" permeated the 24 hour media cycle as the President took credit for the operation that killed him, the Republicans took credit for the interrogations that led to the intelligence that killed him, liberals suddenly became pro-military and conservatives whined that pictures of the body were not released. In my hometown, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall tweeted his views on the subject and was subsequently shredded across the Internet as a no-nothing athlete that would be better off just keeping his mouth shut.

A couple of observations. I believe that this sense that "we" got Bin Laden has been fostered by a long war which has impacted very few Americans. Despite this lack of direct experience, the majority of the citizens of this country seem to feel they have some personal stake in the war. This is a view not far from the American sports fan who proclaims "we" won the Stanley Cup, the World Series or the Super Bowl when their favorite team wins a championship. In this case they apply this logic to SEAL Team 6, the new American fan favorite. In a land of commercialization and virtual experience, one can even bop on down to the local Game Stop to pick up a copy of "SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALS" for Playstation 3 and shoot virtual terrorists all afternoon long. I wonder when the Pakistan expansion pack is coming out ?

It is easy to be pro-war when that war is being fought by volunteers and the mainland is not being subject (with the exception of 9/11) to the horrors of war. The families of those doing the fighting are obviously affected, as are those that lost family members in the 9/11 attacks, but what about the average American ? Sure, they profess their pro-military position with bumper stickers and public pronouncements that they support our troops, they thank veterans for their service but when it comes to the actual heavy lifting they are noticeably absent. On one of our local radio stations, the morning conservative hosts crow about shooting Bin Laden and meting out justice as if they had fast roped into the compound in Pakistan during a station break- for all of their bravado, could they shoot somebody in the face ? One wonders.

As for Rashard Mendehnall, the kid was eviscerated by the same social media that spread his thoughts. Do I agree with him about his 9/11 conspiracy theories ? Nope. Does he have the right to say them ? Absolutely. Should he give up his career of carrying the rock for the Steelers and start a new one as a journalist ? Probably not. That being said, he seems like a spiritual young man that is asking some tough questions about death and killing that the average person doesn't want to look at. No matter, when he scores his first touchdown next season he will be forgiven by the masses- at least in this part of the country.

Fish on a Dish

I heard a strange gurgling sound last night, a sound like choking. No need to worry about a family member or pet I mused- it is just the annual spring ritual of the San Jose Sharks imploding in the NHL playoffs. Like the melting of snow and the return of birds from the south, San Jose is once again working on an epic collapse after leading Detroit 3 games to 0. When San Jose won to go up 3 to 0, I chuckled. When my wife asked why I was laughing, I said "it is just going to make the collapse so much more devastating to watch." With the series tied 3-3, the stage is set for the Wings to eliminate the Sharks on Thursday night and move on to play Vancouver in the Western final.

09 May 2011

Dalai Lama Comments on Death of Bin Laden

Los Angeles Times article titled "Dalai Lama suggests Osama bin Laden's death was justified." I'm not so sure that's what he meant, but take a look for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

08 May 2011

Anarchist Pig- A Silver Bust or Buying Opportunity ?

Last week's brutal implosion of silver prices was truly breathtaking to witness. A strong rally in the U.S. dollar against the Euro was precipitated by rumors that Greece was set to tell the E.U. to pound grape leaves and issue its own currency. By issuing a new currency, the Greek government would be free to attempt to devalue itself out of its current economic train wreck.

My best guess is that the Greeks are merely playing economic chicken with the E.U. (in a friendlier version of North Korean nuclear chicken) and will not abandon the Euro. The short term news will pass and the underlying problems of the U.S. economy, among them weak employment numbers, no consensus on cutting spending and the continuing expansion of the money supply will set up silver for another move higher. Short term selling pressure could drive silver as low as $ 32.50 an ounce, which would signal a buy in my opinion. As always, don't rely on anything I say and do your own analysis.