September 29, 2008

iranian women's rights

Today I came across a piece of news in an Austrian newspaper about a verdict in Iranian courts that recently upheld a woman's right to reject a man's desire to aquire a second wife. As ridicolous as this sounds to our western sensibilities, this was important in order to halt a regression into even stonier stone age times in a muslim country of rather large importance. imho (yes yes, none of you think that I am actually that, but I try) unless women in the middle east get to live in an environment approximating the rights of women in the western world that part of the world will forever more remain stagnat in all matters of importance in competition between human societies and progress in general. You may agree with this or not, but you should at least think that a honey in Iran should have culturally adjusted similar rights to a honey in the West. Including the right to be pissed that I am calling her a honey!

For that reason I wrote a petition at:

To which the following is their reply, containing the text of my letter. Please feel free to copy it and send it on.

You asked to sign the petition: International Support for Women's Campaign. You provided the following information:
Name: Peter

Site: Mindgloaming -

To whom it may concern
I hereby express my support for womens rights in Iran and the rest of the muslim world. The recent verdict upholding a first wife's right to say no to a second wife in Iran is an important step in the right direction. However, many other issues still remain to be solved in order to grant women a proper status in Iranian society. I hope that these steps will be taken not only for womens sake but also for the sake of a freer Iranian society. Regards, Peter Illetschko IMPORTANT... To validate your signature, you just need to connect to the address below (otherwise your request will be rejected):〈=en#sp19
Thank you for your participation!

I wouldnt go as far as saying that I am having a great time petitioning people left, right and center. But I do think that it can be important. At least Ms. Feinstein referred to 50k financially pissed off Californians in her floor speech in the Senate. The wonders of which are that I actually received a response, that all those emails and phonecalls where counted, if not read individually, and that bloody 50k superficial, breastaugmented, nosejobbed, "what can you do for my acting career?" Californians cared enought to sit their liposucked behinds down and make the effort to write.

September 28, 2008

faux palin 2

Never again laugh about beauty queens who state that they want to go out and change the world to make it a better place should they win the contest. By for example shooting moose from helicoptors, smacking Pootin (how else to spell that ugly redneck UUU? Reminds me of nucular) in the head whenever he rears it out of soviet airspace and bringing her five nannies for her five kids to Number One Observatory Circle (sry, JFGI). You never know, it might all come true.

response from senator feinstein

As promised I wrote to a couple of Senators. Senator Feinstein had her bot write back to me. She does offer for me to call her at her office in DC should I have any further questions. Well, lets have some further questions. Send them to me and I shall ask. But you can't make me ask her to kick John McCain in the shin when she sees him in the hallowed hollow halls of government.

Dear Mr. I.:

Thank you for your letter expressing concern about Congress' consideration of a plan to meet our Nation's credit crisis with financial help from the Federal Government. This is a difficult situation for which there are no perfect solutions, and I would like to share my thoughts and concerns about this issue with you.

On September 19, 2008, Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson, Jr. announced a legislative proposal to use $700 billion to purchase illiquid mortgage-related assets from ailing financial institutions. Secretary Paulson's three-page proposal was a non-starter, and without critical changes it has no chance of approval from Congress.

This proposal would have given a blank check to an economic czar who would have been empowered to spend it without administrative oversight, legal requirements, or legislative review. Decisions made by the Treasury Secretary would be non-reviewable by any court, agency, or Congress. The proposal also lacked a requirement for regular reports to Congress on the status of the program. This was simply untenable.

Since this announcement, my offices have received thousands of comments from Californians like you concerned about how this action will affect them. Yet, I believe prudent action must be taken. The bill should include the following principles: a phase-in of funding; oversight, accountability and transparency; a mechanism allowing the Secretary of the Treasury to modify mortgages to prevent additional foreclosures; and a precise cap on executive compensation.

The current credit crisis affects all Americans. If action is not taken to stem the crisis, Americans risk losing their homes, jobs, personal savings, life insurance and more. Banks will cease to lend to businesses and homeowners, and credit will be increasingly difficult to come by for average Americans. I strongly believe that the consequences of failing to act now would be greater than not acting at all.

Attached please find a statement I recently made on the floor of the Senate expressing my feelings on this issue. Please know that I will keep your thoughts in mind as this situation unfolds.

Once again, thank you for writing. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein
Floor Statement on the Economic
Rescue Proposal
September 26, 2008

"Mr. President, to date I have received from Californians more than 50,000 calls and letters, the great bulk of them in opposition to any form of meeting this crisis with financial help from the Federal Government. I wanted to come to the floor to very simply state how I see this and some of the principles that I hope will be forthcoming in this draft. Before I do so, I wish to pay particular commendation to Senator Dodd, Senator Schumer, Senator Bennett, and others who have been working so hard on this issue. I have tried to keep in touch -- I am not a negotiator; I am not on the committee -- but California is the biggest State, the largest economic engine, and people are really concerned...

This goes on quite a bit, I will spare you that though. If you want it, let me know and I will forward. Did anyone else write? I assume everyone else would have gotten the same response?

September 26, 2008

faux palin

Dunno if you all have seen this, since we have been busy running to WaMu trying to get cents on the dollar, but its funny. In a sort of nightmarish foreign policy equivalent to "I dont know much about the economy" McCain.

September 24, 2008

Travel Report 9: Why I will never leave don det

You might think there is no more to the question of why never come back than the above. And on the surface I agree. However, right now I can think of a couple more good reasons that are strangely linked to global finance and my bank account at the magically same time.

But let me digress from this annoying topic first as many of you have to my surprise wanted to know about my future whereabouts. I guess my insecurity comes out in such a way that I think nobody really gives a hoot what I do and where I do it. So thank you for prooving me wrong and asking where the bloody hell my next outstandingly funi, interesting, poetic and exceedingly readable, if not gramatically completely correct, travel report will reach you from.

It is to be from Austria. I just realized that I really should be making an effort to promote Austria at least a little bit since it is quite lovely. Yes, I said it, Austria is wonderful. At least when I am on vacation, wherelse can I go to Schiele Museums...

Go play a game of pool with both my Austrian and Austinian friends...

Listen to Abbado and Pollini (my Mum thinks he is too unemotional) do Beethoven Symphonies in one of the top 3 concerthalls in the world for 6 Euros, tickets purchased at the door on the night of the performance...

Put Versailles to shame...

Find out how its done (the putting to shame of Versaille). It takes roughly 60 year-round gardener employees and lots of practice and talent to be able to cut a tree round. This guy was telling me that while Phil snuck in a picture. Sneaky, Dr Jones! I know, we should be spies.

And so much more, which might come out in another posting, but right now I know you are dying to find out what is next, and why I will never come back from Don Det!

On the 10th of October I have a flight to Bangkok. I will stay there a few days and then get on the bus to Cambodia. I will be in Cambodia for about a month and then get back to Bangkok to fly to Yangon on the 10th of November where I will meet my uncle who I will then travel around Burma with for about a month. On the 5th of December I will be back in Bangkok. No idea after that.

Why I should stay in Don Det instead of going to Melbourne and Brisbane and back to USA? Because a couple of dollars a day is all I need there, and thats all I will have after the Treas. Sec is done bailing his old company out. I know I promised you no more capitalist robber baron rants, but this one is just too good to be passed over. Quick and painful:
  • Treas. Sec. Paulson "The Hammer" says that the overleveraged and underbacked debt instruments that were created by the investment houses over the last few years are largely responsible for the current malaise.
  • Goldman Sachs is one of these investment houses, as proven by the current bailout of Goldman Sachs by Warren Buffet to the tune of USD 5 billion.
  • Paulson was the CEO of Goldman Sachs for 8 years before joining the Bush Administration last year.
  • His payout from Sachs before joining the govt was: YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! You can find his stock ownership of $632.4 mil right under the first pie chart. This is a Forbes site, they are in business to tell us who the heroes of capitalism are. They wouldn't lie, they are proud of this stuff. He had to sell these stocks without (!) paying taxes at the time of switching from Sachs CEO to Treas Sec. Cant have a conflict of interest, right? RIGHT?!?
  • Amongst other actions as CEO he directed that all major strategy changes had to come before the board before being implemented. For example the usage of new overleveraged and underbacked debt instruments.
  • So now he asks me to give him 700 billion (we all know this is an entré), of which a cold hard 630 million went into his pocket 1 year ago.
Wow, now that I put it like this, I will go ahead and actually write a letter to my congress man - before I go to chill on Don Det, on the Mekong between Laos and Cambodia.

Feedback Links to your Senator:

Barbara Boxer:
Dianne Feinstein:
Members of Congress:

Arizona: My favorite "The economy is in good shape" John McCain:
Members of Congress:

I did write to all of the Senators and to one Representative each. Call me naiv, call me stupid, but this stuff annoys me too much to not at least give them a piece of my mind.

September 22, 2008

regarding finlandization

This is what the Finns thought of Finlandization:

Thanks for the add Z.

September 20, 2008

Travel report 8 - finlandization

Recounting my swedish train experience has been so traumatic for me that it took me nearly two weeks before I could take keyboard (pen) and monitor (paper) in hand again. I have had to resort to extreme measures, recommended only in extraordinary cases of physical, psychological and emotional hardship in order to regain my inner balance. Mainly those measures consisted of running around Vienna with Philipp taking in the sites, and eating as much deliciousnes as humanly possible. I am officially becoming a gluton, at least when it comes to eurotrashy foods, the consequences of which (diabities, lovehandles, etc) remaining only somewhat malpronounced as one needs to walk from one bloody museum to the next café, to the next emperor's summer residence, on to the purveyor of heart attacks in the form of Austrian Käsekrainer Hotdogs. You could say I am trading one pain for the other, but I disagree heartily, yes even gluttoninly (spelling?). In this case at least I am dying of and at my own pleasure, whereas the former raison de malaise was Swedish conartistry. I think we can all agree that cultural and cullinary gluttony is the preferable way to take the trip across the great pond and say Howdy to good old Manitou.

Random not so fun fact 1: Global Investors are pulling their assets out of stock markets like there is no tomorrow.

Excuse me, before I continue I need to dunk my butter/nutella/jam/peanut butter croissant into my morning coffee laced with real rich austrian cream. My teeth have been falling out from all the sugary pastries I have been wolfing, so now I need to soften even this poor croissant.

Funnily enough my Finlandization starts in Sweden. I am at the airport, completely out of whack, from the trainride if you haven't realized that yet, so I want to eat a bite before boarding the plane to Helsinki. I roll into this airport food place and grab the first sandwich and drink that I see.

In retrospect I realize this probably wasn't my luckiest choice. Coke and Green Tea must be very healthy (NOT) as it tastes disgusting, and a sandwich with mayonaise and little canned shrimp and veggies just screams "Don't eat me". I actually threw some of it away, and how often have you seen me do that? I mean I always eat all my food. Its a WW2 and guilt over starving african babies thing.

Random not so fun fact 2: This global investment stampede is headed straight for the US bond market and its perceived safety.

Nevertheless I would judge my visit to Sweden a resounding success, mostly because I loved seeing Lisa again after so many years. She really has done well for herself. And as soon as I stepped on the plane I forgot about the sandwich and bad coca cola diversification attempt, however not the train ride, and started to look forward to a similar experience in Finland. Where I was to visit my old, old girlfriend Minna. She is not old at all, actually she is the same as always, but it was a LONG time ago. However, she does have two wonderful little troublemakers and one equally cool husband, all of whom I could not wait to meet. She picked me up at the airport (this was ok, but I would have felt horrible if Lisa would have come out to get me on that Blain the train) with her very happy 5 month old son Pepe Antero. I prepared myself for another family adventure as we rode out to her place, which is right around the corner from the northern most tram station in the whole bloody world!

Are you kidding me? How cool is a vacation if you have friends that randomly live in places like that?

And how asocial is Finland if they make benches in parks such as this one? Finnish city planer (who I still prefer over his Phoenix equivalent) says "What do you mean I need to make space for more than one pensioneer on this park bench? Finnish geriatrics do not talk to each other. Everybody knows that. Voi Satana!"

The Finns are a not an emotionally cold people. Their nation is one marked by loyalty to the poor and the weak. Imagine surviving next to Hudson Bay climate and on the border to a mean old bear like Russia for hundreds of years, and you will understand the level of social cohesion that is required to thrive in a place like this. This is the reason why it is unthinkable for a Finn to cross a red light, even though he might stand at an intersection on the polar circle during the third month of that particular night, with no cars in sight for the last 72 hours. People here have rules that they follow in order to survive 40 degree celcius below freezing. It also explains why Finns asume that Germans think outside the box and are a somewhat unruly, yet funloving people. Apart from the Scandinavian's design prowess this furthermore is the reason why the people of the land of the rising sun share a brotherly bond with the people of the land of no sun for six month. Climate and geography apparently trump physiological and olfactory antipathy.

Random not so fun fact 3: The US government pumps USD 300 Billion into the stock market in order to saveguard money market accounts, prop up a free-falling Dow Jones and buy some time to figure out how to effectively spin the message to the world that it is headed for a replay of the great depression.

How can you not love these intractable people? They offer their home and saunas (Which I am happy to tell you yet again, is a Finnish invention, as are ice swimming, Adidas and Glühwein) to you, yet do not know how to handle a Romany beggar lady because that sort of thing has never been done in Finish society before.

Their modern art is so modern that it questions the way we sit on park benches. And I am not talking about those single white old female park benches.

They like to think up designs that overthrow conventional wisdom with gusto:

And they really do not appreciate the pitfalls of our modern sense of beauty:

All the important body parts and faces in these images at the design museum are grotesquely fake.

However they are lucky to exhibit for the first time outside of Japan this amazing collection of woodcuts from the 18th century by Hokusai and Hiroshige. If this exhibit visits your town at some point over the next couple of years I highly recommend seeing it. Unless you have some sort of Yakuza connection to the Yasusaburo Hara Collection in Tokyo you will not have another chance to see it.

Random not so fun fact 4: 100 of the 300 Billion USD that the US Govt pumps into the market are generated by the sale of new bonds to that same market.

This is the Great Wave of Kanagawa, probably the most famous of these prints. You have seen a reprint of it somewhere. I was really fascinated by this. Not so much by the quality of the woodcuts (what do I know about it?), but by the insights into Japanese life in those days, and by the fact that I lived on top of what used to be one of The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road when I was in Tokyo. Crazy, eh? If you care to look it up, it was the third station on the road from Tokyo.

Finland not only invented the Sauna, the Alvar Alto vase and untold other design wonders, they also claim Santa Claus, even though their Santa Claus originated as Joulupukki in the cold wastelands of nothern Finland instead of the Northpole. I think its somewhere close to VW's prooving grounds. Here is a picture to prove that first of all Santa is Finnish, if not finished, and secondly that not only my dear American compatriots fall victim to horrendously gaudy commercializations of the most time-honored customs:

I must at this point finally acknowledge that we humans all seem to have a yen for taking the prettiest customs, the most majestic natural vistas, the nicest little seaside towns, the most exhalted sounds that musical geniuses produced hundreds of years ago and making them available to the most amount of people for the quickest buck possible. This is just another in a long line of qualitities that truly exemplify that we are all created equal. Equally greedy, equally tasteless and equally cheesy.

I know I am annoying you with my ideological bent, so this is my last rant about commercialism, capitalism and there just being too many people around. At least until I am in Angkor Watt.

Random fun fact conclusion: A perfect if not sensemaking circle has been drawn. Joe Smith takes his money out of stocks and puts them into bonds. These bonds are sold to him by the govt in order to finance the propping up of the stock market which fell through the floor because Joe Smith took his money out of it. Brilliant!

In conclusion here are a couple of nice picture of me relaxing from all the Joulupukki and Museum running stress in front of Minna's and Sampsa's home.

This is probably the last nice day of the year in Helsinki

Minna, Otto and me

Pepe Antero and me. I promise I am holding the baby, not crushing it. Look how happy he is! Can't you tell?

PS: In case you were wondering what Finlandization really is:

September 9, 2008

one last thing

Before the world gets sucked into a blacker-than-night toilet bowl centered roughly around Geneva I wanted to share this lovely little Austrian cultural anomaly. Well its not an anomaly to us, but you all might think it so.

Seriously, you need to click and zoom in. I tried to catch him as he smacks himself in the nuts, but no such luck. They were actually pretty good. Although I gotta say, all I did was take this picture and than try not to look too much. Its impolite. Well, it was kinda hurting my eyes actually.

In all honesty, I took this picture to prove to you that I am one of the normal ones!

September 7, 2008

travel report 7 - northern exposure

All I need now for my perfect northern exposure week is a cute brunette, a strange sort of Hippy DJ who used to have sex with my ex-wife, and a former Astronaut Mayor. And a Moose. Of course none of these things will actually make my bodily shell believe that it is in Alaska, so I will just get right to it, and tell you about my Scandinavian Experience instead.

Random Fun Fact: The Swedes think that the Finns are way blonder than they are.

First of all, this time I was not language confused. It was quite clear to me after basking in the Croatian 35 degree sun for a week, that when I hit Stockholm I was now not in Kansas anymore (forgive the plagiarism, I am not a fan of the movie, but that line just works so nicely). I did not say s'cusi or pardon to everybody, and I was not worried about my stuff getting stolen out of my car. I did however notice a few rather pecular scandinathings.

It started at Stockholm Airport. Happily I strolled along, not suspecting any tomfoolery or shenanigans. I was after all in rational, safe, utterly selfcontrolled Sweden. Here the babes are supposed to be blond, the cars either look like tanks or are made by weapons firms and never in a million years would you expect to get ripped off at the airport in true south east asia fashion.

(I must add that I only ever had great experiences with tuktuks)

But believe it or not, that is what happened: Little Peter rolls up to the train ticket machine for buy ticket to center of Stockholm. Ticket asks for 220 of hard (honestly) earned coins. I about drop my ambitions to find a blond in a tank or fighter jet as I look for the next plane out of this utterly irrational, unsafe, un-selfcontrolled country to which my plane ticket from Austria was 47 Euros and where the train ticket to town costs 5 times as much!

Oh right, the Swedes use Kronas. They are not asking for Euros. Wtf, I think, who does that anymore? I understand if you dont want to give up your Sterling, that just sounds to good to be traded in for the Teuro, but Kronas from Sweden? I go to exchange money, feeling a bit strange as while travelling through 7 countries in EU I have not had to do that, am therefore not used to gifting the exchange fee to the Cambio joint, Q.E.D feel ripped off like a headless chicken in the puebla on El Día de los Muertos. After the exchange I realize that the return ticket to and from the city costs more than my flight even though it is not in Euros anymore. Of course you know that this is absolutely intolerable to Peter. Rip me off in Bangkok and Chitzen Itza - gringo prices, thats cool. But Stockholm? Surely you kid!

I search for alternatives: Bus, other trains, anything. Swedish ice queen looks me cold in the eye, says "There is another train, but you have to take a bus to it, and than change again. It takes very long". Sounds like a mexican nightmare. I am now afraid of the con artistry of the Swedes. I did not see it coming, so was not prepared for it. What will happen next? Shellgames in dark corners? Girls inviting me home, only to be "surprised" by their husbands who then demand hush money? Pickpockets the likes of which a poor naive Austrian has never seen, even after the east opening of the EU? I buy the bloody ticket, as I think Lisa is already wondering for which scam I fell. Cant make her worry, she is 5 month pregnant.

You ask for the lesson from this: Dont give train monopoly transport to airport. And be happy that the train into Vienna is only 8 Euros.

Lisa, her husband Pål and their sweet son Cesar where so kind to put up this itenarant Austrian at their pad around the corner from Kungsgatan. I had not seen Lisa in about 10 years. We attended QUT in Brison, Queensland together. So amazing to see her all growed up.

This is a foto at Millesgården and the Kårfalks. I dont know if you ever plan on going to Sweden after reading my above rant, but if you do, go check this Swedish Dali of the bronze statue out. Let me show you:

This floats my boat.

I also checked out Stockholms old town, this is me and Lisa in front of the castle of the King. I don't know why the Austrians ever thought not having a King would be cool.

I mean we could stand in front of the Hofburg (pic left) and say "This is where the king hangs, and out at Schönbrunn he chills in the Summer".

Random Fun Fact: The Finns think that the Swedes are all way blonder than they are.

Walking around Stockholm, especially the part that I stayed at, one can not help but notice that the guys really like pretty suits and the girls all shop at the nicest labels. If Assar wears one of these suits to work (and I know he owns them, looks good in them, too) he would very quickly be labeled at least metrosexual, which in Arizona is only one small step from that dreaded label of a fashionable man who likes skin products (I dont know that much about you - do you Assar?). There exists of course an age old urban myth that Swedish girls are exceptionally fine specimen of their species, the female one that is. In the past I have tended to disagree as I visited Stockholm on a cold winter weekend 15 years ago, and politely thought, as is my nature, that they must all be very thickly dressed in many layers. Now, that I was there during a few late summer days, I must reverse my thinking. Yes they are exceptionally pretty, and strange as it may seem to some of you I have not been to a single bar/club/meatmarket outside of Vienna in the last two month. This can only mean one of a few things: I am old/I am cold/I am as always/I am stupid. You figure it out. In any case, the Swedes are the Japanese of Europe when it comes to being label conscious.

After this longwinded analysis of Swedish anatomy and fashion sense, without any pictures to prove my points no less (what do you want me to do, get stalker arrested?) I move on to a much more fun topic. Yes, there are funner topics than calling Swedes beautiful if gay acolytes to modern consumerism. Case in point being the Vasa museum. I know! You didnt believe me.

Random Fun fact: Swedes and Finns are equally blond.

This wonderful ship, the Vasa, not just any ship mind you, but actually named after the Swedish royal family, was built to great fanfare and was made to strike shock and awe into the Poles. We all know how those things go. Although why anyone would bother with the Poles, apart from taking their country apart as buffer between Russia, Prussia and Austria is quite beyond me. In any case this ship took three years to build, carried 64 cannons and was launched in 1628.

It was painted in gaudy colors and had funny figures of submissive Polish nobility carved into its bow. The who is who of Sweden of 1628 attended as the mighty ship fired a salut in celebration of this achievement seconds after being launched. And proceeded to sink into Stockholm harbour 3 minutes later. I am sure Jan Sobieski (see picture to left) was terrified of the Swedish naval might after this couragous display.

In typical confident scandinavian (in any other country in the world this would have been stricken from the historic record) fashion the Vasa has been dug up from the harbour floor in 1961 were it was amazingly well preserved by the frigid baltic sea. For us all to see, stands here this impressive if slightly off-kilter ship, as a lesson in how not to build one.

Did I mention Jan Sobieski? Again I must tax your outstanding historical knowledge base. This is the same Sobieski who in 1683 heroically beat the Turks into submission with his cavalary in front of the gates of Vienna. One man's friend is apparently another man's enemy. Of course we thanked the Poles for saving Christendom by using their country as punching bag between the aforementioned countries. What can I say? There is a reason why the term Real Politik was coined by a Secretary of State with a German accent. And his name wasn't Metternich.

In the end the Poles lost the sea battles against the Swedes, who managed just fine without the Vasa.

And I managed just fine to get back onto that disgrace of a train, to catch my flight to even colder Finland. I just drank myself into oblivion with Finlandia Wodka before paying the ticket. As we all, and any good Russian, know Wine and Cognac are for the heart. While Wodka is for the soul, when it is really hurting. As mine was after submitting to the train krona terror yet again.

The story of Finland, the surely most asocial (I kid, I kid) country in the world, I will tell another day, after I get my China Visa.