Friday, April 9, 2010

The minarets thing

So, by referendum, the Swiss peoples voted that they did not want the construction of minarets in their country. The conclusion from everybody especially Muslim countries is that the Swiss are hateful anti-Muslims.
I am not sure that’s exactly what it means. The Swiss are a most civilized and quite people but they just like their country the way it is. Thank you very much. They don’t mind if folks are Muslim, Buddhists, Hindus or worshipers of the great chocolate doughnut in the sky. The same way they could not care or less if you are gay, straight or anything in between.
They just don’t like to have things put IN THEIR FACE. They like discretion and they don’t like things extraordinary. A slim pointed tower like a minaret is extraordinary and is not consistent with the local environment.
This does not stop at all the construction of mosques. By the way there are 4 minarets in Switzerland and this purportedly is the largest number per sq. kilometer in all western countries..

On the other hand, what if they were a little defensive?

“ Minarets are our bayonets” says Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish prime minister

December 8th, 2009 AFP Oujda, Morocco
Five foreigners were ex pulsed from Morocco Saturday for “unannounced meeting and evangelical proselytism” according to the police of Oujda (north-east of Morocco).

Morocco is supposed to be the most reasonable Muslim country..

Here is what Dalla Al-Moufti, a courageous journalist at Al-Quabas, a Kuweit newspaper says about the Swiss minarets:

“The world was agitated after the vote against the construction of minarets.
As usual our dear deputies (of Kuweit) had their part at showing how offended they were by the results of the vote(…) I don’t know why our deputies forget liberty and laity in our country, and remember about it only when talking about occidental countries. Why do we have the right to forbid, annul, or black list when others cannot do it? Why can we insult, abuse or preach ill for all persons who do not belong to our religion and if one of them complains do we stiffen our stand?
A question is asked? Did you forget that the sound of church bells is forbidden in Koweit ? Did you forget that campaigns against unbelievers pass and continue to perpetuate against Christians in the press, every month of December? Have you forgotten the laws forbidding the construction of churches in some Arab countries? Have you forgotten the call on Friday in our mosques who pray god for their dismantling ? Have you forgotten the Fatwas which forbid to give Christmas wishes? Have you forgotten the law forbidding naturalization of non-Muslims Which we are proud to having been the first to put in effect?

We can read on a regular basis stories about Christian being murdered in various parts of the world just for being Christians. Why does not any government, US, French, British or whatever say anything officially? Is it because things happen generally in places where we purchase oil, is it because politicians don’t give a shit besides things that will get them reelected? A combination of both?

I am not asking to treat Muslims as bad as some Muslims treat Christians but l don’t think the Swiss should apologize for their way of life.

Compare the decision of the Swiss with the behavior of most Muslim countries and be fair.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quality versus Quantity

In the shift of profits towards Capital or the struggle to be competitive not only Labor lost. Throughout the world and various industries the quality of goods and services has diminished. A culture of efficiency has been installed that wants to increase production at a lesser cost. This affects the production of yogurts, hamburgers, sausages but also medical centers, police departments and court systems as well.

Efficiency supposes measurement: How many grams of this per unit? How many seconds to accomplish this process? What’s the cost of this or that from step A to step B? The problem with this is that measurements measure only things that can be measured. What cannot be measured is killed. MBAs and engineers are taught to be objective and for them all the elements of a process should be quantified, dissected, benchmarked, or whatever: what cannot be measured does not exist.

That extra gram of this or these extra seconds used traditionally are taken away. At first sight the product is essentially the same, the price has been reduced, the consumer can’t tell it is a lesser product, he pays less and everybody is happy. Little by little over several decades they became so efficient that we started to eat garbage and never realized it. We were getting more in quantity at a lesser price and started to eat more also. No surprise we are getting fatter.

It is an interesting exercise to watch American movies of the fifties and sixties, especially the ones in color. Looking at the clothes, the houses and everything else (including the Chevys and T-birds of the 50s) one gets an amazing impression of wealth. The material of the actors suits, the quality of the cuts did not compare with anything today. Something has been lost.

By himself, man is naturally inclined to like the things he does or fabricate. Some are better than other of course but there is a little bit of his soul in his products. The artisans that makes boots or wood cabinets, jewelry or other crafts put love to it. In services it is the same thing. Men and women generally want to do the right thing and do a good job. When they are not proud of the things they make or the service they render instead of doing things with love they do them with something else: boredom, anger or contempt. At the end of the day we assimilate everything. Physically or subconsciously, we digest things. That delicious meal in a restaurant we take it in along with the love it was made with. It works the same way with the greasy pizza that was made with anger or contempt. It all gets inside us.

This thing about efficiency and cutting cost has been well translated into public service. When you start judging a court system on the basis of the number of cases processed, justice is not necessarily served. Same with cops: Judging a police officer on the number of traffic violations he writes may not be conducive to better law enforcement in general. Your friendly family doctor used to have you sit in his office, he would talk to you, look at you in the eyes and give you 15 minutes of his time. Nowadays if you get 38 seconds face time with a nurse practitioner, just say thank you to efficiency.

Another way to look at it is the way, during the Reagan years, how businesses were “cutting the fat”. In many instances they not only cut the fat of, they also took some muscle as well.

We got to go back to plain old traditional values in consuming. We must buy good quality products, maybe in lesser quantities, and get them from local sources when possible.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ideas in disorder about corruption and “thou shall not” stuff

These are rather interesting subjects that are generally looked at with both hypocrisy and an AWOL sense of reality.

One always look at Africa and South America as the pits when it comes to corruption and no one talks about what’s going on in so called “more civilized” countries. There are official organizations that rate nations and it confirms what everybody thinks: that Brazil… but that Switzerland….

In many countries, to try to make corruption totally disappear from one day to the next is not possible. What is different in 3d world rot and western rot is a matter of common sense. Not all corrupt practices are the same. Let’s say that a buyer negotiates the best quality product or services, gets the best price and after all that squeezes something for himself. That’s one thing. It is rotten, that lady should be fired but the consequences are not that grave. The job is done and can even be done well. We could call that “intelligent” corruption. That’s the kind of things one could find in countries like Switzerland or the US.
When somebody starts by the “under the table” and uses whatever is left to buy the goods or services, there is less money to do the job and therefore quality is diminished. This can create serious problems: the plane crashes because maintenance was sloppy, the building burns because the wiring was substandard, or whatever.

It would seem more reasonable to FIRST try to educate 3d world politicians or business peoples to become more sophisticated in there rotten behavior rather than tell them :”Don’t do it”. I am not sure how it could be done since saying it condones corruption..

Second subject:

Christian education makes people want to take absolute stands that have never worked. Prostitution is a “nono” but only in the books. It has existed for thousands of years and will still exist in the future. Alcool was a “nono” in the US and mostly because of that, the Mafias came into existence in the US. When it became legal to drink it was too late and the Mafia had already been created. Same with drugs: The fact of making Marihuana and Cocaine illegal has created Columbian and Mexican drug cartels who have now unbelievable cash resources. At the end of the day there are more drug consumers now than ever. The system does not work. Prisons are overcrowded with drug offenders at a cost of 25K$ per head per year. If there are 2 millions people in jail in the US, at least 80% are there for drug offenses. The cost of jailing these folks is then in the neighborhood of 40 billions USD per year! Let’s compare this cost with the meager 3’000USD per head spent by some States like Arizona on children’s education…
We must add to this the cost of the various law enforcement agencies and their losing battles: City polices, County Sheriffs, State polices and various federal agencies. A few more billions dollars. Why can’t we legalize all this, control it and tax the hell out of it. Besides that, there is absolutely no control on the quality of the products bought from the friendly local pushers. Kids (and adults) buy things in total darkness. There is no quality control department here. A few years back a journalist from the French magazine Actuel made purchases of cocaine in various parts of Paris and had them tested by a laboratory. The results showed that none of the sample had more than 19% of cocaine and that in most cases no “high” could really be obtained because there was not enough of the drug. From a parent or medical point of view that would be good. However the fillers that constituted the 80 % of the purchase were as varied as dangerous in some cases. There was: flour, rice powder, talcum powder, sugar but also ground glass, detergent and other nasty things. The results would probably be the same in any big city in the US.

Back to forbidding things. The pope telling Catholics that they are not allowed to use condoms is in the same vein: telling people not to do things that they will do anyway is not realistic. The worst is still the fact of pastors or congressmen that are violently opposed to homosexuality in their speech but are in fact gay themselves: Pastor Ted Haggard, Pastor Paul Barnes, Congressman Mark Foley and others, not caught yet.

I think the reason folks like forbidding things is that they first want to forbid what they are afraid of. The most frightening being “temptation” .

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ce que j'aime en France.

D’abord la bouffe, au hasard :

Tête de veau sauce gribiche
Bœuf en daube
Les tripes à la lyonnaise ou à la mode de Caen
La choucroute
La bouillabaisse
Le cassoulet
Le confit de canard
Le foie gras
Le cantal
Le Reblochon
Le Coulommier
Le beurre salé (Oops, le cholestérol)
La baguette de pain

C’est bizarre d’écrire tout ça avant le dîner, sur un estomac vide… C’est peut être même dangereux..

Les vins c’est moins facile. Là encore, il y a les choses typiques qui ne montrent pas des extrêmes de bonne et mauvaise qualité et ou je suis toujours assuré d’avoir une bonne qualité moyenne. Dans un supermarché, je n’ai pas peur d’acheter un Cahors, Madiran, Sylvaner, Gewurtztraminer ( c’est comme ca que c’est écrit ?) un vin du Jura, blanc, rosé ou rouge.
Quand on arrive au rayon des Bordeaux qui fait 30 mètres de long je prend la fuite. Il y en a à partir de 2€ jusqu’à 40€ et plus et le prix n’est pas une garantie de quoi que soi. On ne sait pas quoi acheter. Graves, Médoc, Haut Médoc, etc.. ? Parfois pour 5€ on a quelque chose de très honnête et parfois pour 20€ on a quelque chose de très moyen.
Le vin il faut s’y connaître. Pour cela il faut avoir une bonne combinaison de :

1- les moyens
2- le palais
3- le temps

Personnellement je n’ai aucun des 3. Je ne pense pas être capable d’apprécier la différence entre un produit à 200€ et un autre à 20€. J’ai aussi le sentiment que la plupart des gens sont plus ou moins comme moi. Si même on a le palais il y a un aspect encyclopédique à la chose. Il faut avoir goûté des milliers de crus de dizaines d’années différentes. Mon père avait un ami qui les yeux fermés pouvait tracer un cercle de 50kms de rayon sur une carte de France et donner l’année du vin qu’il goûtait. So fucking what ? La plupart des gens font les malins et des grimaces en goûtant leur vins mais ne s’y connaissent pas tant que ca.
Tristement je crois que le futur du vin c’est les cons comme moi qui veulent une qualité permanente à des produits de prix moyens et ne veulent pas se compliquer la vie. : le Chardonnex vieilli en fut de chêne qu’il fut du Sud Ouest, d’Australie ou de la Californie ainsi que le Cabernet des mêmes endroits.

Il y a beaucoup de choses et de gens marrants en France.

Même s’ils sont morts ils y a ceux qui sont et seront toujours vivants : pour moi, Michel Serault avant tout le monde, Coluche, Le Luron, Sacha Guitry, Louis Jouvet ( je sais, je montre mon âge..) C’est dommage que Dieudonné soit devenu "bizzare". Je le trouvais fantastique. Il aurait pu devenir un des plus grands.
Les Guignols de l’info je les regardais à Phoénix avec Internet. C’est tout de même une institution nationale.

Autant je trouve Belmondo exceptionnel, autant Alain Delon me laisse totalement froid. Un acteur qui n’a pas été suffisamment reconnu ou récompensé pour moi c’est Jean Pierre Marielle. Jean Reno peut faire et la finesse et le macho. Il est très bien. On pourrait même lui faire jouer des choses beaucoup plus intérieures. Ses plus grandes « œuvres » sont à venir.

Dans le domaine des vieilles pierres. la France est vraiment gâtée. Entre le château de Carcassonne et Versailles, il y a le choix. Carcassonne est pour moi une des plus belles choses qui existe. Versailles me touche moins dans la mesure ou c’est un lieu associé à la société de cour qui a eu une telle influence sur la société Française, en bien comme en mal. Mais que c’est beau. De même une promenade sur la Seine, à Paris, à regarder les vieilles pierres nettoyées c’est aussi un plaisir.

J’aime le côté « demmerde » ou débrouillard des Français, bien qu’il soit en train de disparaître. Il n’ont pas autant besoin de l’être qu’il y a 50 ans. Les gens qui ont encore besoin de l’être de nos jours ce sont les Brésiliens.

C’est un peu con de ramener à 2 pages les impressions et connaissances de 69 années mais je n’ai pas envie d’écrire un livre non plus

Bernie Baby

Quote of the Week
'I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.'
Thomas Jefferson 1802

Thinking about Bernard Madoff...

Everybody says it's about greed. I don't agree at all. It has to do with pride and cowardice more than anything else. A few years back BM was the smartest, foremost expert on anything financial. He was managing funds which were outperforming others. At one point his funds started to show some losses so he borrowed from the principal of new investors to continue giving the high returns that he had promissed, thinking that within a short time he would have covered his shortcomings. The profit did not return. Years back, he probably could have said:

"Sorry folks, I am not the most intelligent man around after all and we are showing some losses, if you want to pull back your marbles, go ahead."

He did not want to look like a fool so he shut his mouth and took money from new investors to cover his hidden losses. I can understand greed but to fuck peoples just to keep his image is really the pits.

One more time it shows that it takes great intelligence to be a real asshole.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Geneva auto show 2009

I went to the Geneva auto show yesterday. You'd never know there is a crisis. I stopped counting the cars above the 200'000$ altitude. There were more than last year.

Here is a picture of the old Morgan 195x vintage. That's a real sport car. You don't go that fast but what a ride..

Here is a pretty interesting 3 wheel scooter. I did not ask the price. Probably more than a full size truck.

Check out this really COOL Mazda prototype. I WANT ONE !!!

How do you like them space ships. 300kms per hour, 5 miles per gallon and nowhere on earth where you can get out of first gear. Besides there is not enough room for both a passenger and the grocery bags. But damn it, they are pretty

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


As long as we are in arrogant country talking about the big subjects of this world, why not tackle this one. I probably would not pass economics 101 anymore but, again, PHDs in economics have been using advanced mathematical formulas to tell us that all is well for the last 30 years. In times of crisis, everyone is an economist.

Why talk of Capitalism or Socialism or Communism? Why not look at the economy like a wheel with 3 spokes: Labor, Capital and output, (the production of goods and services). If the 3 spokes of the wheel have the same length, the wheel turns correctly. If one of the spokes is too long or too short, the wheel cannot turn anymore.

The wheel of the economy could not turn during the days of communism because the spoke of labor was too long. The same way in many socialist countries the wheel turns at a slower pace because the spoke of labor is too long. Nowadays for many different reasons the US has created a world economy where the spoke of capital is too long and the wheel does not turn very well.

For many years the US had an economic wheel that turned like a Swiss watch: from the beginnings of the Ford motor company to the mid seventies.
In 1910 or so, Henri Ford decided to pay 5$ per day to his factory workers when the practice at the time was 5$ per week. He thought that with their higher pay they would buy his cars as well. Other employers thought the same way. That’s the way to create growth: To have employees earn enough money to consume. Not by giving big dividends at the expense of employees. For 50 years Americans had the best standard of living on earth.

In those days Fredrick Winslow Taylor wrote in his “Principles of scientific management”:

The principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employee.
The words "maximum prosperity" are used, in their broad sense, to mean not only large dividends for the company or owner, but the development of every branch of the business to its highest state of excellence, so that the prosperity may be permanent

That was social capitalism. And there is nothing wrong with that.
What happened to America ? In my view, it’s not that complicated. In the sixties and seventies the unions became a little too powerful especially in the auto industry. They became fat cats. American cars of the seventies were not good at all and the first Japanese autos easily pierced the wall of the castle. US manufacturers had electronic parts done or assembled in the far east. This exported know how and technology. I think that in the seventies steel workers were getting 18$ per hour when the South Koreans were getting 2$. For me the Unions have been the cause of the “breach in the wall” . Even though they did a wonderful job for the American worker up to that point, they became too powerful and lacked wisdom. Here is an example of the wheel slowing down because one of the spokes is too long. Now the unions are too weak.
The nail in the coffin came with the age of Reagan. He killed the unions in general when he fired the air controllers on strike in 1981 . This was significant in the way employers dealt with employees. Imperceptibly, from this day on, American employees were not human beings anymore they were tools and they were treated as such. At the same time came the years of “trimming the fat”. Perhaps rightly so. Unfortunately many did not stop at the fat, they cut into the muscle as well. All the big companies were cutting off the non productive staffs. CEOs who fired a few hundred folks without any absolute reason were hailed as heroes and the shares went up. The words “maximizing share holder’s equity” became carved in the stones of all American corporations. 2 things were happening at the same time that destroyed the American standard of living. The first one was the shift of the profit from the employee to the stock holder and the second is the competition from the Far-East and the combination of both.
The USA have all the basic resources they need right at home. In the sixties or so, they could have say no to imports, kept the technology at home and live in a nice and safe economic world. The only reason we opened the borders was to “maximize the shareholder’s equity” of some companies.
Could we go back to protectionism? Probably not. In some industries it could perhaps be done if at the same time there were measures to help that industry start anew. In so many cases it would be very complicated. In the manufacture of a semi conductor chip the size of a finger nail, six or seven different countries can be involved. The silicon of the chip is grown in one country it is etched in another one, it is cased in plastic in the far east and the gold for the bonding of the legs comes from another place. Still I am sure that little by little some if not all industries could be repatriated with a combination of protectionism and industry/job creation incentives. Do we really need Wal-Mart 10$ plastic pairs of shoes from China that will last 3 months ? I guess yes if one working 40 hours a week earns 1200$ per month. Besides all this precedent “blablabla”, something should be said about the stock market in general. At the end of the day, it is the worst enemy of corporate America. Essentially, it dictates the way companies should be run. The shares go up or down according to the results or the forecasted results of the quarter, 6 months or year. Therefore profit and sales must always be up; at all cost. Because of that, managers are afraid of taking risks or thinking far ahead and planning for the future. They are also tempted to show profit which is not there.. Since they have too much to lose, the independent auditors increasingly roll over when told to. That’s another thing that should be changed. Why not by law force a change of auditors every 3 or 4 years at big corporations.