Pete Lee

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Breaking The Hiatus

I've been quite busy with work over the last eight months, but hope to devote more time to blogging in a few weeks. I decided that a case regarding censorship and legal bullying of Craig Murray (former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan) deserves some attention from us.

After perusing the items below, I'd also recommend that you take a peek at an impressive documentary I watched last week: Maxed Out. This hair-raising movie reveals sordid details about predatory lending, and the mysterious passing of a recent bankruptcy law.

In a word: it may be time to cut up some of those credit cards and switch from banks to credit unions; the neck you may save may eventually be your own.

From the UK Register:
"Downed blogger Murray vows to continue Usmanov attacks"

A metablog on the situation:
http://b-heads.blogspot.com

Craig Murray's original blog text:

September 2, 2007

Alisher Usmanov, potential Arsenal chairman, is a Vicious Thug, Criminal, Racketeer, Heroin Trafficker and Accused Rapist

I thought I should make my views on Alisher Usmanov quite plain to you. You are unlikely to see much plain talking on Usmanov elsewhere in the media becuase he has already used his billions and his lawyers in a pre-emptive strike. They have written to all major UK newspapers, including the latter:

"Mr Usmanov was imprisoned for various offences under the old Soviet regime. We wish to make it clear our client did not commit any of the offences with which he was charged. He was fully pardoned after President Mikhail Gorbachev took office. All references to these matters have now been expunged from police records . . . Mr Usmanov does not have any criminal record."

Let me make it quite clear that Alisher Usmanov is a criminal. He was in no sense a political prisoner, but a gangster and racketeer who rightly did six years in jail. The lawyers cunningly evoke "Gorbachev", a name respected in the West, to make us think that justice prevailed. That is completely untrue.

Usmanov's pardon was nothing to do with Gorbachev. It was achieved through the growing autonomy of another thug, President Karimov, at first President of the Uzbek Soviet Socilist Republic and from 1991 President of Uzbekistan. Karimov ordered the "Pardon" because of his alliance with Usmanov's mentor, Uzbek mafia boss and major international heroin overlord Gafur Rakimov. Far from being on Gorbachev's side, Karimov was one of the Politburo hardliners who had Gorbachev arrested in the attempted coup that was thwarted by Yeltsin standing on the tanks outside the White House.

Usmanov is just a criminal whose gangster connections with one of the World's most corrupt regimes got him out of jail. He then plunged into the "privatisation" process at a time when gangster muscle was used to secure physical control of assets, and the alliance between the Russian Mafia and Russian security services was being formed.

Usmanov has two key alliances. he is very close indeed to President Karimov, and especially to his daughter Gulnara. It was Usmanov who engineered the 2005 diplomatic reversal in which the United States was kicked out of its airbase in Uzbekistan and Gazprom took over the country's natural gas assets. Usmanov, as chairman of Gazprom Investholdings paid a bribe of $88 million to Gulnara Karimova to secure this. This is set out on page 366 of Murder in Samarkand.

Alisher Usmanov had risen to chair of Gazprom Investholdings because of his close personal friendship with Putin, He had accessed Putin through Putin's long time secretary and now chef de cabinet, Piotr Jastrzebski. Usmanov and Jastrzebski were roommates at college. Gazprominvestholdings is the group that handles Gazproms interests outside Russia, Usmanov's role is, in effect, to handle Gazprom's bribery and sleaze on the international arena, and the use of gas supply cuts as a threat to uncooperative satellite states.

Gazprom has also been the tool which Putin has used to attack internal democracy and close down the independent media in Russia. Gazprom has bought out - with the owners having no choice - the only independent national TV station and numerous rgional TV stations, several radio stations and two formerly independent national newspapers. These have been changed into slavish adulation of Putin. Usmanov helped accomplish this through Gazprom. The major financial newspaper, Kommersant, he bought personally. He immediately replaced the editor-in-chief with a pro-Putin hack, and three months later the long-serving campaigning defence correspondent, Ivan Safronov, mysteriously fell to his death from a window.

All this, both on Gazprom and the journalist's death, is set out in great detail here: http://www.craigmurray.co.uk/archives/2007/06/russian_journal.html

Usmanov is also dogged by the widespread belief in Uzbekistan that he was guilty of a particularly atrocious rape, which was covered up and the victim and others in the know disappeared. The sad thing is that this is not particularly remarkable. Rape by the powerful is an everyday hazard in Uzbekistan, again as outlined in Murder in Samarkand page 120. If anyone has more detail on the specific case involving Usmanov please add a comment.


I reported back in 2002 or 2003 in an Ambassadorial top secret telegram to the Foreign Office that Usmanov was the most likely favoured successor of President Karimov as totalitarian leader of Uzbekistan. I also outlined the Gazprom deal (before it happened) and the present by Usmanov to Putin (though in Jastrzebski's name) of half of Mapobank, a Russian commercial bank owned by Usmanov. I will never forget the priceless reply from our Embassy in Moscow. They said that they had never even heard of Alisher Usmanov, and that Jastrzebski was a jolly nice friend of the Ambassador who would never do anything crooked.

Sadly, I expect the football authorities will be as purblind. Football now is about nothing but money, and even Arsenal supporters - as tight-knit and homespun a football community as any - can be heard saying they don't care where the money comes from as long as they can compete with Chelsea.

I fear that is very wrong. Letting as diseased a figure as Alisher Usmanov into your club can only do harm in the long term.

Censored

Monday, March 19, 2007

Beach Trip I

This last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the beach with my lovely girlfriend and her roommate. Accommodations were courtesy of the roommate's in-laws, and consisted of a rather pimp pad at The Capes near Tillamook, OR.


For reasons I can't explain, I never tire of visiting the Tillamook Cheese Factory. While there are other cheeses in the world that are truly gastronomic treasures (parmigiano reggiano, triple-creams from the Alps), there is something comforting about eating the common-yet-personable cheddar from Tillamook. While thought of as bland by my European acquaintances, I still look forward to the occasional ghetto-style croque monsieur after a long evening of drinking local microbrews. Anyone who has grown up eating relatively flavorless mass-marketed cheese has been robbed.

I also visited the neighboring Blue Heron Cheese Factory. Unlike the vapid conversation overheard from the teenagers serving samples, the brie was creamy and unoffensive--ready for extended aging alluded to by their website. Alsatian it's not, but neither was the reasonable price--with forthcoming rewards from a little time aging in the fridge. I also tasted several fine examples of something you former Oregon residents should be regretting about right now: jam made from Marionberries. Overall, while strange in its kitschyness (the next picture is of some art for sale there), Blue Heron did offer a taste of the 'Keep Oregon Weird' quality that seems to be slowly sanitizing away at its neighbor.


The fresh oysters on-the-half-shell were delicious, but the seafood in nearly all restaurants was overcooked. And, we're talking about $15-20/entree food here. Caveat emptor. That said, I do feel very grateful to have a girlfriend who indulges my need to try every local jerky and sausage shop to-and-from a place.



Next week, I'm off to Newport, OR for a second beach trip with Cynthia, Michael, Herr and Frau Friedrichs, and our new little prince Alexander. With any luck, I'll visit my new favorite brewery.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Nuevo Job

Most of you likely know already that I have a new job for a health system in Portland. Here's one of the perks:

Cafe Ex Machina

(No, I do not work for Microsoft, but geeks and coffee have been a love affair that's spanned millenia.)

Yes, I know it's Starbucks, but hell, it's always fresh and free (I've only been at one company in the last three years that had free coffee). As a result, I've been drinking a lot more coffee. To keep things mellow in the afternoon, I use the Half-Caf button--how L.A. of me!

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Woo-Hoo

My friend Marcus left a little comment for me to start blogging again. With that exhortation, I present to you the Official First Post of 2007(TM).

Gentlemen, start your blogs...

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Hi, I'm a Mac Home Fatwa"

Have you ever been under the gun, with your editor yelling that you're not leaving the office until "that hostage beheading video's been edited"? Well, it looks like the aptly named Final Cut Pro will be coming to your rescue...

Al Jazeera International chooses Apple technology

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Turkey Week Update

Well folks, it's been a little while since I've posted an update. I've been very busy with some short-term IT contracts while trying to find a good longer term (3-6 month) opportunity.

Tales from the Kitchen Lab
With a lot more spare time, I've had more time to hone my cooking skills. My new favorite discovery is that delicious soups can be created from relatively few ingredients. For example: caramelize one large diced onion, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a couple of pinches of kosher salt over low heat for 20-30 minutes (no burning!), then combine with four pieces of whole browned chicken thigh and add just enough water to cover to produce a very thick mixture. Bring to boil, then allow to simmer at low heat for three to six hours, adding only enough water to keep things covered. This basic recipe produces a surprisingly rich soup, to which you can conservatively add salt and other herbs (black and/or red pepper, Italian seasoning, etc.). For even better results, refrigerate this mixture and skim the fat off. If you're wary of leaving a stove on unattended for four hours, use a crock pot. Total cost of this meal: about $2--and much better than Taco Bell.

Opera Season, Act I
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending Portland Opera's performance of Faust. This experience reminded me of opera's unique place in the arts: a glittering, spectacular amalgam of poetry, theatre and music. In the alarmingly evocative Act I, I thought about periods in life where I traded my own time and person for something that, in retrospect, left me woefully impoverished. This experience reminded me that in a world full of pop music, rife with hooks and salacious videos, the fine arts still have their place: to take our minds and hearts to places within we fear to tread, much less discover.

Turkey Day--And A Rant
My friends Eric & Chandra have invited me (and twenty five of their closest friends) over to their house for thanksgiving. A storied master of grilling, roasting and pickling alchemy, Eric will undoubtedly amaze us again with a sumptuous dinner. A little while ago, we talked about the amazing flavor of Heritage Turkeys (see this write up). Despite the cost (2-3x), I highly doubt you'll ever want to go back to the Beverly Hills-styled turkeys sold at the store. Fashioned by their agrarian masters with voluptuous breasts and dry personalities, these mass-marketed fowl provide but a wispy memory of the rich, full flavor enjoyed at harvest dinners past. Spend more on that turkey, and I'll guarantee you'll have something to celebrate about.

Monday, October 16, 2006

At last, I've found the woman of my life!

I received this amazing letter today. It tugged my heartstrings clean off:

"This is the first time I ever try to write someone through the Internet. But I decided to try and to use my chance to find my second half, my beloved one. Perhaps, you know the legend that God has divided a person into two halves. And scattered these halves all over the world. And now they are looking for each other to be the one complete again. And I believe that my second half is walking somewhere in this world waiting for me.

I dream of love, love that inspires, love that makes you feel passion
and desire, love that makes you feel complete. I have so much love,tenderness, warmth inside of me and I want to give this all to one person who deserves it. And I believe you could be that one. I will be waiting for your response impatiently. And hope this correspondence could lead into deep feelings. Actually I live in R_us sia. I was mistaken when filled a profile. I hope in it there is nothing terrible and you don't afraid Russian woman! I promise you will not be disappointed!!! Please, don't make me wait for long.:-)"


I'm set.

Monday, October 02, 2006

WTF?

No, my site hasn't been hacked. I've changed my template to this retina burning color in support of one very clever initiative. If that doesn't make sense to you, look here.

A couple of thoughts on this:
-Yes, snarky men are right when they say that prostate cancer is similar or greater in prevalence than breast cancer.
That noted, many men actually die with prostate cancer present, but they've succumbed to other things first (like heart disease). Women who get breast cancer tend to get it at a considerably younger age.

-Mammograms are better than a sharp stick in the eye, but...
While discussing medical imaging in my A&P class, a distinct weakness with current mammogram technology came up: imaging that relies on x-rays has inherent weaknesses in the arena of detecting soft tissue masses. A better (and safer) alternative? Ultrasound. Why isn't this point better known? Because they cost more--and I suspect that insurance companies aren't terribly interested in paying for the increased costs of sonography. Sigh.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Quick Update

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted something. I've been quite busy with a very difficult new contract I got at Regence Blue Cross about a week and a half ago, and I can't find the WiFi card for my laptop. Regence frowns upon non-work web usage, and I need to wait for a new broadband data connection card from Sprint.

There was a lot of tense work prior to my new contract: negotiations were difficult, but we were able to come to a decent compromise. The fun part is that I'm not working directly for my consulting firm, but for a new company I started.

Why did I name it QRS? A little explanation...

If everything goes well during a special meeting on Friday, I hope to be selling satellite phones too.

I hope you're doing well, and I promise more will be up soon...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"Stuff + Cats = Awesome"

How my friend Matt Dunphy found this is beyond me, but the name says it all...
http://stuffonmycat.com

Yes, safe for work.

The Jill Carroll Story

I've written about Jill Carroll (the journalist who was kidnapped and released in Iraq) previously in my blog.

The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent series running on her experiences there now. Absolutely riveting.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Michael's New Job & Updates

Michael's New Job

Michael Totten and I were in the same boat together a few years ago. While the income and lifestyle of working in IT was moderately lucrative and generally convenient, both of us itched to spend our professional lives doing something else. I opted to start on Family Nurse Practitioner schooling. Michael chose something quite different: with a year's worth of living expenses stashed in the bank and his wife's concordance, he headed off to the Middle East to try his hand at something new.

Thanks to some published pieces, including one in the Wall Street Journal, he's been able to make a sustainable living as a freelance journalist. You can read about his adventures and observations on his blog. I'm honored to have the acquaintance of someone who has courageously switched his daily commute from some joyless tech campus in Hillsboro to Northern Iraq.


Updates on Yours Truly

Much of my time and energy over the last few weeks has been consumed by some tricky assignments at work, yoga, and Tai-Chi. A formulaic, but healthy, grind.

One blessed respite was provided by my PR friends Kyle and Annie, who were nice enough to hook me up with a pass to the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival. I had the opportunity to listen to some excellent jazz, and briefly meet Antonio Hart (an astoundingly good sax player), Duane Eubanks (whose brother Kevin leads the Tonight Show band), and the indomitable David Sanborn. That Saturday, overcome by the Cascading Cavalcade of Sonic Chronic, I felt like the luckiest person in the world.

This experience reminded me that I needed to exploit the many excellent opportunities to listen to jazz in Portland. None finer value in jazz can be found than the pittance of a cover charged by Jimmy Mak's on its resident musician nights. Important note: excepting the fiery works performed within, Jimmy Mak's is non-smoking.

My next adventure will be to see my family in Korea for Chusok. I'm hoping that The Oregonian will publish my experiences on it--keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I'm an uncle, again!

My cousin John & his wife Bennia just had their first child, Madeline (link to QuickTime movie).

Even with the decidedly Blair Witch video quality, I think you'll agree that she's easily the cutest new member of our family!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Today's Report

Quit Date: 7/17/2006 8:00:00 AM
1 day, 3 hours, 5 minutes and 12 seconds smoke free
17 cigarettes not smoked
$3.75 and 3 hours of life saved


I feel a little miserable in that Bukowski/Thompson sort of way, but that's to be expected. I'm trying to make this the last time I quit...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Why I Love Portland, Reason #3875

First off, I'll fully admit it's been too long since I've last posted. I'm finally recovering from a hellacious month of work and Human A&P finals. Expect to see more from me in the coming week.

Chuck Palahniuk quoted Katharine Dunn as saying that "Everyone in Portland is living three lives... they're a grocery store checker, an archeologist, and a biker guy. Or they're a poet, a drag queen, and a bookstore clerk."

This certain quirky, eclectic je ne se quois is part of Portland's oblique charm. I can't say we're the best city in the world, but I'm hard pressed to think of another one I'd rather call home.

I mean, what other place would allow a local bakery to situate a 100 foot long hot dog in the middle of downtown?

There were free hot dogs to be had, but just seeing the happy people chuckling at the engineering and baking marvel before them was food enough for me.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Cornhusker Safari

I'm writing this missive to you from the campus of the University of Nebraska Lincoln. That's right, the home of the Cornhuskers. As much as I'd like to make fun of them, they do have a pretty nifty campus, and some cool art and music events going on here.

That said, based on the weird looks I regularly get around town (whaddya mean, you don't see many Korean guys in Aloha shirts?) I don't think this is going to be my #1 pick for an out-of-state campus (UW's Nursing program in Seattle or one in the Bay Area would be it).

My mission for this trip: avoid all arguments with family, and find a good butcher to buy steaks from to bring back for friends (the somewhat fetching co-eds are too big for carry on, sadly).

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hey Ken: Jesus Called And Says You Suck

As some of you may know, I used to work for a little Texas company called Enron. I was fired from the company by some management who discovered that I wasn't terribly interested in towing the party line in terms of lying.

I was gratified that Ken Lay (former chairman and CEO) was found guilty, but was tremendously amused by what I found on his decidedly self-aggrandizing website. I hate to break it to you Ken, but folks who "love our Lord" don't build empires that are out to jam overpriced power up Grandma Millie's ass.

If I could have a brief conversation with Ken Lay or Jeff Skilling, I'd say four things:
1) You are both brazen fucking hypocrites. I am amazed at your collective temerity.
2) Jeff, everyone at EBS knew you were a complete snake.
3) Ken, plausible deniability ends with Enron Security & Business Controls. Remember that mini-CIA-like team you set up that reported directly to the Chairman of the Board (that would have been you). You guys knew Enron Broadband better than the division managers did.
4) I've had few finer hours of my life than the ones spent talking to five Houston FBI agents, and feeling more than willing to testify against you.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Typing this with my formerly nicotine stained fingers...

As of 8:09 AM this morning, I have quit smoking (well, it was actually around 2:25 AM this morning, but I don't count sleeping as quit time).

A few reasons:
1) I'm a pretty energetic individual. However, when both school and work start getting rough, I get really, really tired. I really felt that last night. I'll do whatever it takes to get more energy.

2) I don't want to date anyone that's a smoker.

3) Last time I checked, smoking is still bad for you.

To reward myself for two glorious hours of fresh-air-only living, I believe I'm entitled to as much sushi as I can eat for lunch.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Kidneys, You Suck

Don't get me wrong, I loves me some Kidneys. That said, studying about them is a humongous bitch. Of all the body systems and organs we've studyed, the kidneys are easily the hardest system. I am, admittedly, humbled by how complex and sophisticated the kidneys are. This will all be over at 9 PM tonight when my exam is done.

That said, my friend Dr. Michael recently did a show on AM Northwest (our local morning show on KATU). I've had a conversation with him in the past about The Four Horsemen of marriages. I think they apply quite elegantly to relationships as well. You'd do well to read them.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Random Wish For Today

If you happen to win the lottery (or really, really feel the need to get me something expensive), feel free to get me one of these.

I've been in noisy places (music venues, back of a moving ambulance, people screaming) enough to really, really want one of these. See the Wall Street Urinal article.