Sunday, January 29, 2006

More on the subject of media control

Has anyone heard of Sinclair Broadcast Group? Jono gave me an article from the December issue of GQ magazine that was all about Sinclair Broadcast Group, a family-controlled media company. SBG is the operator of the largest number of local television stations in the US, and they have been accused of fixing the news for the neo-cons.

I had never heard of Sinclair and I found the article shocking. I would like to give you more information from the article, but I left it with another friend in London. Instead I offer you Wikipedia's entry on SBG, which discusses the controversies of their packaged news, disallowing a Nightline broadcast, and forcing their stations to air a documentary that was critical of John Kerry just before the 2004 election, amongst other things. The Wikipedia entry also has a list of stations owned by Sinclair. Please have a look at it, I think you will find it enlightening.

Thanks, Jono.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Max is away

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Elite-Controlled Mass Media

My interest in researching who really controls our media and how it affects the military-corporate complex grew immensely upon reading an essay by Gore Vidal entitled “Mickey Mouse, Historian” which originally appeared in The Nation in 1996.

On June 3, 1996, The Nation showed in a foldout chart how most of the US media are now owned by a handful of corporations. Several attractive octopi decorated the usually chaste pages of this journal. The most impressive of these cephalod molluscs was that headed by Disney-ABC, taking precedence over the lesser Time Warner, General Electric-NBC, and Westinghouse Corporation calamari, from which dangle innumerable tentacles representing television (network and cable), weapons factories (GE aircraft engines and nuclear turbines) and, of course, GNA and other insurance firms unfriendly to health care reform.

Today I spent quite a bit of time researching this issue. What finally struck me is that the websites I was referred to over and over again as being the seminal sources for what I was after no longer exist.

The first was the Project on Media Ownership (PrOMO) at New York University. Their website was, which is now a website with nothing but links for promotion and advertising. I searched the NYU website and found nothing. Apparently not only is the website gone, but the entire project seems to have been over for a while. I have to ask, why? The situation is not that there is no longer a need for it. On the contrary, the situation of the media being controlled by the military-corporate complex is one about which people need to be informed.

The second website I looked for was, which domain is now for sale. Index on Censorship ( describes AR as, “The hard hitting website [that] takes no prisoners in the fight against an ‘elite-controlled mass media’.” Where did it go?

I was able to collect bits and pieces of information from different sources, but I was not able to locate anything with all of the power I wanted. I would have liked to have found a diagram of who owns what or exactly how specific media outlets are connected to the arms industry. In addition, all of the information I did find was slightly out of date. I could have missed something, certainly, but I am a good internet researcher and if something is out there (and most things are), I do not need hours and hours to find them.

Even Wikipedia let me down. There is an entry for Mark Crispin Miller, who is/was the director of PrOMO, but it is four lines long + a bibliography and one quote. The entry mentions PrOMO, but there is no hyperlink. I found two results on Blog Search, but neither of the links worked.

Draw your own conclusions. I leave you now with the single quote from Mark Crispin Miller: “Big brother is you, watching.”

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Defining Fascism

It is not easy to define exactly what fascism is. Check out Wikipedia for a very broad explanation. I will begin here with the definition from the Oxford Dictionary of English.

an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organisation. (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practices.

The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922-1943); the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also Fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.

Given this definition, I would not say that The America has yet descended into full-fledged fascism, but I would say that we are headed dangerously towards it.

An approach to defining fascism that is currently popular, and especially ubiquitous on blogs, is an outline of the “12 warning signs”. I have borrowed the 12 warning signs from other sources, but I have come up with my own explanations and supporting evidence to demonstrate that, at the very least, the warning signs are there.

1. Exuberant nationalism

We have the flags, we have the yellow ribbons, we know we are a great nation. When the national anthem is played at sporting events, we sing along with great passion and tears come to our eyes. We do what we have to do when it comes to fighting terrorists – it is our burden and we must bear it. No one else can tell us how to fight our war. The America is, after all, the greatest country in the world.

2. Enemies Identified

You are either with us or you are with the terrorists.

3. Rights Disappear

By now we all understand that we have to make sacrifices for this great effort. What is the importance of the right to privacy or the right to travel freely when compared with this great struggle to maintain our security? Of course the government has to listen to our phone calls – you and I may be sharing only a recipe for apple pie, but our neighbours, especially the darker-skinned ones, might be sharing recipes for bombs.

4. Secrecy Demanded

For reasons of national security we can no longer demand explanations from our leaders. Any kind of democratic transparency is a security risk. The terrorists might use the information. We must trust our government to know what is best for us and to act on that knowledge. There can no longer be any accountability.

5. Military Glorified

“Support our troops, they are defending our freedom.” And the military is taking all of our money, but it does not matter how much the war against terror is costing us. No, it does not, because we are on a mission from God.

6. Corporations Shielded

Halliburton, Carlyle Group, the military-industrial complex. I am not going to rant about it yet again.

7. Corruption Unchecked

Again, the military-industrial complex, and the old boys’ network. Have a look at where the contracts for rebuilding Iraq have gone, and believe that the tenders have not all been legitimate.

8. Media Controlled

This is another argument I have made before. I believe that our press is not as free as it should be. And while journalists and even bloggers are free to write what we want, our ideas and opinions that do not agree with the “official” version of events are called “crack-pot conspiracy theories”, and the general public are encouraged to dismiss them as such.

9. Rampant Sexism

This is not just good old-fashioned male chauvinism. Sexism also means limiting a woman’s right to control her own body as well as homophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

10. Intellectual Bullying

This has already happened on our school boards and at some universities. Tow the party line or be reported as un-patriotic and/or get beaten up.

11. Militarised Police

This includes so-called security surveillance. And I wrote a couple of months ago about the Department of Fatherland Security infiltrating our metropolitan police forces. Not to mention the new US Secret Service Uniformed Division.

12. Elections Stolen

I continue to maintain that neither of the two most recent presidential elections was truly free and fair.

These are simplistic arguments, but I could also write whole essays on any of the twelve points. As I said above, I am not claiming that The America is Mussolini’s Italy or Nazi Germany. All I am saying is that we have been going in a dangerous direction for some time and we need to take note of the situation we are in as a country. We need to demand transparency and we need to hold the government to account. We no longer have a true democracy. If that is because democracy does not actually work anymore, fine. But then we need to go forward to something better, not backwards into the last century and totalitarianism.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Hooray for Google!

When the White House asked internet search engine operators to hand over records, most of them cowardly complied. When the White House obtained a subpoena to force Google to hand over their records, Google refused.

The White House says it needs data to build up a profile of internet use for a specific purpose connected to online pornography legislation, and that it will not connect the data with individual people or computers. And we all know how much the word of the White House is worth.

Luckily for those of us who use Google, they are not willing to reveal information about us; they are also protecting the information as trade secrets.

This is exactly the kind of thing we have been worrying about with search engines for some time. Google should be commended for fighting this… When you are looking at that blank search box, you should remember that what you fill can come back to haunt you unless you take precautions.
- Pam Dixon, Executive Director, World Privacy Forum

I, for one, do not use any US-based search engine except for Google – now I feel very lucky to have unconsciously adopted that practice. Thank you, Google. I appreciate you standing up for what is right.

Amongst the internet companies that have released data to the White House are MSN and Yahoo. It makes me wonder if Yahoo is also free and easy with my e-mail.,,1691273,00.html

Ludo, I'm late

Nothing has changed. Happy Birthday, Broučku.

Because I have been enjoying so much the tour of Palmengrad on your blog, here is a little tour for you of our spiritual Bohemian home, Ústí nad Labem or, as our Sudeten friends like to say, Aussig an der Elbe.

First we have a view of the bend in the Labe river below Mariánská skála.

We look north to the modern bridge – Mariánský most. Of course that was not there when we lived in Ústí, but you would like it anyway (weird enhanced colours for you).

And then we go south to the castle Střekov on the hill.

And finally we travel west to Klíše, to look at the lovely new paint on the residence halls that were grey when we lived in them,

and then we'll go for a beer, which will rest on a vintage beer mat.

Všechno nejlepší, Ludo. Hodně štěstí, zdraví a lásky.

Max xo

A winter's morn

Photograph submitted by the lovely Jo in Moscow. Thanks, Jo.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A public service message

Al Gore delivered a dynamic speech this past Monday night at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. If you have not yet seen, heard or read it, please have a look at it (links below). Or, at the very least, please continue reading this post. I offer you small bits and pieces from the speech (the italics) and my own summary and comments. Gore’s message was powerful and absolutely essential for all Americans, or at least those of us who value our liberty. It was inspiring to hear a mainstream politician voice some of the concerns that many of us have been expressing for a rather long time already.

In his opening line, Gore defined a principal problem:

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

Gore argued for restoration of the rule of law, and asserted that a president should never be beyond the rule of law. He shared the thoughts of our Founding Fathers:

“The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.” – John Adams

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” – James Madison

But G.W. Bush has assumed powers that do not belong in the hands of the president. Amongst the examples which Gore offered were the suspension of habeas corpus and the practices of torture and rendition.

This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then - until now. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.

For those of you, like Max's brother, who still think that Bush’s tiny little baby steps towards fascism do not amount to anything, here is a bit of analysis from Harold Koh, the Dean of Yale Law School:

“If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution.”

Or perhaps you will prefer the words of Justice Frankfurter, as written in the Steel Seizure Case:

“The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority.”

Gore described the theory of the unitary, or unilateral, executive:

This legal theory threatens to expand the president’s powers until the contours of the Constitution that the framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the president's authority when acting as commander-in-chief, or when making foreign policy, cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as commander-in-chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

We have a problem with dishonesty. As an example, Gore used Cheney’s claim of the week before, that had the Administration had its eavesdropping programme in place prior to 9/11, they would have learned the names of some of the hijackers. But the facts are entirely different:

Tragically, he apparently still doesn't know that the Administration did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have easily led to the identification of most of the other hijackers.

Gore went on diplomatically to blame incompetence for the mishandling of that information. But in this instance, I prefer the conclusions of Gore Vidal, who has compared 9/11 with Pearl Harbour - both were real attacks, but neither was in any way a surprise.

It is often the case that an Executive Branch beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked power responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be given still more power. Often, the request itself it used to mask accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.

Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. Many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next President will have unchecked power as well. And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust. And this is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done. If this President's attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have thought possible.

Gore accused the judicial and legislative branches of our government of not exercising their muscles in our system of checks and balances. He pointed out that there are justices on the Supreme Court that believe in a powerful executive, most notably Bush’s appointee, Chief Justice Roberts and his current nominee, Judge Alito. Congress kowtows to the president, and its members are too busy raising money to engage in meaningful debate of the issues. There is corruption. Both Democrats and Republicans are to blame.

I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you’re supposed to be.

And Gore then blamed We the people, and shared another couple of quotes:

“An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will.” – Thomas Jefferson

“All just power is derived from the consent of the governed.” – John Locke (Enlightenment philosopher)

We the people have become stupid and uninformed because, according to Gore, for the past 40 years, the majority of Americans have got their news primarily from television. We have dumbed ourselves right out of government by the people. We do not know what is going on so we believe what we are told. One of the ways the Bush administration has tried to influence what we hear and what we think is through the culture of fear that they have created.

As President Eisenhower said, “Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America.”

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: “Men feared witches and burnt women.”

In his conclusion, Gore stated that the founders of our country faced greater threats than we do today, and yet they came up with the Bill of Rights – guaranteeing freedoms rather than restricting them. And finally, he outlined the steps he feels we should take to begin turning things back round towards the rule of law, and liberty.

And Gore’s delivery was actually dynamic, believe it or not, at least in the excerpts that I saw.

You can find that clip of excerpts at, and the full text of the speech at

Words of wisdom from the right-eous

The Golden Globe Awards: conclusive evidence that anti-family immoral corrupt left-wing depraved crack-smoking paedophile poultry-fucking satanist gays are out to take over the world.

When Hollywood is pumping out anti-family movies with sexually explicit, twisted and perverse themes that glorify homosexuality, trans-sexuality and every other kind of sexual immorality - then awarding itself for doing so - Middle America [had] better take note.

Hollywood [has] exposed its own corrupt agenda. [It] is no doubt out on a mission to homosexualise America.

- Stephen Bennett of Straight Talk Radio

Hallelujah! I've got to get to the cinema more often. And I had better get laid a lot while I can - before all men are seduced to the gay side. It must really be happening because half the men I know are already there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Passport Jr

Why are people pleased? So the government has changed its mind and instead of requiring American citizens to have passports to travel to Mexico and Canadia, we will need only “passport cards”.

Fatherland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff described what passport junior will look like: “We're talking about, essentially, the kind of driver’s licence or other simple card identification that almost all of us carry in our wallets day in and day out.”

Oh really? Something just like my driving licence? Then why the fuck do I need another one? Can you say “national ID card”?

The main reason for the “compromise” that I have seen thus far is cost. A passport currently costs $85 and is good for 10 years. I have no idea what the new hi-tech biometric super-surveillance big brother passports will cost, but we will be finding out soon enough. Apparently the cute little baby passport cards will be cheaper so we should all be satisfied, but, of course, they will cost something.

And I, for one, am not satisfied. We have always been able to go to Mexico and Canadia with nothing more than a driving licence, so why should we be forced to carry another card that is “essentially” another one of the same. I have already got enough shit in my wallet.

And guess what – a new kind of passport junior is not going to stop the bogeyman from striking again. This is just another case of the government trying to take two giant fascist steps forward and being forced back one of those fascist steps so they have a net gain of only one giant fascist step. Compromise, my arse – the people are allowing themselves to be fooled again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Spreading Democracy

Whatever you read or hear about petroleum production or export, people are always throwing rankings around and it has bothered me because they are often inconsistent with each other. For example, in the film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (see post below), I distinctly heard Venezuela being described as both the 3rd and 4th largest exporter of oil. It does not mean that anyone is necessarily wrong -- rankings fluctuate.

Anyway, I decided to do a little bit of research and put some rankings together for my own reference and to share here.

Top oil-producing countries 2004
1. Saudi Arabia
2. Russia
3. United States
4. Iran
5. Mexico
6. China
7. Norway
8. Canada
9. European Union
10. Venezuela

* If the EU is not counted as one country, then Venezuela is 9th and United Arab Emirates are 10th.

Top oil-exporting countries 2004
1. Saudi Arabia
2. Russia
3. Norway
4. Iran
5. Venezuela
6. United Arab Emirates
7. Kuwait
8. Nigeria
9. Mexico
10. Algeria

Proven oil reserves 2005
1. Saudi Arabia – 261.9 billion barrels
2. Canada – 178.8
3. Iran – 125.8
4. Iraq – 115.0
5. Kuwait – 101.5
6. United Arab Emirates – 97.8
7. Venezuela – 77.2
8. Russia – 60.0
9. Libya – 39.0
10. Nigeria – 35.3

** Oil reserves refers to portions of oil in place that are recoverable under economic constraints.

The United States, by the way, is estimated to have between 21.3 and 29.3 billion barrels in oil reserves.

Oil consumption 2003 – barrels per day
1. United States – 19,650,000
2. Japan – 5,290,000
3. China – 4,975,000
4. Germany – 2,813,000
5. Russia – 2,595,000
6. Brazil – 2,199,000
7. South Korea – 2,140,000
8. India – 2,130,000
9. France – 2,026,000
10. Italy – 1,866,000

CIA World Factbook

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mind your own damn business

Dalibor arrived in Prague yesterday. While checking in for his flight in The America on Friday, the check-in lady asked him where he would be staying. Dali questioned her need to know and was told that it was a new regulation, that the Czechs wouldn’t let him into their country unless he told her, an airline check-in lady in The America, where he was staying. Dali explained to her that he had been to the Czech Republic many times before and that the passport control people had never wanted to know where he was staying so why did she, an airline check-in lady in The America, need to know where he was staying. But it’s a new rule, Sir… Sorry, check-in lady, even if I wanted to tell you, I couldn’t. I am staying with a friend and I don’t know his address.

Dali had waited in the queue to check in for 2 hours and there was still a massive queue behind him.

Sir, I can’t give you your boarding pass until you tell me where you will be staying in Prague. But Dali did not back down. Check-in lady, I am not going to tell you a damn thing because the Czech Republic is still a free country and I can sleep in the train station if I want to.

Finally she gave Dali his boarding pass, but only after warning him that he could be deported from the airport in Prague and that he would be charged 2,000 US dollars for the service. I wonder where she picked up that juicy bit of information. She wanted to make sure that he had a credit card so that he would be able to pay.

So the next day Dali arrived at the airport in Prague where you don’t even have to fill in a landing card or any sort of immigration paper, and he, of course, got through passport control without anyone asking him any questions at all.

What was up with that check-in lady?

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

On Friday night, Monkey and I watched The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, an absolutely riveting documentary about Hugo Chávez, the corporate-media-military coup d’état that overthrew his government and the retaking of power by his supporters that put Chávez back into the presidential palace within two days of being removed.

The film was almost accidental as, by chance, a pair of Irish film makers were in the presidential palace when the coup d’état took place. They had been making a different documentary, one about Hugo Chávez, his enormous popular appeal, his Bolivarian politics and the large sector of the population that had remained in opposition to him and his politics. The documentary about the state of Venezuelan politics would have been interesting, but the view the film makers obtained of the coup d’état is truly fascinating.

Chávez is a charismatic, larger-than-life kind of politician. His “Bolivarian Revolution” is based on the concepts of redistribution of wealth and social welfare. Generally speaking, the working people, who view him as a socialist liberator, love him whilst the upper classes hate the man they view as a totalitarian dictator. Chávez is at least as controversial a figure in Venezuela as he is in Washington, DC.

There are different views of what actually happened to bring about the coup d’état in April 2002. Chávez, himself, believes the United States was involved. But what I saw in the documentary that I found so fascinating was the level of co-operation amongst military leaders, corporate leaders and the private media.

In Venezuela, state-run television had been predictably pro-Chávez and supportive of the Bolivarian Revolution. Private media, on the other hand, had remained faithful to the corporate culture that owned it. A large factor in the initial success of the coup involved a shutdown of state-run television with the simultaneous use of private television channels to broadcast an extremely biased view of what was going on - twisting the truth, withholding information and telling actual lies about what was happening.

Lucas Rincón, the commander-in-chief of the Venezuelan armed forces, announced on television that Chávez had tendered his resignation, which was a lie. The military then appointed Pedro Carmona as “interim president”. Pedro Carmona was president of the Fedecámaras, the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce. Shortly after taking the oath of office of the presidency of Venezuela, Carmona dissolved the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, i.e. the legislative and judicial branches of the government.

The counter-coup happened almost spontaneously and was finally facilitated by the soldiers of the palace guard who basically just went in and arrested the members of the coup government.

The lessons I have taken from The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and the coup in Venezuela have to do with the dangers inherent in a military-industrial complex and in a corporate-controlled media. Figure it out.

The film’s official website:


I learned the term “gender reassignment” at law school within the study of European labour law and its rules on discrimination. Also while I was at law school, a woman named Nadia, who had previously been a man, won the reality tv show Big Brother in the UK.

Last night, while out with Monkey and Dalibor, I met Christina, an enchanting young woman who is in the middle of having her gender reassigned. Christina is pre-op, which means that she still has a willy, but she has been taking the meds for a while and so has grown breasts and developed a more womanly figure, among other things.

Christina is interesting, intelligent, multi-lingual and absolutely lovely. We spoke at length on many topics, amongst them language learning, the difficulties and rewards of living in various countries, people’s attitudes in different places towards foreigners and our own experiences with all of the above. When Christina left the bar to go home, we agreed that we would meet again.

Later in the evening, Monkey, Dali and I discussed the whole thingy of gender reassignment. My conclusions were that it must take a lot of courage for someone like Christina to make the decision to do it and that it is a wonderful thing that the medical know-how is available to people that have the need to change their gender. It is an unusual thing simply because most people are comfortable in the gender they have been from birth, but there is really nothing “weird” about choosing to go through the process.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Max's own Rorschach test

This is the water stain on my ceiling. The girl upstairs had a flower pot blocking the drain on her balcony and the snow melted into my flat.

What do you see?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

7 random things I learned from the BBC today

1. One in ten Europeans is allegedly conceived in an Ikea bed.
2. Giant squid eat each other – especially during sex.
3. Jimi Hendrix pretended to be gay to be discharged from the US Army.
4. One in six children in the UK thinks that broccoli is a baby tree. Cute, huh? Stupid little fucks.
5. One in 18 people has a third nipple, but it is often disguised as a freckle or mole.
6. The Spanish Flu of 1918/1919 was known as French Flu in Spain.
7. The Japanese word “chokuegambo” describes the wish for more designer shops in a given street.

Mad No More

This post is a follow-up to my post of 14 August 2005: Mad Max on the Peace Corps “Military Option”

Today I received the following e-mail, which contains actual good news.

Dear Peace Corps Community:

This past Friday, President Bush signed into law the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006".

Included in this legislation is a provision supported by the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) that removes references to Peace Corps in the "National Call to Service" (NCS) military recruitment program.
[emphasis by Max]

The NPCA wishes to express its sincere thanks to Senators Chris Dodd (CT) and Ted Kennedy (MA) and Armed Services Chairman John Warner (VA) for introducing an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act to de-link Peace Corps from the NCS program.

We also wish to thank House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter (CA) and Ranking Member Ike Skelton (MO) for advancing the legislation by agreeing to the Senate amendment.

A special thanks also to Congressman John Kline (MN) for introducing House legislation to address this issue, and to the bi-partisan list of 38 other House members who showed support for this measure (go to the website for the entire list), including RPCV Congressmen Mike Honda (CA) and Sam Farr (CA).

We are also grateful to a bi-partisan group of former Peace Corps directors who provided advice and support on this effort, including Carol Bellamy, Joe Blatchford, Richard Celeste, Nick Craw, Kevin O'Donnell, Mark Gearan, Donald Hess and Mark Schneider.

Last and certainly not least, thanks to all our members who took action through letters, emails, faxes and phone calls. Your actions provided an important citizen voice for this change, and helped protect the safety and security of volunteers and Peace Corps' independence.

For more information on the NPCA and background on this issue, please visit our website at .

With very best wishes,

Kevin F. F. Quigley
National Peace Corps Association

Monday, January 09, 2006


Amos Oz is a celebrated novelist, journalist and writer of non-fiction. He is a peace activist – one of the founders of Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) and one of the first people to advocate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he has been doing since 1967. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on his novels and he is one of my heroes. I also lived in Arad, in the Negev, where he lived and still lives now.

Amos Oz published an article in 1967 in the Labour newspaper Davar called “Land of our Forefathers”, from which comes one of his most famous quotes: “Even unavoidable occupation is a corrupting occupation.”

More recently, Amos Oz has spoken about Ariel Sharon:

He is leaving us, taking with him the answers to two great mysteries. Why in the autumn of his life had he suddenly converted so radically? And what else was he going to do in the direction of peace and reconciliation?

The demise of Ariel Sharon has left a vacuum in Israeli politics.

The platform of the party that Ariel Sharon recently founded, Kadima, is not perfect, but it is progressive and it has offered the Israeli people hope that a two-state solution can be reached. The party has brought together former rivals from the right and the left who seem to be determined to bring peace to Israel and Palestine.

Israel has a general election scheduled for the 28th of March. Before Sharon’s stroke, which has almost certainly removed him from politics, Kadima was well ahead in the pre-election polls. There are 120 seats in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and it was projected that Kadima would take 42 seats, which would then be enough to form a coalition government.

Last Friday, the newspaper Yediot Achronot published the results of a poll, which showed that Kadima, with Ehud Olmert leading the party, would still take 39 seats, with Labour taking 20 and Likud 16.

The newspaper Haaretz together with Channel 10 conducted its own survey and found the following:

Kadima with Olmert at its head would take 40 seats;

Kadima with Tzipi Livni at its head would take 38 seats; and

Kadima with Shimon Peres at its head would take 42 seats.

But analysts are not trusting the polls at all. The general consensus is that it is too soon to tell.

Joshua Teitelbaum of the Moshe Dayan Centre and a professor at Tel Aviv University:

As far as polls go I think you have to take them with a grain of salt. I think what you have now is a bit of a sympathy vote. It may be that they lose support in a couple of days or weeks. This Kadima Party was really Sharon's party in every way, so without Sharon I think you will see it lose support after the sympathy vote dissipates.

Even the members of Kadima have admitted that a lot could change between now and 28 March. The first question is whether support for Kadima has really been for a centrist party or if it has been more for Sharon. The second question is about Shimon Peres: Will he stay in the party without Sharon? If Peres goes back to Labour, Kadima will very likely fall apart. Labour and Likud have both sent out feelers to see if certain people would return to their former parties with Sharon out of the picture.

And Bibi Netanyahu, an extremely dangerous man, is lurking, waiting for his chance to jump back in to fill the vacuum that Sharon has left. I am afraid that Shimon Peres is too old to stop him and there is no one else on the Israeli political scene that has the stature and charisma to keep Bibi away from centre stage.

The timing of Sharon’s stroke could not have been worse. And as Amos Oz has suggested, we will never know what might have been.

Happy Birthday, Monkey!!

Have a weird and wonderful day.
Big big love
Your Max

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Fuck you, Microsoft

New York Times: Microsoft Shuts Blog's Site After Complaints by Beijing

BEIJING, Jan. 5 – Microsoft has shut the blog site of a well-known Chinese blogger who uses its MSN online service in China after he discussed a high-profile newspaper strike that broke out here one week ago.

Basically, Microsoft and other technology companies, including Yahoo, have been kissing the Chinese government’s arse because China is a big important market. But their means of doing so involves assisting the Chinese government in its suppression of free speech, which is not acceptable.

Microsoft say that they “must comply with local and global laws,” but that is a bullshit excuse. I do not know much internet law at all, but Microsoft’s blog servers are in the US and I do not think that China can do anything to Microsoft unless it wants to resort to a boycott of some sort. Microsoft is just acting in a cowardly manner.

And in case you don’t give a shit about free speech in China, think about what could come next.

The shutdown of Mr. Zhao's site drew attention and condemnation this week elsewhere online. Rebecca MacKinnon, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, wrote on her blog, referring to Microsoft and other technology companies: “Can we be sure they won’t do the same thing in response to potentially illegal demands by an overzealous government agency in our own country?”

I think we all know the answer to that question.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

My day so far

I got home from U Zpěváčků last night just before 1 a.m. I checked the news before I went to bed and saw that Ariel Sharon had had a massive stroke. I am not particularly fond of Sharon as a person, but I think he has lately represented some stability in Israel, and I am afraid of what may come next, i.e. Netanyahu again. I went to sleep at about 1.30.

The Kid, who had been staying with me for the past week, came home at about 3.20 a.m. and I got up to hang out with him and to make sure that he had his shit together and ready for the taxi that was coming at 4 a.m. to take him to the airport. He was a bit drunk and sentimental. I also checked the news to see whether Sharon had died.

I helped The Kid get his luggage downstairs to the cab at 4 a.m. I did not wait to wave him off but I did hear the cab drive away once I was back upstairs and getting into my bed.

I did not sleep well, which is unusual for me, and I only managed to get out of bed this morning 50 minutes after my alarm had first gone off. I texted Katka to let her know I would be an hour late into work, but with instructions that she need not inform anyone else.

I got into the office just before 10 and since that time have dropped off to sleep in my chair at least six or seven times, once long enough for me to have to log back in to my computer when I woke up. I started to wish that we had beds in the office, but then realised that would be a very bad indicator of far too much overtime. I don’t really fancy the prospect of being discovered taking a nap on a couch in a partner’s office, and I have briefly considered the floor space under my desk. I think instead I will go for a walk and hope that the cold air will wake me up enough to last until I can go home.

I opened a gmail account this morning. Not because I wanted to or because I don’t already have enough other e-mail accounts, but because Kitty Killer does not know how to downsize photographs and swears that gmail can handle her 1.4 MB monsters. I did not have the energy to argue with her last night and so promised to use the invitation she said she would send me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Beware, Citizen

Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation of 17 January 1961 is famous for warning Americans to guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.

But Ike warned us of so much more:

In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

Internet2 is currently being developed and used by a consortium of over 200 US universities, private industry and government. Internet2 is better, stronger and faster than the internet most of us use every day. And the most marked difference between our internet and Internet2 is that Internet2 is controlled absolutely.

The United States has become a police state. Civil liberties have been dispensed with, surveillance of citizens is widespread and there is no longer a place for a free press. Being that practically all of our traditional media are controlled by five corporations, the internet has obviously become the only arena for opinions and dissent, and it must therefore be eliminated.

Servando González, in his article “Kiss Your Internet Good-Bye”, presents a theory that the US government will come up with an excuse, no doubt related to terrorist activities, to shut down the internet as we know it. They already have Internet2 to fill the void for those who are granted access.

Internet 2 will be fully controlled by the state. In order to access it, or to have e-mail access, you must be a member of, or be affiliated to, any of the government-authorized organizations and have a sort of security clearance. Internet 2 will be out of the reach of the general public, and every person trying to have unauthorized access to Internet 2 will be charged with terrorist activities, and severely penalized.

González is a crazy Cuban, and he may be paranoid, but he is not the only one who thinks that Internet2 is being designed to take the internet away from the rest of us. Forget Internet2 for a second – just think about the practicality of taking the internet away from the people who do not agree with you – it just makes sense – especially if you are a totalitarian government.

Paul Joseph Watson offers his version of the same scenario:

…it is more than likely that this is part of the movement to destroy the existing Internet and replace it with Internet 2, a government regulated and controlled version whereby state approval to even own a website will be required and in the short-term future, only citizens with a 'green' color code security level on their national ID card will be given permission to use the Internet at all.

Of course, with most of the population being obedient boot lickers this won't affect them at all and they will happily comply.

But for the rest of us, those who are still able to engage their brain and question world events and government policies, the Internet will cease to exist, under the pretext that 'terrorists' can use it to shut down the global economy.

It’s been nice knowing y'all…

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy Birthday, LA Dude

You know who you are.
Lots of love