Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Cheney, you're a dick

Insurgents in Iraq have not increased their attacks in order to influence US mid-term elections. They are not “very sensitive to the fact that we’ve got an election scheduled.” In fact, the insurgents in Iraq couldn’t fucking care less.

Guess what, you moronic dinosaur, insurgents in Iraq have increased their attacks because they hate Americans and they are really pissed off, which is thanks to your regime’s bullshit war on terror and the subsequent illegal and immoral occupation of their country. Why don’t you try to tell us again how they hate us because we are free?

The insurgents don’t give a rat’s ass about elections in The New Amerika because they don’t see a difference between red state and blue state, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, whatever. All they see is The Enemy. Attacks will not subside if the Democrats become the majority in the House.

And I see what you are doing with all of your talk about how the terrorists are using the internet. I know your regime would really like to have exclusive control of the web. It all goes with the Orwellian Ministry of Truth your slimy mate Rumsfeld is setting up over at the Pentagon.

Here’s what Dick said on Fox News:

“There isn’t anything that’s on the internet that’s not accessible to them. They’re on it all the time. They’re very sophisticated users of it.”

Well, hello, you ignorant cretin, everything on the internet is accessible to everyone everywhere all the time (except where repressive governments interfere, much as you would like to). And even schoolchildren are sophisticated users.

Dick just likes to throw things out there and scare some people. He would like you to believe that if you don’t vote Republican, things in Iraq will get much worse and terrorists will be on your doorstep by morning.

He wants you to believe that his regime must control the internet in order to keep the terrorists from getting and disseminating information. And you’ve got no problem with that until you realise that you won’t get to use the internet freely anymore either.

Dick wants you to believe a lot of things that are nothing more than twisted lies.

If you believe Dick, we’re all fucked.


Newsflash: Pentagon to open Ministry of Truth

Wanted for immediate employment: fiction and fantasy writers, no experience necessary, training will be provided. Membership in any neo-con or other right-wing organization an advantage. Equal opportunity employer; liberals and anarchists need not apply.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fatherland Security in action

I feel safer today. I have had news that Fatherland Security intercepted a dangerous package as it travelled between New Jersey and New York. The package contained one document of three pages, printed in standard toner on paper. The paper may have been recycled or may have been of differing sizes, which would of course have been reasonable cause for suspicion.

The package originated in New Jersey, having been sent as a scan from the London office of a US law firm. The ultimate intended recipient of the package was the firm’s New York office. That is like sending something to yourself, which is definite cause for suspicion. But luckily Fatherland Security stay on their toes.

Now you may be wondering, as I did, what the three-page highly questionable document was. This is pretty shocking, so please make sure you are sitting down. Page one was a Companies House* form which had been signed in New Jersey and needed to be sent back to England via New York. Page two was a piece of paper bearing the address of Companies House. And page three contained a single paragraph listing security.

I don’t know what the consequences might have been if that package had got through. We are living in such dangerous times.

Come on then - three cheers for Fatherland Security and The New Amerika.
Sieg heil! Sieg heil! Sieg heil!

* Companies House is the office that maintains the commercial register for England and Wales.

Thanks to J for the story and his assistance.

Don't be a retard

New York City is about to ban artificial trans fats. Santa Monica is about to ban smoking in public outdoor areas. Proponents of the measures claim that health is the most important thing and that the government must look out for our health and prevent us from harming each other and ourselves.

Health is indeed important – no one would argue with that. However, so is personal responsibility. And so are manners and consideration for others.

If you want to avoid trans fats, don’t go to McDonald’s or KFC or other fast food places known to use trans fats. This should not be a problem in New York City, where there are so many other options. If you want to eat fast food, for whatever unfathomable reason, let the companies know that you would prefer a healthier alternative to trans fats, if you actually care, and let them make their own decisions based on the preferences of their customers.

If I have said it once, I have said it a hundred times – don’t ask the government to make decisions for you or to protect you – take personal responsibility for your own actions and your own choices and look after yourself.

Worse are the implications of the smoking thing. Even here in Prague, smoking is banned in certain outdoor places. For example, it is prohibited to smoke at a tram stop. I see the logic in the ban - tram stops can be crowded, and if the weather is bad there might be a lot of people trying to fit under a shelter. But why on earth do people need to be told what to do? I, for one, would never light a cigarette at a crowded tram stop, the same way I wouldn’t light a cigarette in a queue. Why? Good old-fashioned manners, being considerate of those around me.

When the government tells people what to do, people forget their sense of responsibility or never develop one. A person who is used to being told what he can or cannot do, and where and when, will not think for himself. He will not reason why he can smoke in this park but not at that tram stop. And he will automatically light up in the park just because he can, and he will do so without looking round to assess if he is in an appropriate place.

Being told what to do stops people from thinking. It damages an individual’s ability to reason and make informed and responsible decisions. It interferes with the development of consideration for others and good manners. When we are treated like helpless and stupid children, we are in danger of becoming helpless and stupid children. I can speak only for myself, but I prefer being treated as a rational adult and I insist on making my own decisions.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Movie Review: Death of a President

I watched Death of a President this morning. It was a good made-for-tv movie. It is in the style of a documentary, very much like Gabriel Range’s earlier made-for-tv movie, The Day Britain Stopped.

The story is predictable. Bush speaks to a friendly audience in Chicago, there are angry protesters outside, Bush leaves the hotel, someone shoots him, he gets taken to hospital and dies. The nation is shocked, and Cheney is sworn in as the 44th president. There are arrests, an investigation, and a suspect is charged and goes to trial.

There are interesting aspects to the film. One, of course, is the special effects. The appearance is that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney acted in the film. But more than that, what is interesting and provoking is the comment on the social and political Zeitgeist in The New Amerika.

The police have trouble controlling the protestors and use excess force, like in real life in Portland in 2003. One of the investigators later being interviewed admits to, while at the same time denying, racial profiling of suspects. The investigators admit to watching the movements and monitoring the communications of known protestors, whom they refer to as violent anarchists. And, most frighteningly, the US Patriot Act III is hurriedly passed in the days after the assassination.

The Miami Herald says that the movie “has nothing new or interesting to say”. The Boston Herald calls the film “a lame duck”. Fox News’ John Gibson attacks Gabriel Range and the premise of the film here. It’s an interview, Range is there to defend himself, and does so effectively.

My original premise before seeing the film was that it’s a movie – nothing for anyone to get their knickers in a twist about. I stand by that. Not only is Death of a President just a fictional story, it is also obviously a made-for-tv production and really does not deserve all of the hoopla that has surrounded its release.

But having said that, you should go and see it because it’s an interesting film. If you see it tomorrow at the Arclight Theater in LA at 5.10 pm, Gabriel Range will be there for an after-screening discussion. If you are in Prague and want to see the film, let me know – I have it on video.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Call to Bloggers

Amnesty International today put out a Call to Bloggers to write about the importance of freedom of speech on the internet and to draw attention to the plight of internet users who have been arrested for what they have written.

The inaugural meeting of the Internet Governance Forum is being held in Athens from Monday. The IGF is a United Nations project. Amnesty International will participate in the forum to ensure that the issue of human rights stays on the agenda.

Here are a few examples of what can happen when people who are not protected by a bill of rights dare to speak their minds.

In Iran, Kianoosh Sanjari was arrested earlier this month while he was reporting on clashes between security forces and the supporters of a Shi'a cleric. No one has heard from him or about him since.

In China, journalist Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities.” What he had actually done was email information to a US website about a Chinese government directive which dictated to journalists how to report on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Shi Tao had used a Yahoo! account and Yahoo! co-operated in his prosecution by providing information to the Chinese government.

In Tunisia, Mohammed Abbou is spending 3 ½ years in prison for criticising his government in online articles.

In Vietnam, Truong Quoc Huy has been arrested twice for participating in chatrooms, the first time, at least, on a human rights website. His whereabouts since his second arrest in August 2006 are unknown and no charges have been announced.

And in The New Amerika...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Steinbeck on the American view of government

In the summer of 1947, John Steinbeck and Robert Capa, a renowned war photojournalist, spent 40 days touring the Soviet Union. The aim of their travels was to observe and record the everyday lives of ordinary Russians; the product was A Russian Journal, published in 1948.

Steinbeck and Capa spent the first few days of their trip in Moscow waiting to find out which section of the Soviet government would sponsor them, what kind of clearance they would get, where they would be allowed to go, and all that sort of totalitarian bureaucratic nonsense. At one point, the two men were in a meeting with a Mr Karaganov at VOKS, the Soviet organisation for cultural relations with foreign countries. Steinbeck and Capa liked Karaganov “very much”, and the three of them spoke together in a clear and straightforward manner. Karaganov asked Steinbeck and Capa for their views on several matters, and this is what they had to say about people and governments:

“It seems to us that one of the deepest divisions between the Russians and the Americans or British, is in their feeling toward their governments. The Russians are taught, and trained, and encouraged to believe that their government is good, that every part of it is good, and that their job is to carry it forward, to back it up in all ways. On the other hand, the deep emotional feeling among Americans and British is that all government is somehow dangerous, that there should be as little government as possible, that any increase in the power of government is bad, and that existing government must be watched constantly, watched and criticized to keep it sharp and on its toes. And later, on the farms, when we sat at table with farming men, and they asked how our government operated, we would try to explain that such was our fear of power invested in one man, or in one group of men, that our government was made up of a series of checks and balances, designed to keep power from falling into any one person’s hands. We tried to explain that the people who made our government, and those who continue it, are so in fear of power that they would willingly cut off a good leader rather than permit a precedent of leadership. I do not think we were thoroughly understood in this, since the training of the people of the Soviet Union is that the leader is good and the leadership is good.”

Consider that that was 1947 and we are now nearly 60 years later. How far we have come! In The Old Amerika we didn’t trust our government, we watched our elected representatives at every turn and we made sure they didn’t overstep their bounds. But in The New Amerika, we can trust our government just like we were taught and we don’t have to keep an eye on our representatives (who may or may not have been elected). The government watches us instead, and we don’t even need any checks and balances anymore. The training of the people of The New Amerika is that the leader is good and the leadership is good. Hallelujah!

* Thanks to Radost Mike who quite literally sold me the book.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Coming soon to a theater near you...

Katrina, are you paying attention?

Death of a President will be out this Friday, the 27th of October in cinemas all over The New Amerika. I didn’t see a listing for that day for Austin, but it has to get there eventually. See http://www.deathofapresident.com/.

I will be picking up my copy of the film tomorrow. It aired on UK Channel 4 last Thursday night and friends recorded it for me.

And remember, kids, it’s only a movie.

Freedom of the Press 2006

At this time last year, I posted about the Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2005. The 2006 Index was released today.

The headline of this year’s report lists the worst countries, which are North Korea, Turkmenistan and Eritrea, and the sub-headline reads, “France, the United States and Japan slip further”. As far as The New Amerika goes, that is exactly what I had expected. This year’s report notes just how far The New Amerika has fallen in the five years that the Index has existed. In the 2002 Index, The Amerika was in 17th place. Last year, The Amerika was in 44th place. And this year, The New Amerika has come in at 53rd.

From the report:

Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year.

Sometimes I am just so proud to be an American.

I am more proud (and less sarcastically so) that the Czech Republic has moved up from last year’s already high 9th place to this year’s 5th place.

To illustrate a bit more, and to represent the interests of some of my more faithful readers, here is how some of the other countries did.

1. Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands

5. Czech Republic

8. Slovakia – tied with Switzerland

16. Canadia – tied with Austria and Bolivia

19. New Zealand – tied with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Denmark and Trinidad and Tobago

27. UK – tied with Lithuania

35. Australia – tied with Bulgaria, France and Mali

50. Israel

53. The New Amerika – tied with Botswana, Croatia and Tonga

58. Poland (worst in the EU) – tied with Fiji, Hong Kong and Romania

134. Palestinian Authority

155. Vietnam

168. North Korea (the worst overall)

For details of the questionnaire and complete results, as well as the results of earlier years, go to Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006.

And before signing off on this post, I would like to express my gratitude to the journalists that really do risk their freedom or their lives to ensure that we get information that is sufficient and real.

Reporters sans frontières

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Überpresident

George Fourgis, my teacher for 8th grade American history, was the best history teacher I had during all of my secondary school years. His classes were lively, he told a lot of stories, and I learned a lot of history from him. But there are two particular points that Mr Fourgis made over and over that I have never forgotten.

On our very first day of class in September 1978, Mr Fourgis asked us who we thought were the United States of America’s two best friends. Hands went up – we were a bright group, after all. We named countries – the UK, Canada, France, whatever, and we were all wrong. No one got it. Mr Fourgis loved that because he could then deliver the information to us in his favourite dramatic style:

“The best friends the United States of America has ever had, the best friends we will ever have, are the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.”

Mr Fourgis knew he was giving us a completely new idea to churn around in our heads – he loved that too.

The second thing that Mr Fourgis emphasised throughout that 8th grade year was the importance of the separation of powers in our government and the system of checks and balances.

That is why I thought of Mr Fourgis last night when I was watching Keith Olbermann and listening to his guest, law professor Jonathan Turley, describing Bush as the first “über-president”. I thought of Mr Fourgis because we no longer have an effective system of checks and balances, and powers are no longer separated. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 has destroyed our Constitution.

I was lucky to have a teacher like Mr Fourgis, a teacher who was able to give a bunch of young kids some understanding of American history. And not only an understanding of what had happened 200 years before, but also an understanding of why and how it had happened, and why it was important then and why it is still important now.

It makes me wonder how so many of our senators and representatives can be ignorant of why our government was set up the way it was. And I know they are ignorant – there is no other explanation for how they could have voted to dismantle the system that was so carefully constructed to protect our rights and liberties.

The framers of the Constitution foresaw that we might one day have an unscrupulous president. As Jonathan Turley stated, “In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn’t rely on their good motivations.”

However it seems that the framers unfortunately did not foresee that we might have two houses of Congress that would be so collectively stupid that they would willingly choose to transform our system of government into a dictatorship.

Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.
-- James Madison

"See you at Gitmo"

Keith Olbermann is my hero again and again.

Keith Olbermann, thank you for saying all of the things that need to be said in such a public context and with such courage of conviction.

As for the kool-aid drinkers in The New Amerika – just keep believing what you are told:


Wednesday, October 18, 2006


José Van Gool: Two Friends

I have always considered that we can never know exactly what effect we have on other people. I mean whether or not we have influenced them at all, whether consciously or not, and whether positively or negatively.

I had a friend in Ústí nad Labem whom we called Heddy. I guess Heddy was 18 when she arrived for her gap year adventure of teaching English in Czechoslovakia. Heddy was beautiful – she had amazing black hair and looked like Snow White in Doc Martens and a nose ring. And she was smart and confident and funny. Heddy hung out with the big kids and she fit right in with us – drinking, smoking, generally misbehaving, and having an awesome time. And 5 months after she had arrived, Heddy went home to England.

We stayed in touch for a long time. Heddy visited me in Prague several times and I visited her once in Bristol. I’m not sure when we last saw each other. We talked a few times when I was living in England, but in spite of saying we would visit each other, we just never did. That was lame. And then Heddy moved to Oz and there may or may not have been a few emails and then there was nothing.

Until today. I got an email from Heddy with apologies and directions to Heddy’s blog. And Heddy directed me to a specific post where she had written about the 5 people whom she considers her role models. They were in chronological order and underneath “My Mum” and “My Teacher”, there was “My Friend” - and it was me. Wow. Gobsmacked. What an amazing way for an old friend to reassure you that she has not forgotten you.

My Friend - I was really lucky when I took a gap year between school & university and I spent 5 months teaching English in Czechoslovakia. I met a really cool group of people & grew up about 5 years in 5 months!! Max is about 10 years older than me & had already experienced a heap of stuff. Again, she is so strong & independent & we talked about everything! How important it is to have friends who help you grow & not try & put you down!”

Thank you, Heddy.

Just another day in The Shire

For a second, I thought I was looking at The Onion, a satirical publication, rather than at The Huffington Post, normally a fairly intelligent and ruminative journal of news and opinions.


I almost laughed out loud. Those words immediately made me think of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf (aka Comical Ali), the Iraqi Minister for Information during the American invasion. That’s right – the man that in April 2003 persisted in his claims that American troops were about to surrender to the Iraqis when in actuality they had already occupied most of Baghdad. The man that had by that time developed a cult following because he was perceived as being absurdly funny, but completely harmless.

A bit further down on the page was “Santorum Compares Iraq War to Lord of the Rings”, with a photo of Senator Rick Santorum next to a photo of Golum. From the salon.com story:

“In an interview with the editorial board of the Bucks County Courier Times, embattled Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has equated the war in Iraq with J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. According to the paper, Santorum said that the United States has avoided terrorist attacks at home over the past five years because the ‘Eye of Mordor’ has been focused on Iraq instead.

“‘As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else,’ Santorum said. ‘It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States.’”

What the fuck?! That analogy doesn’t even work. Unless Mount Doom is supposed to represent Washington, DC and the fascists in charge of the country are actually orcs.

But these are the fantasists that are running The New Amerika. Things are going to get a lot worse.

Today’s New Amerika Headlines

I found the comparisons interesting.

Aljazeera: Bush toughens ‘anti-terror’ laws

BBC: Bush signs US terror trial bill

CNN: Bush signs bill to interrogate, prosecute terror suspects

Crooks and Liars: Hello darkness my Old Friend…

Huffington Post: Bush Signs Controversial Interrogation Bill

LA Times: Bush Signs Bill on Terror Prosecution

Lidové noviny: Bush podepsal tvrdší výslechy teroristů – Bush signs rougher interrogations for terrorists

Monsters & Critics: Bush clears way for continued CIA interrogations

New York Times: Bush Signs Bill Setting Detainee Rules

The Times: Bush signs Guantanamo military trial law

Monday, October 16, 2006

Keep your friggin’ cross under your uniform and shut up

the Hope diamond

Will everyone please stop shouting religious discrimination. It’s getting to be like the boy who cried wolf. And it’s getting bloody tedious.

The bilingual teaching assistant that won’t remove her veil. Forget it. If kids can’t see your face, they are not going to understand you. Take off the veil or accept that you no longer have a job. It’s not religious discrimination, it’s a matter of practicality and fairness to children. Perhaps you should consider a job where the veil might be an asset, like something in the food industry where it could contribute to overall hygiene.

British Airways worker. Get over yourself. The issue is not religious. The issue is not your stupid little cross. According to British Airways, the policy is about jewellery in general. If you would like to wear a necklace with your airline worker’s uniform, you must keep it under the uniform. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cross, a star, a heart, a circle or the goddamned Hope diamond. And if you don’t like BA’s jewellery policy, go find yourself another job.

Ann Widdecombe – go ahead and boycott BA if you want. You’re an arse.

Francis Wheen – where are you? Mumbo-jumbo is winning again.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The truth about freedom in The New Amerika

According to The State of World Liberty Project, The New Amerika is only the 8th freest country in the world. From the 2006 Index:

Still Land of the Free?
“The United States of America came in at #8 - surprisingly low, considering that the American government model was driven by classical liberalism and limited government, and it has been the model for other countries pursuing free markets and individual liberties to follow. Unfortunately, recent government crackdowns on free press, increased restrictions on individual freedom, high personal and corporate income taxes, refusal to grant military prisoners a criminal trial and the rapid expansion of government all contributed to the US's downward spiral away from being the ideal model of freedom.”

The 2006 State of World Liberty Index is based on statistics collected in 2005. I reckon that The New Amerika would have fared even more poorly if the statistics used had been more recent.

The Index uses three criteria for its evaluation and rankings. They are:
1) individual freedom,
2) economic freedom, and
3) government size and taxation.

For the purposes of comparison, I am going to use three of the countries where I have lived + Canadia + France (a representative socialist country) + the first and last countries in the 2006 rankings.

(Blogger won’t take my word table so please bear with me.)

Overall Rank (final weighted average)
Estonia 1 (85.25)
Canadia 3 (82.34)
UK 7 (81.96)
The Amerika 8 (81.96)
Czech 23 (76.34)
France 48 (69.11)
North Korea 159 (6.80)

Economic Freedom Rank
Estonia 8
Canadia 9
UK 5
The Amerika 6
Czech 23
France 35
North Korea 126

Government and Taxation Rank
Estonia 6
Canadia 15
UK 22
The Amerika 20
Czech 53
France 135
North Korea 156

Individual Freedom Rank
Estonia 5
Canadia 9
UK 11
The Amerika 19
Czech 4
France 14
North Korea 139

I think it is absolutely pathetic that The New Amerika does not come in at #1 in every category. The Old America would have.

But I am pleased to see that the country where I have chosen to live has outranked even Estonia in individual freedom. Now you will understand that I am not talking out of my arse when I say I feel more free over here than I do when in The Amerika.

You can find all the rankings as well as information about sources and methodology on the website.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On the veil debate

Last week Jack Straw called on Muslim women to not wear full veils in the interest of community relations. His remarks, first published in the Lancashire Telegraph last Thursday, have set off a large-scale debate in the UK and elsewhere.

My gut reaction to Straw’s remarks was negative, that he should not be telling anyone what to wear or not to wear. As you probably know, individual rights are of fundamental importance to me. But the world we live in is far from ideal, and reading and discussion have led me to believe that the issue is actually a lot more complicated.

Of the things I have read, an article in The Sunday Times, Why Muslim women should thank Straw, by Saira Khan, made the greatest impression on me. Saira Khan, herself a Muslim woman, presents compelling arguments in support of Straw.

Khan calls the wearing of the veil “an extreme practice” and asserts that “it is particularly wrong in Britain, where it is alien to the mainstream culture for someone to walk around wearing a mask.” Khan suggests that women who say they ‘choose’ to wear the veil are deluding themselves, that they have chosen only to restrict themselves in terms of freedom and potential. She points out that many women are literally forced to wear the veil.

According to Khan, the veil debate has been going on in the Muslim community for years, and, she says, non-Muslims should be included in the debate because it also affects them. Khan finishes her article with two messages. The first is to British Muslim women:

“If you want your daughters to take advantage of all the opportunities that Britain has to offer, do not encourage them to wear the veil. We must unite against the radical Muslim men who would love women to be hidden, unseen and unheard.”

Khan’s second message is for Muslims who are after a “Talebanised” society:

“If you don’t like living here and don’t want to integrate, then what the hell are you doing here? Why don’t you just go and live in an Islamic country?”

I have to say that I agree with Saira Khan.

Where does the requirement to wear a veil come from? I have been told that it is not in the Koran. Is it an interpretation of a law that is in the Koran? Or perhaps it is just something that men have made up to subjugate women.

I really wonder about radical Muslim attitudes towards women. Radical Muslim men clearly do not respect women in the same way they respect other men. And if they do not respect women and they think that all women should be covered from head to toe, how do they view women who wear trousers or tight dresses and show a bit of bare skin and cleavage? We must be nothing but Jezebels and whores. That is a problem.

The veil issue brings up much larger questions on immigration, assimilation, compromise, and individual rights, to name a few.

One basic question we should ask ourselves is how do we feel and what do we think when we see a veiled woman? If I make eye contact with a stranger, I might smile at that person and they might smile back. Would I smile at a veiled woman? Probably not. There would be no point because if she were to smile back at me, I wouldn’t be able to see it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Airport "Security"

I flew back from London Gatwick this morning. I hadn’t worried about liquids because everything was packed and I was checking my bag. But standing in the line for security I remembered the 500 ml of Islington tap water in my carry-on, so I drank it and threw the bottle away. Then the man in front of me took out a tiny pot of lip salve and asked the man who checks boarding passes if he could take it through. The man said ‘no’ so the first man put some of the salve on his lips and gave the pot to the boarding pass man to throw away. It was then that I remembered the expensive Dior lip gloss in my handbag and realised that I would be pissed off if they made me throw that away. But I was not going to be stupid enough to ask and thereby draw attention to it.

I put my carry-on bag (with my handbag inside), my leather coat and my shoes through the x-ray. I walked through the metal detector. The security lady waved me on and I went to retrieve my things. No one asked me any questions and no one wanted to look in my bag.

I hung about in the departure lounge, did some shopping, got breakfast and waited for them to announce the gate for my flight. When I got to the gate, I decided to take inventory and find out how much in the way of lip balms, creams and liquids I had actually got through security.

I checked the pocket of my coat: one tube of lip gloss and a stick of lip balm.

I checked the pocket of my carry-on bag: one tube of lip gloss.

I checked the small cosmetics case inside my handbag: one lip balm, one lipstick, one small tube of hand cream, one travel size liquid spray deodorant.

And finally, I checked the outside pocket of my handbag: one tube of lip gloss, one tube of lip re-hydrator, one lipstick and the Dior lip gloss.

Total: 11 forbidden items. And, yes, in fact, I do feel rather proud of myself.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Max is away

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Max Coat of Arms

I just opened an email from a distant cousin – one of my eccentric relatives who is involved in tracing our family history. Her email inspired me to read about the town in the Brest region of Belarus (formerly part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) where one branch of the Max family lived for a while before going to The Amerika.

The town is called Pruzhany (Пружаны). Today I discovered that Pruzhany has its own coat of arms, which I have decided to adopt as my own. I mean, it’s a snake wearing a crown and swallowing a baby – how perfect is that?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Overwhelmed and bewildered...again

Max having a bad day

It’s not a big problem. It’s just that there is once again so much out there that pisses me off that I want to write about all of it, but I can’t write about any of it. I don’t know where to start and I don’t know where to stop. I don’t know how to put it all together so I will just spit out what I can.

The New Amerika

The Military Commissions Act 2006 makes me want to throw up. I have read some of the Act and I have read commentary on the Act, and I absolutely cannot come to terms with it. Every senator and representative that voted for the Act is a traitor to the USA, although perhaps a good citizen of The New Amerika.

Problems with the Act include the legalisation of torture, suspension of habeas corpus, legal detention of even US citizens under “enemy combatant” rules, and the placing of the president above the law. Our Constitutional rights and protections are being stripped away as we sit back quietly and thank Idiot Bush for keeping us safe.

What the fuck is wrong with the people of The Amerika?!!

Terrorised Prague

I had an email from my mom yesterday – she had read in the Jewish Journal that Prague was on high alert for terrorism and that Jewish sites were a main target. She asked me to be careful if I was going to synagogue for Yom Kippur. I am sure she did not appreciate my answer:

"Yes, Mommy, we are on high-ish alert, but I don't buy into the fear-mongering. If something does happen, however, please don't assume I'm at services. I may not go tonight because I am in the middle of reviewing a 70-page contract and really want to finish it today. I may go, but just don't assume that I am dead if you hear of a bomb going off. Try to ring my mobile, or I will ring you if I hear about it first.

"Love, Max"

But all I can think about is weird “anti-terror” legislation suddenly being passed here in Czechia, like in The New Amerika or the UK, and then where am I going to go?

Baghdad Burning

It was posted on Information Clearinghouse today – something I too had noticed - that the girl that writes the Riverbend Blog has not posted since August. I had emailed her earlier – no response. I wonder what has happened to her, but how can you really worry about someone you don’t know who lives in the middle of a war zone? I may as well worry about everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan and Darfur…

- not to say that I don’t.

Idiot Bush: deluded and in charge

“The only way to protect our citizens at home is to go on the offence against the enemy across the world...So we will remain on the offence until the terrorists are defeated and this fight is won.”

Okay, I am literally sick to my stomach now.

There is more, there is so much more – the contents of Bob Woodward’s new book, Condoleeza Rice’s bullshit reaction to the book, school shootings, the strategic distraction of the Foley emails – list to be continued any way you want.