If you're a Jew-hater, and furthermore hold a position of some responsibility and reputation, be advised that expressing your views by email is a pretty good way to get your 15 minutes of fame. What a wanker. Link via Sullivan.

Steve | 11:54 |


Exclusive Extracts From Harold Pinter’s New Book Of Poetry ‘Harold Pinter’s War’

Bum shit bollocks
And wank,
There goes that twat Bush
In a tank.

Arse, piss, wank
And poo,
Swearing in poems is easy
To do.

It’s anti-war, so it’s
To come up with something

Steve | 21:01 |

IN REMEMBRANCE OF STROM: (That name must make Czech people look twice.) So, old Thurmond is up in the good old southern crackers club in the sky. Here's a page of tributes to him which includes this one:
"Had it not been for Sen. Thurmond's helpfulness and guidance in 1972, I would never have sought election to the Senate. I am therefore one of millions around the world who on this day are aware they have lost a good and faithful friend." - former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C.

If only...

Steve | 21:00 |

SEEN ON BUS: A young lady of fetching description wearing a tight t-shirt imprinted with the words "I wish these were brains" at about chest height.

Steve | 18:58 |


Adventures in Democracy (he of Homeland Security) responds to my question about whether there is any deliberate refusal of entry on a random basis to discourage citizens of certain countries from applying for visas to the US in the first place. Here's a comment to my post, and here's his own post.

His points are good, and it's useful to remember that they do provide a necessary service in preventing a lot of people getting in to the US that should not be there. As Adventures says, the law is clear and most people sent home are sent for having invalid or faked visas, or (interestingly) walk blindly into admitting that they have come to find work illegally. I'm still afraid that the point comes down to the fallabilities of the human doing the airport visa checks. Even if immigration officers are merely enforcing existing rules more carefully, there still seems to be a huge margin for personal or other bias to influence a judgment call on someone with a valid visa but a "funny look" about them.

But I do have more sympathy for the challenge they face. When you see articles like this, it's clear that many people from this country still have not come to accept the fact that ignoring the immigration and labor rules to work on the black market in the US is not a wise thing to do. And yet they come...

Steve | 14:55 |

Driving back to Prague Thursday morning from a night out of town I passed the site of the crash that Petr noted yesterday. You look twice when you're driving along a highway and pass an airplane parked nonchalantly on the side. Mindful of what happened the day before, I looked briefly, but did not slow down.

Steve | 14:28 |


Hey, the afore-mentioned site,, has a funny gimmick. He's got some kind of script which scans the emissions (columns) of the punditry and counts the number of partisan references contained therein. He then ranks their asses in order of blatant partisanship.

Not now, nor having ever been a member of the Republican party (nor ever will be), and regarding the Democratic Party as the party of Hope(lessness), I like all this non-partisan bile. Have a look. Might not be your brand of tea, but at least he's sincere: he even makes full disclosure of all his past political activities:
...he once waved at Jimmy Carter's motorcade at an Air Force base in Germany, once shook hands with Senator Al Simpson at a University of Wyoming football game, once took a couple of shaky pictures of Mike Dukakis at an Alabama campaign stop, once heard Governor Bill Clinton make some remarks during a July 4th program at a church in North Little Rock, once watched Al Gore's motorcade go by on the campus of North Carolina State University, and once walked right past Sonny Bono on a sidewalk outside the Capitol building.

Steve | 16:49 |

FARCICAL AQUATIC CEREMONY: Some would suggest that the idea of the EU "constitution" is about as legitimate as strange women investing supreme executive power by lying in ponds and handing out swords to passersby.

MacMillan's not suggesting that, and he has a good discussion of European federalism today. Because he's done such a good job, I need not go too much further on the subject here, which is fine with me. I've stated elsewhere, with gawps of ridicule and visceral revulsion, that the merest thought of big bad bloated old bureacratic EU is enough to make me turn my mind off and float downstream. Here's my own Python allusion: the EU is to efficient government what Mr. Creosote was to healthy dieting.

OK, disclaimer: I have also stated elsewhere that I do support integration, expansion and the Euro business. Not that I can vote for it or anything. But as such I reserve the right to mock all those careerist, parasitic and unelected eurocrats mercilessly from time to time or when I need cheering up. And they deserve it anyway.

And I actually think the sword-bestowing lady notion is a pretty good one, since to believe that a (politically) federal Europe will somehow operate as truly one entity on anything but the most banal of matters requires the same sort of mindset needed to believe that the legend of King Arthur actually happened. But that's neither here nor there.

P.S. MacMillan, who knows a few things about movies, does a very good job of recreating the Holy Grail exchange mentioned above from memory. He not have looked farther than the blogosphere for the transcript: just type "farcical aquatic ceremony" into your toolbar-integrated Google search box, and you will find, of course,

The Approach of European Federalism

UPDATE: Read the text of Scott's Boston Globe article he posted in his comments section.

Steve | 16:22 |

Ali al-Ateya, an Iraqi radio journalist, claims that he saw the Britons offering to surrender their weapons after two of their colleagues had already been shot dead. Ringleaders snatched the rifles and killed the soldiers.

“They shot the British in the head, several times. The executioners were standing right in front of the Britons,” he said.


Steve | 12:06 |


MEMORY AID: When people ask you if you were a collaborator or agent for the communist secret police back in the old days, do you find yourself answering, "Senator, I do not recall at this time"? Now, with the Interior Ministry's recently re-released list of friends of the STB, you can jog your memory! Download and browse the long list of names in the convenience of your own home, away from the prying television cameras recording the faces of those old techno-phobes who showed up at the distribution office for the dead tree version. It's all there, unless of course you've been clever enough to switch your citizenship to another country sometime in the past 13 years. In that case, the government won't include your name with the rest of the group!

Steve | 11:52 |


THAT'S IT: This past weekend I attended my last outdoor music festival ever. Way too old for that stuff. Staropramen brewery, makers of true swill (with one exception - Granat) threw a do with a lineup of musical groups that included Cechomor, one of the best things musically, IMHO, to happen to this country in a while. Trouble is they were the headliner, so I had to wait until the end. I foolishly arrived a couple hours in advance and spent that time being bumped into by drunk east Germans and sloshed with beer by drunk Czechs and deafened by the drunk braying of many other assorted nationalities.

Staropramen puts on a travelling event called "Chlapark," where they put up main stage and a smaller one some ways off. The area is well supplied with a few dozen beer stations of course, but to get any greasy seared flesh on a flimsy cardboard rectangle or a bit of ice-cream there were long long waits in the blazing sun. No, thank you.

"Chlapark" is supposed to be an oh so clever play on two words - chlap (meaning guy or bloke) and park. I see an implied third meaning to the first part derived from the verb chlastat which your dictionary will give as "guzzle, swill, tipple". I.e., to drink yourself stupid.

Saturday's event was set up behind the main Staropramen brewery itself. So 10-15,000 people were milling in amongst a bunch of warehouses and ill-maintained outbuildings on grease-stained asphalt and bumpy cobbles that bore as much resemblance to a park as the magistrale throughway at rush hour. Nice. Long lines for the porta-potties ensured copious volumes of piss deposited behind trailers, corners and the few unfortunate trees present.

The main stage area accommodated about 25% of all those present, with a huge number resigned to sitting on benches boozing away while the music was cut off from them by a row of buildings. Stupid, stupid, stupid. After it was all over, a 10 minute fireworks display took place directly overhead the crowd, and when you weren't blinking away tears from the thick clouds of burnt sulphur, you were being hit by a rainshower of exploded fireworks casings and debris.

Best part of the whole experience was taking a long walk home through a balmy Prague evening, leaving the cleanup of the year behind me.

Steve | 12:48 |

"INDEPENDENT" JOURNALISM: You American scribblers out there - you're all a bunch of spineless sycophants lining up to kiss your leaders' asses! That's the view of the BBC's Justin Webb, preaching to the converted in a wonderfully British sneer in today's Independent.
I went to see the Vice-President make a speech a few nights ago. He finished with a reference to the war in Iraq, telling his audience: "You did well - you have my thanks."

Were these troops or government officials he was addressing? Neither, in fact: the occasion was the annual dinner of the American Radio and Television Correspondents Association.

It's all very, very cosy. No wonder the BBC table was No 148. Next to the lavatories and the emergency exit.

But why are all American "journalists" so compliant, so docile, so trusting of anyone and everyone in authority? Easy:

Americans, remember, still go to church. For all their rhetoric of freedom, there is nevertheless an acceptance of a higher power here in the United States. And an acceptance, too, of unimpeachable motives.

I wonder if I should be reading the Independent more often. They seem so calm, so measured, so free of bias. The name itself says it all, doesn't it? How reassuring to know that there is a truly Independent voice out there with no sycophantic agenda to bend or sway the purity of its reporting. Sigh....

Steve | 11:44 |


TODAY'S UNLIKELY SEGUE: FROM RACISM IN THE CR TO EDUCATION IN THE US. A lively discussion ensues on the Roma evictions first mentioned by Ohrada News and followed by some of Scott's, Petr's and Nicmoc's thoughts.

I confess to a certain blankness of slate over this. I've lived here long enough (12 years) to have seen so many incidents like this that I'm afraid I've come to be a little fatalistic about Czech - Roma relations. In the bigger picture, this is not so high up on the scale of outrages that have taken place since 1989, either. I still remember the wretched death of the Roma teenager in Pisek years and years ago, chased and beaten by a gang of skinheads until he fell off the bridge into the river and drowned. Someone (a white woman, I think) who dove in and tried to save him was pelted with stones by nearby watchers. All the skins got off if I'm not mistaken. There was the American fellow who intervened in a pub when some local beetlebrows threatened a couple of Roms and was promptly beaten to within a whisker of his life outside in the parking lot. They caught the guy on security camera - the whole thing - and he got a wrist slap.

As a foreigner, it's always a loser to hold up a mirror to someone local and invite them to examine their prejudices. Ever noticed that? "Do not dare to presume to talk to me about our prejudices, outsider! You just don't understand." Try this: go to England and engage any English person in a discussion about Northern Ireland. Ask a question or two, and then wonder whether it wouldn't be better to relinquish this Cromwell-era hold over the province. Your host may offer you a choice of outright violence or a sputtering, purple-faced suggestion to shut it. You can't understand what goes on there.

One comment on the Slany evictions: whether right or wrong in this case to evict these families from their flats, the town worthies utterly forfeit any right to a voice in a legitimate discussion by vindictively charging rent for the sidewalk space. Fat idiots. They may have had the right to throw them out, but it seems to have taken about 30 seconds for them to reveal how pea-brained and vicious too many people are about dealing with their Roma neighbors.

However insoluble the problem, the unlikeliness of integration as normally understood is a point which has to be accepted. A new model needs to be devised, and until that time, perhaps the Roma can at least provide a useful service for some people not used to looking into mirrors that reveal something of their souls.

Moving right along, over in the Moronic Inferno, experiments in exorcising the vast reserves of guilt stored up by the paleface race continue to role along. Students sign up in droves for classes in "Whiteness Studies".
Advocates of whiteness studies -- most of whom are white liberals who hope to dismantle notions of race -- believe that white Americans are so accustomed to being part of a privileged majority they do not see themselves as part of a race.

Seem nutty? It's a nutty country. Or idiosynchratic. Or a mite susceptible to prolonged navel gazing.

But. But. Reading this article it occurred to me that this is the kind of introspection and self-questioning fostered by the education system in the US that does the most to differentiate it from the rest of the world. It's true that US students leave high school and in many cases college knowing less in aggregate than their European counterparts. [nb: Just ask any, any, European about it. For some reason, they are all experts on the state of American schools. Even those that have never been there nor read anything on the subject. It's amazing.] But I think young Americans are better trained in self-criticism, critical thinking, questioning assumptions, are more prone to change their minds on issues, more open to adventurous changes in career. The tendency to experiment in education in preference to the European style emphasizing rote learning has at least produced legions of people used to looking hard at themselves in the mirror when it comes to naming their cultural prejudices. I probably wouldn't take that class. But I'll resist the temptation to roll my eyes because I think it's a manifestation of a generally good impulse.

Finally, do have a look at some sober, thoughtful reflections on America's own unique style of interracial relations.

Steve | 19:06 |


GET WITS, BRITS: Lovely, lovely scolding delivered by Christopher Hitchens in the Daily Mail, who lashes Britons for dithering over whether to join the Euro.
The anti-Euro campaign in Britain, which so ostentatiously waves the banner of "our history" seems, in fact, to be appallingly ignorant of it. Do we imagine that a few miles of dirty water truly separate us from the fate of our "continental" neighbours?

Or that we can remain indifferent to their attempt at a coalition? Name one disaster in British history that did not result from getting this wrong.

Can't think of one, myself. Can think of a lot of reasons to bemoan the fact that history is in fact nowhere in the picture in the whole of the European debate, apart from a few and sundry political figures piously clearing their throats with the rare and weak historical allusion. At its base, the opposition in Britain to the Euro comes down to tawdry zenophobia and idiotic and misplaced pride in tinny and mythical fairy tales of the plucky British, alone and defiant against a world of barbarians. Somebody should wake them up.

Steve | 18:41 |


EU AND IRAN: Let's spare a thought for the leaders of the European Union and those of Iran. They both share the same problem - how to censor the internet. The EU thinks we need hotlines and self-awareness campaigns - organized by conscientious paper-pushers - so that we common folk can protect ourselves from information out there that's "dangerous" for us. Kind of them. In Iran, they have rather a more acute problem on their hands at the moment, but the basic impulse is the same, if different in degree.
...the new law covers 20 types of online violation, including publishing articles that insult Islamic values, Iran's leadership, top clerics, revolutionary values and the ideas of late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Looks like most of the Iranian blogosphere, including our favorite Iranian girl, is batting 20 for 20 at this stage. Hehe..

Steve | 17:08 |

G's SPOT: MacMillan duly notes the new Iraqi blogger "G," newly arrived on the scene. Nice to have another Iraqi Pepys at work, although he stumbles badly right at the outset with this mother of all oxymorons:
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
A great day for freedom.
BBC world service on FM in Baghdad.

Steve | 15:35 |

AH, RAIN: Unbroken good weather gets me down. All that sunshine day in and day out becomes oppressive. It's like being around some eternally chirpy and cheerful simpleton for whom everything is always super, just great and who sincerely wants you to have a nice day.

So today I'm pondering the virtues of summer rain. After two weeks of unrelenting heat and blue skies, today's cool breeze, cloudy skies and intermittent showers has me in a great mood. It's like the chirpy fool went on holiday taking his incessant optimism with him.

Steve | 15:06 |


Fellow praguebloggers and others in the EUblogosphere: Better watch the "critical" remarks regarding someone of influence, or you might have the object of your scorn knocking on your door asking for his or her "right of reply".
Some online publications run by nonprofessionals can be very influential and therefore damaging to the reputation of other people," Thorhallsson told me. "It may be precisely against these (kinds) of publications that there is a need to grant a remedy. It's true that it may look burdensome for a blogger to be obliged to grant a right of reply. Some have suggested that a solution could be that individuals could make a deal with their service providers to administer the right of reply. (What the f....?!? - ed.)


Eurobloggers who wish to use their real names may be out of luck. For better or for worse, Europe lacks a First Amendment and the respect for limited government, private property and free enterprise that America still enjoys.

Read this whole article. Having just voted on EU accession, it's worth pausing to reflect on the fundamental fact that all bureacracies spend an inordinate amount of time passing ill-conceived and unenforceable regulations simply to have something to do, never pausing to consider the effects. (Link via Andrew Sullivan.)

Steve | 12:42 |


OBSERVED: I have now on two successive days seen somebody shaving with an electric razor on public transportation. Is this possibly a new trend or fashion accessory to be added to the cellphone and those funny sort of lifeguard neck straps everybody wears now with 17 keys hanging off the end?

Steve | 12:26 |

"I expected such a result. I had no doubts about the referendum result. The only question was the turnout," Klaus said.

Patronizing bastard, isn't he? So, Professor, if you were so sure about the extent of support in the country, i.e. 77% in favor, what does the turnout really matter?

Here is Klaus' game: of course he counted on the passage of the EU measure as the most likely outcome. By making clear his opposition, he is taking out insurance against what many would say is the high probability of serious difficulties over EU accession in the next few years to come. And there will be wise old uncle Vasek, catcalling from the sidelines (the castle), intoning his favorite mantras "I told you so" and "you all really should have listened to me." This also fortifies his alliance with the Communists, whose support will be crucial when the time comes to try and precipate the government's fall. In this respect I don't quite agree with the Final Word today which suggests that Klaus has suffered a pretty big setback. People's memories are short, and when it starts getting rough, Klaus will right there, reminding the public where the blame belongs.

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, comes off looking good at least for now, which must be a strange and wonderful new feeling for hiim. What's more, he is sound on history (it's his background, I believe), reminding us that the roots of these recent events reach directly back to world war II. I hope some of the teachers out there are big enough to overcome their latent old regime habits and point this out to their students.

Thanks to the Prague Monitor for all the links today.

Steve | 12:13 |


VISAS - a view from the other side. Adventures in Democracy, who it seems works in the former INS (now Dept of Homeland Security), explains why the immigration service is damned if it does and damned if it don't. He makes a pretty good case that enforcement applied in cases like those of the French journalists that Matt Welch commented on was a) not that unusual, and b) being painted unnecessarily black. The rules is the rules, and they were clearly in breach.

I am still interested in a different issue: have policies for refusing entry to people with valid travel visas changed, i.e. to discourage people from certain countries from coming? Maybe Adventures can comment...?

To read Adventure's post, scroll down to May 24. A tad long, but very good. The permalinks are not working (Adventures - hint, hint).

Steve | 18:37 |

The previous post comes via a German blogger named Tobias Schwarz. I recommend a look - good and balanced commentary, a lot of it concerning US and European issues. Plus he's an alum of the LSE, like me...

Steve | 18:26 |

Some thoughts on how to find, then quickly dump European men, by a couple of easy American chicks.

Steve | 18:21 |

...Thousands in Tehran street battle....

Steve | 18:04 |

Just a note to remind myself to check the Guardian every other Wednesday for the Salam Pax column. It's good.

Steve | 15:27 |

REPORT-A-SIN: Now you can help save a powerful member of the Saudi ruling elite from sin. Report the bastard to his government's very own Moral Purity Ministry. Prince Bandar will need to stop eating those street dogs in downtown DC that he no doubt loves so well as he just might get caught.

Steve | 12:36 |


LIKE, HEAVY: Last thought on the referendum. I always tell anyone interested in learning about this country to put down their photo-filled tourist guides and read a book about the Thirty Years War (at which point, depending on what type of person they are, they either look interested or back away a few steps for safety). Right now I'm re-reading my dog-eared copy of a history (by C.V. Wedgwood) I picked up in a used bookshop in Washington many years ago. At the time I read it, I had no idea I'd end up living in Prague one day. This is probably the fourth or fifth time I've read it and each time I'm struck by the way Bohemia was the linchpin holding together a fragile situation involving the whole of Europe. The war began with Prague and ended there 30 years later, during which time perhaps a third of the population of Europe perished due to the violence, starvation and disease brought by the war. That would be over 100 million dead in today's numbers.

During my first couple of years in this country as I taught some English, one of my classes was a group of Czech army majors and colonels. They had to make a stab at English as a requirement of the Partnership for Peace for program which preceded NATO membership for a few years. These former Warsaw Pact officers liked to joke about the irony of boning up to join NATO when a few years before they'd been attending training seminars in Russia. But they were very keen on NATO both for defensive purposes and as a way to get closer to Europe.

One said this: that "every European war has been fought in the Czech lands." It's true enough that everyone from the Emperor Ferdinand to Napolean to Bismarck to Hitler have marched their armies through Bohemia and fought battles over it. History echoes if not repeats itself: the second world war began with the German army rolling into Czechoslovakia from the west, and ended with the Red Army rolling in from the east to take up residence for the next forty years. That might seem an esoteric consideration to some, but it ought to be a vivid one for many, including those senior citizens who will say No tomorrow, according to polls. After all, they lived through that war.

Steve | 19:53 |

THE MORONIC INFERNO*: America, the land of the possible. Idea: isn't Jerry Springer popular here now? Hey presto, I nominate him to replace Zelezny as head of Nova.

*Title of a very good book of essays by Martin Amis.

Steve | 19:41 |

MISPLACED OPTIMISM: Or, see what happens when you try to standardize everything? Beware the EU. Via Pill.

Steve | 13:27 |

NOT GETTING ENOUGH NOTICE: Iranians are taking to the streets. And this:
It seems that something serious is happening this time, everyone is talking about last night that lots of people had an anti government demonstration in front of one of Tehran universities & great support of Police.

I hope the various Assads, Mubaraks and Al-Sauds are shitting themselves. That might be wishful thinking just yet, but you can bet there are some worried asshole muslim clerics in Iran right now. Good.

Steve | 12:16 |


RESTAURANT TALES: This actually happened. Today for lunch I went to La Lavande, a Frenchified restaurant on Zahrebska st. There was a really crappy vinarna there before. Their main menu is populated mostly by fancy dishes in the 350 crowns range (three stars - Prague Post), but for lunch they have a set menu of one offering every day. Price: 99 crowns, and you get soup. The dishes are sometimes Czech-ish in nature, other times distinctly continental. Today they prepared good old veprova plec with rice and mushroom sauce. Don't let anybody badmouth Czech cuisine generally. With quality raw material and a competent cook it's delicious. The pork was beautiful, tender, the sauce was great, the whole thing just right with the added benefit of garden seating. In addition to the food, the waiter and his assistant were attentive and friendly. At one point, a cheerful looking kitchen boy popped out to the garden to pick some herbs and garnish from little planter areas they maintain. Just as I was finishing and thinking idly that I could use another spoonful or two, the waiter appeared and asked...if I wouldn't like a bit more! That's the first time in 12 years here that I have been offered seconds in a restaurant. I said yes I would. If you visit a more traditional minded Czech for dinner, you'll have a very nice meal followed by insistent offers/demands to keep taking more, and "no" is not recognized as a response. When your host finally accepts the inevitable and realizes that after three extra servings they aren't going to get any more food down your throat, it's a sad moment - a kind of defeat. You feel almost sorry for them.

But in a restaurant? In Prague? Pinch me.

Steve | 17:38 |

This is why the internet is in fact a dangerous thing. I noticed this link to the Scotsman via Czechout. While at the Scotsman, I noticed this article, which led me to this set of drinking game rules and photographs. The web: preserving our civilization for posterity.

Steve | 15:14 |

No matter how well informed they are, nor how anti-American, Americans themselves are always surprised to discover just how they are viewed abroad. Even world-wise journalists can be caught off guard. You have to live here for awhile before the truly bizarre and deeply help convictions of Europeans, many of whom have never visited or whose personal experience of the states is limited to New York or Disneyworld, ceases to surprise.

Steve | 14:46 |


NOT SUBTLE: Klaus urges people to vote in the referendum, while all but saying that a Yes vote is the same as surrendering to foreign occupation.
"Each of you will participate in the decision on whether the Czech Republic should voluntarily transfer an important part of its sovereignty to a large transnational entity in exchange for the possibility to participate in its decisions and to be part of it," Klaus said in what observers regarded as a less-than-enthusiastic allusion to EU membership.


Steve | 19:22 |

There's a whole lotta blogging goin' on about the EU referendum here this weekend. I basically agree with the Economist leader I remember reading five or six months ago in which the applicant countries were advised to stop whining and recognize what a good deal they were in fact getting by being allowed into the club. But I incline - wrongly I hope - toward a pessimistic view of the chances of the necessary percentage of voters being able to grasp this concept. And when the president is seen to be trying to sabotage the pro EU campaign, it's not good. Maybe the chief hope that the thing will pass is that enough sensible souls will use the vote as an opportunity to give Klaus the finger and vote yes.

Steve | 17:11 |

ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY: 70 years ago Uncle Joey attempted to bring Ukraine into line by starving 11 million of its inhabitants to death.

Steve | 11:11 |

This is a picture of helium balloons being prepared to carry Radio Free Europe leaflets into Czechoslovakia in the 50s. More pictures and history on RFE/RL's 50th anniversary year are on their site, including a fascinating shot of a youthful, crinkly-haired war criminal.


Steve | 10:45 |


QUIET: Praguebloggers like Doug Arellanes and Scott MacMillan have been quiet of late. Doug's last post was the latest installment in his Iveta Bartosova watch, so perhaps the editors at Blesk had him rubbed out. MacMillan last ruminated on the NYT and the EU referendum. Nothing too sinister there...

Pragueblog himself spent the weekend keeping his ass outdoors and enjoying, for example an all day pig roast. I found the pokey little train station where I alighted to be more interesting than the pig actually. Here is one of the waiting areas, and here is the busy thoroughfare out front. Meanwhile, in 30C+ weather, getting up close enough to carve off some of that roasting pig carcass presented a choice between hunger and second degree burns from the fire and sun combined. I had a few ceremonial hacks at the unfortunate animal and then kept to the shade.

Steve | 17:19 |


MORE CONFUSION: Robert Fisk, back in elegant, softly understated form:
From high over Iraq yesterday, President George Bush cast his Olympian eye over ancient Mesopotamia after praising the Americans in Qatar who had "managed" the war against Saddam Hussein. But far below him, on a dirty street corner in a dirty town called Fallujah that Mr Bush would prefer not to hear about, was a story of American blood and American power and American boots smashing down the front gates of Iraqi homes.

Actually, that's the whole of the article that you're likely to get, so no need to click through unless you're an Independent "premium content" suscriber, if any such people really exist.

Here's a somewhat different story of life "on the ground"* in post-war Iraq.

...I found rather more hostility towards the WFP, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees et al than towards the military. "Americans only in the sky," one man told me, grinning as a chopper rumbled overhead. "No problem." Down on the ground, meanwhile, the new imperial class are the NGOs. They shuttle across the globe, mingling with their own kind - other SUV users - and bringing with them the values of the mother country, or the mother bureaucracy. Like many imperialists, they're well-meaning: they see their charges as helpless and dependent, which happy condition has the benefit of justifying an ever-growing aid bureaucracy in perpetuity.

*NB: I hereby foreswear the use of that phrase ever again. Yesterday I flipped back and forth between BBC and CNN correspondents (on the ____) in the middle east covering Bush and his discussions on conditions in the west bank (on the _____) and Iraq (on the _____), all the reporters emphasized the need to do something for the people in these areas (on the ____). Returning to the anchor, we were reminded that that was a report from Billy Sue Throgmorton, "on the____ in Qatar." What a particularly lame verbal crutch.

Steve | 15:12 |

Blix: 'No surprise' if WMD found

Blix: America jumped to a conclusion over weapons

It's all so confusing...

Steve | 13:02 |


BLOGGER ON THE METRO: The other day I was standing down on the green line platform at Mustek, and I looked across idly at something that caught my eye: there stood a fellow with one of those hip messenger bags slung over his shoulder, and plastered right in the middle of it was, blow me down, the Blogger Logo! "Hello," I thought, "what have we here?" There can't be that many Blogger messenger bags in Prague. A quick couple of questions established that, yes, this was authentic Blogger merchandise, and yes, he was a blogger, "only just for fun, not that often." Just then the train came shambling in screeching and rattling and I didn't find out what the particular blog was. Shoot. So, to the Blogger bag fellow - if you see this, hello and good luck and send up a flare.

FYI, the Blogger store currently sports a wide selection of three items: bag, mousepad and coffee mug. Memo to Blogger: Twelve bucks for a mousepad? Surely some mistake...

Steve | 15:46 |

VISA COMMENTS: Matt Welch in the Reason blog linked to my post below on new visa hindrances requirements and some of the comments that resulted are interesting. It's hard to detect a consensus on whether this new application regime is anything really new, though. I still think it is, and am particularly interested in the role played by arbitrary rejections and turnbacks as a tactic for reducing the overall flow of foreign visitors from certain target countries.

Steve | 15:42 |


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AYATOLLAH: Iranian girl is fed up with official celebrations of Khomeini's life:
Tomorrow is the anniversary of Khomeini's death, (I'm not sure if the word anniversary is used for death or not!)...& It's enough to watch TV programs just for ten minutes to get crazy! They are all showing Khomeini & his family & are speaking about the great history of Islamic revolution & people that are all satisfied for the present situation & freedom, & they wanna encourage people to show that they've always loved Khomeini & also the present leader Khameneiee & all these fuckin things that these days make everybody sick & tired of the whole Islamic republic...

Whew. Something tells me that if the net and blogging had been around in the last years of communist eastern Europe, we might have been reading a blog called "Bohemian Girl" expressing similar sentiments on Lenin's birthday.

Steve | 18:29 |

QUICK: A deposed politician returns to the arena determined to wreak revenge on his enemies at the expense of principal and the interests of his country: which central European leader does this story remind you of...?

Steve | 16:05 |

Via Roger L. Simon I came across not a doubter but a Salam scorner: one of the men in uniform on duty in Iraq. Whatever the validity of his emotions, he does mention something which I believe he is right in pointing out nobody in the whole wide blogosphere has yet noticed:

Dear Raed is a palindrome.

Rather interesting....

Steve | 10:54 |


DOBRY DEN: I just got telemarketed. I'm at home this afternoon and just got a call from a pleasant sounding young woman who introduced herself with a spiel that is instantly recognizable in any language. Nobody that I don't know has any reason to be that nice to me on the phone or to apologize quite so obsequiously for interrupting while slipping in a quick pitch for a mere two minutes' worth of my attention. Has telemarketing really arrived in the Czech Republic?

I still haven't recovered from the robot call I received from Mr. Professor President (then merely head honcho in Parliament) himself before last year's elections. "Dear citizen," intoned a strangely and grimly familiar voice at the other end of the line, "I apologize for interrupting your day, but I would like to take just a few minutes of your time to tell you about a grave danger facing our country." Which of course was not some uncanny portent of the floods to come later that summer, but an apocryphal vision of life in this country should the social democrats get in. A more appropriate subtext would have been something involving the grave danger facing his clumsy campaign at the time, which he went on to lose. And, considering that as President he's been plenty cosy in his dealings with the Communist party, they are sentiments which have a nicely ironic ring to them in retrospect.

Steve | 17:09 |