A week's pause ensues, as we take a holiday in the southern border regions of Austria, Germany and the Sumava. Absolutely no connectivity for a week! Can't remember the last time....

Steve | 02:27 |

2003-07-18 : Another Mass Grave Found in Northern Iraq: Just another day in Iraq.
Some 25 sets of remains all women and children have been pulled from the grave, each with a bullet hole in the skull. The military said the size of the area leads them to believe the site contains between 200 and 400 bodies.

Steve | 20:52 |

Hehe - what's that game called where one person whispers a phrase to someone and then it's passed down the line eventually coming out very different at the other end? My wife has been out of the country for a few weeks. She's back and yesterday caught up with a good friend of hers. The friend said, "My God, I heard Steve choked on a fish bone and had to go to the hospital emergency room! Is he ok?"

The friend happens to be the wife of the boss of a certain well-know Prague blogger who reads this page and must have related my fishbone tale to him. I think I can see how that one got passed up the line.... :))

Steve | 14:27 |

I added the preceding post by means of the Blogspot button embedded in the new version of Google's integrated browser toolbar. This is the first good thing I've seen out of the merger of Google and Blogger. I've been using the Google toolbar for some time, and they've just released version 2.0. For Blogspot bloggers, I recommend it.

Just go to and follow the very simple instructions. Elect to enable the full version when asked. When it's installed, there are a couple of new items in the toolbar, including the Blogger logo. It looks like this:

When you want to blog something you've read on the web, just select some text and hit the button. You get a popup window dialled into your blog. Looks like:

Here you can add tags and edit, and then publish directly. It worked first time out of the box.

Steve | 14:11 |

BBC NEWS | UK | Politics | Body found in Iraq expert search:
Police searching for the weapons expert named by the government as the possible source for a BBC story on Iraq say they have discovered a man's body.

This is rather chilling. If it's suicide, it's very Vince Foster-esque. If not, it's definitely more le Carre. Good God, poor man.

Steve | 13:52 |


I had missed this. A Norwegian tourist is murdered in the old town bar Legends for insulting a Czech fellow's girlfriend. Or what the no neck beetle browed drunk monkey took for an insult. He's been arrested, and "if convicted" will receive from "five to 12 years." For murder.

I couldn't find any mention of this story here.

Update: Doug corrects me on one point - the fellow is a Yugoslav national, not Czech.

Steve | 15:31 |

Eric Alterman writes that the administration claims uranium
was just one small piece of a larger case...[but] "that virtually every aspect of their case was a lie."

Tom Friedman:

according to Peter Bouckaert, senior researcher for emergencies at Human Rights Watch, over 20 mass graves have already been uncovered in Iraq, and there may be as many as 90. One grave alone in Hilla is estimated to contain 10,000 people murdered by Saddam's regime. Human Rights Watch estimates that there are 300,000 people missing in Iraq.

But I guess the mass destruction of human lives doesn't count.

Steve | 12:38 |

Josh Marshall provides a useful, occasionally amusing service.

I sometimes worry about him and whether he's getting enough sleep, though. He's behaving lately a little like a dog chasing cars with a bloodthirsty vengeance.

Apparently this WSJ article reveals that the national intelligence assessment (I remember taking one of those in the fourth grade) verifies the Africa uranium connection. I can't read it because I don't pay for it. Just curious if a) Josh will shine some light on this and b) if any other, single major news outlet will mention it. Enquiring minds and all that.

Steve | 11:10 |

Klaus abruptly concluded the interview when a "Le Figaro" reporter asked about Communist support for his presidency and threatened to dismiss his spokesman for not supplying the questions beforehand, the French daily and Czech papers reported.

Link. Well. For those lucky enough to be annointed members of his team, it must be a barrel of laughs working for Mr. Professor.

Years ago one of the English language papers had an interview with some visiting German politician. He was generally kind in his comments about the Czech Republic. But regarding Czech politicians, he said, "you can work with them, you can discuss and analyze any issue with them at all. The one thing you can never do is take them seriously." No doubt that attitude pervades in Paris, and they all had a good laugh about it as the emperor president left town.

Note to RFE/RL Newsline: 1) Discover permalinks. Nearly all your news publications are tailor made for them. 2) Assign unique addresses to new editions like Newsline instead of waiting until the next day to archive them. I'm a fan, love your stuff.

Steve | 10:52 |


A lowly bureaucrat explains why nobody should expect the US to lift the visa requirement on Czechs anytime soon. Can't find fault with it. If the likes of Jan Kavan are for removal of the requirement, that is a prima facie case for keeping it right where it is....?

Steve | 16:05 |

I'm not British, but I'd like one good, defensible, unemotional, unsentimental argument as to why this guy is wrong and should be punished by law, as he's about to be.
But the licence fee makes no sense. If everyone loves the BBC so much, why is the public forced to pay for it? It's an extortion racket.

I lived in that country for two years and loved the BBC. Another lifetime ago. I wouldn't pay the fucking fee if I lived there now, either. I'm a reasonable man, however. If you can convince me I'm wrong, I'll bake you some Yellow Cake to die for.

Steve | 15:28 |

Blogroll it. This has about as much relevance as 99.999% of blogospheric posts these days which for some reason have obsessed over some strange, retro cake recipe straight out of a Good Homes and Gardens cookbook from the 50s.

Steve | 12:45 |


I am loving these Blogspot ads that appear at the top of my page. Just saw one offering links to Hotels in Karlovy Vary and Prague (I guess it sniffs the domain I'm coming from) and then below offers the obviously relevant "Related Searches". These are "communism, socialism, Marxism, Andrew Sullivan".

Steve | 12:29 |


Iberian Notes is sound on the Tour de France:
Every single Old European out there is rooting for Lance to get smoked, since he's won their big prize for the last four years in a row.

Eggs-zactly. I think Armstrong is to be commended as much for rising above the petty European bullshit (especially the French flavor) and refusing to be rattled by it as much as for whipping that international peleton four years in row after surviving cancer. Greg LeMond was better liked (though not by much) but once or twice made the mistake of answering the hyenas' provocations. It never helps, and Lance does better to just shut up and win. Oh, how sweet sweet sweet those four times he rode up the Champs E'Lysee to all that muted French applause.

Go Lance...

Steve | 16:09 |

BACK FROM THE BRINK: Or, My Fish Bone Experience. I ate one, to be precise, and it got stuck in my throat. (Wasn't from carp, no.) I have heard that eating bread will shift the things, so I duly procured a few pieces from an obliging waiter and tried that. The results were inconclusive. It still hurt, but that certain sewing needle in the esophagus feeling was reduced. I decided I had flushed it out but that it had scratched the lining in the process. Over the next day and a half it remained sore, but on the morning of the third day my throat caught fire. At the doc's I received a severe tongue lashing (her usual patient manner, but still..) for not coming in immediately and was told I had a bad infection from the bone burrowing it's way into my throat canal, a common result when one doesn't get the bone out right away. There it will eventually dissolve but in the meantime I'm on antibiotics thanks to what was otherwise a fairly decent piece of fish.

So beware - don't swallow the bones. And if you do, go to your local fish bone extractor and have it out.

Steve | 12:23 |


OH, AND SPEAKING OF HITCH: What's his "summer reading" list?
Christopher Hitchens, author and journalist
I don't think of the summer as a reading period, any more than any other season. I therefore never have anything to offer. The whole concept of beach and book-bag is multiply repellent to me. I hate holidays anyway.

Steve | 13:44 |

Clare Short, politician
I have set myself the task of reading the Koran over the summer. I think the growing divide between the Muslim world and the west is unnecessary and a great threat to us all. I have started taking my mother to Mass on Sundays and am working my way through the Old Testament. It would be good to read the Koran at the same time. I hope I have the discipline to do so.
Buy the Bible at
Buy the Koran at

Well. We can all breathe a sigh of relief, Clare Short will sort out this "growing divide" for us by reading the Koran. I'll be looking forward to her set of proposals for bringing the jihadis under one big happy tent with the rest of us for a good old fashioned sing along.

Wonder how many of those other fellows are reading the Bible right now in the same spirit? Well, exactly. Why should they? After all, this is all our fault, anyway.

Steve | 13:40 |

ARRESTED: The Iraqi diplomat who may have met with Atta in Prague for a nice cup of coffee and a chat about blowing something up.

Steve | 12:28 |

BANNER LOGIC: This is interesting - the banner ad at the top of my blog homepage at this moment (noon CET) offers links to "Securirty (sic) Camera" and "20% off ATN Optics". Then just below that we have "Related Searches," which the software behind this artificial intelligence suggests are "Christopher Hitchens," "see thru" and "x-ray".

Hmm. Perhaps some sort of reference to the penetrating nature of the typical Hitchensian insight?

Steve | 12:17 |


In the past two days, I wrote two long, deeply insightful and thought-provoking posts on important issues - and Blogger ate them both. So fuck it.

Wanna read about something, go read about Big Tits.

Steve | 14:27 |


I saw this article relating a wine-soaked conversation with Jan Kavan referenced first by new Prague blogger Goodfellow. Nicmoc was sufficiently needled by Kavan's whining to give him a couple of virtual back-handed slaps across the mug. Good job. I believe this is not the first time Kavan has equated the US with Cuba?

Steve | 16:53 |

POST INDEXING: From time to time people visit the page after searching something in Daypop or Google. When I click the pragueBlog link referenced, it's never linked to the actual post in question (i.e. the permalink) - just the homepage. I once saw something about adding a robot tag that supposedly tells spiders to index the permalink. I tried it but it never worked. Any help out there?

Steve | 15:47 |

RUMORS OF X-RAY VISION: Rumors about Americans circulating in Baghdad include certainty that their battle dress uniforms are air-conditioned and that their sunglasses and night vision goggles can see through clothes.

Steve | 15:35 |

FAIR DUBLIN: Somehow, I'd never made it to Ireland before spending four days there last week. Dublin is very nice, of course charming and fun, and yes, everybody really is very nice. The Irish don't seem to be able to stop laughing.

Unless business takes me there, however, I wouldn't go back to Dublin - I'd go somewhere smaller, quieter and less likely to make me feel as if I'd taken up residence in an unopened can of sardines. True, we were mostly in and around the center. Further out I'm sure it would be less intense. One of the worst problems is the absence of a commercial by-pass or ring road. The roads on both sides of the river that bisects the town therefore are the only way through Dublin for trucks, and I don't mean Ford Transit vans. I mean big tractor trailers. Well, big for Europe. You don't know big until you've been passed 75 times in one day in the fast lane out on the interstate by triple trailer monster trucks somewhere in Nevada. Dublin's wee little streets just barely hold all that traffic, and it crawls along. Cyclists are mixed up right along with it, and every week there are a number of deaths (according to one taxi driver). The noise and exhaust are incredible. I'm sure that Dubliners spend so much time in pubs simply to calm nerves shattered from walking the streets.

The city needs urgently to do a Red Ken style exclusion zone in the center. In London, it seems to be working - so well, in fact, that they are raising less than half the dough they expected.

Dublin shows all the signs of its economic boom in the past 15 years. There is reconstruction/new construction everywhere, a lot of it big, public infrastructure projects such as a massive docklands renewal plan. There is a lot of EU money involved, of course. Not all of it produces obvious successes.

An EU funded project building a highway from Dublin heading south was percolating along just fine until it pointed its course into the narrow space between the coastal hills and the sea. A small wood concealed a few remnants of an ancient stone tower that nobody had ever paid attention to, and these few insignificant ruins lay directly in the path of the oncoming highway. The archeologists were duly called in. And they duly made the announcement that buried underneath a large area surrounding the tower were the remains of what was clearly one of the most important fortresses on the island at one time centuries ago.

This stopped the road building. Heads were scratched and experts consulted, and a compromise was reached. The tower would be rebuilt where it was. The rest of the fortress complex would be dug up, moved a couple hundred feet farther back inland and reassembled. The tower would remain where it was and would be situated between the two sections of the divided highway. It would be accessible by an arching pedestrian sky bridge to be slung from the tower to the relocated and rebuilt fortress ruins some distance off. Why people would want to walk on a narrow footway suspended over several lanes of rushing traffic just to look inside a recently rebuilt old stone tower was not explained.

[At this point I feel I should insert "And I am not making this up." This story was, however, related to me in a pub, by a Czech living in Dublin, after a couple of pints of stout. It may have been embellished and some details may be wrong, but he swears the essentials are true.]

This clever plan was just underway when the EU stepped in and said, "wait a minute. We funded this - we have a say in how this is solved. You cannot move those historical ruins." To date no alternative has been proposed. In the meantime, the firm building the southern half of the road continued working on their side and approached the area of the tower and ruins, stopping when they couldn't go any farther. And so the highway is complete, all except for a missing few hundred feet under which lies the ghosts and spirits of some ancient Celtic castle, the scrub growing slowly higher around it.

Steve | 15:23 |

This is not nice. When they catch the bastard that cut this poor guy's parachute ropes, it's just a pity they can't take him up for his own airplane ride 13,000 feet up, open the door and invite him outside with the words, "mind that first step, it's a doozy."

Steve | 14:30 |


GENIUS: A resort that "caters" to the obese (geddit?). It's unlimited helpings with no remorse at this Mexican boutique resort.

You're not supposed to say 'fat', or 'obese'. That's 'people of size', thank you very much.
"It is insane that most businesses don't cater to people of size, from an economic point of view," said Mindy Sommers, who runs a Vermont-based Web magazine called Abundance, which she says receives 13,000 to 14,000 hits a week. "We have a lot of money. We are not a niche market anymore; we're very much mainstream."

THE mainstream going by the statistics, actually. Well, that's free enterprise. We await more resorts and getaways where other socially stigmatized demographic groups can go and let their hair down (resorts for the bald excepted).

Steve | 19:05 |

THAT T-SHIRT: Nicmoc saw it. Same person? It's possible. How about a description, Nicmoc? On the other hand, we may be witnessing a little summer fad-ette resulting from a container's worth of the shirts having recently populated the city's discount shops. It's a mystery.

Steve | 18:30 |


Leaving in a bit to head over to Dublin for a few days and do some dedicated quality control in a few of their pubs. (After the meetings, of course). Have heard rumors that the beer is good. Suggestions welcome.

Steve | 17:00 |

YEP: Welch suggests that Dubya will get his Texas ass kicked next year. He will, but probably as much for another reason than for the one Matt mentions (which is just as deserving): that good old boy's turning out to be about as fiscally responsible as a lapsed shopaholic in the Mall of America with a no-limit piece of plastic in hand. Do Republicans still at least advertise themselves as the party of fiscal conservatism, or are they not even pretending anymore?

Steve | 16:52 |

Here's a shot of the actress (Kristanna Loken) playing the cyborg who takes on Ah-nold in T3. You can see from her obvious aggressive, steely qualities why they picked her for the part of a robot that can make lots of stuff blow up, drive fast and crash an above average number of times, fight big, pumped up other robots and then sort of melt into runny metal, like, and then make herself back into a robot again.

I'll be seeing that, not. T1, T2 - you know what? Pretty good flicks. They had personality (not necessarily from anything Arnie did), a little heart and Linda Hamilton. But movies like this nowadays should really give top billing where credit is due. "Out now: Terminator 3! Starring the CGE Division of Superfine Galaxo Entertainment (followed by a long list of geeky sounding names of computer animation jockeys), and...oh yeah Arnold Schwarzenegger and some young lady whose name we already forgot. In a theatre near you!"

Here's what the NYT thinks - "loud and dumb". Snotty New York pricks, what do they know?

Steve | 14:54 |

GUILTY: Karel Srba gets eight years for attempted murder-for-hire. Should have received the maximum if the court believed the prosecution's story - this was motivated by political revenge, which means there can't be any extenuation in the form of jealous lovers losing their minds temporarily. It was cold and calculated.

Sounds like it was an entertaining trial:
Also attracting attention was the presence in court of Srba's present and former wives, who spoke with each other out loud and received a court reprimand for doing so.

Reminds me of that Czech film, Vrchni, prchni!, where Josef Abrham dresses like a waiter and collects money from people in restaurants to finance his various mistresses and illegitimate kids, in addition to his current family. At his sentencing three or four women stand up trying to catch his eye as he's led out, a few are holding up babies for him to see.

Back to Srba, now come the appeals and the re-assertions that he is being made a scapegoat etc. by other, more powerful forces. We'll see how the court handles this part of the unending process. Guy's got 30 million crowns (he saved it up on his government salary!), and he'll be willing to invest a good deal of that to remain outside of the crossbar hotel I would think.

Here's a reminder of what this is about. Be sure to see Jan Kavan's (the current distinguished President of the UN General Assembly to you and me) smug mug dismissing the whole charge against his former close aide as ridiculous.

The court didn't come to the same conclusion. (BTW, please let me know if you see any reactions from Kavan to this.)

This is too much: I got the above BBC link by Googling a picture of Srba. Do that and you get a page with five pictures of Srba, and one of Jan Kavan. The caption under Kavan's picture says "Srba a najemna vrazda? Ale no tak, to je i na me trosku silna vodka." (Srba and contract murder? That vodka seems a little too strong to me.) The vodka bit could be translated a few different ways I guess, but the sense is that the allegation seems too strong to be true.

After hearing this news, I wonder if the President of the UN General Assembly reached for the real vodka?

Steve | 11:37 |

POINT MISSED: Via KyberSmok, it occurs to me that young Ivo Lukacovic has perhaps been breathing the rarified air of success for a bit too long. He, or one of his minions, thinks they are fooling somebody (who?) by moving the Seznam's PR section to a separate domain and calling it a "PR blog". What's that? Let's see, it says here that it's an "Informacni blog pro tisk a verejnost o aktivitych portalu". That should be hauling them in in droves - after all, it's got "blog" in it.

What's that emoticon for rolling eyes?

Steve | 10:55 |


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 |