Friday, October 10, 2003

As part of a little ad swap thingie between Tulip and Prague.TV, I've started writing a little Czech press/blog commentary every Friday. (Disclaimer: My reading Czech is too rusty to rely on actual Czech newspapers, so I'm relying on English-language press reviews like Radio Prague's and the local English-language media. Pretty lame, I know. God knows why they wanted me for the job.)

Anyway, here's the first one.

We're still looking for a title. Suggestions?
Oh boy. I laughed really hard when I read bloopy's story about the unnamed Prognosite who got so drunk he found himself covered in stuff that comes outta both ends at Lazarska tram stop.

Think I'll start repeating that tale. In fact from now on, I'm gonna tell that story whenever anybody mentions Prognosis . What, Prognosis? Oh, Prognosis! You mean the English-language newspaper in Czechoslovakia that employed that one dude who pooped and then barfed all over himself!

(A pity Bloopy's web site (thatnotsofreshfeeling.com) doesn't have permalinkies. And speaking of technical stuff what the hell is http://kd.mysearch.myway.com/jsp/GGmain.jsp and why is it appearing under referring docs to the right? Shoo!)
Man, Google's "news alert" service sucks. I wanted to know immediately when they announced the Nobel Peace Prize, so I signed up. I ended up learning the winner from the NYTimes web site, and I still haven't received anything from Google.

Iranian Lawyer Wins Nobel Peace Prize: "Nobel watchers say that the five-member committee, which comprises three women, probably chose Ebadi as a way of promoting change, rather than rewarding the ailing pope or to Havel for a lifetime of peace work."

Well. Fair enough. At least it wasn't the damned Poop.

UPDATE: 11:33 a.m. It's been 26 minutes since the first story was posted, and I still haven't received anyhing. 27 minutes...
From The Norway Post , the "Doorway to Norway": "The Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded Friday morning " OK, people, it's Friday morning...

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Mickey Kaus explains on Slate why he voted for Arnold. (Gotta scroll down, but it's worth it.) Great stuff.

I've set foot in California only twice in my life, but here's why I think Arnold's election is a great thing.

First, you have to understand how and why the Republican Party is (as somebody said about the Pope recently) "in a bad way." It's not that it's about to die like the Pope is -- indeed, that's precisely the point -- but that there's a weird sickness at the heart of the Party that's not going anywhere on its own. It's not just Sen. Rick Santorum's comments about homosexuality, or the fact that Bush later called Santorum, the third-ranking person in the U.S. Senate, a "tolerant person." It's the whole sick mess of Ashcroft-style social conservatism and ideological rigidity. It's the inflexible, self-congratulatory stridency of a right-wing mindset that hears only what it wants to hear.

Granted, you've got to ask yourself what kind of person joins a club that would have Rick Santorum as a member. But this definitely isn't my parents' or grandparents' brand of what I'd prefer to call "New England Republicanism."

There are two optimal solutions:

1. Let the patient die, or just kill it. In other words, hope the Republicans go the way of the Whigs. Sorry, much as I'd love to see it, it's just not going to happen anytime soon. The party itself, and that institution oddly known as American "conservatism," is here to stay.

2. Try to cure the disease. Schwarzenegger -- prominent, vocal, moderate, flexible, pragmatic, socially liberal, pro-gay-rights, and most imporantly, in need of zero support from the Party itself -- could be such a remedy. For chrissake, he's married to a Kennedy! And his wife will likely act as one of his key advisers. There's already talk about bringing in some heavyweight lefties to give the Schwarzenegger team a bi-partisan flair.

I look forward to the day when hard-core Republicans ideologues are asking, as they have of another Party member who dares to walk a centrist line, Sen. John McCain: "Why is the hell is this guy a Republican?" Schwarzenegger has the popularity and name recognition to weather that kind of criticism.

Let's face it: Arnold's a liberal Trojan horse in the Republican fortress. Bwahahaha!
Bush: "This is a large administration and there are a lot of senior administration officials, and I don't have any idea."

The American Prospect: "When reporters cite 'senior administration officials,' they generally mean the vice-president, the cabinet secretaries, those with cabinet-rank, the chief of staff, maybe the deputy chief of staff, and a couple of other really senior advisors. It's a fairly limited pool."

You'd think somebody without a political axe to grind could shed light on this. I've seen the line about a limited pool of "senior administration officials" before, mainly on Josh Marshall's site. I never entirely believed Marshall on this, but I trust he knows what he's talking about more than Bush.

Plame overload. OK, enough ink spilled already. But I've seen two pieces worth reading in the last few days:

1. Matt Welch's column in National Post. Absolutely no new information here, but here's the thing: At first I thought the Plame Affair had a limited shelf life, because it seemed such a weird complicated aberration, and of all the nasty White House deeds, this one didn't seem particulary indicative of the Bush administration's deepest flaws. Matt made me rethink that big time.

2. Jack Shafer in Slate, who's actually read the law. Despite Bush's own remarks to the contrary, Shafer says it's highly unlikely that anybody actually broke the law. What's this mean?

It's actually pretty bad for Bush. He has, quite stupidly, already told the public that a crime took place. And regardless, it's clear that something terrifically ugly happened. A majority of Americans already believes this warrants an outside investigation.

Bush, meanwhile, has already made it clear that he's not going to ferret out the truth on his own. And when the FBI investigation runs its course? The FBI has almost no chance of finding the perpetrator -- not because, as Bush says, "This is a large administration," but because there is no perpetrator.

Damn. That's gotta hurt. In other words, it'll remain an open wound, or at least a permanent chink in the president's armor. The more it drags on -- and, ironically, the less that turns up -- the more Bush looks like a Nixonian slimer, defender, and cover-upper.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

The Spy Next Door (washingtonpost.com): "Nocs have cover jobs that have nothing to do with the U.S. government. They work in business, in social clubs, as scientists or secretaries (they are prohibited from posing as journalists), and if detected or arrested by a foreign government, they do not have diplomatic protection and rights. They are on their own."

I didn't know that about journalists. That might actually rule out a few of people I suspected were spies.

Like lots of people, I've been looking for a photo of Valerie Plame, or Valerie Wilson as she's sometimes called. None seem to exist. All we know is that she's blonde and 40 and knows how to blow stuff up. And she's damn good with an AK-47. (Sorry, did you come here looking for a photo of Valerie Plame? A photo of Valerie Wilson? Valerie Plame's photos? Valerie Plame Wilson's photo? Sorry, can't help you. Very cheap, I know, but at least I searched high and low on your behalf. I've got some very cool satellite photos for you.)
Oooo! Cat fight.

As if CIA versus White House weren't enough, apparently Condi Rice went right over Rumsfeld's head in reorganizing that whole Iraq thing.

Rumsfeld was asked several times why the changes were necessary. "I think you have to ask Condi that question," he said, according to a transcript posted on the Web site of the Financial Times.

Pressed, he said: "I said I don't know. Isn't that clear? You don't understand English? I was not there for the backgrounding."
Woah, getting a bit testy there, Don?
Ahem. "I also want to thank my parent-in-laws, Eunice and Sargeant Shriver..." In the language we speak that's parents-in-law.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Hey all you Rumplestiltskins who thought building a huge palace out of Czech hellers was a good way to store your dough -- better start dismantling and spending.

Here's what I have to say. "Heller." Think about it. In Czech, it's not a heller, it's haler widda accent on the E and a hook on the R. Do you know of any other minor currency subdenomination that has its own special word in English? I don't. Why why why? (Scan this handy currency table if you need help. And remember, all these words are fair game in Scrabble, provided you're using Merriam-Webster as the "challenge" reference.)

Yes, there's "crown," but that's a direct translation of koruna. According to www.slovnik.cz, haler means groat (sort of like a grit, but larger), mite, and doit.

Meanwhile, the English word "heller" itself, according to Merriam-Webster, has nothing to do with Czech coins at all in English, but means "hellion."

But as far as I'm concerned, a heller will always be a heller.

One time I wanted to re-name Penny (my friend's aging, Czech-trained pit bull) "Old Heller."

This unintentionally funny, embarrassing article from National Review has already made the rounds on the lefty blogosphere (via Tom Tomorrow, via Atrios) but it's really too good to miss.

Author goes out with husband and sits next to a family -- "mother, three young children, well-dressed, well-behaved, enjoying their night out, too." The catch?

But they were black. And my husband whispered that in a nation where 70 percent of black children are born into homes without fathers, it was great to see a picture-perfect black family dining together. "I almost want to go give the guy a high five," he said, somewhat sheepishly.
Aw shucks.

Thing is, there's not a lick of irony here. Read the article if you don't believe me.
Golly, I honestly don't think I've ever drunk Zubr, the beer that EuroSavant reports just won the 2003 Czech Beer Compeition.
Ack! File under I don't understand, and I want to, and I've tried, really tried:

Under the Nice deal, each country wields 27 votes in the Council of Ministers, compared with 29 votes for Germany, which is twice as populous. 'If Nice is so wrong, why did they all approve it? Why did all EU countries ratify it?' asked Mr Miller.

The Giscard draft would replace the complicated Nice voting system with a simple double majority. Decisions would require support from at least half the member states and these would have to represent at least 60 per cent of the EU population.
I'll have to revisit this. Is there anybody in the room who can explain what a "simple double majority" voting system is? It seems to me that replacing a system whereby each country gets 27 votes, but one gets 29, is only marginally different than a system in which each country gets one vote, which is what I thought the point of the Council of Ministers is (sort of like a Senate?).

Link via Fistful of Euros.
From The Daily Czech: "Sorry guys, only tight swimsuits allowed." You've got to be kidding me.
Every so often an momentous or tragic event takes place that alters your view of the world. The Boston Red Sox 4-3 defeat of the Oakland Athletics last night qualifies. Whether this turns out in the end to be momentous or simply tragic is yet to be seen.

So now it's Sox versus Yankees. Something tells me this is going to get very ugly. Here's a dilemma. Anybody know where I can watch the ALCS here in Prague?
The Conintern - Republican thought police. By Jacob Weisberg. From 1997. I read this, and I found myself inching a tiny bit closer to understanding what bothers me about the modern conservative movement. It's not the conservative part. It's the movement part. Ask yourself: Will Maureen Down by excommunicated from the "liberal movement" for this? Then ask yourself: Does such a "movement" even exist? If not, the other side will say, it's only because the "liberal movement" is now the corrupt liberal establishment. Well, if not buying that line makes me conservative with a small C, fine. Better than being a former Trotskyite whose simply changed his uniform.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Somebody agrees with me about the Red Sox Nation's weird relationship to losing.

Frankly, if the Red Sox ever do win the World Series again, I'm not sure Red Sox fans will be able to go on, because they'll lose their raison d'etre, which I believe is French for "no starting pitching other than Pedro."
Also, since the comments software isn't working, here's my answer to Steve's question at PragueBlog. He points out that the Cubs, until last night, had not won a post-season series since 1908. "I did not know that," he writes. "That is wild, wild stuff. Anyway, the curse of the Bosox isn't anything like that bad, is it?"

Objectively speaking, no. And I didn't know that about the Cubs either.

But perhaps you're misunderestimating the nature of the Bosox curse. It's not that they've been a bad team that never wins for all these decades. It's precisely the fact that they've gotten so close so many times and have always, always, always choked, often in the most dramatic fashion possible. Google "Bucky Fucking Dent" if you don't believe me.

My girlfriend thinks it's really weird that I follow sports at all. Though as I've said, I actually don't. But I'll definitely be on the lookout for news from Oakland tomorrow morning.

Speaking of California, I'd also like to take this opportunity to make scottymac.blogspot.com's first political endorsement: Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor of California. Yes, that's right, a Republican. Mind you, I know as much about California politics as I do about different cuts of beef (remember, I'm the kinda guy who says OR-A-GONE) but what are blogs for if not airing uninformed opinions?

Yeah, I suppose it's true that part of me is secretly hoping (OK, not so secretly anymore) that Arnold will lose, because there are few things I enjoy more than seeing a Republican humiliated. I'm also not jumping on the bash-the-LA Times bandwagon for airing those groping allegations. The fact that the paper published this just days before tomorrow's election is a total non-issue, as far as I'm concerned; this was a lengthy and professional investgation. The fact that the reporters sought the women out, not vice versa, makes the allegations more serious, not less, since the only one you could really accuse of mudslinging is the paper itself (until Gov. Gray Davis opened his mouth, that is). And frankly, this is serious stuff worth investigating. It's long been common knowledge that Arnold was a lecherous beast, and now the facts are laid bare. Somebody had to do it.

Yet Arnold's public apology was probably one of the "biggest" (in the sense of "that's very big of you") political acts I've ever seen. And frankly, when I read comments like this -- "What he's doing is not only offensive; it's illegal" -- some rather unwholesome thoughts flit through my mind. Stuff like, "Shut your fucking trap, you hysterical bitch." No, no, I didn't really think that.

The Hitler comments were taken completely out of context, and I'm inclined to dislike Davis for even mentioning it. I'm really surprised both issues have gained so much steam.

Finally, author and filmmaker Roger L. Simon ("Prague Duet") put it best:

What an election we're having between two pathetic extreme political hacks (Davis and Bustamante), a hypocritical witch (Huffington, now resigned), a right-wing ideologue with a mullah-like religious fanatic campaign manager (McClintock) and a libertine (Arnold). I guess in the end I'm sticking with the libertine.
UPDATE: Here's another view on whether the LA Times really sought those people out on their own.
One day a few years ago I ran into an American guy wearing a "B"-for-Boston-Red-Sox hat downstairs at Akropolis (a club in Prague). I asked him to bring me up to speed on the team, which I haven't followed in years (actually since 1986, I think). Amidst the din the only words I could make out were "Pedro Martinez," "Manny Ramirez" and "Nomar Garciaparra." As if that Latin triptych weren't enough, I just found out I'm supposed to get excited about somebody named David Ortiz as well.

So far I'm right about the Red Sox (see below): They rallied to win Game 4 yesterday, 5-4. Now watch them blow the lead in the final innings and lose to Oakland in Game 5 tonight.

And here's this fascinating article, which suggests an economic reason for the fact the Red Sox haven't won a World Series since 1918: They don't have to.

"From a purely financial standpoint, the Red Sox have less to gain by winning the World Series than just about any other team in the league," said Doug Pappas, chairman of the Society for American Baseball Research's business of baseball committee.
Why? Because the fans will turn out no matter what. Indeed, sometimes I get the idea Bostonians might actually lose interest if the Red Sox started winning big time, like the Celtics used to. (After the mad eurphoria died down of course, which would take a decade or so.)

I'm doing my part to support the club. I'm not watching a single game until I think they might actually win. Call it tough love. (Actually, I couldn't watch a game here if I wanted to.)
Somebody left this article on my desktop, and I've been meaning to read it but haven't gotten around to it, so I'm just going to blog it instead so I can close the window. It's about hiking through Mongolia. I've always wanted to go to Mongolia. By the way, if you happen to be at Tulip Cafe and you happen to notice a smallish woman with South Asian skin tone sitting at the bar chatting with the staff (in Czech), that's our former bartendress, Michele India Klail. She's one of the most fascinating people I've ever met. She's saving her dough for a big four-year hike across Asia and Europe, starting in Northern China, crossing Mongolia (and the Gobi Desert), on into Russia, where she'll take the train to the Baltics and start walking again. She's Canadian, but her dad is Czech and her mom is from Zanzibar.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Anticipating Failure, Red Sox Fans Turn Suffering Into an Art Form. Indeed. I haven't followed the Red Sox closely in years, but I already know what's going to happen. They're going to win again today at Fenway Park, then go back to Oakland to lose the final game there. You just watch.
Dammit!! I missed Oktoberfest again. One of these years...
America is great. I love America. Long live the U.S. of A. May it soon cure itself of this sickness and others like it.
Damn it. I briefly thought of blogging something to the effect of, "This will turn out to be bogus within a week." Too good to be true, I thought. And it was. Alas, I was a wimp and said nothing, so I can take no credit. The allegations that France had somehow supplied Saddam Hussein with anti-aircraft missles as late as this year

arose from the markings on the Roland-type missiles discovered last week near Hilla, south of Baghdad. In photographs released in Warsaw, the markings included the coding: 07-01 KND 2003.

Polish forces apparently took this to indicate the date of manufacture, but France insisted that it has produced no Roland missiles since 1993.
Oh what a shock.

Did you hear the joke about the Polish navy?