Saturday, February 01, 2003

today, one of these things that shouldn't happen

Imshin: 1, 2; Shaister; Jonathan; Adrian
Words to live by

One thing that distinguishes writers from non-writers is that they're the people who write the most. I'm serious. A lot of people might wish to write and forget to write and then wonder why they haven't written. Writing requires writing*. I don't know what it is.

Philip Gourevitch

*Note to myself: so does blogging
So why get so upset about France?

Mark Steyn, a journalist I normally cannot stand, gets it right for a change:

Let's say Saddam has long-range WMDs. If he nuked Montpelier (Vermont), M. Chirac would insist that Bush needed to get a strong Security Council resolution before responding. If he nuked Montpellier (France), Iraq would be a crater by lunchtime.

And, let me add, the Palestinians should consider themselves very fortunate that they are not occupied by France.


Friday, January 31, 2003

Mitnick looked dazed by the concept of a pop-up ad by "New Yorker":


For me, my body and my mind are so integrated. But, yes, I know that to do what I did in Antarctica I had to ignore a lot of what my body was telling me. This swim was entirely different from anything I had done before. It was so much more intense in every way. It required so much more focus. I have never had to focus so tightly before, first on my breathing, then on moving my arms through the water.
Good news

I have been following the story for months. Yesterday, it happened: EU to debate alleged PA funds misuse. Tal G. has written about it, note the translation of an interview with one of the main initiators as well as the discussion in the comments (I kept the last word, you understand, or bored everyone to death)

Dear readers, take a breath from screaming about "Europeans" and give credit to these who deserve it. An old post of mine from the first period of this blog may help to understand that when François Zimeray, the hero of the story, swore to tear out the missing signatures with his teeth [from his fellow European parliamentarians], he wasn't exaggerating:

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The Chris Patten comedy show

I suppose that the following, taken from the protocols of the sitting of the European parliament on October 22, 2002, is good stuff for satiric comments, especially the last sentence. Some, I believe, have already been made on it. Yet, on repeated reading, I don't feel the funny side of it the way I did when I saw it first. Just sick. Sick miserable pettiness of what we are expected to call our leadership.

El Presidente

President. - Question No 39 by Lennart Sacrédeus (H-0630/02):

Subject: Allegations concerning use of EU aid to finance terrorist activities in Palestine
Allegations have been made on a number of occasions in recent years that EU aid to the Palestinian Authority has been used to finance terrorist activities.

In May this year, the Israeli Government handed over a report to the Commission which it claimed proved that the Palestinian Authority had enabled part of the EU aid received to go to terrorists or even terrorist activities by, for example, inflating the cost of the civil service.

What possibilities does the Commission actually have of monitoring how the aid is used? In what way has the Commission made use of the information provided by the Israeli Government?

Patten, Commission

There have been several allegations about alleged misuse of European Union monies by the Palestinian Authority. Some time ago, part of the Israeli Government prepared a dossier claiming to show that President Arafat and the Palestinian Authority used funds provided by the European Union, along with Norway and some other countries, to finance supporters of terrorism or even directly underwrite acts of terrorism.

These are most serious allegations. They have been carefully examined by the Commission. I should stress, as I have already done before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy and the Committee on Budgets, on 19 June, that, on the basis of all the documents made available by the Israeli Government, the Commission has not found evidence of European Union funds being used for purposes other than those agreed between the European Union and the Palestinian Authority.[bureaucratic details]

[more bureaucratic details]
The merits of our budgetary assistance have been widely recognised, not only by the Council of Ministers, but also by the international community. The United States and the other members of the quartet - the UN and the Russian Federation - have recognised the progress which has been made in the management of the Palestinian Authority's financial affairs, thanks to our aid.

[more bureaucratic details and self-praise]


Sacrédeus (PPE-DE). -(SV) I would like to thank Commissioner Patten for his response and for his involvement in this issue. When the Israeli Government publishes these details, we as members of the European Parliament naturally wish to get to the bottom of the matter. I would therefore ask the Commissioner the following questions:

Do you feel that relations with the Israeli Government are good and that the Israeli Government believes that the report submitted to the Commission and to the European Parliament can be removed from the agenda? Or do the Israelis maintain the accusations contained in the report?

I also wonder whether you believe that the aid which the EU is giving to the Middle East is sufficiently well controlled in general rather than just in this case.

Patten, Commission

I am afraid that, unusually, the honourable Member's information is slightly out of date. I am not aware of the Israeli Government insisting that the facts they presented before are accurate and, indeed, were they to do so, I cannot quite understand why they should have resumed transfers to the Palestinian Authority using exactly the same mechanisms that we ourselves use. It would be a very curious thing for them to do.

This is a story that keeps coming back, whatever facts are produced to refute it. However, it is not irrelevant to note that the other members of the quartet - that includes, as I said, the United States and the United Nations - not only support what we are doing but believe that we have been in the lead in promoting reform, not least of the Palestinian Authority's finances.

Cushnahan (PPE-DE)

Commissioner, I have listened to you answer this question on a number of occasions. I have known you for some 20 years now and I know you to be a man of honour who has always been opposed to terrorism. Let me ask you two questions: do you not get frustrated that, when you give such a clear and unequivocal answer, Members do not accept your word?

Secondly, would you not also agree that our aid to Palestine in fact contributes to eliminating the sort of conditions in which terrorism thrives?

Patten, Commission

I am grateful to the honourable Member for what he said initially. Who would not be? He knows that I am a man of legendary generosity of spirit, so perhaps I just have to take it as a fact of political life that however much you tell some people the truth, they prefer to ignore it.
It would be helpful if some of those who keep making these accusations would sometimes turn up in the Chamber or at the committee meetings where I have been refuting the allegations. It might also help if they would occasionally read the newspapers and see what is being said and done about the reform of the Palestinian Authority. But I suspect that one or two of them have their own games to play, games that owe very little to fact but a good deal to prejudice and malevolent whimsy.

Secondly, with regard to the impact on conditions on the ground, the situation on the ground - and this is not easy to dispute - is appalling. We have recently had the report by the UN Secretary-General's special envoy, Catherine Bertini, followed up by a further study. The private remarks of the British Ambassador in Tel Aviv have been reported in the Israeli media. I do not believe for one moment that impoverishment, degradation or hunger - all of which have existed in some form in Palestine - are conducive to Israel's long-term security. Are you more or less likely to encourage lack of moderation or extremism in the conditions that exist in the West Bank and Gaza?

I hope that the points that Mr Pérez made to us during the EU-Israel Association Council yesterday about the humanitarian situation on the ground will lead to some improvement. I hope that the increase in our assistance to UNWRA will help improve the situation and I hope that the Israeli Government will listen to some of the things we are saying, for instance about the blocking of 500 containers of World Food Programme assistance in Ashdod Port at the moment. What does that have to do with the security of Israel?
So, I totally sympathise with the argument that Israel should have assurances about its security, but I do not think that making life intolerable for Palestinians is the right way of achieving that.

Tannock (PPE-DE)

If Commissioner Patten or his office take this view, then why have they so strongly resisted the initiative by myself and Members from other political groups to raise signatures in this House to request that Parliament set up a committee of inquiry into these very grave allegations? If what he says is correct, surely such a body would vindicate his position, clear the air and reject these ongoing allegations of funding of terrorist activities by the PLO, but also, perhaps more insidiously, the funding of race hatred and the brainwashing of young Palestinians in their schools, which furthers long-term animosity and potentially creates future suicide bombers?

Patten, Commission

The honourable Member has added to the first part of his question allegations about Palestinian textbooks being funded by the European Union. Again and again, in this Chamber and in committees, we have pointed out that these allegations are totally without foundation.

We have made available to Members of this House the report by heads of mission in Jerusalem, which again exposes the extent to which this is a simple, straightforward fabrication. So when the honourable Member asks me: why do I not welcome a committee of inquiry into a previous set of fabrications? What on earth does he think I will say?
Setting up such an inquiry - and I do not for one moment think that this House would vote for it - would make it look as though there were some legitimacy in these allegations.
Furthermore, if you set up an inquiry like this, just think of the impact on everybody in my services who ever has to sign a cheque for UNWRA or for anything to do with the Palestinian Authority. It would have the effect of drying up assistance to the Palestinian Authority and to UN and humanitarian organisations because of the psychological effect, and this at a moment when we are preparing for the ad hoc liaison committee donors' meeting in early December, when the European Union - and my thanks to the budgetary authority and my colleague, the Commissioner for the budget - will be expected to take a lead in providing more humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians. Who will expect us to do that? The Americans will, the UN will and the Israelis will - not to mention the rest of the international community.

So I say to the honourable Member, and I am sure that his question is not prompted by any malign motives, that the notion that this proposal to set up an inquiry is somehow helpful to me and to the cause of humanitarian relief in Palestine and to finding a political accommodation to save us from this blood feud, is about as far from reality as it is possible to go. I would like a committee of inquiry on these issues like a 'hole in the head'! [reaction of the audience unknown]

* * * * * * * * * *

More on it, in French: 1, 2

Good intentions

This is a quest for a flexible Europe. The basis of this alternative vision is that we should remember that democracy means government of the people, by the people. In my opinion, the European Union will never be able to function as a democracy, no matter what institutional changes are carried out at the IGC after a proposal from the Convention.


A president for all Europe, directly or indirectly elected, combined with some sort of two-chamber system will never remove the serious democratic deficit of the European Union. Democracy may be defined in many different ways, but the EU does not meet some of the most fundamental democratic requirements: There is no European public dialogue between the people and the politicians. There is a serious lack of accountability, since the voters in most cases cannot change policies through casting their votes at an election. There is a serious and growing lack of legitimacy for the EU institutions. Even if the European parliament has gained in power, the voter turnout has dropped (today only 49% vote fir the European parliament). In short, there is no European demos. The fraud and misuse in the EU is not the result of some evil people, but is the consequence of a system that lacks accountability and transparency.

Democratisation must be viewed as an ever ongoing process. But today democracy is attached to the nation state, and I warn against undermining Europe's old - and new democracies - for the purpose of creating a European superstate and superpower - a toy for European leaders, a disaster

Drude Dahlrup on reforming the EU

On the same subject: The dark zone of the executive power

Europe in a sandbox

They stole my headline, I'm sure they didn't intend to. This is exactly what I was going to write on the latest European rift. The article itself is ín German, but even if you can't read it, the title says it all. For these of you who like unpleasant historical reminders: both of the previous World Wars began with conflicts within Europe, please don't leap too high with joy, Mr. Rumsfield. accordance with your organisation's Internet Usage Policy

Thank you*, 8e6 Technologies

Someone got a hosting alternative out there?

current mood

* alternative: direct link to the screenshot

Thursday, January 30, 2003

I know, I know. I'm supposed to comment on the European-American madhouse. Take the last word of the previous sentence for an opinion.
Le dernier cri

I realize how upsetting this little exhibition may be, especially to Israeli visitors. The pictures will take ages to load on most connections, feel free to stop it. Nevertheless I believe they deserves to be displayed in this combination - a sign of our perverse times. All I can say at the moment is: imagine the horror of awakening. Maybe I'll comment on it later, I haven't really sorted out for myself the meaning of it yet.

[Lynn B.: ]Just noticed at South Africa Indymedia . This was a "comment" to a thread entitled "The Racist Irony of Zionism ," 12/15/02

Om Mohammed helps her twelve-year-old son Abu Ali with a toy suicide bomber belt he fashioned on his own. "I hope to be a Martyr...I hope when I get 14 or 15 to explode myself." His mother is proud of her son: "God gave him to me to protect and defend our homeland."

Simon Tyszko’s Suicide Bomber Barbie conflates Western commodification with Palestinian desperation. Religious and capitalist dogmas struggle within Barbie’s idealised form, in an artwork of potent incongruity. It is a work whose political stridency is tempered by a well placed humour.

Iraqi policemen demonstrate in Baghdad

The 4-foot-by-6-foot oil painting by Cong Lu, 24, depicts a young Asian man pulling up his shirt to reveal explosives strapped around his midsection. A pistol is tucked into his waistband. The piece is entitled, Self Portrait of a Martyr. ... The piece was awarded Student Best of Show, and the artist received a $1,300 Allied Arts Award, given yearly to an outstanding young artist.

A girl who was paraded at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin wearing a mock explosives belt has launched an investigation by German justice officials.

...Lebanese model Nathalie Fadlallah wears a Palestinian keffiyeh while displaying a dress designed by Saudi Yahya al-Bushairy. The dress design shows mock blood stains, an Israeli tank and a picture of Palestinian boy Mohammed Aldura, who was shot dead in his father's arms at the outbreak of the Palestinian intefadeh. The dress was part of al-Bushairy's spring collection for 2003.

Using simple animation, an online game allows a player to control a suicide bomber as he runs through a crowded street, eventually detonating. The player clicks the mouse to make the bomber open his explosives-stuffed jacket. Points are awarded to the player according to how many people are killed or wounded.

But the family told Sky's Andrew Wilson the picture was "just a joke". "The photograph was taken some time ago at a party when someone dressed up the cutest baby as a suicide bomber," one relative said.

Goodbye to a culture of blindness that tolerates, as part of "peace marches," women wearing suicide-bomber belts as bikinis. (See the accompanying photo of the "peace" march in Madrid. ...)

What would be the suitable literary counterpart? "Dreaming of Palestine"? Who began it, in this particular phase? Was it Jean Genet?

* Update: the father, a Palestinian, was sentenced to five months on probation and 300 hours community welfare work by a German court. He declared that he loves his three children, all of them similarily adorned at the Berlin demonstration, and would never permit them to become suicide bombers. (in German)

** Direct link to the game, if you can stomach it.

A magnificient Ossip Zadkine site.
Love is...

I know what I want to do with his pictures*: put several flat monitors in a room and display for hours. Full size. Funny that they look almost better on a monitor than in print.

* don't forget to click through the thumbnails to see the pictures in full glory
Visiting the Czechs

English is on more Czechs' lips

Study suggests it's catching up with German

A new study performed by the research group Universitas, in cooperation with CzechInvest, shows that while German remains the foreign language spoken by the most Czechs, English is gaining in popularity and is spoken with the greatest fluency.

Report: War will diminish tourism

Visitor numbers could sink 25 percent, hitting already-battered sector


End of an era


  • "I believe that part of friendly political cooperation will be the rejection of both military pacts, NATO and the Warsaw Pact." (quoted in Komosomolskaya Pravda, Dec. 12, 1989 as a candidate for president)

  • "If I am proud that I am a Czech and that is enough to give me some sort of pride and self-esteem, then I am a Czech, but also an idiot." (in a public discussion, Sept. 4, 1996)

  • "To stand against NATO expansion to the east of Europe is suicide. NATO is Europe's best tool for collective defense." (quoted in El Mundo, July 8, 1997)

  • "I am afraid that my successor will be some staunch partisan born out of some strong political party and able to assure support from other parties or some old man who, although he is a wonderful person, does not have much political weight or authority or political opinions and stances at all, that he is acceptable to all, and I do not consider either option as good." (speaking on Czech Television, June 13, 1998)

  • "I know I made one great error and that I paid little attention to the structuring of domestic political life." (interview on Czech Television, Nov. 21, 1999)

  • "If there is something that I cannot forgive myself for as my greatest mistake that I made in 10 years of presidency, then it would be that I did not come out sharply against [nuclear plant] Temelin's construction in 1990." (interview on Czech Radio, Oct. 9, 2000)

  • "It is clear that the United States of America plays the dominant role in the fight against terrorism -- everyone knows that. But especially because it is so well known, I do not believe it to be especially prudent if the Americans themselves emphasize it and say: 'civilization under our leadership.' That is precisely something that can really provoke someone." (BBC interview, Nov. 21, 2001)

  • "I am not and never was an admirer of the postwar deportation of Sudeten Germans. It was not a good thing. It was a thing that was a product of its time; it was part of our bitter contemporary history." (in an interview with German TV station ARD, May 31, 2002)

  • "Vaclav Klaus does not give up so easily; one day he will return again. ... In a way, I admire his persistence." (quoted in Le Monde, July 3, 2002)

More: LAST WORD: Czechs reflect on Havel's presidency, good and bad.
Annals of bloggamorality

I know, I know. It's unforgivable. Here I am, one week of blogging, becoming the "Blog of the week" - and what do I do? Just drop offline. Well, dears, it's the offline life. The real world. Nothing tragic. I'll do better, post all of my posts-to-be in due time, subheadline: what I was going to write on January the Xth, 2003.

Monday, January 27, 2003

I am not sure whether this is supposed to be a joke:

Does President Putin look like Dobby?