Prague Twin

Monday, July 30, 2007

Putting Conspiracies to Rest

Hope you like it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Why Do They Hate Us?

This is a question I've attempted to answer in the past. My good friends on the right cannot hear my arguments without considering me an America hater. Perhaps that is because my diction fails me.

Here, Moshin Hamid hits it on the head in a way that I could only dream of.

Here is a taste:

But there is another major reason for anti-Americanism: the accreted residue of many years of U.S. foreign policies. These policies are unknown to most Americans. They form only minor footnotes in U.S. history. But they are the chapter titles of the histories of other countries, where they have had enormous consequences.


The challenge that the United States faces today boils down to a choice. It can insist on its primacy as a superpower, or it can accept the universality of its values. If it chooses the former, it will heighten the resentment of foreigners and increase the likelihood of visiting disaster upon distant populations -- and vice versa. If it chooses the latter, it will discover something it appears to have forgotten: that the world is full of potential allies.

As they say, read the whole thing.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Not Too Much to Ask

When I saw this article I couldn't help but to recall all the arguments I've had with right-wingers over the last couple of years, and how Bush seems to keep coming over to my side. The announcement yesterday that the CIA, and all Federal agencies for that matter, would have to follow Geneva Convention rules is the latest in a string of such decisions made by the president which were made with good judgment and are aligned with "what we have been saying."

Before I get to the others, I just want to mention that all of the arguments I've had with an ex-District Attorney friend of mine are now moot. It doesn't matter if "enemy combatants" fall under the jurisdiction of Article 3. It doesn't matter if stress positions are in The Big Book of Torture. It doesn't matter that no one else provides our soldiers with the same protections. The point was, is, and always will be that it is wrong to do these things, and if we believe in the sanctity of law and expect to live in a just world, we must abide by the treaties we have signed, both in letter and spirit. (I know Roger, you have a hard time with the concept of hypocrisy , but the Geneva Convention falls into this category of practice what you preach even if others don't). Now president Bush agrees with me. I wonder if this has changed Roger's mind.

Indeed, we don't hear the right clamoring over their pet issues once the administration drops them. The right screamed bloody murder at your correspondent over many issues that the administration has since flipped on. Let name a few....

1. Bi-lateral talks with North Korea.
2. Any level of talks with Iran (despite uranium enrichment).
3. Domestic surveillance without a warrant.

And now that the administration has flipped, where is the outrage? Where is the indignation? Why don't they criticize the Bush administration for doing what we were assured at best would be ineffectual and at worst will put our lives in danger?

Where are all those brilliantly crafted arguments now that the Hero-in-Chief has switched to the side of pragmatism?

You could hear a pin drop.

BTW: I'll get back to posting pictures after I get home. This connection is way to slow to be bothered.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Vilnius: First Impression

Here is the building we are staying from the outside. You can see a single balcony which is ours. The shop on the ground floor is a lovely little cafe. The waitresses wear knee-socks.

Here you see the view from the balcony down the street. We are situated right in the heart of old town. It is pretty nice.

One of the things you notice right away when you come to Vilnius is that busking is very popular. The lady shown here is actually quite good (and not bad looking). But some of the young kids are terrible. There is a clarinet player that knows about 3 songs (sort of). "Yesterday," "Strangers in the Night," and a local song that people seem to know. At least the last one he plays reasonably well, but if I have to listen to him massacre strangers in the night one more time, I might go mad.

So far I'm really enjoying it here. It is very calm and unpretentious. The women are outstandingly beautiful (and remember, I live in Prague). Prices are quite reasonable, and although the service seems a bit indifferent, it certainly isn't hostile. Hey, it is Eastern Europe after all: what do you expect?

Postscript: Click on photos for full-size hi-res.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I have just arrived in Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania. The street our apartment is on looks very much like the one in the picture. I'll be posting my own pictures and commentary over the next few days.

First impression: very mellow. Having said that, I did see a guy walking down the street with blood streaming down the side of his face. He looked like a drunk who had taken a bad header and was now wandering home.

So I hope you will join me over the next five days. I finally have some time to post, and I'll be reading you blogs too.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Greetings for Friday the 13th

If you hear anything new on a Friday, it gives you another wrinkle on your face, and adds a year to your age.

Get the lowdown on Friday the 13th at snopes.

Sorry about the wrinkles.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Money Quote

Words have power, Mr. Secretary. You must choose them wisely—especially when they relate to the lives and security of the American public. What color code in the Homeland Security Advisory System is associated with a “gut feeling?”

-Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson

Story Here

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Global Equity markets are down across the board today. The Dow, for example, closed down 150 points with subprime mortgages and disappointing earnings cited (Sears lost 10% of its value today, for example). Oil is back above $72 on the NYMEX and the dollar is at an all-time low against the Euro.

But this is really not as bad as it sounds. I've been saying that stocks are a bit overvalued citing "irrational exuberance" more than once. Earnings are not keeping pace with market valuations, so I see this correction as a healthy one. I have also been steadfast in my belief that the Fed will not cut rates anytime soon and there is a still a chance that they will hike rates before the year ends. Fed fund futures now agree with me as a rate-hike possibility is now derived as about 50-50 by year's end. With not a single major national bank seen cutting rates in the last year, and almost all in a rate-hike mode, I think my prediction is well safe.

One last thing I want to mention is that the Dow consolidating between 13,300 and 13,700. We are getting a shrinking range since the beginning of June. I haven't seen this kind of neutral pattern in years. I expect this cone to squeeze down further until the pattern breaks. If it breaks down, we could see a significant drop.

Will earnings prevent a serious bloodletting? We shall see.


The dollar is a casualty of globalization.

-David Woo (Barclays Capital)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Today in Czech History

On today's date in 1415, Jan Hus, leader of the "Hussites", was burned at the stake in Konstance, Germany. Bohemian (Czech) born, his teachings greatly contributed to the Protestantism. Although there are few Protestants in modern day Czech Republic, Hus is regarded as a hero and today is a national holiday here.

I think the hero status comes from the fact that he stood up to authority and made a real impact on the world. A rare figure indeed in the history of this region.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Cyril & Metoděj

Today is a holiday in the Czech Republic, celebrating the Sts. Cyril (formerly Constantine) and Methodius. Cyril is much more famous as the alphabet he invented is the precursor to Cyrillic script which many of the Slavic languages still use. But Methodius did a great deal more in developing the written form of the Slavonic language which the Czech language is based on. He translated nearly the entire Bible and many other religious texts and preached in Slavonic despite pressure from the Germans. He spent time imprisoned for his efforts which makes him quite a hero here. It is likely that the Czech identity may very well have been completely lost if not for the efforts of Cyril and Metoděj (Czech spelling).

They are now patron saints throughout Europe. They were some pretty hip Catholics if you ask me.

More information is available here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Health Insurance

First of all, my apologies for being absent for so long. I feel pretty bad about it, but what can I do? I've just finished my most recent job and I had to move my things from my bachelor pad up in Liberec (60 miles north of Prague) to my real residence here in Prague. In between I've been going to interviews (I have already been offered one job), and trying to keep up with my studies (and doing a poor job of it).

So this post is about health insurance. Here in the Czech Republic, the health system is a confusing mix of private and public. There are a few insurers, but the largest is a state-run enterprise. Doctors are mostly private, but they generally are paid through the insurance programs which somewhat limit the scope of the treatment. Dentists that conform to the rules and have low co-pays are to be avoided at all costs. I pay cash for dentistry, but it is still nearly free compared to what I am used to in the states (for example, I had oral surgery last year because of an infection around the roots of two teeth which cost me $200).

As far as regular doctors go, generally people don't pay anything, although sometimes you have to pay for medications. This system is not perfect, but for the cost, it is amazing.

The Cost

Medical insurance is paid along with payroll taxes, the employer and employee paying nearly equal parts. So as your pay goes up, so does your insurance. Any government regulated program will probably have to have something like this, otherwise, the indigent simply cannot afford to pay. It is required by law that everyone has insurance (children under 5 are free). Now that I am unemployed, I was required to register to pay my own insurance. I now have insurance for almost exactly $50 per month.

I think I'm getting a pretty good deal.