TSA Stands for “Touching Sensitive Areas”

Or you could probably come up with your own definition.  The fact is, I’ve been groped for years.  I’ve been groped in Vienna, Prague and Munich (and that’s just on the metro!) and I’ve been shot with radiation in one of those standing x-ray things in Moscow for the last 3 or 4 years.  Yes my manhood is on file in Russia.  I just try not to think about it.  (No cracks about file size in the comments, alright?)

But, I have no choice.  If I were to say “no” like this guy and get put on the no fly list, that would be a short career for me.  But I agree that there has to be a comfortable medium.  And I believe the Feds need to find the happy middle sooner rather than later.  Because a lot of people are going to be a lot less passive than me.  It’s time for, as the pundits say, “a big national conversation.”  I expect privacy in the USA.  Moscow, not so much.  I just hope they have a lot of hard drive space.

It’s my blog.  I can say what I want.

Nancy Pelosi on Healthcare

”It’s like the back of the refrigerator. You see all these wires and the rest,” said Pelosi. “All you need to know is, you open the door. The light goes on. You open this door, you go through a whole different path, in terms of access to quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans.”

If the analogy wasn’t condescending enough, are you sure you want to compare health care to a fridge, Ms. Pelosi?  Because if it’s anything like my refrigerator, it’s cold, unorganized, full of stuff that’s unprepared and there’s usually something in the back stinking up the place.

Wait, on second thought, a fridge is perfect.

The Dog Ate My Homework

Hi, there.  Good to see you again.  I’ve been out on a bit of a winter break, I guess.  I have tons of reasons why I haven’t blogged in ages.  In classic blogger fashion, I’ll offer myself as the center of the universe and tell you why I haven’t blogged in such a long while:

1) I was traveling seeing friends and family in Texas.  I was eating, drinking and celebrating too much to find time to blog.

2) Since I’ve been back, all of that eating and drinking has caught up to me.  I have constant heartburn and cooking up new recipes has taken a back seat of late.

3) I have totally revamped all computers in my home as well as my wireless network.  That has eaten up all my free time after work.

4) Work has been fast and furious since my return and I’ve written a lot of BS there so I don’t feel much need to write further BS to you when I return home.

However, with all those excuses now behind me and my fist clutching a bottle of Zantac, I realize that I’m full of new blog posts just itching to be published.  I have loads of thoughts and impressions on Texas people, food and music as well as everything that goes with getting into the 21st Century world of Windows 7 all across the house.  There are even some politics that interest me these days from Ukraine to Massachusetts.  And, now that I see people are using Google translate to translate my blog from English to Russian, it’s good to see that my brilliance is going around the world.

Take heart, dear readers.  I’m NotHemingway and the 2010 fun is about to begin!

Obama Sinking Like A Stone

Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama’s declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they’d rather have his predecessor.

The above comes from Politico.  How far the mighty fall.  Bush/Cheney 2012?  Heh.

In other Presidential news, I read that during his Nobel Prize acceptance tour, Obama snubbed the Swedish (ahem) Norwegian King.  Really?  I can’t believe he’d miss the chance to bow to someone.

Sarkozy Sees the Obvious, Obama Does Not

‘President Obama dreams of a world without weapons…but right in front of us two countries are doing the exact opposite,” Mr. Sarkozy said.

Yes, he was referring to Obama’s UN speech about a world without nukes from last week.  Of course, he could have been referring to the speech Obama gave in Prague this Spring.  It was the same dreamy rhetoric only, months earlier.

So, the question is, what took Sarko so long?

Tuesday Night, Belgrade, World-Weary

Ah, long trips always bring about this moment.  The moment after sitting between two chain smokers all day, the moment after driving through a dusty, littered countryside, the moment after the “evils of America” are told to me in hugely flawed detail by people who still send their children there for an education.

The moment I ask why I bother to do any of this.  The moment I ask, “Why do I care when they don’t.”

I used to just go to bed and wake up in the morning and tell myself, “I care because it’s what I do.”  We’ll see what I say tomorrow.

Republika Srpska Confounds Me

I’m back in Vienna now on my way to Tirana, Albania.  Thank goodness for the airport’s free internet.  It really helps pass the time.

I took a trip out of Sarajevo yesterday into the Republika Srpska town of Banja Luka.  It’s in the northwestern part of Bosnia and is populated mostly by ethnic Serbs.  The whole breakup of Yugoslavia left a real mess and the republic next to a federation within a country doesn’t seem to help matters.  There is no love lost between the people of either side and the tensions are still very clear.  Still, it’s always good to get out of the capital and see how the other folks live.

For a “republic” with high unemployment and a political class that, from all accounts on the ground, isn’t doing its best to help its population, it’s a decent area.  Mountainous pastoral views line the roadside into Banja Luka and the city is a developing Balkan urban center.  The people were nice although 1.5 hours waiting for lunch to arrive was a bit much.  However, I’ve become used to these small annoyances and just carry on – nibbling on the bread from the bread basket and sipping my 2 ounces of mineral water that must be filtered through platinum and gold for the prices they’re charging.

One interesting fact about this region – none of the houses look finished.  There may be a nice 3-story house sitting in the middle of a manicured lawn but the 3rd floor is only block and has no finished, painted facade.  The reason – you only have to pay taxes on your house if it’s finished.  And, even though you’re supposed to be finished with construction within a year, no one enforces the laws.  So no revenue, so no roads, so no… you get it.

It was an interesting day watching the mosques turn into churches as we passed from the Muslim to the Serbian Orthodox areas.  Of course, to concentrate on this, I had to block out the fact that the driver and car we had hired was going about 30 km over the speed limit on crummy roads.  He got his, though.  After he dropped us off at the first meeting, our van got booted because he neglected to pay for parking.

After a harrowing drive over a wooden bridge not originally intended for passenger vans and narrowly dodging a lady herding cows with bulging udders, we were off – into the vomit inducing mountain roads.

I need a bigger life insurance policy.

Tirana is next up.  I’m totally banking on some good, fresh seafood and Italian wine to take the edge off.  We’ll see.

Until then, dear readers!

September 11th, 2009

Pentagon on the horizon 9-11-01
Pentagon on the horizon 9-11-01

Looking back on that day, Clifford D. May‘s analysis is thought provoking:

If this struggle is too much for the present generation, we will deserve what comes in its place. Americans used to say that freedom is not free, that it must be earned by generation after generation. That sounds hokey to 21st-century ears, I know. That doesn’t make it less true.

Hillary Being “Diplomatic”

I really can’t get enough of this video.  This is our nation’s top diplomat answering a poorly translated question while in Africa.  I’ve been on the butt end of plenty of poor translations; however, I haven’t acted like this.  Of course, I’m not married to Bill Clinton.  I can’t decide the emotion it makes me feel, schadenfreude, pity or shame.  All three, maybe?  Have a look:

UPDATE:  Wait!  There’s more!  Thanks for representing ALL of our country abroad, Madame Secretary.  OK, I’ve decided.  Now, it’s just shame.

I just remembered my password….

So by my count it has been about 10 months since I contributed anything here (I probably should ask permission again).   Since I just read that it was the 1-yr anniversary of the site, I guess I will contribute what may end up being the longest post to date as a birthday gift.

As NH knows, my wife and I are planning a trip to Europe in the fall and over the last few days have been discussing where we are going to go, how we are going to get there, etc.  As a result I have been thinking a lot about our last trip to ‘The Old World’, specifically a visit to Munich (This was in the Summer of 2005- pre-surge Iraq was at about it’s worst in terms of insurgent violence, Saddam was about to go on trial, and it was  just weeks after the terrorist attacks of 7/7 in London)  During that visit I, as well as NH and our wives, had an unforgettable encounter at the Hofbrau Haus.  As soon as I got home from the trip, I chronicled the event in an email so I would remember the specifics.  That email follows here–

My wife and I just got back from a 10-day visit to Prague to see her sister and her sister’s husband and this past weekend the four of us drove over to Germany and spent Friday night in Munich.  I have never visited Munich and as I am a big fan of beer halls, we of course had to go to the Hoffbrau Haus.  The table where we ended up sitting faced the majority of the crowd and at the next table over there were three men, one generic-looking ‘Anglo’-type and two really big guys that had a swarthy Middle-Eastern look.  Now, these guys were having a blast drinking, singing, etc. as were we and the rest of the crowd so–other than giving myself a brief mental reminder that we should be careful overseas and that (as the media continually tells us) the “Arab Street” hates Americans—this was no big deal in and of itself.  At one point late in the night however, the two big guys go the the restroom and the ‘Anglo’, who turned out to be a local Munich resident (I’ll call him ‘The German’), turned around and started talking to us.  He asked where we were from and I told him, “Texas” (in typical Texan fashion, not realizing until after the fact that he probably meant what country…).   In broken English he responds with something like “Oh, Bush huh?”–to which I gave a thumbs up and said yes the same place President Bush is from.  What he said next that gave us a little bit of concern:  He proceeded to tell us that he was just hanging out and ended up hooking up with these “Iraqis” and that he had been drinking with them all night.  Then, with a solemn look on his face he said:  “These guys are for Saddam.”  My brother-in-law and I looked at one other and then at him and then my brother-in-law said, “FOR Saddam???”  He confirmed yes they were for Saddam.  Then, after looking at the four of us staring at him in stunned silence, he said, “No, I mean they are for Saddam being gone.”  While being relieved that he corrected himself, we were still not quite sure if he actually corrected himself or just didn’t speak very good English and had it right the first time.  My brother in law said, “That’s good because Saddam is ‘nicht gut'”–which The German responded to with nervous laughter.  So the Iraqi guys come back and sit down and the three of them immediately kind of huddle and The German is clearly telling them about our conversation.  For the rest of the evening (really only about 20-30 minutes) the guy facing me stole a number of glances at me and each of our party, and the one with his back to us turned his head slightly to look at us a couple of times as well.  But, they did not make an effort to say hello or smile at us or anything and The German did not turn around or talk to us anymore.  Again, we were really not worried about anything happening, but at this point we were very aware they were there and that they seemed to have some interest in us.  About 5-10 minutes before the place closed I noticed the guy facing me get into what looked to be a serious discussion with The German, all the while looking periodically at me—and they were leaning over something and discussing something on the table.  All of a sudden (or at least it seemed that way to us), all three got up and the one with his back to us walked by and toward the exit as did the German- neither one looking at us at all.  The other Iraqi guy- the one who had been facing me- stopped and faced our table, laid a napkin in front of me and stuck out his hand to me.  As I stood up and reflexively shook his hand, I looked in his eyes and I cannot really describe the emotion that was there.  He was gripping my hand very firmly and the handshake lasted 4-5 beats longer than a normal handshake would.  He was smiling slightly but his look was more one of determination or seriousness than anything else.  My immediate thought was that this was something very emotional to him and it began to seem the same to me—even though no words were spoken.  As I sat back down and he walked out I looked at the napkin and written on it (with misspellings and letters scratched out) was “Thank you Texas.  From, A grateful Iraqi” 
My brother-in-law watched the whole thing and looked at the napkin and his immediate response was “That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen”.  I wish I would have taken the opportunity to try and talk to him, but it all kind of happened so quickly, he was gone before I really knew what happened. 

A few thoughts I had afterward, and which make it special to me: 
1) I am not in the military and never have been, and while I did vote for the President and I did/do support the the war effort in Iraq, I have never really contributed anything personally to it.  But to him I was just an “American”, and specifically a “Texan” like President Bush and was part of the country that liberated his people from tyranny.
2) Other than maybe my thumbs-up to his friend, he did not know my politics or how I felt about the war.  I wonder how someone who was against the war or one of the Bush-is-evil crowd would have reacted to that situation?  Would they tell him it was all a plot for oil?  Maybe they would have said there were no WMD so he really shouldn’t be grateful? 
3) My brother in law and I had earlier in the day been having a discussion about all of the bad news being reported out of Iraq—suicide bombing after suicide bombing, kidnapping, murder, etc–and how we were both starting to get somewhat of a pessimistic feel about it.  I’ll tell you–seeing the look on that guys face pulled us both out of that and put the big picture back into perspective.

No other commentary really, other than, upon re-reading that I am struck by how different things are today than in the Summer of 2005.

Lucky for us, President Obama and Sec. of State Clinton have seemingly apologized to each European citizen individually for anything and everything the US did that preceded them, so I expect open arms and hugs and kisses everywhere we go.

Edit-  here is a photo of the napkin…

 hhletter

One for the Road

I’ll be out for a little bit doing some exploring.  I’m not expecting to have much Internet connectivity where I’m going and after the past three weeks in the office, that is nothing but a good thing.  Now, if I could drop my mobile phone at just the right angle. . .

All kidding aside, there are two articles that I read today that add a little perspective to the going’s on in this world.  Here they are:

Powerline, with the help of IBD, puts a fine point on what is going on in Honduras and The WSJ takes a look at Obama’s poll numbers.  That combined with ScampWalker’s ruminations on death and legacy should give you plenty to ponder while I’m gone.

Yeah, I’ll miss you, too.   Happy Independence Day.

UPDATE: Oh, and this on Honduras from a friend of a friend.

You Say You Want A Revolution?

I’m not looking for crow recipes yet – but I’m not giving up all hope.

I’m still not getting tingles up my spine from what is going on in Iran, though.  Here’s why:  First, I’ve seen revolutions in Ukraine, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia (among others) in my lifetime and I’ve seen what happens in the aftermath.  In the heat of the moment of those revolutions I got excited.  My heart shouts, “Liberty!  Freedom!  Democracy!”  But having traveled to all but one of these countries in the aftermath and dealt with people from all of them, it has become clear that liberal democracy does not take root as easily as one would hope.  In fact, in each of these cases, liberalization has failed and has been overtaken by corruption and oligarchy.

Much the same thing is happening now in Iran.  What we’re seeing there are two parts of the establishment fighting for power and using the third (English-speaking, twittering, liberal) segment of the society to gain an advantage over their adversary.  The folks at Stratfor agree and helped put into words what my gut was telling me last night when I watched extensive coverage of the “revolution” on television.

Ah, so this is how it feels to be a cynic.

Unrest in Iran

There’s a lot being made of the post-election unrest in Iran.  Some people are getting tingles up their spines and proclaiming it the beginning of the end for the Iranian theocracy.  I’m going to go on record and say that this is just wishful thinking.  Mousavi isn’t much better than Ahmadinejad and even if the whole thing explodes into civil war, the end result would be no better for the US.  Not to mention the fact that the sitting US President just sent a huge love note to the “Muslim world” and somehow aiding the opposition would greatly contradict that.  And, you know, Obama never contradicts himself.

There you go.  I’m on record.  Check back in a few weeks and see if I’m eating crow pot pie.