Merry Christmas, War is over

John Lennon:

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas War is over
For weak and for strong If you want it
For rich and the poor ones War is over
The world is so wrong Now
And so Happy Christmas War is over
For black and for white If you want it
For yellow and red ones War is over
Let's stop all the fight Now

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas War is over
And what have we done If you want it
Another year over War is over
And a new one just begun Now
And so Happy Christmas War is over
I hope you have fun If you want it
The near and the dear one War is over
The old and the young Now

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

War is over if you want it
War is over now


Obligation to follow orders

The Milgram Experiment:

Milgram, who also came up with the theory behind "six degrees of separation" -- the idea that everyone is connected to everyone else through a small number of acquaintances -- set out to figure out why people would turn against their own neighbors in circumstances such as Nazi-occupied Europe. Referring to Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann, Milgram wrote in 1974, "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?"

His experiment in its standard form included a fake shock machine, a "teacher," a "learner" and an experimenter in a laboratory setting. The participant was told that he or she had to teach the student to memorize a pair of words, and the punishment for a wrong answer was a shock from the machine.

The teacher sat in front of the shock machine, which had 30 levers, each corresponding to an additional 15 volts. With each mistake the student made, the teacher had to pull the next lever to deliver a more painful punishment.

While the machine didn't generate shocks and a recorded voice track simulated painful reactions, the teacher was led to believe that he or she was shocking a student, who screamed and asked to leave at higher voltages, and eventually fell silent.

If the teacher questioned continuing as instructed, the experimenter simply said, "The experiment requires that you go on," said Thomas Blass, author of the biography "The Man Who Shocked The World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram" and the Web site StanleyMilgram.com.

About 65 percent of participants pulled levers corresponding to the maximum voltage -- 450 volts -- in spite of the screams of agony from the learner.

"What the experiment shows is that the person whose authority I consider to be legitimate, that he has a right to tell me what to do and therefore I have obligation to follow his orders, that person could make me, make most people, act contrary to their conscience," Blass said.


Thomas Mann on screen

Thomas Mann's debut novel, Buddenbrooks, now available on screen:

Published in 1901, the book is a European classic that charts the rise and precipitate fall of a middle-class merchant family from Lübeck, whose younger generations squander the wealth amassed by their prudent forefathers. No one could have predicted the uncanny timeliness of its revival. The contemporary parallels of the book have undoubtedly struck a chord with a society in the grip of a recession and questioning the values of spendthrift capitalism.

Before the film's general release on Christmas Day, critics are already hailing its portrayal of a society eaten away by decadence and rash consumerism as a metaphor for the current woes of the west. Cultural commentators are also lining up to acclaim Mann's mordant critique of frenzied materialism and senseless spending as a manual in common-sense economics and a morality tale for the here and now.


Metaphor at war

Erin Steuter: At war with Metaphor: Media, Propaganda, and Racism in the War on Terror

Taken alone, using animal metaphors does not necessarily seem so nefarious. Indeed comparisons to animals – eating like a pig, strong as a bull – are fairly common in nearly any language. The danger lies, according to Steuter, when we move beyond simple comparisons, to persistent metaphors; people are no longer like something, but have become something. You’re not like an animal; you are an animal. Steuter points out that we have seen this kind of dehumanization before in some of the most brutal and bloody human conflicts.
In April 2008, it was revealed that the Pentagon, with the complicity of the major American news agencies, had co-ordinated the use of military analysts in US coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to drum up support for the military operations. The American media has been roundly criticized since for allowing military officials too large a place in shaping the media's approach to its reporting on the war on terror and related elements.

Steuter agrees that militaries – American and Canadian – have played a large role in pushing the animal metaphor. "I think there's a sort of masculinity and intensity and power in the military language and I think the media is sometimes quick to adopt it to take on some of the power and authority for themselves." But she is quick to add that chalking up how the war is framed only to military officials is scratching the surface.



My first book ever

I received an invitation to fill out a questionnaire for writers. It's really long, well over 100 questions, and I will not have time to do it. But, I can answer some questions here.

1. First book you ever read.

That one is easy. First or not, the only book I can remember from early childhood is Bullerbyn, by Astrid Lindgren. It is amazing that I can see the cover so vividly to this day. I believe we had to read it in the first year at school, and I remember that we had homework - draw a scene from the book. I even remember the scene I took back to school and received the highest mark, although the scene was drawn by my mother...

2. How did you begin to write

Embarrassing story, but true. I knew very early on that I would write some day, though I never rushed to it. One day I read a short story by this very well known author. I did not like the story, so I decided to re-write it. And I did. I completely rewrote it. Then I showed both versions to my friends and asked for their verdict. They picked my version. To this day I remember their faces when they found out who wrote it. Of course, it wasn't really my story, it was plagiarism, but this experience (repeated several times with other short stories) allowed me to learn some basics, such as story structure. And the day came when I wrote my very own. I showed that one to my pals, but I was so embarrassed (not because I thought it was bad, but because of exposing my very own innermost thoughts that go into writing) that I wrote two versions of the story and presented one of them as the original, penned by a "real" writer. Although the story was liked, as were some others that followed, it was a very long time before I could admit that these were 100% mine.


Are you making enough money?

Are you paid enough in comparison to what others in your field are paid?

Browse this website to find out how much others are making.

I've noticed that no writers are listed, so in case you are wandering what authors are paid for their books you can check this chart.


Why you need a phone with a removable battery

The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

The technique is called a "roving bug," and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him. MORE

Isn't it rather embarrassing when a respectable tech mag refers to an old trick as "novel"?

But, I digress. I meant to say: it shows you why you need a phone with a removable battery, and why you should remove it when you are discussing the next bank job.

Why the CIA makes a good subject for a thriller

If the C.I.A.’s human spy arm was operating as a private business, it would be running at a loss. Think Detroit, not 007. Why? First, the agency is simply too insular. It does not sufficiently tap into the expertise that exists across the breadth of America. The human spy components of the C.I.A. live in a cocoon of secrecy that breeds distrust of outsiders. This is one reason very few officers have BlackBerrys, and those few who do usually leave them in their cars when they go to work. Despite their reputation as plugged-in experts on other countries, many C.I.A. officers do not even have Internet access at their desks. Worse yet, they don’t think they need it.  MORE

What makes writing about the spy world so exciting? The human element, so imperfect, so flawed, so close to one's own mirror (well, perhaps a funny mirror) image.


Passport application and visas

I am slowly collecting information for my next book, and found some details from the period that it is set in:

In order to apply for a passport (US) one needs 2 recently taken photographs; a group photograph should be used when a wife, or wife and children, are included in one application; application must be signed!, if the applicant signs by mark, two attesting witnesses thereto are required. A passport is valid for 2 years from date of issue unless limited to a shorter period, costs $10. It may be renewed for a period of 2 years upon payment of a fee of $5, but the final date of expiration shall not be more than 4 years from the original date of issue.

Some visa requirements:

Great Britain and Possessions - $2; transit visa 20 cents.
China - $2.50, good for one year.
Egypt – 10 gold franks.
France - $2.75, good up to 2 years, but a single entry of up to 15 days costs 50 cents.
Germany – 50 cents.
Mexico – no passport or visa required.
Poland - $4, good up to 2 years, cannot be extended; transit visa 28 cents.

If one brings foreign currency back home, one should remember, that paper currency is convertible at 44% of face value.

Leading nations of the world:

Data: 1938


Idler, Writer, Bum

Idlers, in the eyes of outside observers, are usually perceived as lazy, dawdlers, losers, parasites… Idling is perceived as socially unacceptable.

This is how I must be perceived by outside observers. Much of my day is spent staring at the ceiling, or watching the clouds.

I happened upon this book THE IDLERS GLOSSARY, by Joshua Glenn, which deciphers and breaks some of the common misconceptions about idling. Reading it brought to mind one of the best examples of such a lazy idler, a parasite, pathological slacker. I pulled the first volume, fingered through the pages and found a paragraph that will only fuel the sentiments of all those who perceive writers as lazy bums:

As I push forward from the inside toward the outside, following parallel states of my consciousness, I do not reach the horizon, but I find pleasures of a different kind: to sit comfortably, to smell the lively air, to not be importuned by an unexpected visit; and when the bell tower rings the hour, to watch as afternoon chips away, bit by bit, until I hear the last bong that will allow me to tell the number. With each passing hour it seems that the previous one rang only minutes ago; the latest one signed off in the sky just next to the previous one and I cannot believe that sixty minutes can fit in the small blue crescent that spans two gold signs. Sometimes an hour rings prematurely, twice more than the previous one; an hour passes that I do not register. Something happens, but it does not happen for me.
Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time


Enemies of war

On November 16, 1989, special forces stormed the Universidad Centroamericana and assassinated six professors and two women. At the time civil war was raging in El Salvador. The profs, Jesuits, were vocal critics of the conflict. Their voices, voices of reason, were a shield capable of stopping tanks and bullets. Alas their bodies were frail, as all human life is. So the genocidal oppressors figured that the easiest way to rid the country of the troublesome Jesuits would be to riddle their bodies with bullets. But, with the bullets being supplied by the American taxpayer the murder backfired. A couple years later something of a truce was instituted, and a mock trial found the guilty of the murder. The world forgot about what happened. Until...

Yesterday, Spain's Association for Human Rights started the proceedings against the president of El Salvador and the military officers responsible for the assassinations.

Read the full story here (in Spanish), then watch the PBS documentary Enemies of War, listen to this radio podcast (in Real Audio or Windows Media) and wait for my novel AGENTS OF CHANGE, which echoes the events (I will finish it, soon, I promise!)


Cosmic Utopia on Earth

At midnight all people of our country make a switch, someone who yesterday was a gardener, today becomes an engineer, yesterday’s building contractor becomes a judge, sovereign becomes a teacher, and so on. What remains unchanged is the society as a whole.

In every society of the old type most citizens perform their occupational functions poorly, and still the society does not seize to go on. Someone who is a poor gardener will ruin the garden, and a poor sovereign will ruin the entire country because both have the time to cause damage, time they do not have in our type of society. Furthermore in the old type of society, apart from poor skills, there is additional negative, even destructive effect of individuals’ private wants. Jealousy, egoism, conceit, vanity, want of power, all have a negative effect on the life of the society. This negative influence does not exist in our society. In our world one cannot do things to enrich oneself, or to make longer egoistic plans, hoping to enrich oneself in the long run, because tomorrow one becomes someone else, without knowing today what it will be. Stanislaw Lem

Now, imagine that citizens are drawn at random to advise governments on issues such as the environment, the economy, domestic and international policy, etc, much as jurors are called in to decide the outcomes of judicial cases… Sounds too much like fantasy? Well, look up a concept called Citizen Jury. It already exists. Cosmic utopia landed here on Earth.



Another great folk tale, this one from the Maya:

...farmers who had a cornfield used the alux as a guardian of their crops. It is said that the alux is a clay doll that guards the farmer's field, scaring away thieves and making jokes to all the people who pass by or stop to rest.

When the farmer finishes working the land, he destroys the alux, smashing it to pieces against a rock. In this way, he can freely return to working the land, because it no longer has a guard.

If it is not done this way, the preparation of the land that the alux guards will scarcely have begun when he starts to whistle or throw stones at the farmer whom he thinks is an intruder, which could cause a distraction that cause the farmer to cut his hand or foot with a rake or a machete.

More here

Bath house

Found this interesting piece:

It is said that a long time ago, when they were going to use the bath house for the first time, before anyone went in, they put a dog inside. And it is said, in the event that something bad was found in the bath, the dog was beaten and the evil was removed. Thus the evil would not attach itself to the people and nothing would happen to them.

Read more


There's something somewhere

My neighbor’s kid, a 12 year old who sometimes shovels my snow in the winter, went to a summer camp. His parents, devout Christians, insisted that he must go to a Christian camp, down in the US. He really didn’t want to go. He was raving when he came back. It was the greatest thing ever, chiefly because all kids spent much of their time learning to use different firearms…

It reminds me of a story I read recently on the road:

There are things going on, things that shouldn’t be. […] It’s blossoming everywhere and in every country. […] Youth is what you might call the spearhead of it all. But that’s not really what’s so worrying. They – whoever they are – work through youth. Youth in every country. Youth urged on. Youth chanting slogans, slogans that sound exciting, though they don’t always know what they mean. So easy to start a revolution. That’s natural to youth. All youth has always rebelled. You rebel, you want the world to be different from what it is. But you’re blind too. There are bandages over the eyes of youth. They can’t see where things are taking them. What’s in front of them? And who it is behind them, urging them on? […] They’re not only fancies. That’s what people said about Hitler. Hitler and the Hitler Youth. But it was a long careful preparation. It was a fifth column being planted in different countries all ready for the supermen. The supermen where to be the flower of the German nation. Somebody else is perhaps believing something like that now. There’s something somewhere, and it’s running on the same lines.
Agatha Christie, Passenger to Frankfurt.


Crucial writing step

Q: What’s the difference between a dream about writing and a publishable novel?

A: Several months.

Several months away from the book is how long it takes me to gain the necessary distance to clear my mind in order to determine the state of the novel I am working on. It took several months for me to figure out what has to be done to turn the draft (N-tieth) into the product that will satisfy my writerly and readerly tastes. My novel about the Jesuits in its current form is a good example of a fast-paced thriller, the kind you pick up at an airport. Easy, enjoyable read. But, it’s not what I the writer want to release to the world. It needs more character depth, a slow down if you will. Plot is not everything. Not anymore. This is the book that is supposed to be my transition from thriller to mainstream. Commercial, to be sure, but also one that leaves an impression beyond the momentary thrills. So here I am, rolling my sleeves up and sitting down to what I hope will be the final version.


Where do book ideas come from

Had to mingle among several hundred people this weekend, and yet again the question came back: Where do you get your ideas from?

I think every writer will agree that it's one of the most frequently asked questions. I answered it several times in this blog, it seems easy to do in this impersonal way, but when it comes to answering face to face I go blank. Having answered it innumerable times over the years I feel deflated, like a balloon letting air out bit by bit until it's empty. So, in the words of Agatha Christie I result to a short: From my head. Then I feign sudden thirst and rush to the drinks table.

I am tempted to print out Agatha's answer, carry it in my wallet and hand out to the curious:

If one idea in particular seems attractive, and you feel you could do something with it, then you toss it around, play trick with it, work it up, tone it down, and gradually get it into shape. Then, of course, you have to start writing it. That’s not nearly such fun – it becomes hard work. Alternatively, you can tuck it away, in storage, for perhaps using in a year or two years time.


Romero and El Salvador, 30 years later

In a society disfigured by violence, massive emigration, inequality and poverty, and the social and political irresponsibility of its leaders, Oscar Romero is still a hugely significant figure. Although the historic situation of the country is not what it was thirty years ago, when he began his ministry as archbishop, his message has no lost its relevance. At that time, the country was entering a period of bloody and cruel civil war; now, social violence leaves more wounded and dead than the incipient conflict did then.

Rodolfo Cardenal, SJ.



One concept corrupts and confuses the others... I am speaking of the infinite ... We (the undivided divinity that operates within us) have dreamed the world. We have dreamed it strong, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous, in space and secure in time; but we have allowed tenuous, eternal interstices of injustice in its structure so we may know that it is false.”
Jorge Luis Borges


Before a great man there is even greater woman

In 1552 the princess, 17 at the time, married the heir to the Portuguese throne. When he died two years later, she returned to Spain.

Young, beautiful, and aware of her royal position and power, Juana was also endowed with a talent for ruling. While her brother, Philip II of Spain, was in England as husband of Mary Tudor, he made Juana regent. From 1554 to 1559 she was the effective ruler of Spain.

Juana had an additional ambition: to become a Jesuit. Telling none of her family, she informed Spanish grandee Francis Borgia, an early Jesuit, that she wanted to join the Society of Jesus.

So perilous was the project that all existing Jesuit correspondence about the situation avoids her name, using the pseudonym Mateo Sanchez, or Montoya, instead. In a quandary, Ignatius appointed a committee to advise him. It recommended that Juana enter the Society as a permanent scholastic; truly a Jesuit but forever in formation. Otherwise, with solemn vows, she would have been—according to canon and civil law—legally dead, dispossessed of everything, and incapable of ever marrying again.

With the novel, simple, and terminable vows of a Jesuit scholastic, she could have separated from the Society if necessary. When Juana pronounced her three religious vows as a Jesuit, absolute secrecy was enjoined on everyone.

She could make no obvious change in her manner of life. So, for her, poverty meant leading a rather austere life at her already simple court. Chastity meant never marrying again. Obedience—well, her letters show her sometimes trying to give orders to Ignatius and Borgia. SOURCE

The operative word here is "tried" to give orders, and the author of this article does not amplify, but elsewhere I came across Jesuits saying that Juana "gave orders" to Ignatius and Borgia. If they were followed through it would mean that the feisty woman was actually in charge of the Jesuit Order, no? They say that "Behind every great man there's a great woman", but here's an example that it actually works the other way around.


Spooks and snitches

For some time researchers were trying to figure out the identity of a secret services asset known as Bolek. Allegations circulated that the asset was none other but Lech Wałęsa - the legendary Solidarity leader, future President of "free" Poland.

Despite Wałęsa's repeated denials the allegations never went away. Whether Wałęsa was an asset or not, one thing is certain - the former secret services as well as communist era military intelligence wield enormous power to this day, skillfully operating yesterday's knowledge about today's political figures. If you ever wandered what happened to all those hundreds of thousands of operatives after the political shift you can pick up THE FIFTH INTERNATIONALE, a book dealing with the very subject.
Former Polish President – a Communist Secret Service agent – a book Hundreds of Poles queued outside Warsaw bookstores yesterday to snatch up copies of a new book claiming former Polish president, Solidarity union leader and Nobel laureate Lech Walesa was a communist agent in the 1970s, Polish National TV reported.

Queues formed before 8 am outside Warsaw's Institute of National Remembrance - a research centre that investigates Communist and Nazi crimes - for the release of "Walesa and the Security Service."
Others tried their luck at the numerous bookstores that carried limited numbers of the 700-page volume.

The book "Walesa and the Security Service" by Slawomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk has new evidence that Walesa was an informer for Poland's communist-era secret service in the 1970s while working at the Gdansk shipyards and later, as president, removed archive documents that implicated him.

Walesa, 65, has denied the allegations and called the institute's authors "fanatics" with libellous claims. He has threatened legal action and said he will soon release his own book to tell his side of the story.

Although the rumours have circulated for decades, the book brought the debate to a head and sparked controversy in Polish politics.

Walesa became an anti-communist hero worldwide after he led a strike at the shipyards against Poland's communist regime in 1980, helping bring down communism at the end of the decade. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

Walesa won a 2000 court ruling that said he was not a spy. But opponents, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski, say they know he had worked for communists.

Some see the allegations as tactics used by right-wing politicians for political gain. In a recent survey conducted by the daily Dziennik, 43 per cent said they did not believe the former president worked with the secret police.

The book sparked wide public interest and dominated last week's newspapers and talk shows.

Outside the institute, the crowd grew frustrated when the 600 copies sold out at noon. An official tried calming impatient customers with promises that more copies would be available in two weeks. Many say they what matters for them in the book is not deciding about Walesa's guilt or innocence but making it possible for everybody to learn the truth about secrets of communist past. SOURCE


The most serious threat to U.S. interests

"All through the
1980s and early 90s [U.S. army intelligence officers] recognized that
‘the most serious threat to U.S. interests was not secular
Marxist-Leninism or organized labor but liberation theology."

Author Peter Hallward in his book: Damning the Flood.

On Amazon

Globalisation - a path to Hell?

Fr Jon Sobrino, SJ, in Edinburgh:

He drew on his latest book, 'The Eye of the Needle' - No Salvation
Outside the Poor' to contrast what humanises and gives life with
what dehumanises and destroys life. Globalisation,
in particular, is terribly dehumanising because though it implies
a good, it is in fact destructive and divisive. The
poverty gap - or wealth gap - dehumanises even before we make
an enquiry about any causal relationship between the rich and
the poor. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus sums
up the global reality very well, says Sobrino. In contrast,
the poor themselves humanise us, and the Latin American bishops
of the Medellin conference famously urged us to make an 'option
for the poor'. For Jon Sobrino the poor, in fact, lead
us to the divine, and he proposes an 'option to let salvation
come from the poor'. SOURCE


Triumph of money over culture?

It is reported from the United States that the Americans have declared our patents void. That fits their mentality exactly. I have the impression anyway that the Americans participate in a European war every quarter century in order to be able to take for themselves as cheaply and easily as possible whatever cultural work has been done in Europe. The American continent is hardly in a position to bring forth anything of its own in the cultural realm. It is dependent upon imports from Europe, and as the Americans are so crazy about money they naturally like to take possession of the results of our creative and inventive labors as far as possible without paying for them.

Joseph Goebbels
, Ph.D., in The Goebbels Diaries, April 23, 1942


Application for sex

Am reading an interesting book: We, by Eugene Zamiatin. Written in Russian, first published in translation, in English in 1924, We is set in a Utopian society where citizens’ every action is planned to the minute detail, everyone lives in a glass apartment, eats, sleeps and works at the same time, and files an application to have sex with a citizen (Number) of choice. Freedom is an unwanted concept that leads to unhappiness.

Every morning, with six-wheeled precision, we wake up, millions of us at once. At the very same hour, millions like one, we begin our work, and millions like one, we finish it. United into a single body with a million hands, at the very same second we carry the spoons to our mouths, at the same second we go out to walk, go to the auditorium, to the hall for the exercises, and then to bed.

Not as Utopian as it might have seem almost 100 years ago, We was an inspiration for Orwell’s 1984.


The authority of the state

[...] modern men go on exhibiting a superstitious belief in the authority of the state.

The myth of legitimate authority is the secular reincarnation of that religious superstition which has finally ceased to play a significant role in the affairs of men. Like Christianity, the worship of the state has its fundamentalists, its revisionists, its ecumenicists, and its theological rationale. The philosophical anarchist is the atheist of politics. [...] the belief of legitimacy, like the penchant for transcendent metaphysics, is an ineradicable irrationality of the human experience. However, the slow extinction of religious faith over the past two centuries may encourage us to hope that in time anarchism, like atheism, will become the accepted conviction of enlightened and rational men. Robert Paul Wolff in On Violence

Robert Paul Wolff on wikipedia


Citizen resistance

Most of us are familiar with the term citizen's arrest:

A citizen's arrest is an arrest made by a person who is not a sworn law enforcement official. In common law jurisdictions, the practice dates back to medieval England and the English common law, when sheriffs encouraged ordinary citizens to help apprehend law breakers.

Despite the title, the arresting person does not usually have to be a citizen of the country where he is acting, as they are usually designated as any person with arrest powers. Source: Wikipedia

Stuart Littlewood argues that citizen-delivered justice can go a lot further:

Genocidal tyrants, corrupt leaders and bloodthirsty heads of state hankering for global domination and wishing to keep the world in turmoil once again infest the planet. They are often born and nurtured in the Western democracies the world is told to admire but which are now so corrupt they disgust many right-thinking people. These menaces can’t be brought to justice in the normal way, so it’s a job for a revived and revamped Assassination Bureau.

Military commanders in the resistance and bomb-making freedom fighters are not the issue. The people of the world need an instrument to eradicate the low life in high places that threatens humanity. They need to dispatch those who deal in mega-deaths, who meddle massively where they have no business, who create injustice and who make life miserable for millions. We all have our wish list. I’ll wager the same target names keep reappearing.

Think of it: a socially-responsible international public riddance service ready to do business with any member of the public who feels himself at war with these evil forces and can put a good case for a slaying before the bureau chief and his panel. I see long queues forming to enlist the bureau’s help in eliminating the world’s tormentors. For them there is no hiding place. Riddance requests have to be accompanied by a suitable “intelligence finding”, of course.

The work of an Assassination Bureau would be perfectly “legal” and “legitimate”, and most certainly “necessary”. It would simply follow the precedent set by America and Israel. SOURCE

No long ago I toyed with the very same idea for a thriller novel. Yet again life proves much more interesting than fiction. The movement to take charge of our own wellbeing is growing. We can no longer leave it up to those who claim to speak and act on our behalf but time and again prove to be the very enemy they vow to defend us from.


The CIA - what exactly does it do

Ever wondered what the Central Intelligence Agency actually does? In the words of the accomplished CIA officer Philip Agee:

The CIA, after all, is nothing more than the secret police of American capitalism, plugging up leaks in the political dam night and day so that shareholders of US companies operating in poor countries can continue enjoying the rip-off. The key to CIA success is the 2 or 3 percent of the population in poor countries that get most of the cream, while the marginalized 50, 60 or 70 percent are getting a lesser share. Philip Agee in CIA DIARY.

Secret police is secret police regardless of the acronym it uses, which suggests that one may substitute the "CIA" for any country’s intelligence agencies / secret police, and to the poor of other countries one may add the struggling masses of one’s own compatriots. If one does it one shall see what one’s sweat-and-blood-drenched taxes are paying for: one’s own enslavement. But one should not despair, not everything is so gloom and doom: one gets a break now and then – some of the secret police funds come from black operations, the drug smuggling and weapons sales that would embarrass one’s high and mighty rulers if the truth became known.

I’m kidding of course - no amount of filth and lies will embarrass a politician.


Solution for Latin America and beyond

American business and government are bound up with the ruling minorities in Latin America - with the rural and industrial property holders. Our interests are their interests - stability, return on investment - are the same. Meanwhile the masses of the people keep on suffering because they lack even minimal educational facilities, healthcare, housing, and diet. They could have these benefits if national income were not so unevenly distributed.

The only real alternative to injustice in Latin America is socialism [...]

American capitalism, based as it is on exploitation of the poor, with its fundamental motivation in personal greed, simply cannot survive without force - without a secret police force. The argument is with capitalism and it is capitalism that must be opposed, with its CIA, FBI and other security agencies understood as logical, necessary manifestations of a ruling class’s determination to retain power and privilege.

Now, more than ever, indifference to injustice at home and abroad is impossible. Now, more clearly than ever, the extremes of poverty and wealth demonstrate the irreconcilable class conflicts, that only socialist revolution can resolve. Now, more than ever, each of us is forced to make a conscious choice whether to support the system of minority comfort and privilege with all its security apparatus and repression, or whether to struggle for real equality of opportunity and fair distribution of benefits for all of society, in the domestic as well as the international order.

Philip Agee in CIA DIARY, Inside the Company

I had a conversation with my grandmother who grew up in pre-communist Poland in a privileged class family. She talked about appalling poverty, only step above middle ages feudalism, that gripped majority of the population. After WWII, after loosing family properties due to nationalization of industries and land, hating communism all her life, she still found enough objectivity to observe that socialism, or more specifically - communism, as oppressive as it was, eliminated poverty of the masses, equalized the society and, from the perspective of time, "was inevitable, and probably the only solution" to injustice.


The soul that Lucifer ate

The most stunning revelation in a 370-page Justice US Department
Inspector General’s report released this week was that agents
of the Federal Bureau of Investigation had formally opened a “War
Crimes” file, documenting torture they had witnessed at the
Guantánamo Bay US prison camp, before being ordered by
the administration to stop writing their reports.

The report makes it absolutely clear that torture was ordered
and planned in detail at the highest levels of the government—including
the White House, the National Security Council, the Pentagon and
the Justice Department. Attempts to stop it on legal or pragmatic
grounds by individuals within the government were systematically
suppressed, and evidence of this criminal activity covered up. SOURCE

As terrible as the actions of this junta are what interests me is what hides in the heads of persons responsible for these atrocities. Do they realize they are committing immoral acts or do they consider them intricately human? Were they Good people who at some point turned Evil? Or were they always Evil (is there even such thing as Evil if the acts they are committing are part of what we the humans are, as history would suggest)?

Philip Zimbardo in The Lucifer Effect: In this book, I summarize more than 30 years of research on factors that can create a "perfect storm" which leads good people to engage in evil actions. This transformation of human character is what I call the "Lucifer Effect," named after God's favorite angel, Lucifer, who fell from grace and ultimately became Satan.

How does a normal kid who grows up in a well to do Western society turn Evil? Is there any difference between growing up in a permanent war zone such as Afghanistan were there exists no living memory of peace, and that of a small town USA? Apparently not. Is Philip Zimbardo right? Good people transform into Lucifers regardless of where they come from or whatever their growing up conditions? I'd like to see how this transformation took place in the case of someone like C Rice, D Rumsfeld, J Bolton etc, step by step. Perhaps some day a new Truman Capote will visit them in jail and take their brains apart for the rest of us to see what's inside, but I wonder if such a vivisection would be complete without a priest or a specialist of the soul? Maybe it's the soul that is the answer - some people simply do not have it.


Why against the war

Dorothy Day:

We are against war because it is contrary to the spirit of Jesus
Christ, and the only important thing is that we abide in His spirit. It
is more important than being American, more important than being
respectable, more important than obedience to the State. [...]

What would we advocate? Wholesale disloyalty to Americanism. Wholesale
refusal to fight. Wholesale withdrawal of labor (a general strike) from
all industries that further the war effort. We would urge a mighty band
of Catholic Conscientious Objectors who will refuse induction, who will
follow Jesus of Nazareth, Prince of Peace, in the way of non-violence,
in love for all mankind!

Soon to become Saint Dorothy?


Free ebook for download

The Spiral of Violence is a classic for liberation theology aficionados. Author, Archbishop Dom Helder Camara, nicknamed "Red Bishop" said:

“When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist.”

“The greatest problem of the Church is not a lack of priests, rather the hunger faced by the people.”


Rejections - bottom line

Are you trying to find a publisher for your novel? Finding too many obstacles? No replies from literary agencies, publishers? Wondering what the heck is going on?

Here's something I've received from the prominent literary agent, H.M.:

The publishing business has been erratic since the latter part of 1995, when most publishers took a big fall in sales. Sales were mixed until 1999, and then got better. However, 2001 was a very bad year in terms of bottom-line profits, because most publishers produced too many units of too many different titles, and therefore were either marginally profitable or actually took a loss for the year. 2002 was also marginal, and sales fell apart in early October through the Christmas selling season. 2003 was better for nonfiction, but fiction sales were still very soft, and 2004 continued the same. Over the last several years, bookstore business seems to fall by one or two percent month by month, but bookstores are showing higher profits. This generally means that they're selling more copies of a limited number of books, usually by established best-selling authors--and very often in the area of nonfiction in its various forms rather than fiction. Happily, bookstore business in 2007 took an upturn by about 4%, but there still seems no indication as to where that business specifically came from, and publishers are still wary. Publishers are still cutting their lists, and editors are still buying extremely carefully. H.M., Hamptons


What makes a writer?

Following my earlier post, Mark asks at a coffee shop: If not education then what makes a writer?

I am not arguing that formal education is useless for one who wants to write, but I find that it is more than the ability to learn that aids one in his/her writing. If I were to pick the single most important trait a prospective writer should posses, it would have to be curiosity.

Writing, much as the quality of knowledge one acquires, is dependent on curiosity, the ability to ask questions. A writer is like a child - always asking. Not far behind is the ability to ask just the right questions. Notice how those who seldom ask are usually those whose knowledge is founded on very shaky ground - these are often people who think they know the answers.

To me - knowing means doubting. Doubting means asking. Writing is posing a question, which explains why I can't stand works of writers who think they have all the answers.


Church - the irrelevant social club

There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators". But they went on with the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven", and had to obey God rather than man. They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.

The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.

[...] the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning [...] I am meeting young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust.

Martin Luther King Jr in: Letter from Birmingham City Jail


There are a few good men (and women, no doubt) in the church:


Franciscan Fr. Louis Vitale and Jesuit Fr. Stephen Kelly were
released today from California jails, after serving five month
sentences as federal prisoners.

The two were sentenced last October in Tucson, following their
November, 2006 arrests at Ft. Huachuca, in Sierra Vista, Arizona,
during a nonviolent protest of military involvement in U.S. torture
policy. After Magistrate Judge Hector Estrada forbid them to use
international law in their defense, the two pled no contest to
charges of trespass and failure to obey an officer on October 17 and
were taken into custody.

Both men plan to return briefly to Arizona, where supporters are
invited to join them in a peaceful vigil against torture from 2-3
p.m. Sunday, March 16, outside the main gate of Ft. Huachuca, at Fry
Boulevard and Buffalo Soldier Trail, Sierra Vista, Arizona.

For more information, including complete background on the case and
legal briefs about torture and international law, visit


The Net

Four years ago I published The Fifth Internationale. The novel dealt with the aftermath of the transformation of intelligence and security agencies of the former Eastern Bloc following the events of 1989 / 1991.

In the 1990s the subject seemed a taboo. That's no surprise given that most of the channels responsible for the funneling of information were owned, financed or controlled by operatives of former secret police.

Well, today one does not need a novel to find out what happened, not that it was ever a secret. Recently RZ published an article which summarizes the transformation very nicely: as the old wisdom goes - power is everything. During commie times the system of oppression guaranteed power, after 1989 the road to power was called money. The first step was to cover tracks - Party and intel files burned for weeks. Then the communists became entrepreneurs: the biggest fortunes were built on money channeled from Party accounts. Banks, mass media, privatized former state owned companies, and their branches in the West were headed and staffed by intelligence operatives, secret police officers, their agents, and Party officials... Officers charged with confiscated private property during communist times were now running businesses that helped rightful owners reclaim their property, for a fee of course...

How was it all possible, how could this be permitted? The very same way it works everywhere else: intel / security agencies' existence in changing times is guaranteed by agents they run. Self preservation, regardless of changes within the administration, is the number 1 concern of any intel agency. Measure of a successful intel agency is its ability to survive and thrive no matter who fancies themselves to be in charge: the System changed in the Eastern Bloc but the net of agents (former revolutionaries / underground opposition) remained and many of them hold key offices in the governments of their respective countries.


Paper murderers

"War under existing conditions compels nations, even those professedly the most democratic, to turn authoritarian and totalitarian... the necessity of transforming physical interdependence into moral-into-human-interdependence is part of the democratic problem: and yet war is said even now to be the path of salvation for democratic countries." John Dewey


Conditions for Total Propaganda

In his book PROPAGANDA, Jacques Ellul writes that four conditions are necessary for the State’s propaganda to be successful:

  1. Certain standard of living - the very poor are not susceptible to propaganda, therefore uniform middle class with spending power is the government’s nr 1 priority: "More advanced propaganda can influence only a man who is not completely haunted by poverty, a man who can be reasonably unconcerned about his daily bread, and who therefore can take an interest in more general matters and mobilize his actions for purposes other than merely earning a living".

  2. An average culture - "if man is to be successfully propagandized, he needs at least a minimum of culture. A base is needed - for example, education; a man who cannot read will escape most propaganda, as will a man who is not interested in reading". Ellul argues that push to higher literacy is needed in order to better propagandize the masses.

  3. Information - "basic education permits the dissemination not only of propaganda but of information in general. [...] To distinguish exactly between propaganda and information is impossible. [...] Information is an essential element od propaganda; for propaganda to succeed, it must have reference to political or economic reality. [...] Informed opinion is indispensable for propaganda."

  4. Ideologies - "prevalence of strong myths and ideologies in a society. [...] The fundamental myths of our society are the myths of Work, Progress, Happiness; the fundamental ideologies are Nationalism, Democracy, Socialism."

The book was originally published in French as Propagandes, in 1962. It’s not entirely dated if you add to the ideologies: neoliberalism, market economy, etc, and substitute the anti-communist rhetoric with the quickly rising fascism.


Sceenplay or a novel?

Friends ask me: when will you write a screenplay based on The Fifth Internationale? The question is tiring, and laced with guilt because I promised a role of Asia, the evil secretary, to CC (mainly so she can show off her evil side...)

Why won’t I write a screenplay? Well, however tiring the question, my answer remains the same...

My childhood and teenage years, up until my escape from home, were spent in a neighborhood close to the huge TV complex and movie studios. The neighborhood was not an artist’s colony, just a regular residential district, but because of the location it attracted a large number of people from the biz. At the time, my good friend’s father was a prominent moviemaker, with a well equipped darkroom that he let me use at will. He was often visited by other folks who lived around - writers, news anchors, and a whole lot of actors. I had an opportunity to watch the creative process of screenplay writing. It was quite the show: plenty of collaborative work accompanied by glass clinking, reading of the scenes, and so on. It turned me off for good. I am not saying, that a screenwriter does not have creative control, but only that, at some point, this process involves additional people, and I am a loner when it comes to creative work. I’m one of those recluses who is unknown to his neighbors. My ideal working environment is a deep forest, and ear plugs.

And that’s why, my friends you will not find me working on a screenplay.

MSG conspiracy

Sneaky sources of MSG:

Glutamic acid
Monosodium glutamate
Calcium caseinate
Textured protein
Monopotassium glutamate
Sodium caseinate
Yeast nutrient
Yeast extract
Yeast food
Autolyzed yeast
Hydrolyzed protein any protein that is hydrolyzed)
Hydrolyzed corn gluten
Natrium glutamate (natrium is Latin/German for sodium)

The new game is to label hydrolyzed proteins as pea protein, whey protein, corn protein, etc. If a pea, for example, were whole, it would be identified as a pea. Calling an ingredient pea protein indicates that the pea has been hydrolyzed, at least in part, and that processed free glutamic acid (MSG) is present. Relatively new to the list are wheat protein and soy protein. READ MORE


Oscar Romero

An interesting website about the assassinated Bishop Oscar Romero.


Bishop Romero died because he spoke out:

Brothers, you come from our own people. You are killing your own brother peasants when any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God which says, "Thou shalt not kill." No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order. The church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We want the government to face the fact that reforms are valueless if they are to be carried out at the cost of so much blood. In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression. Archbishop Oscar Romero to the troops.

Read Bishop Romero’s last sermon in full.

Psychological Torture

Psychological torture (henceforth PT) is a set of practices that are used worldwide to inflict pain or suffering without resorting to direct physical violence. PT includes the use of sleep deprivation, sensory disorientation, forced self-induced pain, solitary confinement, mock execution, severe humiliation, mind-altering drugs and threats of violence—as well as the exploitation of personal or cultural phobias. The psychiatric sequelae of PT are severe. They include delirium, psychosis, regression, self-mutilation, cognitive impairment, and anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Neuroscience research on these and related mental disorders continues to establish their neurobiological underpinnings, thus challenging the popular view that PT is not physical, not serious, and perhaps not even torture at all. READ MORE

UN: US administration of criminals

The controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding and used by the United States qualifies as torture, the U.N. human rights chief said on Friday.

"I would have no problems with describing this practice as falling under the prohibition of torture," the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, told a news conference in Mexico City.

Violators of the U.N. Convention against Torture should be prosecuted under the principle of ’universal jurisdiction’ which allows countries to try accused war criminals from other nations, Arbour said.

"There are several precedents worldwide of states exercising their universal jurisdiction ... to enforce the torture convention and we can only hope that we will see more and more of these avenues of redress," Arbour said. SOURCE

Ultimately it will be up to the people to show up at the airport prior to the arrival of this or that criminal and arrest them because no government on Earth has clean enough hands to preach justice.



CIA on YouTube

In keeping with its mandate to gather intelligence, the CIA is watching YouTube.

U.S. spies, now under the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), are looking increasingly online for intelligence; they have become major consumers of social media.

"We’re looking at YouTube, which carries some unique and honest-to-goodness intelligence," said Doug Naquin, director of the DNI Open Source Center (OSC), in remarks to the Central Intelligence Retirees’ Association last October. "We’re looking at chat rooms and things that didn’t exist five years ago, and trying to stay ahead. We have groups looking at what they call ’Citizens Media’: people taking pictures with their cell phones and posting them on the Internet." MORE

The one surprising thing is that the CIA was not involved in the creation of YouTube. Or, was it?


Citizens' Dividend

The following from The $30,000 solution, by Robert R. Schutz, 1996:

A new concept is emerging, that the modern world’s inherited wealth can eliminate poverty. In Europe it is called the Citizens’ Income. In New Zealand it is called the Universal Income. In South Africa is is called the Basic Income Grant. In Canada the Guaranteed Annual Income. In the US it is the Citizens’ Dividend.

The change would be dramatic. The dividend would give income to millions that at present have no purchasing power. There would be an explosion of local economic activity, and the crippling stress of modern life would be removed.

A Citizens’ Divident would free people to improve their lives. It would provide them with a financial platform from which they can choose the life they want to lead. They could get out of work they find unsatisfying making way for others that want the job. They can avoid work that harms the environment. There would be no need to produce unnecessary or short-lived products just in order to generate employment. And people would not need to amass excessive wealth for their old age.

A Citizens’ Income would do more than anything else to give us a humane and civilized society.

Hypnosis in interrogation

Hypnosis in interrogation: "... it has been shown that the accuracy of such information... would not be guaranteed since subjects in hypnosis are fully capable of lying".


From the Kubark manual


Tax collection illegal?

Federal Income Tax collection in Canada may be illegal:

I handle my fight personally using a system called the Hart System of Effective Tax Avoidance. Gerry Hart passed away recently in Winnipeg, but not before becoming Canada’s undisputed champion No. 1 tax fighter. Mr. Hart for many years opted to take an aggressive and active position against oppressive government, and he has not paid income tax in nearly 50 years. During that time, he has been imposed upon, charged, harassed, his privacy invaded, and his person subjected to illegal search. But he has never given an inch. He has been to the Manitoba Court of Appeal 22 times, but has never lost. MORE

I understand the need to collect taxes - seemingly the only solution to funding public ventures, and am happy, yes happy, to see my tax dollars at work for social causes. But, I am mad as hell when my money is squandered by thieves or used to fund wars. A major overhaul of the taxation system is desperately needed, and it must, among other things, put an end to war funding. Let the murderers pay for their wars, and use my taxes to bring them to justice.


Time for change

Tony Blair investigated for war crimes:
Officers from Scotland Yard have commenced a criminal investigation nto the deaths of Iraqi citizens killed during the armed invasion and ccupation of Iraq. The Metropolitan Police are acting in response to crimes reported by peace activists from We Are Change UK and The ampaign to Make War History. In an unprecedented step, the case was anded to the War Crimes division of the Counter Terrorism branch who
are now investigating allegations of 14 criminal offences committed by ony Blair, Lord Goldsmith and others. The offences are under the nternational Criminal Court Act 2001, which came into effect under English common law, just two days before 9/11. MORE

That is the world we live in: we are held hostage to criminals / bureaucrats. Seeking justice is only up to us / the citizens, hence it is the peace activists who filed suit against Blair, and earlier against Rumsfeld. Sadly, Rumsfeld got away scot free, and so will Blair, because, as the Jesuits say:

The courts have become the instruments of the warmakers.” Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

It may be time to take charge:
In a democratic society each man must act as he thinks the principles of political right require him to. We are to follow our understanding of the principles, and we cannot do otherwise. There can be no morally binding legal interpretation of these principles, not even by supreme court or legislature. […] Although the Court has the final say in settling any particular case, it is not immune from powerful political influences that may change its reading of the law. […] The final court of appeal is not the Court, or Congress, or the President, but the electorate as a whole.
John Rawls (professor of philosophy at Harvard University) in: The Justification of Civil Disobedience

How to find a literary agent

Several hundred people visit my literary agent list every day. Many ask me how to find an agent when all they get are standard rejections of the kind: Sorry, too busy... or Sorry, not for me...

Thank you all who write, and I apologize for not being able to reply to everyone individually. Even though I am not the obvious person to be asked (given that with my three novels I am still un-represented) I think that after hundreds and hundreds of queries and countless conversations with other writers I can offer some general insight to agent hunting.

The process of (not)finding an agent can be very depressing, one that new writers may find easier to bear if they know up front that most agents will not reply to queries at all, whether emailed or snail-mailed (yes, even those with an SASE). Of the replies you will receive, most will be copy-pasted standard notes - No, thank you... Often you will receive a rude bugger off, or even a threat for... It is truly a bizarre world you will enter, in which a potential employee, rather than to thank you for offering them employment will spit at you (to be fare - of those agents who do reply - most will thank you for thinking of them). So, what is one to do but sit down and grind their teeth?

Be sure to keep a database of queried agents, complete with dates and the query letter version sent out (more about it below).

When you go through the full list of agents and still can’t find one to take you on... start over. Query again those who did not reply, as well as those who did - many agents do not read submissions - their assistants do, and assistants change frequently, so there’s a good chance that the second, or third time around you will reach an agent, and those who read queries may find yours appealing on the second try (yep, it happened to me several times).

Query other agents from the same house - few are those who will pass your query on to their colleague.

Change your query letter - concentrate on a different aspect of your story or characters.

Change your synopsis (as with the query letter).

Personalize your communication with agents - do not make it obvious that your are querying hundreds all at once (yeah, even I get those queries from writers!)

Start your query much as you would a thriller - with a bang, something that will catch the agent’s eye and interest right away. The letter should include a paragraph about the novel, a paragraph about you - particularly when your bio can be commercialized upon, as well as any publishing history.

If you think you’ve queried enough... see query statistics for my first novel.

Remember - most writers are not represented. You too can try publishers directly.

And last but not least... "Never give up, never surrender."

Good luck!


Cell phone signal jamming

Polish Secret Service jammed cell phone signals from nurses protesting outside the prime minister’s office. Nurses were inundating the prime minister with calls to his office and disrupted his afternoon nap, so the solution was obvious - shut them up by disrupting their cell phone connections.

Today the scandal is out in full force - the opposition wants answers and the answer is... there is no such thing as targeted cell phone signal jamming.


Signal jamming is a well established and important part of warfare and policing, and now everyone can participate in this game: portable, pocket-sized signal jammers can be purchased online.


Be aware that cell phone jamming may be illegal in your jurisdictions, except when used against you by the military and cops, naturally...


How cell phone jammers work from How Stuff Works.

From Wikipedia:

As with other Radio jamming, cell phone jammers block cell phone use by sending out radio waves along the same frequencies that cellular phones use. This causes enough interference with the communication between cell phones and towers to render the phones unusable. On most retail phones, the network would simply appear out of range. Most cell phones use different bands to send and receive communications from towers (Called Full Duplexing). Jammers can work by either disrupting phone to tower frequencies or tower to phone frequencies. Smaller handheld models block all bands from 800MHz to 1900MHz within a 30 foot range. Small devices tend to use the former method, while larger more expensive models may interfere directly with the tower. The radius of cell phone jammers can range from a dozen feet for pocket models to kilometers for more dedicated units. The TRJ-89 jammer can block cellular communications for a 5-mile (8 km) radius.

Who caused the Ozone Hole?

Airbus tested its A380 powered by fuel derived from natural gas, which is supposed to deliver cleaner emissions than those produced by today’s jet fuels.

In the lass few years we keep hearing about our terrible habits, which contribute to climate change and in particular to ozone depletion caused by CFCs emitted in high altitudes. All kinds of smart asses are appealing to us to curb our travel, particularly where long haul is involved, or to swap flights for trains, ship, or even cars.

Hmm. Before you cancel your well deserved holiday, consider this:

The world’s military burns a quarter of the world’s jet fuel and emits 70% of ozone depleting CFCs. The US military generates more hazardous waste than the five largest chemical companies combined. Source: Losing Control, by Paul Rogers.


Writing intimacy

Lots of readers are drawn to this blog by my posts related to literary craft - either out of interest in purely technical side of a book creation, or from appetite for private, or intimate details of a (however insignificant) writer’s life. One of the returning questions asked by these readers is: Why not make this blog more personal, or more literary?

I suspect that such exhibitionism is needed by those artists who do not express themselves in their published works, or who are hungry for more opportunities to share themselves than is afforded by public, but faceless, display of their works - publication. See, there’s a large degree of acting involved in writing, but a writer is an actor who performs for a faceless audience. For some that is enough, for others it is not. The latter feel that they need to interact with their audience, to further expose their inner selves, to throw their guts out on the table, whether because they were not able to get that fix through their work, or whether because they did not go far enough. I fancy myself of belonging to the former group - my books maybe be hard to follow, they maybe not be understood, they maybe disliked - but, as a writer I am satisfied to the extent of my intimate exposure in my published work, for better or for worse. In the end, though, it’s all a play, and it all boils down to only one significant common denominator - we all perform primarily in front of a mirror - that Nr 1 audience to all actors. And it is that audience that most desires intimate details.


Sad wedding story: Honeymoon in Auschwitz

My grandparents were wed in a Catholic church in Warsaw in the Spring of 1940.

On the way from the church they got caught up in one of those frequent round-ups [1]: German soldiers surrounded an entire city block and scooped up everybody inside it, indiscriminately. In the havoc of the round up, the wedding party got separated and spread out. My grandmother and some others managed to get away, but my grandfather was caught along with some guests and a whole lot of other people.

Instead of going on a honeymoon, the next several months grandpa spent at the Gestapo (secret police) interrogation prison (Aleja Szucha - where such interrogation techniques as severe beating and pulling fingernails were used), then the political prison [2], and finally was sent off to Auschwitz [3]. He spent the next 5 years of WWII in concentration camps. He survived Auschwitz, as he himself said - because his friend from high school was a kapo [4] in the camp, and offered my grandpa the occasional slice of bread, a potato, a blanket, and then some dilapidated shoes for the death march [5] to another concentration camp in Mauthausen-Gusen [6], in Austria. That long walk happened in the middle of a bitter winter, with many prisoners shoeless... Mauthausen, as grandpa often said, was worse than Auschwitz. It was not just a death camp, it was a labour camp with one goal: death through slave labour.

Mauthausen prisoners shortly after liberation:



Explanations from WikiPedia:

[1] Łapanka - round up (wapanka - catching, derived from the verb łapać - to catch) was the Polish name for a German practice in World War II occupied Poland, whereby the SS, Wehrmacht and Gestapo rounded up civilians on the streets of Polish cities.
Most of these prisoners were taken to labour camps (Arbeitslager) in Germany. Some, particularly those without proper documents or carrying contraband, were transported to concentration and death camps; sometimes shot on the spot. Some women ended up in brothels to "service" German troops. The term was also used for the cordoning off of streets at night and the systematic searching of houses. Possession of an identity card (Ausweis) certifying that the holder was employed by a German company or government agency (for example the city utilities or the railways) was the only reliable defense for young men in their 20s and 30s against being taken. As an example many of those taken from cafes and restaurants in Warsaw on 5 December 1940, were subsequently released after checking documentation. According to various estimates, between 1942 and 1944 there were approximately 400 victims of this practice daily in Warsaw alone, with numbers on some days reaching several thousand. For example, on 19 September 1942 close to 3000 men and women were transported by train to Germany, they had been caught in the massive round-ups all over Warsaw the previous two days.

[2] Pawiak was an infamous political prison built in 1835 in Warsaw, Poland. During the World War II German occupation of Poland, it eventually became part of the Warsaw concentration camp. Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939 it was turned into a German Gestapo prison and then part of the Warsaw concentration camp. Approximately 100,000 men and 20,000 women passed through the prison, mostly members of the Armia Krajowa, political prisoners and civilians taken as hostages in street round-ups. Approximately 37,000 of them were executed while further 60,000 were sent to German death and concentration camps. The exact number of victims is unknown since the archives were never found.

[3] Auschwitz-Birkenau (Konzentrationslager Auschwitz) was the largest of Nazi Germany's concentration camps. Its remains are located in Poland approximately 50 kilometers west of Kraków and 286 kilometers south of Warsaw. The camp took its name from the nearby town of Oświęcim. Birkenau, the German translation of Brzezinka, refers to the many birch trees surrounding the complex. Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Oświęcim was annexed by Nazi Germany and renamed Auschwitz, the town's German name.

[4] Kapo was a term used for certain prisoners who worked inside Nazi concentration camps during World War II in various lower administrative positions.

[5] The death marches refer to the forcible movement between Autumn 1944 and late April 1945 by Nazi Germany of thousands of prisoners from German concentration camps near the war front to camps inside Germany.

[6] Mauthausen Concentration Camp (known from the summer of 1940 as Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp) grew to become a large group of Nazi concentration camps that were built around the villages of Mauthausen and Gusen in Upper Austria, roughly 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of the city of Linz.
Initially a single camp at Mauthausen, it expanded over time to become one of the largest labour camp complexes in German-controlled Europe. Apart from the four main sub-camps at Mauthausen and nearby Gusen, more than 50 sub-camps, located throughout Austria and southern Germany, used the inmates as slave labour. Several subordinate camps of the KZ Mauthausen complex included quarries, munitions factories, mines, arms factories and Me 262 fighter-plane assembly plants.
In January 1945, the camps, directed from the central office in Mauthausen, contained roughly 85,000 inmates. The death toll remains unknown, although most sources place it between 122,766 and 320,000 for the entire complex. The camps formed one of the first massive concentration camp complexes in Nazi Germany, and were the last ones to be liberated by the Western Allies or the Soviet Union. The two main camps, Mauthausen and Gusen I, were also the only two camps in the whole of Europe to be labelled as "Grade III" camps, which meant that they were intended to be the toughest camps for the "Incorrigible Political Enemies of the Reich". Unlike many other concentration camps, intended for all categories of prisoners, Mauthausen was mostly used for extermination through labour of the intelligentsia, who were educated people and members of the higher social classes in countries subjugated by Germany during World War II.

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The Lucifer in you

Heard an interesting interview with Philip Zimbardo on the radio. In 1971 Zimbardo ran the Stanford Prison Experiment, where randomly chosen students were put in jail: half were to play the roles of prisoners and the other half the roles of guards. The experiment had to be shot down because the guards turned into sadistic torturers...

In his new book The Lucifer Effect, Zimbardo argues that everyone harbors a Satan in them, the good example being the model US soldiers from Abu Ghraib who turned evil, just like God’s favorite angel Lucifer...



Do writers make good money?

Does writing pay? How much do writers make? Are they filthy rich?

Hmm. Writers make money, some make tons, most need day jobs to pay a streetcar fare to deposit their royalty checks.

Below is everything you ever wanted to know about the wallet of your favorite author. I am using data from 2004 because that was the year of my debut novel's publication.

1,200,000 titles were published in 2004:

  • 10 titles sold 1,000,000 + copies each

  • 22 titles sold 500,000-999,999 copies each

  • 64 titles sold 250,000-499,999 copies each

  • 324 titles sold 100,000-249,999 copies each

  • 767 titles sold 50,000-99,999 copies ("my" category)

  • 23,047 titles sold 5,000-49,999 copies each

  • 67,008 titles sold 1,000-4,999 copies each

  • 202,938 titles sold 100-999 copies each

  • 948,005 titles sold 99 or less copies each

I should add that most sales occur within the first few weeks/months following publication.

What does this mean in terms of dollars? First you need to understand how this works. A writer does not sell a soul, or an arm and a leg, but nonetheless one should know that it is important for her, and every other writer out there to be paid adequately. Publishers offer an advance and royalties. Advance is always paid against royalties, in other words: royalties will be paid only when the publisher recoups the advance from sales. Advances range from as little as $1,000, most hover around or below $5,000, some pay $10,000 and few pay more. Royalties range from 4-12%. Realistically one can hope for 8%, and should fight to the death to receive it. Anything below is scandalous.

Now that you have these figures you can see clearly that the vast majority, 98% of writers, cannot possibly make a living off of writing - unless they are Joan Collins and receive millions in advances for books that never get published...

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Writer's block?

Work is not going well lately. Every word seems to come out slowly and painfully, like a kidney stone.

I don't know what to blame. Weather seems obvious. It's been really dark here for at least a couple of weeks now (with a short fart of a sunny break one morning). It's rather warm, considering the time of year, but man is it dark! It's depressing. Not in the least inspiring. Dark aura = darkness inside the head? I don't know what to make of it. I've never known the phenomenon others describe as a writer's block, so I don't know what I'm dealing with. I think it has to do with the type of work I'm doing. I am translating my own novel into another language. While at first it seemed every bit as creative (and thus - exciting), it lately became more of a chore, like working a line in a factory (believe - I know something about it, I worked in a factory).

Maybe the reason is altogether different. Maybe it comes from some subconscious fear that it's all worthless schlock. Some big name in literature once said that a part of being a writer is knowing when you're just spewing shit, and that uncertainty only drops a huge shadow on one's creative work. Am I creating crap? Eh, I don't think so. Someone publishes it, someone else is reads, so calling it crap would be insulting those readers who pick up every issue.

Hmm. Maybe it's that my head is already elsewhere. Our annual trip to the eternal spring is about to commence. I find myself watching the weather forecast for the location - it's sunny and warm down there everyday.

Or, maybe I just need a break. Been going like a rat on a wheel for the past two years, except that instead of my legs it's the brain that keeps running in circles. Can't sleep. Can't work. Must rest.

What we think of Big Business

The U.S. public holds Big Business in shockingly low regard.

A November 2007 Harris poll found that less than 15 percent of the population believes each of the following industries to be "generally honest and trustworthy:

  • tobacco companies (3 percent);
  • oil companies (3 percent);
  • managed care companies such as HMOs (5 percent);
  • health insurance companies (7 percent);
  • telephone companies (10 percent);
  • life insurance companies (10 percent);
  • online retailers (10 percent);
  • pharmaceutical and drug companies (11 percent);
  • car manufacturers (11 percent);
  • airlines (11 percent);
  • packaged food companies (12 percent);
  • electric and gas utilities (15 percent).

These are remarkable numbers. It is very hard to get this degree of agreement about anything. By way of comparison, 79 percent of adults believe the earth revolves around the sun; 18 percent say it is the other way around. READ full ARTICLE from Robert Weissman

Here's something from my city: a huge chunk of downtown was re-designated recently for employment development. Among the first that expressed interest was WalMart. People from the neighborhood revolted, they stalked the city hall and a ban was imposed on big-box, whether it is WalMart, BestBuy, or what-not, from moving in. 77% percent of the residents said no to big box. You'd think they'd get the picture and say - alright, we are not wanted here so we'll take our business elsewhere. Fat chance! The bog boxes filed a suit against the city in order to be allowed in anyway, totally disregarding the people. So, is it any wonder that people hate them?


What is a False Flag Operation

"History shows that more than once social unity has been promoted by the presence, real or alleged, of some hostile group. It has long been a part of the technique of politicians who wish to maintain themselves in power to foster the idea that the alternative is the danger of being conquered by an enemy." John Dewey in Freedom and Culture

On August 31st 1939 a group of German Nazi soldiers dressed in uniforms of the Polish Army launched an attack on German border guards.

On September 1st 1939 Adolf Hitler had "no choice" but to retaliate by invading Poland.

All that was needed to start the WWII was a group of hostile armed men. This type of operation is called a False Flag Operation.

The armed Germans who attacked their own post, and were dressed in Polish army uniforms, were actually Nazi SS commandos taking part in Operation Himmler.

It history's most bloody False Flag Operation, giving a pretext to launch WWII which claimed some 55-60 million lives.

What exactly is a False Flag Operation? It's an operation where one group impersonates another, belonging to a different camp, often the opposing camp. The aim of a False Flag Operation is provocation, or a pretext needed to further one's own agenda.

An example of a False Flag Operation will be featured in my novel  THE BLACK VAULT.


Stalin was poisoned

From Axis:

Stalin most likely has been poisoned by poison, sipped in a bottle of mineral water or smeared inside the glass used by the Soviet leader, the paper says. The chief of laboratory of poisons for secret murders, Grigory Mairanovsky, arrested right after Stalin’s death, in his letters to the KGB chief Beriya repented that substances prepared by him had appeared not so strong as he had advertised.



Philip Agee is dead

Philip Agee worked for the CIA in Latin America, became disillusioned with the US's actions and left the Firm. Agee was not the first nor the last man whose eyes opened in that terribly oppressed region. He became a vocal advocate for the Better World.
American capitalism, based as it is on exploitation of the poor, with its fundamental motivation in personal greed, simply cannot survive without force - without a secret police force. The argument is with capitalism and it is capitalism that must be opposed, with its CIA, FBI and other security agencies understood as logical, necessary manifestations of a ruling class’s determination to retain power and privilege.

Now, more than ever, indifference to injustice at home and abroad is impossible. Now, more clearly than ever, the extremes of poverty and wealth demonstrate the irreconcilable class conflicts, that only socialist revolution can resolve. Now, more than ever, each of us is forced to make a conscious choice whether to support the system of minority comfort and privilege with all its security apparatus and repression, or whether to struggle for real equality of opportunity and fair distribution of benefits for all of society, in the domestic as well as the international order.

Philip Agee in CIA Diary.

Havana, January 9 (Prensa Latina) Once an officer of the US Central Intelligence Agency, Phillip B. Agee stepped away from that organization in 1968 because of his conscience, and died in this Cuban capital on January 7.

In 1974 he published his book Inside the CIA and from that moment on devoted himself to denouncing terrorism, destabilization and subversive activities of the US government against governments and progressive and revolutionary movements in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Cuban media published on Wednesday that Phillip Agee was outstanding for his solidarity with the island, Nicaragua, Grenada and Venezuela and other countries.

Agee was Cuba's loyal friend and fervent defender of the peoples struggle for a better world. SOURCE

Here's to you Philip!


In one of the recently red books I found a timely passage. F.C. Weiskopf writes in Himmelfahrtskommando (my translation):

You can't throw us to our knees, we are used to walking tall and breathing freedom. You can crush us. You can conquer our villages and cities. But, you will not accomplish anything. You will not conquer a single man. You will not secure the right to stay here. Your matter is wrong and lost. Your time is up... You will be mucked away, and trampled like bugs until nothing is left of you save for the memory of your disgraceful acts.

The novel is about the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. I am posting this for all those damn liars who take us for fools, feeding us BS about liberating nations by attacking and occupying them.


How to buy a Passport

[...] state agencies’ officials who were engaged in selling Latvian passports, news agencies are reporting today. At present there are 19 employees of Department of Citizenship and Immigration of Latvia under suspicion, according to the press release of the Ministry of Interior of Latvia.[...] a valid passport of the country belonging to the Schengen zone, may cost in the black market from EUR 40,000 up to 100,000. SOURCE

100,000 Euros for a Latvian passport? Sounds a bit stiff to me, or prices went up well beyond the inflation rate. Supply and demand issue? Some 15 years ago on the bazaar in Poland (described in my first novel) you could purchase a Canadian passport for about 3,000 USD. I hear they go for 5,000 - 10,000 today. Of course... who would want a Canadian passport ;) but still - that's a bargain given the state of the dollar. Back then, the word on the street was that government and security officials were involved (or government's private contractors known as cobblers). In that respect nothing changed...

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PS: Folks, I strongly caution you about entering into any transactions involving purchase of documents online. This post is only for informational purposes. Jack


Plan to destabilize America

There is no surprise in the fact that the Soviets hoped to destabilize and discredit the United States. What does surprise is the subtlety and audacity of their effort. The opening salvo of the KGB’s plan was financial.

Seductive advertising was placed in our media through dummy corporations. The intent was to encourage Americans to spend and borrow. From the KGB’s point of view the way to ruin capitalism was for our citizens to run up record levels of debt, preferably with escalating interest rates, and for the national savings rate to plunge into negative territory.

It would be an added plus for them if we would use the borrowed funds to buy non-durables instead of investing in infrastructure.

Should these conditions develop the KGB felt that our country would encounter economic difficulties that could weaken the dollar, undermine our global leadership, and raise the cost of imports heralding inflation. If by some stroke of luck these conditions should be accompanied by reckless use of energy with no thought to conservation, this country might lose control of its own economic destiny.

The final piece of the KGB’s financial strategy involved benefits. The agency employed all of its influence, which was greater than we had suspected, to lull us into potentially lethal complacency. Its aim was to get our government to grant generous social benefits. Then it would persuade our citizens to take those obligations for granted, but not fund them. If it worked, this strategy would create a time bomb, softly ticking until an explosive wave of retirements hit the system. SOURCE

This sure comes out at just the right time to prove that no KGB input was required to destabilize America... America did it all by itself.

Couple of issues with this article:

In reality KGB's influence in this matter was never as great as the writers' suggest and, there was never any chance for social benefits, generous of otherwise, and none will come even though more and more people will desperately need them.

In fiction - similar "plan" to bring down America in the post- Cold War era is described in my novel THE FIFTH INTERNATIONALE