Mni Wiconi- Water is Life: In Memory of Caine

A year ago today our community was devastated by the death of our beloved Caine. The team here at Affinity struggled with how to honor Caine on this day and we finally decided to carry forward her message to love and honor the planet. Caine stood with the tribe at Standing Rock in their struggle against the DAPL and today we’re passing on a few stories about the continuing struggle of Indigenous communities to protect the land and water. We are in no way qualified to speak about Indigenous culture or history, but we do so today with great respect.

First, a few reminders of the meaning of Mni Wiconi – Water is Life.

Mni Wiconi – The Stand at Standing Rock

Mni Wiconi – Water is Life

Hear the message of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Honor tribal sovereignty and the Earth we inhabit by telling President Obama to deny the easement by calling 202-456-1111. We need every person to call Obama this week before Dec. 5th. Please share. For more information visit standwithstandingrock.net#NoDAPL#StandwithStandingRock#standingrock#bankexit

Posted by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Also:

In an article on Indian Country Today, Woonspe—Education Gives Meaning to Mni Wiconi—Water Is Life they tell of the origin story behind the meaning of Mni Wiconi.

An origin story of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires, which make up the Lakota, Nakoda, and Dakota people, tells us that the blood of First Creation, Inyan, covers Unci Maka, our grandmother earth, and this blood, which is blue is mni, water, and mahpiya, the sky. Mni Wiconi, water is life.

The entire article is worth reading and the above link will take you right there.

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Many Standing Rocks: Three Years and Still Fighting, by Tracy L. Barnett – The Esperanza Project)

LaDonna Allard, center, and Cheryl Angel at a march led by the women of Sacred Stone to the backwater bridge one week after a brutal attack there by law enforcement. (Photo from social media) – The Esperanza Project

 

So water is in danger, globally. Right now Indigenous communities are still at risk, and they are standing up, because they have to stand up.  When you finally realize — WATER IS LIFE — you understand why you can’t sit back down.

People keep saying “after” Standing Rock – but I’m still of the same state of mind, I still have the same passion for the water,  it has to be protected. It was when I was at Sicangu Wicoti Iyuksa that I learned about the aquifers that were in danger and when I was at Standing Rock I learned about the rivers that were in danger.

We encourage you to read the article. Cheryl Angel passes on wisdom from a lifetime spent in activism for the planet. Her reflections on the movement at Standing Rock are insightful, as is her take on the ongoing struggle to protect water and land resources.

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Next, we’re providing links to 2 reports on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s website.

SRST – No DAPL Remand Report Final, from February 5, 2019.

This first story is a damning and infuriating report on the deficient Corps of Engineers Analysis of the environmental impacts of the DAPL. The courts finally sided with the Standing Rock Tribe, but then decided that since the pipeline is already built they will let the oil flow.

Impacts of an Oil Spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from February 21, 2018, so that you can see just how much is at stake.
Both stories connect you to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s website and we encourage you to have a look around. The About Us section contains lots of information about the history of the tribe and the reservation, as does the section about environmental issues.
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Next, we’re going to point you toward the Indigenous Environmental Network.
IEN is an alliance of Indigenous peoples whose mission it is to protect the sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws. Adopted in 1994 by the IEN National Council, Denver, Colorado
The IEN website has a broad focus and they carry a variety of interesting stories about the ongoing fight to protect the land and water. It isn’t all just talk, though. The IEN runs several important environmental campaigns including the Keep It In The Ground Campaign run by Dallas Goldtooth. Dallas was born into an activist family and stood as a water protector at Standing Rock. He’s an accomplished activist, teacher, writer, poet and comedian who uses story and humor to tackle difficult subjects.
Here he is with his comedy troupe, The 1491’s, at Vasser College in 2018. His message is full of hope.

And finally, we leave you with a clip found on Twitter 2 days ago by rq. It’s a true message of hope from The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the it’s the perfect way to end this post.

 

Behind the Iron Curtain part 13 – Snitching

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


In medieval times, every village had to have its idiot. In totalitarian times, every village has its snitch.

Ours was a man in his fifties, whose common nickname was “Dědek bonzák” (Grampa Snitch). Of course nobody told this to his face, but everybody knew him and the nickname applies to him even now, twenty years after the regime changed.

I have only once seen him in “action” during one of our craft classes. For these we went out of school to a designated workshop where we would learn some basic knowledge about the use of tools – saws, files, drills etc. The room had a window that opened not in the street, but on a roof. And one day some of the more rowdy boys (the classes were gender segregated btw.) riled up each other until they dared to venture out on the roof when the teacher left the class for a moment to fetch some materials. They were seen from a nearby building by none other than Grampa Snitch, who a few minutes later barged in the class and screeched to the teacher about the miscreants. He actually pointed his finger on one of the boys, his own nephew, and screamed, “That is him, he is one of them, he was there on the roof!”.

After the class some of us expressed incredulity about how he so publicly ratted on his own nephew. We all could understand if the gave him a clip behind the ear later on and/or told his parents, but publicly accusing your own nephew? Unconscionable. His nephew summed it up in one simple phrase “He is just such an asshole.”.

I do not know whether it was malice that drove him, or overzealous adherence to rules. I do not think it was the latter though, because snitching has markedly some visible benefits to him.

There was in the country a longstanding tradition to burn old grass on the meadows and gardens in the spring. Stupid, damaging and dangerous tradition, which was therefore outlawed. Yet every spring Grampa Snitch could be seen burning the grass in his garden and on the meadow behind it. publicly, in broad daylight, and he was never fined. Yet had anyone else dared to break the law within his eyesight in even the minutest of minor ways, to this day his instinct is to call the police.

Everybody is guilty, we have already established that. Especially when the laws of the land are such, that they are impossible to not break, when even completely innocent remarks can be misconstrued as crimes against humanity. And in a system where everybody is guilty, there will be those who use the system to their advantage. Setting scores and disputes this way becomes second nature to some, and there will always be those who will not see it improper to let someone incarcerate for treason just because their dog barked all night.

There is also a flip side to this coin. With trivial or completely illegitimate grievances being commonly leveled amongst people, being a snitch was seen as the height of indecency. Which has of course made it difficult to officially address legitimate grievances as well. And there were people who used this to their advantage too. In the eyes of some it was seen as equally as bad to report someone who has a built a barbecue pit a few cm bigger than the law allows as it was to report that someone assaulted you. Literally.

As a sickly kid who had high marks I was of course bullied at school. The leader of the group of bullies eventually devised a type of torture that was life threatening – holding my nose and mouth tight shut until I started to turn blue in the face, and then watch the highly amusing confusion resulting from my oxygen deprivation. One day my mother managed to get this out of me, I do not know how she did it because I feared to tell anyone, but she did. She went berserk, told off the parents of the bullies and complained to school master. The bullies were held after school and they got some punishment at home too. But, you guessed it, the leader of the bullies felt that it was me who wronged him and when going home from the detention he shouted at me across the town square “You snitch!”. He did not dare to lay his hands on me again¹- and stick and stones can break your bones… and words can really hurt too..

It was only much later in life when I realised that all this is us (the populace) versus them (the officials) mentality that is common in prisons. And that is what it was – prison mentality. For we were in prison, really and truly – the Iron Curtain was just that, a barrier for keeping people in, not out.


1 – Bullying scars for life. He never realized that what he did to me was wrong, never had an epiphany and never apologized, yet when we grew up to be adults he thought we were “friends from school”. I never shook his hand when we met and when he died in a car crash a few years ago, I did not feel sorry in the least.

Behind the Iron Curtain part 12 – Police

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


Police did not exist. It was recognized to be a tool of oppression of common people by those in power and therefore something that an enlightened socialist regime does not need.

Did you believe that? I think not. But it is true. Police did not exist.

That is, the word “police” was not used in any official settings. During Habsburg rule in the Austrian Empire the police was mostly concerned with nabbing political dissidents and whilst during the First Republic it was actually really an organization for dealing with crime, that did not take long and during the WW2 it again morphed into an arm of oppression. The name “Geheime Staatspolizei” (secret state police) got stuck in people’s minds and the word police was irredeemably tainted in the minds of Czech people.

I do not know whether this was the actual reason for abandoning the word police by the regime, but I think it has played a role from what we were taught at school about history.

So the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic did not have any organization with the word “police” anywhere in it, but of course crime had to be investigated, traffic must have been regulated and miscreants had to be dealt with.

For this we had an organization “Veřejná Bezpečnost” short “VB”. Their yellow and white cars were very distinguishable and their uniforms made them easily recognized. Whilst they had the power to require “papers please”, they were members of community and at least where I live nobody minded them much. The derogatory term “policajt” applied to them, but without much rancor above what it usually has anywhere around the world.

And of course any totalitarian regime needs its secret police, even when not named as such, and ours was no exception.

The actual arm of oppression was the “Státní Bezpečnost“, short “StB”. These were plain clothes agents and everybody feared them. Nobody knew who belongs to this organization and who does not – a lot of the agents did have other primary jobs, infiltrating communities and spying on people, even their own family members. Everybody had to be extra careful about what they tell to whom and there was a huge culture of distrust. Critique of regime’s officials was one of the things that was frowned upon and one of the biggest challenges people raising kids had been to teach the kids tell truth at home, but to lie in public.

My father was a member of the Communist Party, he joined in his twenties and was an idealist. However he was also an honest man who spoke his mind, and one of his brothers was a political dissident living in USA – and they were in contact.

One evening my father came back from local gathering of the Communist Party and he informed my mother curtly “I might end up in jail, we’ll see”. These gatherings were officially places to discuss problems and solutions to them etc. but of course that was not particularly encouraged, what was expected was sycophancy. But in this one instance my father, when he had his turn to speak, did not reign in his honesty enough and said aloud words to the effect that a lot of the problems could be solved if only the grumpy fat old men in lead of the party actually cared about the people and not themselves. He got lucky.

Of course not everybody who opened their mouth and said something unfavorable about the Communist Party or the regime got nabbed and incarcerated. The way people function that would mean everybody would wound up in jail. But the possibility was always at the back of people’s’ minds. The way the regime worked, nobody knew if some innocent remark might be the point after which one gets into the regime’s focus, and once in focus, the StB could always find something. The maxim was that everybody is guilty and there is nothing you can do about it – only hope that you will not be the one who gets nabbed.

So people tried not to even think honest thoughts. This is how you control a populace – by building fences in their heads.

10 Plants: Bulldozed To Death.

In this June 17, 2015, file photo, marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn. | Photo: AP Photo / Jim Mone.

In this June 17, 2015, file photo, marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn. | Photo: AP Photo / Jim Mone.

That’s right: Confronted with a small-scale illicit marijuana grow on public land, the [Pennsylvania] State Police deployed a helicopter and the on-scene bulldozer and managed to kill their target. But that’s not how the cops tried to spin it.

Brought to you with utter disgust and contempt, contempt for fucking cops, who seem to be good for only one thing: murder. Contempt for the puritanical, colonial bullshit which is a complete blight on Amerikkan society.

You can read all the sordid details here.

Sunday Facepalm: No Pink Knuckles!

Or any other colour, for that matter.  Keychain self defense devices are quite popular, even though the old standby of placing your keys between your fingers still works fine, if you have the opportunity to get them in place, of course.  Texas is a state which allows a rather stunning range of weapons, all perfectly legal. But a hard plastic pussy cat? Oh no, can’t have that. Those things are dangerous, y’know!

…Just last year, a law went into effect making it legal for Texans to carry machetes, Bowie knives, swords, spears and daggers — any knife with a blade longer than 5 1/2 inches — in most places across the state.

…Lawmakers also passed a law that made it legal for licensed Texans to openly carry handguns as of Jan. 1, 2016. Before then, it already was legal to carry concealed handguns and shotguns or AR-15s in public.

Now Gun Owners of America has pinpointed Texas as their next battleground for constitutional carry, which would let gun owners carry their weapons openly or concealed without first getting a permit.

[…]

But plastic self-defense key chains — particularly those shaped like cats or dogs with pointy ears — are off-limits and illegal.

“It’s a prohibited weapon,” said Shannon Edmonds, a staff attorney with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. “Unlike a firearm … these are always and everywhere prohibited.”

These key chains, which have been in the news recently in Texas, can cost less than $10 — unless you’re caught with them in Texas.

If that happens, you could end up paying as much as $4,000 in fines and spending up to a year in county jail, under state law.

“It is odd to have a situation where a person carrying a plastic pink kitty cat key chain could be arrested and sentenced to a year in jail while the person carrying a 9mm handgun next to them is free to do so,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. “But, at the same time, the person carrying the 9mm has a (license) … whereas the person with the key chain may not.

“This is a case where a well-intentioned law to prevent the use of brass knuckles and similar weapons was written before the existence of” self-defense key chains, he said.

Oh Texas, where you can seldom expect any sort of common sense. You can read all about this at Star-Telegram.

Dear Jim Bakker, Go Fuck Yourself.

Jim Bakker, a fan of the fanatical Jan Porter and her ‘heartbeat’ bill, has somehow come to the conclusion that there were two scientists who would have cured cancer, but they were aborted by evil wenches who had the unthinkable, autonomy. Naturally, Jehovah was the one who decided to “send” these two scientists, rather than doing something straightforward, like simply eliminating all cancers, which would be rather amazing, as it would require our cells to behave differently across our various lifetimes. Or Jehovah could have simply dropped a bit of super-duper brilliance on any of the current scientists researching cancer. Lots of choice there, to say the least.

Jim Bakker claimed that God has sent two scientists to earth who would have found the cure for cancer, but they were both aborted before that ever happened.

Bakker was interviewing extremist Religious Right activist Janet Porter and former Rep. Tom DeLay about their efforts to get Congress to pass Porter’s “Heartbeat Bill,” a radical piece of legislation that Porter brags will outlaw abortion “before the mother even knows she’s pregnant” and will be “the foot in the door” to eventually completely outlawing abortion. Bakker declared that Porter’s bill is “the most important thing going on in the world right now.”

Janet Porter is a dangerous fanatic, whose life desire is to stomp on women, ensure they will never have bodily autonomy, and she has no problem with women dying, she considers that suitable punishment for any women who dares to think her life is her own, and that she has the right to make her own medical decisions in privacy. If we actually had a government, rather than a regime, she might not be so worrying, but considering the regime currently in power, there’s a great deal to dread.

“This program could be an important cog to stop abortion in this country,” he added. “The thing we have done in America, we have killed our babies. We have killed the future of America. I told you the other day about a story, someone said they asked God, ‘Why haven’t we had a cure for cancer?’ And He said back, ‘I gave you two scientists that had the cure and both of them were aborted.’”

Oh FFS, the effing helicopter story. This is the stupid christian’s answer to anything and everything. I have seen and read so many fucking versions of that idiocy over the years, I’d like to cheerfully strangle the idiot who started it. Most christians think that’s just brilliant, which tells you a lot about most christians. As for a “cure for cancer”, there’s no such thing, and it’s not likely there ever will be. That’s because cancer is not one disease, it’s hundreds of diseases. Even within a category of a specific cancer, there are different types of that specific cancer. Cancers are born of cell mutations, and there have to be a number of different mutations before anything turns into cancer. Cell mutations often happen which don’t turn into cancer. Some cancers are easier to treat than others, and have a high remission rate. Research into cancer is constant, and it’s a never-ending race against time. A great deal of progress has been made, and a great many people are able to live their lives out, rather than die an untimely death.

For there to be ‘a cure’ for all cancers, that would qualify as a miracle, because no one treatment is effective against all cancers, that’s why current cancer treatments are targeted. So, Jehovah’s “two scientists” wouldn’t have been able to do shit where cancer is concerned. Once again, the sheer weakness and ineffectiveness of the christian god is what stands out. What’s the fucking point of being a god, if you go to the trouble to imbue a couple of blastocysts with miracle performance, but you couldn’t choose people who not only truly wanted a child, but had the necessary circumstances to have that child, and see that it gets a good education to boot? Or you know, wiggle a godly pinky finger and take care of the cancer business yourself?

To a christian, it doesn’t matter what the fuck happens in any given situation, their nasty, pointless god always gets the credit, especially when credit belongs to the people who make a life and death difference to someone.

As someone struggling with cancer treatment, this fucking attitude is infuriating, to say the least. A great many people over the years have helped to make brilliant leaps in treatment, and if I make it through treatment and come out clean on the other end, any gratitude I may have will belong to them, not the ugly ass god of christians. It is very christian to decide to use something like cancer to try to force the regressive oppression of women though, because cancer is still the big fucking scary, and too many christians are stupid and gullible enough to buy such awful dreck as some sort of skillful reasoning.

RWW has the story.

There Is Such Thing as Too Much “Weapons” Regulation

Over the years I have expressed in multiple comments under various articles on FTB that whilst strict regulations of access to weapons are necessary, the strength of the regulations should be proportional to how effectively enforced they can be. Regulating automatic guns makes sense because they are difficult to manufacture and conceal. That makes it possible to effectively limit access to them and enforce the regulation in a meaningful way.

On the other hand I have always seen trying to regulate knives, swords and similar as absurd because such regulations just cannot work as intended. Making a functional knife or even a sword is trivial, all you need is a piece of cord, a flat bar of any type of steel whatsoever, and half an hour work with angle grinder. Sure, it will not be beautiful, and if the steel is crap it will not hold an edge, but that does not matter, it will be effective murder weapon of equal quality to what was used most of history in warfare. And concealing a knife on your body under clothing is trivial.

UK has nevertheless decided to pass such a meaningless regulation:

Luckily I am not living in UK and CZ has not jumped the shark yet and knives are completely unregulated here. But should such laws pass here, I could perhaps get into problems when trying to buy certain tools for my hobbies – for example I intend to work with leather at some future date and for that I will need to either buy or make a few specialized cutting instruments, aka knives. I live in rural area and I definitively have no corner shop around that could supply those things on demand.

I feel sorry for all the antique weapons dealers and all the knifemakers in UK – like the excellent Tod Todeschini, whose carefully build livelihoods can be destroyed in an instant with ham-fisted regulation.

I might add that to my knowledge this regulation has been proposed and written by conservative politicians. Similarly like the US knife regulations, which are stricter than firearms regulations in some states, were too written by conservatives. Laws that are either impossible to effectively enforce or are impossible not to break serve no other purpose than to give police a pretense to for example harass people of inconvenient shade of skin at will, nothing more.

And just for “fun” (which is not funny at all) I will list all the object that could be used as murder weapons and are in my line of sight right now, near my computer:

  1. Stabbing – screwdrivers, shears, pencils, ball-pens and admittedly a dagger that I use as letter opener.
  2. Cutting – a carpet cutter and again my dagger.
  3. Garotting – USB cable seems strong enough and definitively the camera strap.
  4. Blunt instruments – the camera (not the first choice of course), two heavy mugs, two ornamental stones, a few potted plants.

Not to mention the about 8 kitchen knives of various sizes on the kitchen counter behind my left shoulder.

If I were to go to my workshop or my garden shed I would have a wide choice of multiple potential cutting or stabbing weapons, blunt instruments and pole-arms. Should I decide to go and join a gang, I would not be unarmed. Indeed I could arm the whole gang. So could each of my neighbours.

Whilst firearm deaths can be linked to firearms availability, stabbing deaths cannot be linked to knives availability. Because stabbing instruments are everywhere and will be everywhere, always. As Sam Vimes’ maxim states “Everything is a weapon if you decide to think of it as such”. Addressing knife crime needs to address the root cause. And I do not think I am stabbing in the dark here when I say that has more to do with impoverishment and disempowerment than with sending knives per post.

Sunday Facepalm.

Brian Brown, head of NOM (National Organization of Marriage), has been opining over how much he can really, truly feel like Jesus, because all those horrible people who are okay with same sex marriage. Something of a pity I haven’t noticed Mr. Brown hanging from a crucifix lately. Here’s just a bit of his latest screed, and probably the bit which annoys me most:

I can’t help but feel the parallels between what happened during Christ’s time on earth and some of our own experiences in recent times, including in the struggle to preserve, protect and promote marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

We’ve seen marriage be considered invincible one day, and then in a blink of an eye seen it redefined and defiled. We’ve seen the principle of traditional marriage be betrayed by people who swore to voters they would protect it. We’ve seen some people abandon the fight, whether out of fear or seeing many who remained vigilant punished and persecuted. And we’ve seen constitutionally-guaranteed rights such as the right to religious liberty be superseded by invented concepts that not only are not rights, they also are not right.

It can be disheartening at times, but we at NOM have not lost faith. You see, we’ve read the book and we know who wins in the end. We also know that the truth of marriage is universal and timeless, written on the human heart by our Creator at the beginning of time. Marriage cannot be changed, and the truth of marriage cannot be redefined or eradicated.

Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. That’s what the thing is, always has been and always will be. It is a profound good, and the most important human relationship ever created. It’s the basis of families, and the foundation for raising children.

I know that true marriage will rise again. I think it will happen fairly soon, because it’s impossible to maintain the lie of same-sex ‘marriage’ forever. But whether it takes two years or two decades, NOM is determined to fight every day for the truth of marriage and for the good that it provides for families and children.

BlahblahblahBiblicalMarriageblahblahblahTrueMarriageblahblahbleagh. Oh, the “truth” of marriage! These fucking idiots constantly claim to have read “the book”. I actually have read the damn book, and the whole “one man one woman” crap is not apparent in the Old Testament. It doesn’t have a firm hold on the new one, either, although it was getting there. If there was a god named Jehovah, and it did have firm ideas about marriage, then those ideas should have made the OT law, right? And in the NT, Jesus declared he was there to uphold the (OT) law. So…none of that happened.

What did happen is the same thing you see over and over throughout human history, societal mores change over generations. And over the generations of those who made up the bad stories which comprise the bible, societal shifts towards marriage appeared. No magic required, just people. The bible is also full of rape, incest, and vicious executions of (female) prostitutes. Ol’ Jehovah doesn’t seem to get overly disturbed by such, most of it being its idea in the first place. Jesus didn’t have much to say about that either, except in a couple specific cases. Brian Brown is engaging in cherry picking, bad picking at that, all because he has a bad case of the ickies.

It’s abundantly clear that marriage can be changed, it has been changed, and it changed and changed again within “the book” too. Naturally, the nonsense Brown pushes has absolutely nothing to do with just how marriage is perceived and done all over the world. All he cares about is where he lives, which is Amerikka, and as far as he’s concerned, Amerikka should be run according to at least one version of the bible. Unfortunately for him, the so-called truth of marriage can’t be found in there either. It’s whatever we make it to be.

You can read the full story at RWW.

Behind the Iron Curtain Part 2 – Education

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


I was born towards the end of summer, which effectively means I was almost a year younger than many of other kids who were supposed to go to school that year. This has led to concerns whether I will be mentally mature enough to cope so I was brought in for preliminary evaluation in the spring prior to my first school year. I do not remember almost anything of it, only that it was a pleasant conversation with some old lady whom I did not know.

After I was deemed eligible, the education started. It was pretty normal as an education anywhere else at that time. Children sitting in rows in cheap, uncomfortable chairs behind small tables. Teacher standing in front of the class talking. Don’t talk unless asked, raise your hand if you want to say something or ask.

The regime had somewhat ambiguous attitude to education. On one hand it has recognized that knowledge is empowering and completely ignorant and uneducated populace is useless. Therefore eight years of elementary school were compulsory and the regime took pride in nearly universal literacy and numeracy.

On the other hand it has also recognized that educated and well-informed people are harder to control because they have that unpredictable tendency to be critical of the information presented to them and reach their own conclusion. which has proven correct, since the velvet revolution was initiated by massive student protests.

So the higher education was theoretically available to anyone who was capable, but there were caveats that had nothing to do with capability and everything to do with how much one was perceived to be a threat.

Ever since childhood I was recognized as a university material. I was top of the class and despite year-long health problems that impeded me significantly for a few years I did not need to repeat classes. My father was a member of the communist party and of Peoples Militia, and he was working class. This was considered a good thing in my yearly evaluations and was always mentioned together with my good notes. However one of my uncles was a political dissident who has emigrated to USA and was in the employ of US government. This was considered a bad thing although I was never told this and I only learned about this later on. Further, by a twist of destiny, my father, the communist, was the only one from the family who remained on good terms with his dissident brother. So there was always a big question mark about my future education and whether I will be allowed to pursue either my love of science or my passion for painting.

The regime seems to have had some sort of poorly thought out and poorly formulated concept of hereditary sin. Children and even grandchildren of aristocrats or bourgeois or anyone really even remotely related to dissidents were treated as a threat and were put under close scrutiny. As I grew older I learned about this and I have tried to understand it but I never did. It did not make any logical sense to deny someone higher education just because their grandfather was a bourgeois factory owner. They are not factory owner, they live in this wonderful socialist country where everyone is equal just like everyone else. They did not do anything wrong, their grandfather did. Where is the logic in this?

That way I learned there is another iron curtain in addition to the corporeal one in the forests. An invisible social barrier creating a tangled maze nearly impossible to navigate, because the rules were never clear and were subject to the whims of the powers that be. There was only one sure way to higher education, and that was being a relative of a high party affiliate. Everyone else could be denied for reasons they will never fully learn.

Luckily for me when I was a the end of elementary school, the regime fell and the Iron Curtain was torn down. And with it fell the artificial barriers that might prevent me from getting adequate education. There were other barriers still and new ones emerged, but that is a different story.

The Black & White of Voter Fraud.

Reid Wilson:

NC white woman who admitted voter fraud: No charges.

CO white man convicted of voter fraud: Probation, comm service.

IA white woman convicted of voter fraud: Probation, $750 fine.

TX black woman convicted of voter fraud: 5 years IN PRISON. Which of these is not like the other?

Clear as crystal, isn’t it? But we just don’t have a gosh darn problem with racism in Amerikka, no. You can read more about this at RawStory.

YouTube video “People who like martial arts and weapons are normal”

Well, some of them are. Some are assholes and some are downright dangerous. And some are capable of formulating comprehensive (though not perfect) argument for their point of view. I must say that I too don’t find watching people kicking spherical object around the field for 90 minutes even remotely entertaining.

However if we take “normal” in this context to mean “not different from any other group of people” then I would say the title is completely correct. Assholes and dangerous people are in any and all human congregations. The compounding problem here is that while a dangerous footballer will at the worst hurt one o their fellows on the playing field, a dangerous person with a gun can do much more damage.

I think I could have a reasonable discussion with Matt Easton, author of this video and I think he missed slightly a good opportunity to enhance his point by not wearing his “Fighters Against Racism” T-shirt in this one.

To me this is another issue that is not clear-cut black&white. We have a saying in Czech “Když dva dělají totéž, není to vždy totéž.” – When two (persons) do the same thing, it is not always the same thing.  It applies here.

The key difference is the attitude and intent. Weapon collectors will grumble about laws that restrict their hobby, but most of them will respect the law and for example limit their collecting to weapons of the type that is legal in their country and they will buy ammo and shoot only a the shooting range for example. They will not found and congregate in corporation-like organizations lobbying for complete abandonment of said laws . They will not amas  a load of super-modern weaponry and pallets of ammo to go with it. They will hunt the rare, the peculiar, the unique pieces.

It is possible to appreciate weapons for their aesthetics and technical intricacy and enjoy learning the skills to use them without ever hurting anyone, or ever wanting to hurt anyone. And it is possible to pursue such hobby even in a country with strict gun laws – only, like in any other hobbies, other people’s needs have to be taken into account and respected.

Behind the Iron Curtains Part 1 – Growing Up

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtains. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


Kids are kids everywhere, at least when they are not dying from malnutrition. In at least somewhat functioning society they like to play, run around and nag their parents with incessant questions about the mundane as well as the profound. “Mom, why is the grass green? Mom, why does rain fall down? Mom, what is a whore?”

Children in eastern bloc behind the iron curtains were not different. We liked to play and chat, and we did so whenever possible. But one thing that many children from that time shared, some more, some less was fear.

Fear of nuclear annihilation.

Later in life I learned that people in the West were afraid of those evil aggressive USSR commies who wanted to wipe them out and were held in check only by superior military power of magnificent NATO. Well, on our side of the border it was those trigger happy evil capitalists led by evil imperialist USA who were held in check by superior military power of magnificent Warsaw Pact. And in reality both sides committed war crimes and atrocities, there were no angels in the hot spots of the cold war.

Adults might have had their doubts and objections regarding the veracity of all this fear mongering, but for kids it was definitively all real. The regular “fallout drills” at school, regular alarm drills, signs how to react in case of nuclear attack hanging in every office. Once we were playing with my cousins in the garden and we heard a noise from the sky we did not know. What instantly gripped us was the fear that these are the nuclear missiles heading for Prague. Where I live this feeling was exacerbated by the very real presence of the iron curtains.

From every window of my house I see across the border to Germany. If I were to walk in a straight line in any direction from my property, I will end up in Germany within a day’s walk. Going mushroom hunting was allowed only in certain directions and certain areas of the forest were taboo. Big signs “Caution, State Border Ahead” everywhere. I still remember that one of the signs was riddled with bullet holes. The only time in my life I have seen a real thing riddled with bullets

And the curtains themselves…

Due to the signs and restrictions on movement, they were not usually seen in person and I never touched them. Mostly I knew they are there, somewhere in the forests. But the train track was driving very close o them, so whenever we were riding train to visit the inland, I could see them from the window.

Three meters high, double fence of razor wire. Roundup sprayed shooting corridors. And a macadam road for easy military access.

To a child, that was a terrifying sight. I loathe to see such structures being build again.