You Know Who’s Responsible for the Poor Economy? The Common Person.

That’s the verdict reached by the Boston Globe last Thursday in a special article entitled “Shaken consumers rein in spending” with the subheading “Closed wallets do little to stoke recovery”.

Thanks for the incisive journalism, Globe. I’m sure it’s your exemplary investigative journalism that led you to the true culprits for our lack of economic recovery when other newspapers are fumbling around with obvious red herrings like increasing wealth inequity, high unemployment, unscrupulous financial institutions, and a poor-hating government.

“I was feeling more optimistic before, but the economy’s turning again for the worse,’’ said [John] Bresnihan, 33, a social worker from Belmont. “I feel like I can’t get into a big purchase right now.’’

Consumers like Bresnihan are a key reason policy makers, analysts, and financial markets are increasingly worried about the direction of the US economy. The rate of consumer spending – which drives about two-thirds of economic activity – fell sharply in the second quarter, according to a recent report from the Commerce Department. Weak consumer spending underlies what has been a lackluster and now slowing recovery. Should consumers continue to pull back, it could push the nation into a deeper slump.

Gosh, as an unemployed person with almost no savings, I sure do feel guilty that I am pushing the nation into a slump by my inability to shop.

The real victims here, of course, are the real people: corporations who want to sell stuff that we are unjustly not buying. “Corporations are people, my friend,” says very smart man Mitt Romney.

Female Czech MPs LOVE to Be Objectified

In the Czech Republic’s last general election, it elected a record number of women to parliament, 44. To celebrate that fact, a new-ish party, the Public Affairs Party, created a calendar featuring pictures of their winning candidates in sexual poses.

Calendar photo of Karolina Peake.

Karolina Peake, recently elected to the Czech Parliament.

That’s right: to celebrate the gains women are making in Czech politics, the Public Affairs Party decided to promote sexual objectification of their candidates. Some “gain”.

“Women’s political influence is growing. Why not show we are women who aren’t afraid of being sexy?” said Marketa Reedova, Public Affair’s 42-year-old candidate for the Prague mayor’s office.

Indeed. I too was having trouble accepting these women’s elections because I assumed they were afraid of being sexy, so I can see where Ms. Reedova is coming from. So let us now address the obvious question: are male Czech MPs afraid of being sexy? If not, why is there no calendar of male MPs in sexual poses and revealing clothing?

I like how the Telegraph, where I discovered this article, uses the word “glamour” as a euphemism for sexual objectification. To wit:

Public Affairs has previously used glamour to highlight its strong female presence. During the election campaign four of the women who appear in the calendar posed for a billboard poster wearing black swim suits.

Yeah… “glamour”.

Here’s another nice euphemistic tidbit from the Telegraph:

As further evidence that few in the Czech Republic have qualms over spicing the world of politics with touch of glamour and sex appeal, in the days after the election the glossy women’s magazine “Ona” (She in English) encouraged readers to vote for “Miss Parliament”, asking them to choose their favourite female MP.

“Spice”, “touch of glamour”, “sex appeal”. By what miscarriage of thought power have the Czechs been convinced that conceptions of powerful women must be gift-wrapped in male-gaze-oriented sexuality?

My point with this critique is not that these female Czech MPs are “too sexy”. It is this seemingly reflexive need to package female politicians as sexually-desirable for men, with no commensurate impulse to similarly sexualize male politicians.

Now, why would this difference exist? Oh right—sexism. And to make it okay, the Telegraph couches it as something these women want to do. Raunch-feminist empowerment! Yet they fail to make mention of the different standards to which male politicians are held, which seems to be the bigger picture issue here. Basically, the Telegraph is using Czech sexual double standards as a vehicle to sexually titillate its readers under the cover of a political news story. Again, it is not the existence of sexuality which I am critiquing, but the starkly different treatment male and female politicans’ sexuality receives.

The reflexive need by patriarchal societies to sexualize any and all women who enter the public sphere is an old and well-discussed issue. But thanks to the Czechs, we have to have all the same conversations about it over again.

Boring, but necessary.

The Czech Legion

The Czech Legion

Get ready for one of the wildest stories you never heard…

Midst the chaos of World War One and the Russian Revolution, 70,000 Czech and Slovak P.O.Ws switched sides. They became The Czechoslovak Legion – an Allied army fighting for a country of their own – Czechoslovakia. They captured half the Trans-Siberian Railway, half the Czar’s gold, and the heart of a new nation.

…And it’s all true.

Here’s the Wikipedia page, if you wanna check that out. And here’s a version of the Czech Legion history that’s less confusing than wiki’s.

The Exciting Times V.3

I’ve divided today’s issue into sections. Oh boy!

Overseas

The Czech people are celebrating the collapse of American plans to put (more) American military equipment in their country! Go Czechs!

Idiot far-right German political party NPD sent offensive letters to “parliamentary candidates of immigrant heritage, telling them to go home.” It’s part of their cynical plan to stir up the not-properly-riled dormant xenophobic neo-nazi element in German society to vote for NPD in future elections.

Good news for the gheyz!

Not only does Nevada’s same-sex Domestic Partnership Registry Act take effect today, but the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas was declared unconstitutional!

So Topical!

Homeless American Girl dollEd Kilgore wrote about David Brooks and anti-anti-racism. Did you read what he calls Brooks’ “unintentionally hilarious column”?

American Girl debuts “Gwen”, their new homeless doll! How topical! Here’s a snippet of her story:

Gwen and her mother Janine fell on hard times when her father lost his job; they later lost the house as they were unable to keep up payments. Soon after, Gwen’s father left them and they became homeless the fall before the start of the book’s events.

LOL your post-racial America!

(got that title from Shakesville btw)
US attorney Jim Greenlee in Mississipi targeted convenience store owners based only on the evidence that their names sound Muslim. Not like kinda on the DL, but as a stated initiative. The Convenience Store Initiative, to be precise.

Of the more than 100 people listed as being investigated by federal authorities, nearly every name appears to be Islamic. FBI officials would not comment.

FAIL. Good thing my pals at Mississippi Immigrants Rights Association are ON IT.

ANNnnnd to cap it all off with the worst thing ever: a white woman claiming to be an immigration officer stabbed an immigrant woman and stole her 4-day-old baby. This Yair Anthony Carrillohappened yesterday in Tennessee to mother Maria Gurrolla. Her missing baby’s name is Yair Anthony Carrillo. Investigators said:

“The child was taken by a white female who was posing as an immigration worker. She had come to the residence and demanded the mother give her the baby. When the mother refused to comply she stabbed the mother approximately 8 times.”

Czechs, the Natural Skeptics

Uphill Fight for Pope Among Secular Czechs:

“If the pope wants to create a religious revival in Europe, there is no worse place he could come to than the Czech Republic, where no one believes in anything,” said Jaroslav Plesl, a self-confessed lapsed Catholic who is deputy editor of Lidove Noviny, a leading daily newspaper here. “Add to that the fact that the pope is German and socially conservative and he might as well be an alien here.”

Also…

Pope CondomThe main event of the pope’s visit is an open-air Mass in Brno on Sunday in the country’s Roman Catholic heartland. During the trip, a group called Condom Positive said it planned to distribute condoms with a likeness of the pope and the question, “Papa said no! And You?”

I want one! Someone send me a condom with the Pope’s face on it! I can’t think of anything that would encourage chastity more.

The Prague Monitor has more about the protests:

Representatives of Czech gay and lesbian groups have also announced protests against the Pope’s position on condoms which they intend to stage during Benedict XVI’s stay in the Czech Republic.

They will meet on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Monday, on the last day of the Pope’s visit to express their disagreement with the Pope’s alleged “policy of genocide.”

Organisers of the Mezipatra (Mezzanine) gay and lesbian film festival that is annually held in the Czech Republic are participating in the preparation of the protests.

Some history of our skepticism for ya, courtesy NYT:

Religious experts have noted that the Czechs’ abiding religious skepticism stretches to the 15th century, when Jan Hus, a revolutionary preacher, preached against what he saw as the corrupted practices of the church at a time when indulgences absolving sins were up for sale. Hus, whose teachings anticipated the Protestant Reformation, was burned at the stake and is a hero to many Czechs. In 1999, John Paul called Hus’s violent death “a sorrowful page” in Czech history.

Czech antipathy for the Roman Catholic Church was fanned further during the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries, religious scholars say, when the church supported the emperor’s efforts to repress Czech nationalism.

Gee. I miss the good ol’ days of John Paul. I kinda liked him. Because despite all our natural skepticism and stuff, my family has been Catholic for as long as there is recorded history of us. So I grew up thinking quite highly of JPII. BTW no one in my family likes Ratzinger. See? We don’t even call him Benedict.

Why My Name Is The Czech

…And I’m back!

After some months away, I have decided to fire up the ol’ blog again and see how it goes. If safety becomes an issue, I will just stop again.

So I thought a good way to start this new chapter would be an explanation of my name. I chose it for a hodge podge of reasons. I identify strongly with my immigrant roots. My family has been bumping around the United States for a couple generations now, but we have retained a connection with our country of origin and I have retained a sense of my history in this country as a descendant of immigrants. I don’t want to forget that there were peoples here before the white man, people who are still here. It is partially out of deference to them that I identify as Czech-American.

My name also has to do with my white privilege. My Czech descendants were light-skinned, and so am I. (Not all Czechs appear “white”.) Czechs have not always been considered white. A certain German dictator had a special name for us: Minderwertige Rasse (“less-worthy race”), insinuating that we were not the white race, we were something else, something less-than.

That is mostly behind Czechs now. In America, we get white-skin privilege, regardless of that history. And I want to own the fact that I receive that privilege, however unwillingly, and the responsibility that bestows upon me. So I make my identity very clear through my screen name. There will be no mistake when I am in anyone’s space- I cannot ignore my white privilege and try to fly under the radar in spaces created by people of color. I will have to confront it all the time, and check myself with each comment.

Czech Center New York

Czech Centre New York

The Film Walrus tipped me off to an amazing thing, the Czech Center of New York! Hoo-rah!

On Wednesday they’re screening a 1920s Czech Silent film, The Little False Cat (Falešna kočička). They also have programs on Czech documentaries, Czech photography, Czech architecture and Czech music. I hope they’re looking for volunteers!

From the website:

Since 1995, the Czech Center New York has been building dialogue among the Czech Republic and the American public particularly in the areas of culture, business and tourism. The Czech Center New York is primarily focused on presenting the latest and most innovative works of Czech Artists to the U.S.

Czechs Take Over EU Presidency

Yes, it is my people’s day. Or six months, rather. Starting January 1, 2009 the Czech prime minister is also the leader of the European Union for the first time. Heads of government of the EU countries take six-month turns at the EU Presidency.

Mirek Topolánek is the current Czech PM. He’s conservative and leads a weak government and is battling calls to resign. It seems he is overshadowed by his political opponent, Czech President Václav Klaus, who’s personality is so large that several publications misstated that it was Klaus and not Topolánek who would lead the Czech EU Presidency.

Klaus is likely to make this a rough presidency: he is a global warming denier and has said that environmentalism is a threat as grave as communism, so he’s a little out of step with the EU’s environmental policy. He calls himself a “Euro-dissident” who is against the Lisbon Treaty, which, among other things, would make the Charter of Fundamental Rights (55 human rights for EU citizens) legally binding throughout the whole EU. Somehow, probably with Klaus’s help, the Czech Republic has managed not to join the Eurozone.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Klaus is at loggerheads with the Prime Minister Topolanek, who is barely holding onto power thanks to a break some Klaus loyalists have made inside the coalition government. For months, the pro-Europe Topolanek has faced calls to resign.

“Traditionally the European Union presidency has a stabilizing effect,” Mr. Techau says. “But the domestic situation in the Czech Republic is so contentious and unpredictable, it’s really a question whether the government can hold. This could undermine the Czech presidency.”

Get your shit together, people! Come on Czech Republic, this is your moment to shine! Don’t fuck this up.

What they hope to accomplish in the next six months:

-Ensuring energy security
-Using research and development along with small/medium business enterprise to increase Europe’s competitiveness
-“Eastern neighborhood initiative” to bring Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova closer to the EU

Ambitious, yet not.

A Message from Mirek Topolánek:

The motto of the Czech Presidency, “Europe without Barriers”, reflects the four basic freedoms: the free movement of goods, capital, workers, and services. We intend to uphold these freedoms to their fullest. The logo of the Czech Presidency, i.e. the http://www.EU2009.cz website, adds a symbolic fifth freedom: free movement of information and knowledge. The main priorities of the Czech Presidency can be summed up as “the 3 E’s”: Economy, Energy and External Relations.”

Well, Mr. Topolánek strikes upon something that is of great importance to me: the freedom of movement of workers, or as I like to call them, people. That is one of the supposed benefits of true capitalism that we see almost no allegedly “capitalist” or “free market” society actually implement. If we implemented freedom of movement of people in the US, we’d solve illegal immigration with the swoop of a pen! Of course, Topolánek is referring to movement only within the EU, but it’s a start.

The English version of the Czech EU Presidency website is here.