Friday, September 15, 2017


Not lost in translation: A report from North Korea by a Lebanese journalist

      An Arab-speaking friend of mine just sent me his translation of an article in Al-Akhbar, written by a journalist who was actually in North Korea recently -- unlike most American journalists who are basically arm-chair speculators who wouldn't go near Pyongyang with a ten-foot pole and, instead, just want to make up negative stories.


     The author was writing about celebrations of the 69th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea few days ago.  She says, "North Koreans have not been able to relax and take a breath from hostilities since the end of World War II".  Good grief.  That's a hecka long time to live in fear.  And also remember that in the two years after 1950, five million Koreans were slaughtered by American invaders.  Think Iraq's Shock and Awe -- only on a much larger scale.  Pyongyang, for instance, was totally flattened, all due to the same type of lies that started the U.S. "war" on Iraq. 

     The article's author accompanies a Lebanese soccer team to the Hermit kingdom and here are the results.

     "Months before my trip, I learned by chance that a soccer match would be bringing the Lebanese national football team to play the Korean team in Pyongyang, so I applied to accompany the team.  'No kidding!' was the first reaction of my colleagues, who admitted that no one 'even thinks of escorting the sports teams there'.


     "'Why are you in Pyongyang anyway?' is a question I've been asked constantly both before and during my five-day visit to the Korean capital, and before even reaching it."  She was given many warnings before she left.  "Do you know that you will not be able to talk to anyone on the street over there?  You do know that you won't be able to write a political article when you get back, right?  And after this trip, you will not be able to get any visa to any other country!"  Interesting.  Sounds more like the USA's policy than North Korea's.  She was also warned that, "They will take away your books, pens, camera and phone."

     "It was a tiring journey and  after long travel, we got to Beijing and from there to Pyongyang via Korean Airlines.  The elegant flight attendants smiled, but nothing reduced our tension, enthusiasm and adrenaline as we entered Pyongyang airport, which was empty of any other passengers.  The inspection was precise, automatic and manual, the security men and women checked our faces carefully. One of the security personnel at the entry window smiled and stamped my passport, giving me permission to enter.  No one searched my larger suitcase, and the security men did not open my carry-on bag.  They asked me very gently to hand over my phone and the camera.  After a few seconds, they returned them to me without any question, request or condition."  TSA, eat your heart out! 

    "Tension gradually disappeared and the view of green fields along the road leading to the city helped to calm minds and souls.  We entered Pyongyang at sunset.  Workers and staff returning from their jobs, walking and biking, wide paved clean streets semi-empty of cars, and lots of trees on both sides of the road.  Pyongyang welcomes its visitors with an amazing serenity.  The calmness was even present inside the hotel's huge lobby, until it was broken by the noise of the Lebanese soccer team complaining about not having wi-fi, only cable internet.

     "Despite the weight of the boisterous Lebanese presence, the staff maintained permanent warm smiles, quick service and a helpful response to all demands.  The female cleaning workers apologized shyly when they entered our rooms to perform their duties.  They noted that I am the only woman in the Lebanese delegation.  The next day, they replaced the blue bed sheets with others embroidered with pink flowers.  Koreans do not pretend their kindnesses.  They perform them every day, in their smiling greetings in the elevators, in the shop, and in the restaurant inside the hotel....  On the street, however, passers-by look at you directly in the eyes with a little surprise and a lot of seriousness."  Americans could use a few such lessons in politeness.


     "The traffic of the passers-by does not get lighter until nightfall.  Everyone is walking with fast steps, walking a long distance on their feet.  No one has a private car, and the public transportation is very small compared with the population, so the buses and trams are always overcrowded.  Women, as well as men, take part in cleaning the streets of the city, mowing its grass, arranging the squares' gardens and paving their pavements.  Hygiene and cleanliness are eye-catching in the main and secondary streets and even in the underground tunnels of the road.  The beautiful and quiet city is lying between two rivers, with a constant human movement during the day.  The atmosphere is polluted by the smoke of nearby factories, but the abundance of trees does not make you feel the smoke.  The most striking aspect of the city are the green, pink, yellow and blue buildings, like huge Lego pieces, a beautiful childish feeling in a nuclear capital.  The wide sidewalks include a restless bicycle line and very few passers-by talking on their cell phones, which most often takes place in the vicinity of the train station." 

      Can you imagine Americans taking care of their cities with such pride?  Or even putting their cell phones down long enough to enjoy the beauty of their cities?  Nah.

     "Thus, a visitor to Pyongyang is able to restore the pleasure of seeing the faces of the passersby and their features -- their heads in their natural position, raised, exposed, not curved and attached to cell phones.  Revolutionary posters and national emblems adorn some columns and walls and pictures of flowers are also spread across the city and on locally manufactured products.  The magnolia flower is a national symbol of the country.  There are public parks filled with them in the city.  In the residential neighborhoods, there are public parks, playgrounds for children and others facilities for sports.  In the afternoon, these playgrounds are filled with boys and young people who practice their various sports.  Some families also stretched on the green gardens and rest from productive daytime labor."


      And there's culture here too.  "There is a huge People's Library building, an Art Museum, the National Theater, the Cinema Hall, the Recreation Center, Hairdressing and Body Care.  Here is an outdoor music band playing and practicing, and women in colorful traditional costumes practicing for the upcoming National Day celebrations.
 

     "The silence of the city is enchanting, but it may sometimes feels sad and gloomy.  People are calm and tired as well.  Fatigue appears on faces and slim bodies -- the hard work of a country under the harshest economic sanctions in the world, and in political isolation for decades.  In fact, Koreans have not yet taken a safe breath since the end of the Second World War!   After the Japanese occupation was disbanded in 1945, the Korean War between its northern and southern parts came only five years later, with much blood spilled and divisions within one people on a land no longer united."  That "war" on Korea was sad, sadistic and unnecessary in my humble opinion -- even after watching too much MASH.


     "The Americans had completely destroyed Pyongyang, and its people rebuilt it with their hands, but the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953 did not end the tragedies of the Koreans.  While the country began to promote urbanization, industrialization and agriculture, it was also hit by floods that caused great famine, destruction of infrastructure and land between 1995 and 1998, and new floods within the last year.  Despite all this, many today do not speak about what the Korean people have suffered and still suffer up to this moment.  All that matters to Western and U.S. propaganda makers is to present an exaggerated, cynical and often unrealistic picture of the most anti-US radical regime in both word and deed since the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR). 

     "But what about the citizens themselves and the rise of their country and the challenges they face daily due to sanctions?  What about their achievements in sports and music despite everything?  There is no mention of this in the Western daily media because it does not serve the cartoonish picture that the Western media seeks to circulate.


     "During my stay in the Korean capital, I took 166 photos with my camera.  The Korean attendant of the Lebanese team asked to see some of them but then deleted only two pictures because one of them had a slanted frame that had an impact on the image of the late Korean president's face; and the other because it showed one of the slogans written on the walls in a truncated manner that diminished its meaning.  The slogan, by the way, says, 'The more crises ... the more straight ahead we go.'

     The main feeling in Pyongyang seems to be, "What does the West want from us?  To surrender to their sanctions?"

     Then the journalist had the same experience that I had when I was in North Korea a few years ago.  "To provide visitors to Pyongyang with an accompanying person to go with them wherever they go outside the hotel, is known to anyone who wants to visit the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and if the visitor is a journalist, the escort seems inevitable.  The accompanying person of the Lebanese sport team in Pyongyang, named Sen, was joined by another accompanying person who serves as an interpreter (translator) for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), named Ree.  Sen and Ree were two young men in their 20s.  They committed no repressive behavior.  They did not let us feel that there was any censorship or restraint in our movement.  On the contrary, they eased our visit in more than one place.  Sen, for example, organized tours of the Zuchei Tower, Kim Il Sung Square and the largest sports stadium in the world -- while Ree, the interpreter, spoke to me about politics, the 'nuclear subject', life in general and the conditions of Lebanon and its region."

       Regarding the nuclear subject, Ree asked her, "Have you heard the news today?  What do you think about what happened," with regard to the test of the hydrogen bomb.  The journalist had followed the news on TV in her hotel room, which received Chinese and Japanese TV channels, France 24, English Aljazeera and Russia Today (RT). 

     She answered, "From one side, I do not like the idea of a nuclear bomb, and it frightens me; but from the other side, you are telling the world that you are strong as well."  Ree smiled and said, "Do not be afraid, we will not throw the bomb at your country, it is only for the peace of our country." 

      Ree learned his excellent English at the Pyongyang Institute of Languages.  What?  Not by watching Sesame Street?


     "'It is our right to protect the security of our country and our people,' Ree explained regarding his view of possessing of nuclear weapons, and then asked, 'How should we act, for example, toward the implementation of military drills on our borders by the United States and South Korea?  Why can't we address their constant threats?'  He paused a little then continued saying: 'What do they want from us?  To surrender and submit to their sanctions?' 

     "On one occasion, Ree gently invited me to taste Korean beer, Taedonggang, made locally from white rice.  We sat in the lobby of the hotel more than once to continue our discussions on a variety of things.  The young man was surprised when I told him that South Lebanon had been under Israeli occupation for years and he admired the popular and armed resistance that drove the Israeli enemy out of Lebanese territory.  'Resistance and patriotism are the most important things I have learned in life,' Ree said.  This young Korean dreamed of visiting some of the world's capitals that he hears about while accompanying tourists.  His face changed positively when I told him that in Lebanon, there are many who saw Israel and the United States as enemies, and that I, too, hated U.S. imperialism."  Me too!

      "'I learned yesterday that the U.S. threw a bomb in Syria and killed many civilians, and that saddened my heart,' he said seriously and honestly.  Ree was shocked when he learned that in Lebanon we had to pay huge sums for medicine, education and sports -- while they were all free in his country. 

     "Ree accompanied me at the Kim Il Sung Stadium during the enjoyable Korean-Lebanese match.  He was enthusiastically encouraging his own country's team yet delighted me by being the only person among the 29,000 spectators who encouraged the Lebanese team.  Then he reassured me: 'No one will bother you.  People here are friendly.' 

     "He worked hard to convince the organizers to allow me to take pictures from the pitch, because I was not a certified press photographer.  He succeeded and, thanks to him, I was able to take pictures of the Lebanese team and the match.  In the break between the two halves, we talked about God and faith, and we agreed that faith in one's own abilities is very important.


     "When we left North Korea, Ree escorted us to the airport, to say farewell to us, and we shook hands with some team members with affection.  'You are not alone,' I finally told him.  'We are with you and understand your suffering because we have lived wars and tested its horrors in Lebanon as well.'  Ree lowered his eyes and said, 'Thank you.'


      "Ree told me in an earlier meeting that he listens to Korean and Russian music because 'music makes him feel calm and with tranquility,' after long and hard work as an interpreter.  So, I left him a Fayrouz Ziad Rahbani album as a gift, wishing him to have the best and the most elegant image of Lebanon.

      In the Lebanese journalist's next dispatch, she wrote, "Leave them in peace.  They are the workers who go to their jobs and factories on foot every day.  They are the children who learn in their schools that patriotism is like a mother's love. They are the people of Pyongyang, so good and so shy.  They are the tired ones of the injustice of the entire world.  They are hard-working in order to remain in their world, which stands in the face of imperialism in all its forms. 

     "North Korea is the sun that shines on the impact of music and factory wheels. 
She is the state that, despite the blockade, is keen on free medicine and education, green gardens, superior sport and early music education.  They are the thin bodies and slim faces, their daily worries greater than the mountains.  Leave them in peace, and do not increase their load more." 

     Holy crap.  North Koreans receive free "MediCare for all" and their government actually cares about them?  Wow.


     "You in the West talk about them with arrogance and irony, describing their world as 'closed', and treating them as 'robotic' -- but for God sake, look in the mirror and in the images spread on your own 'social' networking sites.  You are the robotic ones to the limit of boredom.  You are robotic in your external shapes that don't match your identities; in the way you speak; your clothes; your smiles; your jokes; your mainstream music; the absence of your wrinkles; the forms of your relationships even including the intimate ones; and the way you live in the smallest details.  Look around you, your dominant culture isolates free thinkers, and your generalized ideas classify the different as 'backward'.  You are boasting of your freedom, but the more allegedly open-minded you become, the more racism increases.  And your closed mindset builds up even more when borders are erased.  You too are walled in, but while your wall is huge, the Korean wall is ... Great!


     "I will not pretend to know the truth about North Koreans' lives, their mental state, and how they think.  I did not ask them if they were happy, and I did not know whether their love for their leaders was real, but certainly, their love for their country is clear.  They are tired and admit it, even in their songs.  They are honest.  I do not need to ask them this.  A look in their eyes says enough.  They teach you kindness and they are the most suffering people.  They forgive us, although they are floundering in crises that they are not guilty of.  They forgive us, we who stood watching them suffering and did nothing. 

     "I will not claim that the Koreans are perfect, and I will not speculate on what is best for them, but I will salute their productive daily fatigue.  I will silence myself in particular, the tourist journalist who came from Lebanon.  How can a visitor coming from Lebanon, a country of garbage and feces in food, sewage in fresh water, and poison in medicine, feel superior to any other country in the universe?


     "We may deserve what the U.S. and the West have forced upon us by their excessive speed of culture and intellectual flattening, and we may also deserve nuclear missiles sent from oppressed peoples because we do not want to see their tragedies...   But surely no one in the world deserves the kindness of the Korean people and their shy smiles.  Therefore, let them alone, they do not want anything from us.  Let them exist in peace and stop inflicting your misery on them. Perhaps, just then, you may also wake up to your lives, look into the eyes of your beloved ones, finally see the depth of your own tragedy -- and also begin to resist."

PS:  But what does all this mean?  If North Korea isn't a Bad Guy after all, then why is the American media trying so hard to make it into one?  Why?  For money of course.  Ka-ching.

     Endless "war"?  Cold War on Russia and China?  War on Muslims?  War on crime, war on drugs, war on American protestors?  War on Black people, war on immigrants, war on kids, war on pets, war on climate, war on grandma -- whatever.

     As long as there's a "war" going on somewhere, then there's money to be made by people who are not us.

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Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books -- thus helping me support my addiction to Justice and Truth.  http://straitwellbooks.blogspot.com/2016/04/our-top-best-seller-right-now-is-bring.html 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Zionists vs. Bedouins: Losers take all.

     Over a century ago, a handful of wealthy Zionists got together and came up with a plan to beg, borrow or steal a "Jewish State" somewhere -- but where?  Their first three choices were South America, Africa and the Middle East.

     They must have tossed a coin to make their decision and the Middle East must have won -- or perhaps "lost" might be a better word to use.  In any case, Lady Luck appears to have made a very big mistake here.  Why?  To find out you gotta look at history.

     Thousands of years ago, wandering traders called Nabataeans pretty much controlled a whole bunch of the Middle East.  Even King Solomon and Alexander the Great couldn't get them to budge.  They also built a legendary capital city -- Petra.   Nabataeans also served as the prototype for modern-day Bedouins.

     Then along came the Brits and the French, and they used their superior military firepower to divide the Middle East into arbitrary "nations" -- but the people there had been Bedouins for too long and the European late arrivals soon discovered that getting them to stay inside of these arbitrary "nations" was like herding cats.

      And then the Zionists also invited themselves to the party.  "This land is mine," they declared, "and we have the nukes to prove it."

     But still even to this day, the Bedouins still just keep wandering around the Middle East like they have done for the last 4,000 years -- even despite all those neo-colonialist carpet bombings, tanks, F-16s, napalm, DU, concentration camps, occupation, war crimes and torture.  Even despite all these decades of neo-colonialist cruelty, the salt-of-the-earth Bedouins still have their horses, their camels, their trade routes, their tribes, their Ford 150s, their slingshots -- and their will to survive.

     Even after over a century of being invaded by Brits, Turks, Zionists, Saudis, Frogs and Americans, the Bedouin are still taking care of business.  It's like the old story of the tortoise and the hare.  In the long run, my money is on the Bedouin.  Still don't believe me?  Just ask the ancient Romans, Greeks, Israelites -- and of course Ozymandias.  "Boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away".

     And the biggest irony yet?  According to Google, both the ancient Israelites (not to be confused with the current Israeli neo-colonialists of European origin BTW) and the ancient Nabataeans have all sprung from the very same people, all originated in the very same place.  Where?  Wait for it?  YEMEN!  Yes indeed.  Both of these wandering tribes have their roots in the very same country that Israeli, American and Saudi neo-colonialists are currently working so very hard to destroy.  Yemenis are their homies!  https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2017/08/23/House-of-Saud-Cholera/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=230817

PS:  Speaking of Bedouins, I just met one personally and he guided me all through the ancient Nabataean city of Petra -- on his horse, in a genuine Bedouin outfit reminiscent of Captain Jack Sparrow or Indiana Jones (if nothing else Bedouins are flexible -- and they too watch TV).

     Ahmed, aka Captain Jack, was born in a cave, rides a white horse and guides tourists around Petra for a living.  He taught me how to paint my eyes with kohl to prevent sun damage, showed me some awesome Roman ruins further up the road, demonstrated Bedouin hookahs, took me to a Byzantine monastery by donkey-back and introduced me to beautiful Petra at sunrise.

     He also gave me a small glimpse into the hard and determined life of the Bedouin and their strong will to survive.

     The Zionists may have nuclear weapons as well as America, banksters, industrialists and even "God" on their side -- but I'm still gonna place my bets on the Bedouin.  I'm gonna bet the farm that in another thousand years from now, long after the Zionists have moved back to Hollywood, Bedouins will still be following their historic trade routes all across the Middle East.

     Zionists should have chosen South America or Africa instead.

PPS:  If you ever find yourself to be a tourist in Petra any time soon, please be sure to ask for a guide named Captain Jack -- and tell him that Jane sent you.  Or else you can tell him yourself -- like most Bedouins, he too has a FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/petra.wolf1992.  

     And also, while you are in Petra, please stay at the My Home Hotel -- just 10 dinars a night (that's the equivalent of 15 US dollars -- dollars used to be worth a hecka lot more on the international monetary market before the RepubliDems screwed stuff all up).  https://www.agoda.com/my-home-petra/hotel/petra-jo.html?cid=-218

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Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books -- thus helping me support my addiction to Justice and Truth.  http://straitwellbooks.blogspot.com/2016/04/our-top-best-seller-right-now-is-bring.html 

Friday, September 08, 2017



Petra, Jordan: Yet another victim of 9-11

     Of all the countries affected by 9-11, America has been hit the absolute worst -- but not in the way that most Americans still think.  According to David Ray Griffin's new book "Bush and Cheney: How They Ruined America and the World," It wasn't the Twin Tower bombing that screwed us Americans royally.  It was the war-mongering anti-democratic racist corporate-owned police state that we've been stuck with as a result. http://jamesfetzer.blogspot.com/2017/07/david-ray-griffin-bush-and-cheney-how.html

     I want my old pre-9-11 America back! 

    In any case, I am currently hanging out at one of the ultimate Seven Wonders of the modern world (according to UNESCO -- honest, I didn't make this stuff up!)  Petra by moonlight?  One of the most amazing sights you could ever see in your life.  An adventure in esthetic fabulousness for sure.  Bucket-list awesomeness!

     Plus I got to ride horseback through it all and escorted by an extremely handsome Bedouin guide.  Rudolph Valentino, eat your heart out.

    There's a blurb inside the Petra museum stating that the people who built Petra were lovers -- not fighters.  They believed in diplomacy above all.  Well, not exactly above everything else.  They believed in Art for Art's Sake even more.  "If it isn't beautiful, then don't waste our time," appeared to be their motto.  These were my kind of people!

     America spends trillions of $$$ on weapons and war every year.  The Nabataeans who built Petra would have been totally shocked.  "What a waste of time and money," they would have said, "when you could be painting or playing music or carving in stone instead."  I gotta agree with them there.  After all, what have all its many nefarious, perfidious, immoral and downright slimy "wars" achieved for Americans today?  Plus everyone all across the planet hates us and fears us -- among other things (see above). 

     The American military-industrial complex seems to have mistaken anger and fear for beauty and love.  Not the same thing, guys.  Get real.

     Anyway, here I am in beautiful Petra, hanging out with Bedouins and feeling very very very lucky.  Are you also feeling that lucky too?  Or just lied to, threatened and over-taxed?  But I digress.

     On September 11, 2001, we all know what happened (or at least we pretend that we do).  And I've already mentioned some of the rotten stuff that has happened to us since then.  Plus all those billionaires created by weapon sales, millions of people needlessly slaughtered in the Middle East and America's economy in shreds.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria are in shreds too.  But Petra, in Jordan, is also a victim of 9-11.  Petra's economy is in shreds as well. 

     "We used to have 5,000 people a day come and tour Petra," one of the locals just told me, "but now we are lucky if 500 a day show up."  At one of the seven most beautiful sights in the world?  Only a very few tourists are showing up?

     Get a life, Americans.  Stop being so fearful.  Come to Petra!  Jordan is perfectly safe.  Get on over here and see for yourself.  I recently met a man who moved back to Jordan within 48 hours after his convenience store in Chicago suffered its second armed robbery in a month.

      And today at 5:00 am I walked down the main street of the town surrounding Petra.  Safe as houses.  Can you do that in your home town in America?  I love Petra.  Americans, please stop being such wimps and come visit.

     Bottom line:  America has never been the same since 9-11.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  We need to get some art and beauty back in our lives -- and Petra has enough to go around for all of us.

PS:  "But just look what happened to the people of Petra," you might say.  "For all their love of art, they are no longer around."  All too true.  But perhaps, like Texas and Florida, climate change also did them in.
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Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books -- thus helping me support my addiction to Justice and Truth.  http://straitwellbooks.blogspot.com/2016/04/our-top-best-seller-right-now-is-bring.html 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


Grilled: My experience at the Israeli border

    There are chickens outside my window right now -- but they are not Israeli chickens.  They aren't even Palestinian chickens either.  Long story.  Bethlehem was my original destination.  But then I got side-tracked for a while.

     At the border between Jordan and Israel/Palestine the other day, I handed over my passport to a sweet-looking 20-something Israeli border guard.  She did not give it back.  I waited an hour.  "Can I please have my passport back now?" I meekly asked a few times more -- long after almost everybody and his brother who came on the bus with me had already passed through.

     "It's in the office." 

     I waited another half-hour, asked a few more times and then finally went off to the freaking office myself.  "The computer's down," they told me at the front desk. What?  They want to run my name through a computer now?  Now it's beginning to sound a bit too much like Big Brother.  But still, I bet they won't have to search very far.  I've been on some weird hyper-Zionist's radar a lot lately and he's been threatening to use his influence in Israel to get me banned there.  Apparently Israel is a democratic country -- just as long as you don't practice free speech.  But maybe he's Netanyahu's new BFF?  If so, I'm screwed.

     At that point, however, this really nice young woman and this really nice young man popped up from out of nowhere and started to lead me off into the bowels of the office's inner sanctum, a warren of small interrogation rooms in the back.  "This is bound to end badly," I thought to myself, seriously considering grabbing onto a door frame, shouting "Attica!" and refusing to move.  But I didn't.

     "Leave your purse and computer bag in this cupboard," said the really nice young man.  Yeah, right. 

     "How do I know they'll be safe?"

     "We'll keep an eye on them."  I just bet that you will.  But the really nice young man appeared to be non-threatening, friendly and having only my best interests at heart -- plus did I really have any other choice?

     Next they herded me into one of their many interrogation rooms where a friendly-looking detective-type was seated at a computer -- maybe like that guy on CSI?  And he started asking me questions.  "Are you here to be in a demonstration?"  Er, no. 

     "I'm here to go to Bethlehem and have a nice chit-chat with Jesus."

     "Have you ever been in any demonstrations before?"  Well, sure.  I'm from freaking Berkeley.  What do you think.  MLK, Vietnam, 1960s stuff.  Homelessness, ICE, that illegal Syria invasion, neo-Nazi White supremacists, modern stuff.

     "Do you know about ISM?"  The International Solidarity Movement, Rachael Corrie's group?  If I say yes, will they run me over with a bulldozer too?

     "Yes, I do," I replied.  "And I also know about AIPAC."  Couldn't resist throwing that in.  But then I noticed a tiny video camera on the desk that was pointed straight at me.  Oh goodie!  Now I'm gonna star in a IDF training film?  Gave it a little finger-wave.

     "Give us the names of any Palestinians you know."  Hmmm.  Let's see.  There's that guy who owned a grocery store back in Berkeley.  I used to buy sandwiches there....

     "What do you do for a living?"  Now I was really starting to feel intimidated. 

     "What is this all about?" answering a question with a question.  "Can I have my passport back so I can get to Bethlehem before dark?  Know any cheap hotels in Bethlehem?"

     "Why do you want to come to Israel?  Do you know any Lefties here?"  Hell, I myself am a freaking Lefty.  "And I also know Righties too.  Trump is a Righty.  Netanyahu is a Righty.  And he dresses funny too."

     "Give us some names of people you know."

     "My parents were Righties.  That's why I became a Lefty.  And speaking of family, did my children put you up to this?"  Then I told him the whole sad story about how my kids owed me money and then how I had worked as an actor in student films and how nobody loves me and my knees hurt and I was hungry and....

     It was like pouring one's heart out to a shrink.  But the good part was that after a couple of hours spent grilling me, they did bring me lunch.

     "Now.  How many Palestinians do you know."  Asked and answered.  "Can we see your Facebook page?"  Sure.  Who wouldn't want Mossad to look at their FB page? 

     "There are some things that I really like about Israel -- but I really do hate the neo-colonialism of its rulers," I babbled on.  The guy was a good listener.  I'll give him that.

     Then he started telling me about my previous trip to Israel ten years ago -- and that's when I realized  that he already knew everything about me already.

     "Well, thanks for the lunch and everything but I really gotta get going.  If you would just give me my passport back?"  He smiled.  I smiled.  The really nice young woman smiled.  The really nice young man smiled.  We were all totally Kumbaya.  "I'll be sure to say hello to Jesus for you when I get to Bethlehem," I said after gathering up my stuff.  We practically kissed each other goodbye.  It was definitely a moment.

    But apparently they let an underling do their dirty work.  "Sign here, please."  What's this?  "You have been denied entrance to Israel."  On what grounds?  "You are a security risk."  And sure enough.  "Entry Denied" had been stamped on my passport.  Eight hours of my life that I will never get back. 

     Guess the moral of this story is "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

     But if they had actually let me go on to Bethlehem, I would have been totally won over by them and maybe even re-thought my currently-low opinion of Israeli war-mongering, human-rights violating, bullying, neo-colonialism and general tyrannical behavior.  Plus I would have helped grow their economy by spending money in Bethlehem too. As it was, however, they had just managed to piss me off.

     They could have just ASKED me if I was a security risk instead of playing all those childish cat-and-mouse games.  Or they could have just looked at me.  Me, a 100-pound grandmother?  A security risk to Israel?  Did I in any way fit the profile?  Not even close.

     And now I'm going to go spend all my tourist dollars (such as they are) in Petra instead.  Humph.  I've already been to Bethlehem anyway.  Jesus already knows how I stand on truth, justice and "do unto others."  But the trip wasn't actually a total waste.  I still had the remains of my lunch and ate them for dinner when I finally got back to Amman.

     And since they already had a whole dossier on me, the interrogators surely must know that I am a writer -- and that they have just handed me a great story.  I coulda written about the wonders of Bethlehem as planned -- but instead I'm gonna write about some dreary back-room interrogation of an American citizen in some dreary no-man's-land border crossing at the Jordan/Palestine border. 
 
     Humph.  I didn't want to spend time with Israeli haters anyway.  If I had actually wanted to spend time with haters, I coulda just stayed back home in America.
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Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books -- thus helping me support my addiction to Justice and Truth.  http://straitwellbooks.blogspot.com/2016/04/our-top-best-seller-right-now-is-bring.html 

Friday, September 01, 2017



Middle East travel: S-o-o-o frustrating!

     Here I am in Amman, Jordan -- staying at a cheap hotel that only costs $21 a night.  But it's safe and has functioning plumbing, a bed, a card table, several electrical outlets, free breakfasts and an owner who is totally nice -- plus the guy in the room next door appears to have a fabulous sex life.

     And there are no bedbugs.

     But being in Amman is also extremely frustrating from a tourist's point of view.  Why?  I'll tell you why.  The ancient pre-Roman city of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will totally knock your socks off, is only a three-hour car ride away.

     However.

     The Syrian border is only 45 minutes away by car -- but it might as well be on the moon  thanks to ISIS and its BFFs in America, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia.  https://medium.com/@An0nKn0wledge/history-of-cia-attempted-coups-in-syria-and-how-they-created-isis-1256d3e880d6

     And the border between Jordan and Palestine is only 45 minutes away too -- and once you're on the West Bank, it should only be an hour's drive to Bethlehem or to Jenin, Ramallah, Jericho or wherever.  Jerusalem itself is practically right around the corner from Amman as the crow flies.  Hell, even Gaza is not all that far away from where I sit in my hotel room right now.  It's probably even closer than Petra.

     Technically.

     But by the time one crosses a very stern border and goes through tons of checkpoints and deals with Israel's all-pervasive Occupation bureaucracy and the IDF's whole super-militarized tap dance, one coulda just hired an Uber and driven to Petra three times over -- and with 87% less aggravation and at one-tenth the price.  It would be like as if you had to pass through five different checkpoints to get from north Berkeley to south Berkeley -- and not get pissed off while doing it.

     Plus right over from Jordan in the other direction lies Iraq.  There's even a big green sign on the freeway from the airport that reads "Next Exit:  Saudi Arabia and Iraq".  And Yemen isn't that much farther away either.  Even Lebanon and the Golan Heights are within driving range of my hotel.

     Theoretically.

     The whole heart of the entire freaking Middle East is not much bigger than the greater San Francisco Bay Area, and it sometimes seems like the only real difference between the two is that the Bay Area doesn't have colonialism, imperialism and the CIA to tie everything all up in knots.  Yet.

PS:  I'm still wallowing in the miry swamp of jet lag.  Haven't slept more than six hours in the past four days.  Oh well.  "Sleep when you're dead".  Plus once I got past a certain tipping point, I don't appear to need any sleep at all.  But then neither do zombies.  But I digress.

PPS:  Yesterday I visited The Citadel, Amman's most famous ruin.  And located there, right next to each other, were ancient Neolithic ruins, ancient Roman ruins, ancient Byzantine Christian ruins and ancient Islamic ruins -- all in one place.

     The moral here?  Apparently we humans have all gotta be in ruins before we can finally learn to get along.


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Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books -- thus helping me support my addiction to Justice and Truth.  http://straitwellbooks.blogspot.com/2016/04/our-top-best-seller-right-now-is-bring.html 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017



No body, never mind: 40 hours without sleep

     We long-distance airplane travelers exist in a whole different world all of our own.  Airplanes and airports become our new reality -- a new city, a new state, a new nation that is only rooted within the parameters and perspectives of airplanes and airports. 

     There are completely different rules within this alternate-universe kingdom of air travel than there are for us in real life.

     -- Eat what is placed in front of you.

     -- Your flight attendant is boss.

     -- Make it from one terminal to the next as best you can.

     -- The passenger in the seat next to you becomes your sudden new family, your instant BFF.

     And, most important of all, your body suddenly has more priority than your mind.

     My mind races.  I've gone 40 hours without sleep.  I'm starting to feel like a victim of Hurricane Harvey.  It all gets down to the basics.  Ignore all that blather that your mind is telling you.  Keep the body functioning at all costs.

     Your family back home has betrayed you?  Your country is ruled by greedy war-mongering egotists, bullies, bastards and fools?  You hate your neighbor across the street because she hated you first?  There is painful injustice in the world that you can't seem to do anything about?

     All that mental agitation pales when you travel by air -- and the really important things stand out instead.  Can you find room in the overhead bin for your rather large carry-on bag?  Will you get enough legroom?  Can you score an aisle seat?

     After living in my alternative air-travel world for the past two days and after going for 40 hours without sleep (after all, who can sleep on an airplane?), I've started to move my priorities around like Legos -- and preserving my body just became a whole lot more important to me than listening to whatever random thoughts that my brain can dig up.

PS:  I finally arrived in Amman, Jordan, a city that appears to be very much like Los Angeles -- sprawling, populous, with lots of freeways, one that really requires a car.

     I'm going to sleep like a brick tonight and then tomorrow I'm going to go explore Annan's wide wide world of public transportation (fingers crossed that it actually exists!)

     Next stop after Amman?  Hopefully Bethlehem -- if the Israeli Defense Force doesn't screw it all up.


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Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world.   And while you're at it, please buy my books --thus helping me support my addiction to Justice and Truth  http://straitwellbooks.blogspot.com/2016/04/our-top-best-seller-right-now-is-bring.html 



     Plus here's a sneak preview of my latest book, a thrilling murder mystery entitled "Road Trip to Damascus," hopefully coming out by the end of 2017:  http://straitwellbooks.blogspot.com/2017/05/new-book-by-straitwell-press-coming-out.html