Live from Brussels
Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
Friday, June 28, 2002
Anyone reading this?
This quip at The Truth Laid Bear might explain the low number of visitors today... (I hope).
Baby's life saved in Jerusalem
In an unusual event for the region, a baby girl suffering from a previously incurable disease was saved by a team of Italian scientists.
(Last item on the Pledge thing, promise...)
What all this has made very clear to me once more is the stark contrast between the EU and US way of looking at politics and institutions in general. It is my feeling (based on nothing more than my own limited experience) that Americans in general feel much more involved when matters concerning their laws, institutions and constitution are concerned. There is a far greater willingness to discuss and debate than there is in Europe, where the people are more fatalistic about this, and have a 'what are you gonna do about it'-attitude.
Take the current situation: all over the web, message forums are overflowing with comments, and I presume letters-to-the-editor are pouring in at the newspapers. If I know anything about America, it's probably all over television too. People seem to care, sometimes even in a very emotional way. Americans generally have strong opinions on what is the Right Way to organise a state.
Now compare this to Belgium: we have a completely Byzantine state structure. For a country of 10 million people, we have six (6!) governments: one federal one, three state ones, and two language-community ones. And if we really wanted, we could have a seventh, but the Dutch-speaking community conveniently happens to live in one of the three 'states', so the state government is fused with the language-community one there. Brussels is a separate 'state', which also is an enclave within another one. To complicate things even more in Brussels, certain language-based matters are handled by different governments, depending on the language group one belongs to (Dutch, French or German). And to top all of that of, we have a monarchy, and the royal court has strong ties with the church. Yet we still don't have a civil war, and haven't had one since Belgium became independent in 1830 (yes, younger than the USA). Want to know why? Because people just don't care enough, and probably because it's much too complicated to worry about when there's soccer on TV.
Constitution? Yeah, we have one. What does it say? Beats me... (and most of the rest of Belgium).
US dollars: now unconstitutional?
Take a good look at the picture below:
This is a United States one dollar bill, used as currency by many, many people all over the world. But what's that? There's some text on it... Let's zoom in a bit:
Oops! I guess that means Americans have no way of paying their taxes anymore, since their money is now unconstitutional! Anytime they use this money to pay someone, they are implicitly saying they trust in God, no? I think that's worse than having to mumble a bit every morning in school... But still not as bad as being imprisoned for having a bible, or death by stoning for 'adulterers'.
Thursday, June 27, 2002
More Pledge fun
Here is the take of UserFriendly, the comic strip, on the whole Pledge thing... hilarious!
Pledge of Allegiance
Since we don't have anything resembling the Pledge of Allegiance here in Belgium (we don't have a republic, to begin with), the whole brouhaha about it's constitutionality comes across as a bit odd to us. But over at Silt there's a nice comment to make it all bit more understandable...
A new definition of 'Spectator Sport'
I don't know how long it will last, but when I write this you can watch a live chess tournament between an Intel and an AMD powered computer, all via a nifty Java applet. The page is called Das Schachduell(in German, but the board and pieces can be understood by anyone who knows how to play chess...)
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
News just in: Belgian law only applies in Belgium
It was just on the radio: the 'Sharon-trial' is off (link goes to WaPo article). A number of activists wanted to try Israeli prime minister Sharon for the Sabra and and Chatilla massacres under the Belgian Genocide Act of 1993, which allows Belgian courts to prosecute anyone who commited 'crimes against humanity' anywhere in the world. Now the judges in the appeals court which had to decide on the admissability of the case have declared that under article 13 of Belgian criminal law only people who are actually in Belgium can be prosecuted.
Some people dissagree with this: "We are not satisfied with this, not at all," said attorney Michael Verhaeghe. "This completely undermines universal jurisdiction. We cannot accept the verdict." On the other hand, I think this ruling is a good thing: if every country starts declaring its laws to be 'universal', that would mean anyone could be condemned for whatever cause by any court from here to the South Pole and back. Can you imagine sharia law in Amsterdam, the US Constitution in Madagascar, and aboriginal tribal customs in Argentina...?
Another nice quote from the article: Besides Sharon, war crimes proceedings have been brought in Belgium against several world figures including Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Cuban President Fidel Castro, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and ex-President Hashemi Rafsanjani of Iran. Actually, it's surprising George Bush still isn't on the list. I'm sure some activists would be more than willing to accuse him of crimes against humanity, no?
It's a slow bloggin day at Live from Brussels... I had fire prevention training all morning, so instead of sitting in front of my computer I got to empty fire extinguishers at burning gasoline cans. Fun! And then of course a long lunch break at an Italian restaurant. But I'm back now, promise.
Save these children!
I wonder what the 'Save The Children' crowd has to say about these pictures over at Middle East Realities. And there are links to more pictures, too.
Do these people really love their children? I sure can't tell...
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
So basically he's telling the Palestinians: "If you want to have a state, you have to behave first. And oh yeah, we're not talking to that Arafat-guy anymore, elect someone else". This might have an effect if the goal of most Palestinians really is to get a state of their own. If it is not, like the article in my previous blog-entry suggests, then this is playing in the Palestinians' hands. They would *want* more conflict, more involvement from the USA, more military action. All in the hope of provoking a reaction serious enough to drag along the rest of the Arab world, and get some *serious* jihad going...
How to counter such a strategy? Full scale re-occupation is not a workable option I think. Covert action against the inciters and the ring leaders would be more effective. Going after the money, too. But that would probably entail forcing regime changes in various Arab countries, and that might be precisely what Al Quaeda and the other jihad-loonies want: trick the West into attacking Arab regimes, hoping to start a great, big shooting war.
What to do about this? Go to war anyway, because we have more bombs than they have? Or try winning it by propaganda and education? Airdrop radio and television sets, and beam down an endless stream of Britney Spears videos and Coca Cola commercials. Sell them McDonalds hamburgers. Bring in the mini-skirts and blue jeans! In short, use our wealth and economic power to 'corrupt' their societies into becoming more free and capitalistic. Or would this take too long to have an effect? I want to hear your comments!
This might explain it
A bit further down on this page I wrote about how I don't understand the idea behind the Palestinian suicide attacks on civilian targets. Today I read this excellent analysis at STRATFOR, called The Palestinian Strategy. Read it! It actually makes a bit of sense now why they do it. The article also claims the goals of the Palestinians and Al Quaida are naturally converging, too.
(via: Winds of Change)
pretty polish women
Come and get 'em here! Apparently, my site is number twenty on Google if you look for 'pretty polish women'. The wonders of the net never cease to amaze me. What does amaze me is that someone actually clicked on that search result and viewed my site... (referrer logs are cool!)
Arafat surrounded V, Return of the IDF
Steven den Beste thinks Israel is sending the wrong message by surrounding Arafat's headquarters for the fifth time and not shooting him. The message to Arafat being: "Go ahead, we're just making an empty gesture here, we can't actually touch you."
I don't think the Israelis intend to send that message, but I don't think they care anyway. They know Arafat is unimportant and powerless now. How he feels about the situation, or what he thinks of it is irrelevant.
What does matter is getting at the real terrorists and their handlers. So, just as you plug up all the holes you can find before smoking out a hornets nest, the IDF blocks all possible safe havens where these scumbags might try to flee. I bet they post guards at the Church of the Nativity too now, before undertaking any major operation in the area.
Monday, June 24, 2002
On the spur of the moment
Of the Emergency Poetry System
Had this been a real Poem
It would have rhymed
But what does it mean? If you have Java installed, you can get live currency quotes on this page. At the moment, the dollar is trading at about 0.9703 Euro. That is the highest value in months. I've heard economists say on the radio they're not sure if this means the European economy is doing well, or just that the American one is going down the crapper faster. But I want to know what this will mean for me... cheaper fuel? Cheaper computer games? Cheaper BigMac's? Can anyone enlighten me in the comments section?
Let the flamefest begin!
Q: How do you heat up a nice bit of controversy during a slow news period?
A: Let Eric. S. Raymond write a piece on version fatigue and how open source will magically make it go away. Then wait for response and link to it from InstaPundit. Traffic ensues...
At this site you can make your own comparison diagrams of the Worlds Tallest Buildings. Even destroyed ones... Guess which ones were the tallest.
Amazing... Even now in the 21st century there are still people who have trouble with the word 'fuck' on television. This time it's in Australia. Bet they had no problem showing the 9/11 images.
Went to the garage this morning, to get a new tyre, brake-light and an appointment for a full maintenance. Left my car there, took a bus back. Missed my connection (because I forgot my Visor on the bus and had to wait for it to return; luckily it was found and intact). Had to walk for five to eight kilometres, in the sun, with a laptop dangling from my shoulder. And not a single car stopped to give me a lift... The disadvantages of not being eighteen, female and blonde.
Sunday, June 23, 2002
I feel stupid now
Ten minutes after I wrote my last entry, the assistance vehicle arrived. The mechanic took a look at my car,as it was sitting there jacked up and with the bolts of the front wheel removed. "What's the matter, can't get it off?" - "No, I tried pulling, and pulling harder, and it didn't work" - "Hmm... I think I've seen this problem before... wait a second"... KICK! And lo and behold... the wheel came off! That the spare one was one of those get-me-home thingies on which you can only do 80 km/h didn't help either... I've been constatly overtaken by old ladies and trucks all day
Technology is (sometimes) cool
Here I am, sitting in my car by the roadside, waiting for assistance to arrive. Flat tire, and I can't get off the fancy-schmancy sports wheels the previous owner had installed. Damn Italian cars ;-) But at least I can post to my blog wirelessly...