Live from Brussels

Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
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Friday, July 19, 2002

For the next ten to twelve days, blogging will be very light to non-exsistent, due to vacation reasons. Well, vacation, actually I'm going to spend ten days cooking at a youth camp (from a local Chiro group, something a lot like the boy-scouts but with girls too). During the camp I'll be posting some pictures and comments (in Dutch, I'm afraid) on this site. But keep coming back here now and then, you never know when I might post something...

Instinctive thoughts

Yesterday as I drove home from work, I passed NATO headquarters, as usual. But something was different: all the flags were flying at half-pole. At first I thought, oh, no, not another terrorist attack! But then I remembered: Joseph Luns, the ex-secretary-general of NATO recently passed away.
But still, I found it a strange experience to instinctively think of terrorism first when I saw those flags. Anyway, I should have known better: after september 11th, only the American flag was at half-pole.

Parsley update

Charles Krauthammer wrote a column in the Washinton Post called Parsley And Pride, commenting on the Silly War of Parsley Island. And he really sticks it to the EU.


David Warren wrote an article today about how the end is nigh for the regime in Iran. Some very interesting information in there, like this quote: In a further sign that the regime was losing its grip, it then confined its police to barracks in Isfahan, as it had done the previous day in Tehran -- doubting their loyalty. Instead they sent foreign thugs with paramilitary training, chiefly Palestinian and Iraqi Arabs, and Uzbeks and Tadzhiks from Afghanistan, to beat the demonstrators down. It was a desperate measure -- an implicit acknowledgement that the whole Persian people have now sided with the opposition. I totally missed this in the other media I read, by the way. Read the article, it has much more...

Thursday, July 18, 2002
The other perspective

Here is a Middle Eastern perspective on the Perejil crisis, from Morocco considers Spanish operation in Leila islet ''declaration of war''. Meanwhile, those unilateralist Spaniards have refused an offer for mediation by the UN: The secretary-general "regrets any unilateral action taken so far and hopes that both parties will adhere to their original undertaking to resolve the issue through peaceful means," U.N. deputy spokeswoman Hua Jiang said. "The secretary-general stands ready to offer his good offices should the two sides so desire."

Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Mixed feelings

  • "The Holocaust didn't happen"
  • "[INSERT MINORITY HERE] are lazy, and should be banned from the country"
  • "Smoking cigarettes of brand X will make you look cool".
What do these three sentences have in common, you might wonder.
Well, saying them can get you arrested in Belgium, that's what they have in common. We have a ban on Holocaust denial, inciting racism and... tobbaco advertising! In general, I am against all three bans, as I believe very strongly in free speech, and as long as these laws are in place, we won't have truely free speech in Belgium. The only way to handle Holocaust denial, racism and tobbaco advertising is by using one's own free speech rights to attack and disprove the messages they are trying to bring. Banning the messages won't work and will only lend them credibility.
But what about the title 'Mixed feelings' above this post? Well, today the Belgian senate struck down a proposal which would grant an exception on the tobbaco advertising ban to the Formula 1 racing circuits in Zolder and Francochamps. On the one hand, I am against the ban on principle, but on the other hand I believe laws should be there for everyone, no exceptions allowed. So I'm happy that F1 and big tobbaco money was unable to create a legal exception, but I'm unhappy that we still don't have free speech here.
And we still subsidize tobbaco growing and healthcare for smokers, which is an entirely different matter. Plus the state earns a pretty eurocent on tobacco taxes too...

I've been noticed!

Yay! Thanks to Combustible Boy being quoted, my name now appears on Warblogger Watch (link doesn't work ATM, blogger archive bug...)! Does that mean I'm famous now?


To prove that blogging can be just about anything, USS Clueless has a nice long post on... Dragons vs. modern military weapons. You have to read it to believe it.

Moroccan soldiers were sent back

For those of you still following the mini-Falklands war over Perejil, Reuters reports that only six Moroccan troops remained on the island when the Spanish retook it early this morning, and that they were handed over to Moroccan border guards. I guess that ends it then, unless the Moroccans really want to go to war over this.

That was quick!

I didn't believe they would have the balls to do it, but the Spanish have recaptured Perejil! The CNN report claims that no blood was shed, but the fate of the Moroccan 'invasion army' of twelve is unknown. Perhaps they've been detained as illegal immigrants?

Some more Perejil background

The BBC has this article burried deep on its website, with some more information on the Perejil conflict between Spain and Morocco. The diplomats are all over this one, it appears. Let's see the EU handle this in their 'multilateralist' and 'postmodern' way. Since the US has very little interests in the matter, this seems like a great chance for the EU to prove that their diplomacy really works, given a chance. But then again, the government of Morocco is not Bin Laden or Arafat, so the comparison doesn't hold up entirely. And nobody's been shot at so far.

Finland bombing

There seems to be awfully little in the media about the car bombing (permalinks broken, it's the one with the picture) in Finland today. Probably because it is an 'isolated incident' which has 'nothing to do' with terrorism. No, nothing to see here... move along!

Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Border incident

I don't know what to think of this story:Morocco defies Spain over Perejil. Apparently, Morocco has landed a few soldiers on an uninhabited island very close to it's coast, and the Spanish claim it is their island. I don't know who has the best claim, but I'd think it would be very unwise for a relatively poor African country to mess with a NATO member over a few hundred square metres of rock. It all reminds me very much of the Falklands war, frankly. And we all know how that ended for the Argentinians...

Unexpected beneficiaries of Enron/Worldcom/Andersen scandal

CNN is reporting on some unexpected consequences resulting from the financial scandals. Who'd have thought Playboy would profit so much from this? Only in America?
I definitely don't remember anybody from my old company (Lernout & Hauspie) posing nude when things went south there. Hmmm....

Dollar vs Euro

Since yesterday the Euro coins in my pocket are now officially worth more than their dollar counterparts. I don't know how long this will keep up, but you can always have a look at these U.S. Dollar Live Currency Exchange Rates. Anyhow, I don't know much about international currency markets, but I guess this means that when I go to the USA next summer to drive down route 66 the Big Macs along the way are going to be sligtly cheaper for me. Correct? Any other consequences I should worry about? Oh, yeah, cheaper T-shirts from ThinkGeek!

Are they joking?

At first I thought this was an elaborate hoax, or a joke set up by some activist group, but judging by the reaction on the web it seems to be genuine. I'm talking about Operation TIPS - Terrorist Information and Prevention System, which aims to set up a large network of informants who are to report 'suspicious' activities in the United States. Are they really turning the USA into a police state? Or is all of this blown out of proportion? Comment away...

Monday, July 15, 2002

To show our support for the Iranian people, we each have agreed to display this letter, in English and in Farsi, on our pages from sunrise to sunset today, Tehran time.

We are not politicians, nor are we generals. We hold no power to dispatch diplomats to negotiate; we can send no troops to defend those who choose to risk their lives in the cause of freedom.

What power we have is in our words, and in our thoughts. And it is that strength which we offer to the people of Iran on this day.

Across the diverse and often contentious world of weblogs, each of us has chosen to put aside our differences and come together today to declare our unanimity on the following simple principles:

- That the people of Iran are allies of free men and women everywhere in the world, and deserve to live under a government of their own choosing, which respects their own personal liberties

- That the current Iranian regime has failed to create a free and prosperous society, and attempts to mask its own failures by repression and tyranny

We do not presume to know what is best for the people of Iran; but we are firm in our conviction that the policies of the current government stand in the way of the Iranians ability to make those choices for themselves.

And so we urge our own governments to turn their attention to Iran. The leaders and diplomats of the world's democracies must be clear in their opposition to the repressive actions of the current Iranian regime, but even more importantly, must be clear in their support for the aspirations of the Iranian people.

And to the people of Iran, we say: You are not alone. We see your demonstrations in the streets; we hear of your newspapers falling to censorship; and we watch with anticipation as you join the community of the Internet in greater and greater numbers. Our hopes are with you in your struggle for freedom. We cannot and will not presume to tell you the correct path to freedom; that is for you to choose. But we look forward to the day when we can welcome your nation into the community of free societies of the world, for we know with deepest certainty that such a day will come.

English: Language of the World?

Take a look at the website to see some amazing examples of mistranslations from Japanese to English, most of the time the result of insufficient understanding of all the nuances of the language. Makes a person feel better about his or her own command of the language...

Food... mmmh!

Eric over at Armed and Dangerous has an interesting article on the similarities between diets and religion, and how he decides what to eat (the 'Caveman' diet). Thought provoking stuff (and it gives you an appetite, too!).

Sunday, July 14, 2002

This evening I talked to a friend who is involved in the 'Bombspotting' movement here in Belgium. In short they are people who oppose the presence of American nuclear weapons on Belgian airbases. Once a year they stage a 'civilian inspection' of these bases, which basically means they cross the barbed wire, run around for a while and then get hauled away by civil and military police.
He told me that this year's 'inspection' will be the last one, and that they are looking into other ways of protesting, since this one doesn't seem to have much effect. So now they are figuring out ways to make the use of the nuclear weapons impossible by impeding the delivery. This means they are going to try to sabotage the F-16 fighters on the base! They plan to do this by throwing paint on the canopy, if they can get near enough.
Ignoring for a moment the fact that these planes can be flown purely on instruments, and that they would accomplish very little with paint, I hope they get hauled away or even shot before they get to those planes. I'd think very little of our army if they wouldn't be able to stop a bunch of punks, anarchists, lefty protestors and other assorted softies from getting to and sabotaging vital military installations. (And imagine the shame the Russians would feel: investing in all that military equipment for years during the cold war, and all they really needed was a crowd of usefull idiots...)

UPDATE: here is a link to the bomspotting campaign website