Live from Brussels

Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
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Saturday, October 04, 2003
A Little Test...

If you can see me and have ICQ, my nickname is 'dilbert' and my UIN is 120941635... drop me a line!

The End of 'Everything for Free'?

The recent loss of 3000 jobs at a Ford plant in Belgium (link) has once again highlighted the main problem with the Belgian economy: labour costs are way too high for employers, due to taxes, social security and other assorted schemes to take away money dreamt up by the government.

The current government of (economically right) liberals and socialists is unlikely to solve the problem: one half wants to get rid of as many taxes as possible, the other half wants to subsidize everything. Net result: zero because they can't agree... But at least the busses are 'free' (i.e. paid for by the working part of the population).

But this might be a turning point: more and more I hear regular people and media figures blame the loss of jobs on the high cost of labour, and not on 'globalization', 'evil multinationals' or 'capitalism'. Sure, there are still people who think this is all about Bush punishing Belgium for its actions during the run-up to the war in Iraq, but they are a minority. The actions of our Minister for Anti-American Relations Louis Michel (love that title, it was in a newspaper this week) were stupid, but one would guess Ford makes such decisions based on cold, hard numbers, not on political sentiments (though I wouldn't rule out political sentiments as a factor when the numbers are nearly equal...)

Observations on America (18)

Back after being ill...

  • Traffic signs in America require far more literacy than the ones in Belgium or Europe in general. Instead of just abstract shapes and colours, they are much more verbose: 'Yield', 'No turn on red', 'Bear Right', 'One Way', 'Speed Limit...', 'No passing zone'...

    (For an overview of Belgian traffic signs, see this site and click on the various articles: it is a site with the full Belgian traffic law, in Dutch)

  • Friday, October 03, 2003
    Did I Mention...

    That I've been ill for the past few days? Better now, thank you for asking...

    Read the Report, Because the Media Sure Won't Tell You What is in It

    Before I forget, here is a link to an analysis by Andrew Sullivan which does tell you what is in the report, complete with links to the original text so you can see for yourself... Blogosphere 1, Media 0!

    No Wonder Nobody in Belgium Believes in WMDs

    Look how Gazet van Antwerpen, one of the major newspapers in the Flemish part of Belgium reports on the Kay-report... (link goes to original article in Dutch, machine translated version follows below...)

    The report of the American weapon inspector David Kay concerning its search for mass destruction weapons in Iraq has been received at the international nuclear energy agency (IAEA) in Vienna with necessary scepticism.
    According to diplomats the first impression that is the statements in the report especially is based on conversations with Iraqi scientists and not on facts. "the text contains a heap assumptions and "maybes", said of the diplomats. It is the working method of the IAEA sound conclusions reach which to support on proofs. Kay say in its report, which he presented Thursday behind closed doors to the American congress, which he no indications has been possible find that Iraq steps after 1998 still has undertaken to produce nuclear weapons.
    Inspectors of the IAEA have, for they Iraq in March had leave, observed that the Iraqi core programme lay in tatters and said consider it very improbable that Iraq only activity in that direction had undertaken. But because they had demolish their research prematurely they could pass no end judgement.
    Kay have got however "little above water what did not know the inspectors of the IAEA already", said of the diplomats.

    Note how there is not a single mention about all the chemical programs they found, and nothing about the deception mechanisms used by the Iraqi regime.

    So next time I run into somebody here in Belgium who wants to discuss Iraq with me, this is what they really know about what was in the report: nothing! Thank you, mass media...

    Monday, September 29, 2003
    No Observation Today

    I'm feeling a bit ill at the moment... blogging to resume tomorrow if I feel a bit better by then...