Live from Brussels

Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
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Thursday, October 16, 2003
 
'Listengate' Scandal in Regional Parliament

Amusing story going on in the Flemish parliament (a regional parliament in Belgium). Apparently, all meeting rooms in the parliament building are equipped with microphones and loudspeakers to enhance speaker's voices. These mikes are also used to record all official meetings.

There is also a button in each room marked 'confidential meeting', which most parties pressed when using any of these rooms for closed, fraction-only meetings. But this button only disabled the possibility to listen in from outside the room (used by journalists for regular committee meetings etc...). The recording still happened...

And the recordings were available over the intranet of the parliament, meaning that any tech-savvy fraction would be able to listen in to any private meeting of the other parties... No real accusations have been made yet, but it turns out only the Socialist party (part of the government) completely turned off all sound equipment for their private meetings.

Coincidence?

 
Dead Americans not Newsworthy (in Belgium)

I'm listening to the Hugh Hewitt show over internet broadcast while doing the dishes and the laundry. They are discussing Arafat's responsibility for today's bombing in Gaza where three Americans were killed. This appears to be the first time since the seventies that Palestinian 'militants' have killed Americans on purpose. And the callers are irate over it.

In my opinion, this is an immensely significant event. Yet the Belgian media seem to be largely ignoring it, as usual. When the U.S. starts getting more belligerent towards Arafat in the near future, the reason will have escaped most Belgians. Luckily there still is the internet...


Wednesday, October 15, 2003
 
Observations on America (23)

Touchy one...

  • Jesus is still very big in America, but, like everything else over there, there seems to be no lack of different brands of Jesus to choose from. In many towns it is not unusual to see two, three or more churches in the same street or square, each belonging to a different denomination: First Methodist Yaddayadda Church, Reformed Church of Blabla, Roman Catholic Church of St. Somethingorother, United Church of Foobar... And I bet each one of them thinks of itself as the only 'true' Christians, with the rest being misguided but well-meaning flocks of sheep waiting to be shown the true light.

  • Tuesday, October 14, 2003
     
    Operation Give

    If you haven't done so already, send some toys or money to Operation Give: Sending smiles to Iraq one toy at a time.

    Remember: it's for the children...
    And for one time it's even true...

     
    Free Condoms for Everyone!

    Hmmm, it seems the era of 'Everything for Free' in Belgian politics still isn't over yet. Dog of Flanders comments on the newest measure: condom-vouchers for young people!

    Gee, we really have nothing better to throw money at in Belgium, it seems... Why even vouchers? Just handing out condoms for free would be much more efficient and require less paperwork.

    I think I know the answer to that: this measure is designed to cost little (how many kids are going to apply for the paperwork in order to save three or four bucks a month with a good chance of having to explain to their parents what they are up to?), but it is a huge attention-getter. I bet the Catholic opposition is going to go bonkers over this...

    So all the other measures in the budget are going to quietly slip through: like booking 5 billion Euros coming from taking over Belgacom's pension fund as income, thus balancing the books this year, and the fact that no substantial tax cuts are forthcoming despite repeated promises during the election...

    Quite clever, I say, quite clever...

    Monday, October 13, 2003
     
    More Antwerp Scandals...

    Shortly after a bunch of high ranking police officers, firechiefs and civil servants accused of buying personal stuff with their city Visa cards had to be questioned by city council aldermen who were under investigation for the same thing, a new scandal erupted in Antwerp...

    A Green party alder(wo)man was found out to live in a house rented from the city's social service. For this house, she paid the monthly sum of... €144! That's about $160! Per month! Almost for free...

    Despite saying that 'she is not to be blamed for anything', even the local and national Green party want her to resign. She 'will think about it long and hard', and her fellow Green alderman plus the socialist mayor have come to her defense.

    And come next municipal election, these people will be surprised that the far-right Vlaams Blok gains another 10%.

    (see here for more info in Dutch)

     
    Media Planet

    Anyone visiting the Media Planet exposition in Brussels this Friday or Sunday? I'll be working at Belgacom's booth in the 'Education Zone', showing people how Skynet Blogs works.
    Skynet Blogs is the first blogging service in Belgium, and I was heavily involved in creating it, for those who missed the initial announcement here...
    I'm trying to set up a 'blogger meeting' at 12.30 on both days, so if you're going, drop by! And leave a comment here if you intend to come...

     
    Observations on America (22)

    Next...

  • American theme parks have turned waiting-in-line into a separate attraction! Actors in costumes, mini-expositions, video-projections, creative lighting... everything is used to keep visitors entertained during the wait. Why people would want to pay for special 'skip-the-row' tickets (which really are sold at the entrance!) is beyond me. Why miss al the entertainment?