Live from Brussels

Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
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Friday, November 07, 2003
I Wonder What The Belgian Media Makes Of It

Over at Instapundit Glenn Reynolds is collecting reactions to Bush's latest speech in which he explicitly claims that bringing democracy to the Middle East is now an official policy goal of his administration. Many people are already calling it a 'defining moment' of his presidency.

Knowing how such things usually go, I wonder when (if at all) we'll hear anything about this in the Belgian media.

Mobile Movie Review

I just posted my first ever movie review with my phone: check it out here. Yeah, so it's in Dutch. I don't care: I was just testing this new killer feature for Skynet blogs, the only Belgian blogging service in town (which I helped create, by the way)...

Here is the translation: "Just saw the latest matrix movie: that didn't make any sense! The action was cool though. Tommorow I'll look up on the web what it was about!"

Thursday, November 06, 2003

A colleague told me Victoria has gone gold. It is supposed to be the sequel to Europa Universalis II, a very nifty historical game. I have high expectations for this game, as its predecessors were most excellent!

The only drawback is that the game probably won't be sold in Belgium, according to some posters on the game's forum. Oh, well, that probably means ordering it abroad, like last time.


Just bought my tickets on-line to see the Matrix: Revolutions movie later tonight. I hear the story is a real stinker but there is going to be a fair amount of stuff being blown up in spectacular ways. Oh, and nifty kung-fu action too...
I might post more on this later...

Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Somebody Call Michael Moore! - Boy fatally stabbed at school - Nov. 5, 2003

I can already see the movie : "Bowling for Birkbeck", in which the intrepid documentary-maker risks life and limb to expose those crazy, knife-wielding Brits for what they really are: crazy and knife-wielding!

Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Observations on America (25)

Possibly the last of the series...

  • Sometimes it's the small details that confuse you. I still remember the first time I went to pump gas in the U.S.A.: aside from the fact that there are no diesel pumps for regular cars (because there are almost no cars running on diesel in the States), the names for the different kinds of gasoline were completely different from what I was used to. Here you basically have Super and Super plus (slightly higher octane), both unleaded. There used to be 'Normal' too, I remember from when I was little, but not anymore. In the U.S.A. you can choose from three kinds: cheap,slightly more expensive and most expensive (names vary according to brand... regular, gold, silver, premium, whatever...). Another thing that stumped me at first was that after taking out the nozzle in the U.S.A. you are often required to pull or raise some kind of lever before you can start pumping. In Belgium, as soon as you lift the nozzle from the pump a spring automatically releases some kind of safety valve.

    A Reply...

    I got a reply to my letter to the editor. Unfortunately, it is less than satisfactory. I can't offer a direct reprint, because of copyright & privacy concerns, but let me tell you the gist of it.

    I asked for a source for the 'end of the war' claim, and Paul Geudens, the author of the editorial, gave me one: a Reuters/AFP news message from May 2nd, titled (in Dutch) "Bush announces official end of the war". This seemed to satisfy my question, but alas, it didn't.

    Because in the article, again, there was an explicit quote from Bush that "major combat operations" were over, and a White House spokesman was also quoted as saying that this didn't "legally speaking mean an end to hostilities in Iraq". But no direct "End of the War" quote. At all.

    So the "End of the War" claim in the article's title was unsupported by the direct quotes in it's text. The title was again just another journalist's (unsupported) opinion. Which was exactly the problem I was compaining about in the first place!

    So far, I've exchanged a few e-mail messages with mister Geudens about this, but all I got were polite but very short answers not really touching on the central point of my complaint. I've asked him for permission to reproduce his mail here, but he said I couldn't due to strict copyright laws concerning news agency texts. That's why I'm paraphrasing his message, by the way.

    If you want to contact Paul Geudens about this yourself, go to the contact page of the GVA website and click on 'Redactie Algemeen' (general editorial staff) to send mail. That's how I reached him, anyway. I got a personal mail in reply, but I don't want to publish his personal e-mail address here.

    Monday, November 03, 2003

    Here is a translation of the mail I sent. By the way, I already got a reply, but more on that tomorrow!


    Today I read following paragraph in Gazet van Antwerpen (the name of the paper) and also on the website:

    "Since last May, when president George Bush jr. announced the official end of the war in Iraq, more than 130 American soldiers died in and around Baghdad. That is more than during the invasion. And the situation is not improving. Last weekend more attacks happened in Iraq. With (among others) fifteen dead in a Chinook helicopter as a consequence".

    Can somebody ask Paul Geudens, author of this paragraph, what his source is for the claim that president Bush announced 'the end of the war' in May? I've been hearing more and more journalists lately who adhere to this view (also on radio and TV), but I can't find a source for this.

    What I do know is that Bush annouced 'the end of major combat operations' back then, aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Lincoln. That's different from 'the end of the war' I think. Large combat operations like massive bombardments or divisions on the offensive indeed haven't occured since the end of May. Also on that carrier deck he explicitly said there was still a lot of work to do in Iraq and Afghanistan, like rebuilding and security, according to me.

    Claiming now that Bush announced 'the end of the war' back then appears rather intellectualy dishonest or at least sloppy. If professional journalists can't be trusted to accurately represent an easily verifiable quote of five months ago, why should they be trusted when other information is concerned?

    Hoping to find less of these mistakes in my morning newspaper,

    Maarten Schenk
    Reader from Halen

    Letter to the Editor

    In today's Gazet van Antwerpen newspaper, the author of the opinion piece used the 'official end of the war' claim. Here is my e-mail to the editor:


    Vandaag las ik in de Gazet van Antwerpen (en ook op de website volgende paragraaf in het opiniestuk:

    “Sedert mei van dit jaar, toen president George Bush jr. het officiële einde van de oorlog in Irak afkondigde, vonden al meer dan 130 Amerikaanse soldaten de dood in en rond Bagdad. Dat zijn er meer dan tijdens de inval zelf. En de toestand verbetert er niet op. Afgelopen weekend vonden in Irak weer verscheidene aanslagen plaats. Met (onder meer) vijftien doden in een Chinook-helikopter tot gevolg.”

    Kan iemand aan Paul Geudens, de auteur van deze paragraaf, vragen wat zijn bron is voor de bewering dat president Bush “het einde van de oorlog” afkondigde in mei? Ik hoor de laatste tijd meer en meer journalisten die deze stelling aanhangen (ook op radio en TV), maar ik kan hiervoor geen bronvermelding vinden.

    Wat ik wel weet is dat Bush toen ‘het einde van grote gevechtsoperaties’ aankondigde, aan boord van het vliegdekschip U.S.S. Lincoln. Dit is nog iets anders dan het ‘einde van de oorlog’, dunkt me. Grote gevechtsoperaties zoals massale bombardementen of oprukkende divisies zijn er inderdaad niet meer geweest sinds mei. Hij heeft toen op dat vliegdek volgens mij ook nog expliciet gezegd dat er nog veel ander werk te doen was in Irak en Afghanistan, zoals heropbouw en beveiliging.

    Nu dus beweren dat Bush toen ‘het einde van de oorlog’ heeft afgekondigd, komt dus tamelijk intellectueel oneerlijk over, of toch minstens slordig. Als men beroepsjournalisten al niet meer kan vertrouwen om een makkelijk terug te vinden citaat vijf maanden na datum correct weer te geven, wat zou men hen dan nog vertrouwen indien het om andere informatie gaat?

    In de hoop dat ik in de toekomst minder van dergelijke missers in mijn ochtendkrant mag vinden,

    Maarten Schenk
    Lezer uit Halen

    Let's hope it makes a difference!

    Helpful Link for Journalists

    The next idiot journalist who claims that 'Since President Bush declared the end of the war in May, ...' should click this link.

    Now, once more, all together:

    The End of Major Combat Operations != The End of The War.

    See? That wasn't too hard to find, now wasn't it?


    ...or Yet Another Truck Accident Causing A Massive Traffic Jam this morning. Some trucker lost control over his machine in a curve early this morning, causing an eleven vehicle pile-up on the on-ramp connecting one of Brussel's main highways (the E40) to the Brussels ring road near Zaventem (where the international airport is located).
    Result: on-ramp blocked from early morning to noon, gigantic traffic jams in all directions. Oh, yeah, and I was late for work.

    Sunday, November 02, 2003
    Belgian State News Inaccuracy

    Damn! Today I've heard on three separate occasions that G.W. Bush declared the war was over in May. Twice on the radio news and once on the television news. I was under the impression I heard him say that 'major combat operations' were over. Which is true: I haven't heard about any divison-level combat action going on in Iraq lately.

    But if we can't even trust our media to get such things right, how can we trust them with more important things?