Live from Brussels

Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
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Saturday, January 31, 2004
Added Skype Button

As you can see in the left column, I've created myself a Skype account: supposedly this is to be the hot, new P2P internet telephony thing. If you have Skype installed, you should be able to call me by clicking the button (if my laptop is on and I'm paying attention)...

Friday, January 30, 2004
New Diplomatic Incident Between Belgium and U.S.
(Hardly Any Americans Notice)

Our Minister of Defense has made some pretty idiotic comments in the press lately. Note that his criticisms about inefficiencies in the U.S. military might very well be true, but as a government minister you're not supposed to say these things about your allies... And your certainly not supposed to tell the press who you'd vote for in another country's elections. What if G.W. Bush suddenly starts declaring his preference in the upcoming elections in Belgium? Our newspapers would have to print extra editions to adequately denounce this arrogant foreign meddling in our democratic process... But if it's the other way round? A stern letter from the P.M. to the Minister, and that's it.

Here is an article in De Standaard, a Belgian newspaper, describing the events. Translation follows for those of you who read this blog and still don't know Dutch ;-)

Flahaut cause new row with the US

BRUSSELS -- Colin Powell, on the request of the white house, has called his Belgian colleague Louis Michel to express new American dissatisfaction. Everything revolves around an interview with the Minister of Defense, André Flahaut, in Humo (ed. a magazine). The pronouncement: "If I were an American, I would vote for a democrat'' is considered by Washington to be unacceptable interference. Also some opinions on the American army have been taken very seriously.

Prime Ministere Guy Verhofstadt was already informed last Friday by the American embassy in Brussels that there was a new row coming with Washington. Everything revolves around an interview in the magazine Humo of last week, with minister André Flahaut (PS). Which was quickly translated at the embassy of the United States in Brussels, as is usual nowadays, and sent to Washington.

At the Pentagon (the ministry of defence), the State department (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and even the White House responses were furious. Especially the passage concerning his preference for a Democrat in the White House was not taken well. But also Flahauts considerations concerning "the inefficient American army", the genocide law and the actions of the US in Iraq and Iran have caused large rancour.

According to Flahaut: "The Americans throw so much money at their army that it simply can no longer act efficiently. If they have to get fifteen men from point A to point B, they will use three planes to be certain that it succeeds. We would send one plane, or even better: first examine if we cannot fly along with an ally'', says the minister.

American circles confirmed yesterday that Flahaut, now more than ever, has been declared persona non grata in Washington.

After lecture of the interview also premier Verhofstadt, who wants to avoid a new row at any cost with the US, Friday immediately has written a letter to his Minister of Defense. In this he calls Flahauts judgements "inappropriate with regards to an ally ''. In the highest government circles it is not ruled out that it will stay at that.

Also Minister for Foreign Affairs Louis Michel (MR), who had just started a charm offensive directed at the US, could not appreciate Flahauts demarche. He refused all comment yesterday however.

True or Not... Bad for Belgium Anyway

There have been many speculations about an Iraqi newspaper that broke the story that many foreigners and organisations received oil bribes from Saddam Hussein's regime. It is not known yet if it is true or not, but investigations are ongoing: / News / World / Middle East / Iraqis to probe reported oil bribes.

What I find most surprising is that no Belgians or Belgian organisations are on the list of bribed ones. Either way, bad news for Louis Michel, our Clown Minister of Foreign Affairs: in one case, Saddam didn't think Belgium was important enough to be bribed, in the other case whoever faked the documents didn't think Belgium was important enough to smear and slander... All this despite his valiant efforts to stop the war and stand up to those big, evil Americans.

Let's just hope his pals in France and Germany won't let him down...

So That's What He Sounds Like...

Been listening to Hugh Hewitt's radio show at the moment. James Lileks is sitting in as host. I've been reading his columns every day for two or three years now, and finally I can hear what his voice sounds like... Quite a strange experience.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Gotta Love This

BBC NEWS | UK | Politics | BBC castigated in Hutton report. Note the scare quotes in ... "defective" BBC editorial processes...

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

On the subject of the security fence/apartheid wall (depending on your viewpoint) in Israël/Palestine (again, depending on your viewpoint), a friend sent me this URL: Let's remove all fences! Kind of puts the whole thing into perspective, if you ask me...

Monday, January 26, 2004
A Satirical Political Beliefs Assessment Test

Just got a link to this page in my mailbox. It was described as: "A humorous test to discover if you're a conservative, liberal, libertarian, or a communist."
I checked it out, and although it is a length read and it contains some small mistakes (it seems some beliefs or labels were accidentally swapped around a few times) it certainly was a funny read... check it out: A Satirical Political Beliefs Assessment Test.

IKEA as a Computer Game

Found this on Blogdex: The Morning News - The Non-Expert: IKEA. A hilarious look at shopping for stuff in an IKEA store, written like a walk-through of a 3D-first-person-shooter game.