April 22nd, 2012

Another breakdown of my administration. Luckily.

European legislation forces member states to keep their deficit under 3%. The administrations (left and right) of my tiny country have not been saving and restructuring enough when the tides were high, and so now we’re slipping into 4% – 4.5% area. And of course our right winged administration (with a minority in parliament and held prisoner by the ultra-right xenophobic party) started negotiations to salvage 18 billion Euros, even drawing in the ultra-religious party in their desperation to make it. Doing that in a cyclic pattern (as opposed to anti-cyclic) is of course killing the economy further and driving more people into (relative) poverty. The negotiations failed yesterday, after 7 weeks. It is next to certain the administration will hand in their resignation tomorrow and new elections will be held in September.

As far as I am concerned: the sooner the better.

In the mean time, we will surely not hit the 3% mark, and the added political inertia will result in a degraded credit rating (we’re still AAA now). Well, f*** ‘m, the power of the “financial markets’ and the ‘credit rating bureaus’ has grown way out of proportions.Откъде да купя иконаидея за подарък

March 21st, 2012

The death penalty in my country

Because of a currently court case about an extreme child molester (the perp even raped a 19 days old child) capital punishment is suddenly discussed in the popular right winged hysterical media. Here are the facts regarding my own country,

The Netherlands removed capital punishment from law in 1870. The last Dutchman being executed in peace time was the 27 year old Johannes Nathan. He was publicly executed (hanged) in 1860 on the market square in Maastricht for killing his mother in law. In 1945 capital punishment was re-introduced for crimes of war. Until 1952 39 war criminals were executed based on that special law, the last 2 on March 21st 1952. Ever since, captial punishment has been removed from the law. Abolishment of the death penalty is mandatory to join the European Union.

March 16th, 2012

The horrific shooting and the fallout

It is reported here that the US will not co-operate with the investigation on that awful shooting by the soldier, killing three families. It might be reporting bias, I don’t know. It seems to me that the “let us handle this, we know better” attitude, amplified by the man being flown out of the country, is simply making the US image abroad worse?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying “toss the guy over to the Afghans”. I am not so ignorant. He’d probably be quartered or something. Somehow I do not believe (a supposed) metal disorder would be regarded whatsoever. But not co-operating in the investigation?

Jesse Helms in a micro cosmos. Sigh.

 

February 22nd, 2012

The Dutch Euthanesia practice (through US politicians eyes)

Our lovely friend Rick Santorum:

In the Netherlands, people wear different bracelets if they are elderly. And the bracelet is: ‘Do not euthanize me.’ Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands but half of the people who are euthanized — ten percent of all deaths in the Netherlands — half of those people are enthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital. They go to another country, because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, they will not come out of that hospital if they go in there with sickness.

It always makes me happy when other people know how things work over here :) Now the good part. The Washington Post did fact checking! With a disclamer too! (Spoiler alert: Rick gets four Pinoccio’s, a high-score mark)

Full disclosure: The Fact Checker’s parents emigrated from Holland and I have direct, personal experience with the practice of euthanasia there. My father’s brother requested euthanasia when he was diagnosed with a terminal disease and after various remedies were ineffective. In the United States, he might have lived another two or three months, in great pain, and likely would have lapsed into a coma before death. But, after a conclusion by the Dutch medical establishment that he had no chance of survival, he arranged for his death at home with his family at his side. He even called me an hour before his death to say good-bye.

Hmmmm, now how does that disclaimer sound? Oh and just for the record, I have never seen a Santorum bracelet in my life! Idiot.

On second thought, let me add a semi-personal note to this. A ex-colleague and good friend of mine told me his fathers story. I will quote freely.

My dad was a janitor at a high school and he was smart, very socially engaged and immensely popular. One day he had an awful stroke which left him paralyzed all over. He could not speak, just write on a small chalk board. His vision was badly impaired too: he could only see a rather small “tunnel” somewhere above and to the side of his center of vision. Most of the time he was looking at the ceiling. His mental capabilities were unaffected.

One day I came to visit him and he pointed me to a stack of documents, indicating I should read them. To my surprise and initial horror it was the entire legal and medical paperwork for his own euthanasia. He had consulted a doctor, the mandatory second opinion, etcetera, etcetera, all by himself. My mom was unable to support him in this in any way. Of course we talked about it through great length, but it was very clear he had made up his mind. He had decided that he had had a wonderful and fulfilling life, and that living on would simply be a dishonor to who he was.

And so, very eerie, a date was set for him to die. Weird. My calendar: May 20th [y-t: I am making up the date of course]: Dad dies, and it was 2 months in the future. When the day finally came, we were all there to say our farewells. Then, the doctor came, who asked him one final time if this was what he really wanted. It was. He administered the lethal injection and we witnessed him peacefully slide away.

 

February 2nd, 2012

The Gun

I don’t like weapons. At all. I don’t like war (naturally), I do not like the excesses of war. I don’t appreciate violence (which is why I hardly watch any television anymore). Then on TED, with a definite Dutch accent, Peter van Uhm, the Dutch chief of defense, explains why he choose The Gun.

Maybe it is good to mention that in my country we have no tradition of “respect for the soldier”, the “honor of serving once country”, that is rooted far far deeper in US society.

Note: Van Uhm lost a son in the Afghanistan war in 2008.художник на икониИкони на светци

January 2nd, 2012

The casualties

I have no idea how “hot” Iraq is in the US after the withdrawal of the troops. Notwithstanding, IraqBodyCount published the latest data, all in interactive, informative graphs. Some data:

  • Total body count: 162.000
  • Civilian percentage: 79% those 162.000
  • Under age 18: 8.5% of deaths with obtained age record (45.779)

The number of civilian deaths in Iraq in 2011 was almost at the same level as in 2010 – there has now been no noticeable downward trend since mid-2009. As observed in IBC’s previous annual report, recent trends indicate a persistent low-level conflict in Iraq that will continue to kill civilians at a similar rate for years to come.1 While these data indicate no improvement, time will tell whether the withdrawal of US forces will have an effect on casualty levels.

December 1st, 2011

The sweet taste of justice

Let me make a little sidestep first. In my country a sort of state-authorized semi tax office operates called BUMA/STEMRA. They “tax” radio stations, websites, pub owners, employers and whatnot for playing music, on behalf of the producers and writers. It is of course a big scam covered under a blanked of fairness. They have been coming under more and more pressure as they are sitting on huge amounts of cashed money, but somehow are “unable” to redistribute that money to the legitimate owners.

Double sidestep: the same goes, but irrelevant for this story for another “foundation” that “taxes” media like CD-R’s, DVD-R’s and in the old days cassette tapes, as we, the public, are obviously using them to illegally copy music and movies. They even tried to get their hands on mp3 players, memory sticks and media boxes. That failed. So far.

Anyway…. Too funny! In some international score cards (too lazy to dig them up) my country is supposed to be at the very top when it comes to absence of corruption. A composer complained to BUMA/STEMRA about them having used his work on an anti-copy clip that is forced on us every time we play a DVD or go the cinema. His complaint was rejected. But when he called one of the board members, that guy he said, he could get the subject back on the agenda. Of course he wanted some compensation. One third to be precise. Of more than a million Euro’s (1.4 mln US dollars). Unfortunately, the conversation was taped. He even claimed the composer now had nothing and when he would have helped him out, at least he would have received 2/3rd. The gentleman has “temporarily stepped down to concentrate entirely on his defense”.

Don’t we LOVE the the media industry!!

November 25th, 2011

The Deficit

Stumbling into an “Infographic” and with all the hoopla about Greece, the collapsing Euro etcetera, I thought it be interesting to post two infographics. One unfortunately is in Dutch but bear with me it is a great one. Open this link please. As you can see you can click on a year between 2001 and 2010 and select a them above that. The themes are: Economic growth, National Debt, Shortage on National Balance and Unemployment.

For reference, have a look at US National Debt Clock. For the US, the National Debt is roughly 100% of the GDP. Note that only Greece and Italy exceed the US for that that metric.

On unemployment, it’s a more balanced outcome: the US just under 10%, about 10 countries in Europe are above that.

Also note how the East-European economies, while small, are doing mighty fine.

 

November 14th, 2011

The photographer

Forgot about this one, sorry. Vivian Maier. Wonderful photography in a what seems to me US urban context.

September 3rd, 2011

The true meaning of empathy

иконографияOn TED: Joan Halifax: Compassion and the true meaning of empathy.

About the talk

Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax works with people at the last stage of life (in hospice and on death row). She shares what she’s learned about compassion in the face of death and dying, and a deep insight into the nature of empathy.

Quote:

The [enemies of empathy] are pity, moral outrage, fear. We have a world paralyzed with fear. The word “terror” is [now] global.

Fear destroying empathy, so true!

 икони