November 25th, 2006

The torture that was OK-ed

The Spanish paper El Pais published under the heading “Rumsfeld authorized torture in Iraq” an interview with Janis Karpinski, the former general in charge of 15 prisons, including the famous Abu Grahib, from June to November 2003. She seems to have stated in the interview (I don’t speak Spanish):

  • Rumsfeld himself OK-ed a tough approach of the prisoners (long time exposure to high volume music, keeping them on their feet for prolonged periods of time, etc
  • The Geneva convention was respected in the prison
  • The Geneva convention was NOT respected during interrogation by the intelligence service.

Boy, are we surprised. The loyalty in the chain of command seems to be crumbling.

November 24th, 2006

The open source government

I write only occasionally about my profession. Here’s one.

Today, the French senate (Assemblée nationale) announced that it will migrate within 6 months to Open Source software only. We’re talking Linux desktops, Firefox, OpenOffice.org etcetera. Great move and a good kick in the back for Open Source.

The French are in general very technology-minded, and they don’t mind very much if a new thingy doesn’t work completely as expected immediately. Renault was probably the first carmaker with an all digital (sometimes flakey) dashboard, about 20 years ago. Progress is the word.

Coming to think of it, isn’t the internet a wonderful place? More and more sharing. Sharing software, sharing bandwidth, redefining voice, banking, etcetera, all in a far more international and multi-cultural context than ever conceived.

November 22nd, 2006

The other elections

Today was our election day, for the national parliament, which we call the second chamber. The second chamber of 150 seats is choosen by proporionality, not by geographical representatives who win or loose 100%. After 3.5 years of right wing government, rapidly escalating integration problems fueled by a loony minister, and a steady decline in fair distribution of prosperity, and Bush ass kissing (not in word, but certainly in deeds) it was an election that was considered “relevant”

It is not easy to explain the outcome to US citizens who are used to a in essence two party system, but let me try. Parties marked with * are currently in the administration.

  • Right wing nationalisic (PVV): from 0 to 9
  • Right wing liberals (VVD *) from 28 to 22
  • Right wing traditional Christian-Democrats (CDA *) from 44 to 41
  • Christian Liberals (CU, is in essence a fundamental Christian, but somewhat middle-leftish small party) from 3 to 6
  • Left wing labor (PvdA) from 42 to 33
  • Left wing socialistic (SP) from 9 to 25
  • Greens: from 8 to 7
  • 3 Smaller parties with less than 6 seats

Conclusions:

  • Current CDA-VVD coalition looses it majority (yeah)
  • Mild shift to the left, former Maoist party SP the big winners
  • Shift from traditional center to the more extreme parties (left and right)
  • Traditional CDA-PvdA coalition has no majority either

Formation prediction: Based on tradition the “winner” (SP), and the biggest party (CDA) will be invited. Together with PvdA a majority, but SP and CDA is a bit like water and fire. Then, probably CDA-PvdA-CU. Whatever happens, this will take quite some time.

Update 1: The queen appointed what is called an “informator”, a wise old man who will investigate where parties are willing to compromise after all election rethoric. The procedure is he will report, probably in a week, maybe 2, what is feasible and a tad stable. Then, she will appoint a “formator”, who will try to really get the job done. All going well, that results in the “administration declaration”, which has to be OK-ed by parliament, even if it would en up being a minority administration. If not, back to the drawing board. What is kinda interesting in this process that this is virtually the only procedure where the queen has formal personal influence, she has the sole right to appoint the (in)formators. This says nothing of course about informal influence.

Disclaimer: I voted, for the first time in my life, SP. I am not an unhappy man. Oh, and I filed a formal protest because of the stupid voting computers.

Update 2: The second chamber met today (nov 29th) for the last time and (brace) said bye bye to a stunning 70 of its members. As predicted, everybody is aming at a SP-PvdA-CDA coalition. Oh, and I realized something might be very confusing to US citizens. When we choose parliament, that is also the moment that the administration is (possibly) changed. Something like a prime minister election simply does not exist. Here, the administration is virtually always backed my a parliament majority, but as nobody ever gets 50% + 1 vote, that is compensated by the coalition model.

Update 3, dated December 11th: Surprise, surprise. The negotiations between CDA, PvdA and SP were cut off today. CDA couldn’t get over the situation where they would be faced by a huge left wing majority in the administration. How easy to ignore the voters isn’t it. So far, everything is going according to prediction.

November 18th, 2006

The ball that bounced

Our government was one of the fiercest and first to criticize the US government for the treatment of Iraqi and Afghan prisoners. Now a little but possibly devastating affair has emerged, 5 days before elections. In 2003, Dutch troops in Iraq “prepared” 15 Iraqi prisoners for interrogation by the intelligence service by keeping them out of their sleep using loud music, bright light, hosing them and blindfolding them with ski-sunglasses so “they could not recognize their capturers”. The Geneva convention is very clear about this. It’s torture and illegal (although some dispute this claim). While one could argue it is a relatively small incident, the fact that the matter was handled internally (with no consequences by the way) and the fact that interrogation was explicitly not part of the mission there and the protests of our administration about the US invented “illegal combatants” category and the carefully guarded concept of The Hague being the Juridical Capital of the world, makes it embarrassing at best and explosive at worst.

Some people who expressed their opinion to me about this followed a line of thinking like “jeez, what the hell are we even talking about?”. I am saying: as soon as this starts, not only are we sliding downhill rapidly, we are also giving our opponents weapons to counter us in a way even worse than explosives and bullets.

November 14th, 2006

What should the Democrats do now?

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.“ – Justice Louis Brandeis

Need anything more be said? If the Dems really want to serve the people of this country they will do everything in their power to offer all of us a clear view of what has really happened during the past 6 years of Republican rule. Public hearings need to be held on varied topics ranging from military procurement and corporate malfeasance to why the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina failed in so many ways. Our elected representatives, Democrat or Republican, who really want to do what’s best for this country should do what ever it takes to revise the rules that have been changed and abused in order to classify government documents and thus keep the public from seeing how our government has been conducting our affairs.

P.S. Whatever happened to the 8 billion in cash that vanished in Iraq (the guy at the liquor store wondered about this as I went through the check out last night)?

November 12th, 2006

The men coming home

Yes, this is the reality of a war. I hope you see in these pictures more the grieving instead of the pumped up beautiful uniform “honor” crap, even as I do understand it gives some some comfort, some sort of crazy meaning to events.

Final salute

Gilma Miranda, the aunt of fallen Marine Lance Corporal Evenor Herrera, and close friend Kelly Matias stroke his hand during a last visitation at Community United Methodist Church in Eagle, Colo., on Aug. 19, 2005. Herrera, who was killed in Iraq, was buried at Sunset View Cemetery in Eagle.

Don’t ever forget who actually sends these fellows over.

November 10th, 2006

Congratulations

I would hate foreigners interfere or even opinionize on our local politics (we can handle that, thank you very much), so I try to return the same service. But, as the US has such an immense influence on the things that go on in the world, good and bad, I think I am entitled to at least say: Congratulations. Congratulations for speaking out, and thank you for hopefully preventing us (again, what happens on your end is your own responsibility) from needing to fly in an orange overall only. Well, I hope.

My kudos today go to, yes, a Republican senator, named Lincoln Chafee, who refuses to vote along party lines on controversial legislation, now that he is defeated.

“The American people have spoken out against the president’s agenda on a number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy,” the Rhode Island moderate told The Associated Press. “And at this late stage in my term, I’m not going to endorse something the American people have spoke out against.”

B.T.W., this is about John Bolton’s nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

November 2nd, 2006

Bush and Cheney should listen to “the music”

My M1 does my talking - small They (our Federal elites) just don’t get it. Perhaps they’d be in a better position to make decisions if they listened to some music. If I were an Iraqi I’d be fighting against the “Americans” who invaded my country. Perhaps Bush and Cheney would have a better sense of where the Iraqi resistance is coming from if they listen to “The Partisan song?” The version I’m listening to at the moment is performed by Joan Baez. Leonord Cohen recorded the song too. The song comes from those who fought in the European resistance during WWII. Here are the lyrics – we will NOT prevail in Iraq:

As sung by Lenord Cohen:

Leonard Cohen – The Partisan Lyrics

I was cautioned to surrender,
this I could not do;
I took my gun and vanished.
I have changed my name so often,
I've lost my wife and children
but I have many friends,
and some of them are with me.

An old woman gave us shelter,
kept us hidden in the garret,
then the soldiers came;
she died without a whisper.

There were three of us this morning
I'm the only one this evening
but I must go on;
the frontiers are my prison.

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then we'll come from the shadows.

Les Allemands étaient chez moi, (The Germans were at my home)
ils m'ont dit "Résigne toi" (They said, "Give up")
mais je n'ai pas peur; (But I am not afraid)
j'ai repris mon arme. (I have retaken my weapon.)

J'ai changé cent fois de nom, (I have changed names a hundred times)
j'ai perdu femme et enfants (I have lost wife and children)
mais j'ai tant d'amis; (But I have so many friends)
j'ai la France entière. (I have all of France)

Un vieil homme dans un grenier (An old man, in an attic)
pour la nuit nous a caché, (Hid us for the night)
les Allemands l'ont pris; (The Germans captured him)
il est mort sans surprise. (He died without surprise.)

Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then we'll come from the shadows.
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