February 24th, 2007

The cluster bombs revisited

I wrote earlier about cluster bombs in Lebannon. Banning cluster bombs proved impossible to put on the agenda of the U.N. disarmament negotiation table. For some countries, this refusal to even talk about it was enough. 49 countries assembled in Oslo, Norway last week, which resulted (please read carefully) in a statement calling for a ban on the usage, production, trade and storage of cluster bombs. Of those 49, 3 (Romania, Poland and Japan) did not support the vote. The other 46 did (a.o. the U.K., Germany, Italy and my country). Countries refusing to even take part and thus not even there were a.o. the U.S., China, Russia, Australia, Israel, India and Pakistan.

Although I am very sceptical in the sense that calling for a treaty is a long, long way for actual results, I am glad there is a start. The next meeting in Peru, scheduled for either May or June will concentrate on compiling the actual treaty text. I am also glad that more than before, not everybody is being a sitting duck for the sole reason others aren’t moving.

P.S.: The ban on the use of anti-personel mines, initiated by o.a. Human Rights Watch, started like this too. By now, about 150 countries have ratified that treaty. Among those who have NOT ratified are the U.S. and Israel, but they do not use them anymore. What we are talking about are either explosives ripping off feet and legs, but there are also more “sophisticated” types called bounding mines, that jump up using a small explosive to about waist height and then explode their shrapnel in a horizontal plane, wounding or killing as much people as possible.

Added March 20th: The U.K. announced as of today, no “dumb” clusterbombs will be used anymore, only “smart” ones (read: guaranteed to explode completely). OK, again, its a start. I assume the delayed fuse bombs, used to “litter” a field uncrossable, is off limits then too?

Added June 26th:  The use of cluster bombs by my country is “postponed immediately”, although the administration “does not feel this type of ammunition should be forbidden. Use should be possible after special consideration”. Although I welcome the moratorium, it shows exactly the value of a politicians word: the vote described above clearly meant that others should not use this ammunition. Remember please, we vote these people into power.

February 20th, 2007

The Saudi’s

So. The Saudi’s, the worlds largest oil producers, are our friends, right? They pump us our oil, right? They kinda sorta share our value’s, right? RIGHT?

RIYAD – Saudi-Arabia publicly displayed the bodies of four decapitated Sri-Lankans. After the execution the bodies were tied to wooden bars on a square in a busy part of the capital. The “crucifiction” was meant to counter a wave of criminality by foreigners, according to local media. The convicted were violent gang members, but hadn’t killed anyone. (…) Human rights watchers accuse the kingdom of draconic and random punishment. Executioners decapitate muderers, rapists and drugs traficers in public with a sword.

Where the fuck is CNN??

Furthermore, the western-loyal, extremely loaded, royal family is violently holding the lid on a growing unrest, which is understandably spiced with let’s call it faith issues. Mark my words: they will be our friends for a while, until, suddenly, the gunpowder goes kaboom, and they are not our friends anymore. Hmmmmm, does that sound like Teheran (Iran), but then beefed up??

Added May 16th: by now, the Saudi’s have executed 77 people (by sword), against 37 in all 2006.

February 20th, 2007

The end of the incandescent lamp

Australia is planning on banning the incandescent lamp by 2010. Although the Australians are not known as being very energy efficient (they did not sign the Kyoto protocol, and they use more energy per capita as the Americans), and as this can be seen as easy green windowdressing, I say: good on them. It’s a start.

I have replaced almost all bulbs in my house with CFL ones.

added: with the new legislation, the incandescent lamp will die off slowly here too.

February 20th, 2007

The world press photo

I am pretty sure almost everybody has seen this picture, that won the World Press Photo

World Press Photo 2006

The general desription of the picture was something along the lines of “wealthy, bored libanese teenagers war-touristing the just bombed area, while SMS-ing and cruising in their hot shot cabrio”.

Today, a newspaper here published an interview with the group.

(…) However, the depicted, Jad (22), Bissan (29), Tamara Maroun, Liliane Nacouzi (22) en Noor Nasser (21) didn’t feel ‘fabulous’ at all that day. They gathered in the appartment of Bissan’s fiancee Wissam Awad in the Christian neighbourhoo. Tamara, the blonde, is the only one not there. Lana El Khalil (25) however is, the owner of the red sportscar, well, actually an orange Mini Cooper. They like the world to know a few things about the World Press Photo.

“See the sticker on the dashboard?”, while she points at the picture. “That is a Samidoun sticker, a volonteer organisation that was formed during the war to help victims”. (…) “After the first boms had fallen, we immediately started to provide help. I opened my appartment in Hamra to refugees from the south, and went back to live with my parents”. The first couple of days he drove in the dahiye to pick up the homeless and drive them to the shelters. Later he brought goods to the peaople who had stayed in the daiye. He drove the Mini Cooper that was about to become a symbol of the lack of compassion of beautiful, young people from Lebannon.

The others are all from the southern outskirts of Beirut. Four from the dahiye, one from the next area, Shiya. Noor is only muslim, the others are Christians. Haret Hreik, at the center of the dahiye, was originally a Christian neighbourhood.

Well well, too easy to assume I guess.

Usual disclaimer: my translation.

February 15th, 2007

The hero of the day, mrs Verbeet

I blogged about our political system and latest elections back in november. Today, all negotiations were over and the new administration was presented informally. They have to visit the queen, some formal blah blah, and next monday, they are in business.

There was an immediate political row. The new crew has two ministers with two passports, one Dutch and Turkish, one Dutch and Moroccan.

If you followed above link, or have a very good memory, you’d know that nationalistic right wing xenofobic PVV went from nothing to 9 seats (out of 150). As the new crew was presented, the PVV presented an amendement askeding NOT to swear in those two as they “might get into a conflict of interest”. Rather unheard of, the parliaments chairwoman mrs Verbeet (think in terms of your mrs. Pelosi), who by accident is from the same party as the two “victims”, cut off the PVV speaker and refused to process the amendment. She later explained (my translation of course):

“I cannot accept mr. Fritsma to suggesting these two [now still members of parliament] have a double loyalty issue, while they have sworn to the constitution. There is only so much one can take.” She countered PVV’s chairman’s accusations that she was executing party politics as that being “a cliché”.

Good for her!!!!! Mrs Verbeet is my hero today.

The previous and totally crazy minister who was reponsible for integration of immigrants tried to pass a law forbidding having two passports. That law has been completely mothballed since the elections.

Request for comments from the US readers: Is a double passport legal forUS citizens, and if it is, would it be imaginable that somebody would become say secretary of state while he would have a US and say a Mexican passport?

Addition: Thanks for all your comments. About 1 mln (out of aprx 16 mln) inhabitants of my country have double passports.  PVV will try again when the new administration will have it’s first debate with parliament. We’ll see what happens.

February 12th, 2007

The IT companies

Google’s latest service, google documents and spreadsheets is jar-on-floor once you are in collaboration-needy projects. Still, although they are basically and advertising company (shiver) they need to do everything to keep their image shiny. I mean think, they can pretty much track down who you are, and if docs breaks through, your documents and spreadsheets are there too.

The first crack in the image was google.cn. Banning terms because “Censored google is better for the Chinese than no Google”, well, maybe wasn’t too smart.

A new incident occured on Google owned YouTube the other day. A well know and popular atheist blogger was completely banned from YouTube because he posted a slideshow posting in his eyes violent but public passages from the koran. Mind you, not just this slideshow. I hope google’s crawler doesn’t present those koran results either, they might need to ban themselves. Is there nobody we can trust? Even a bit?

No evil right?

btw, somebody else uploaded it again of course.

Disclaimer: I am a techy, a Microsoft-un-enthousiast and atheist.

Mildly related addition: A higher Belgium court today confirmed a verdict that Google cannot repost news crawled from Begium newspaper sites on it’s news service. In France a similar case is being held in court June 6th. Is resistance slowly rising? Is this a European (or non maybe a non-US) thing?

Addition: google’s star seems to be falling slowly, but still faster??

February 10th, 2007

The Language

Yesterday, an Amercian friend forwarded me this email, asking opinions about it. Brace for a sec and read please.

I am sorry but after hearing they want to sing the National Anthem in Spanish – enough is enough. No where did they sing it in Italian, Japanese, Polish, Irish (Celtic), German, Portuguese, Greek, French, or any other language because of immigration. It was written by Francis Scott Key and should be sung word for word the way it was written. The news broadcasts even gave the translation — not even close. Sorry if this offends anyone but this is MY COUNTRY – IF IT IS YOUR COUNTRY SPEAK UP – please pass this along.

I am not against immigration — just come through like everyone else. Get a sponsor; have a place to lay your head; have a job; pay your taxes, live by the rules AND LEARN THE LANGUAGE as all other immigrants have in the past — and GOD BLESS AMERICA!

PART OF THE PROBLEM
Think about this: If you don’t want to forward this for fear of offending someone—–YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM !!!!

Will we still be the Country of choice and still be America if we continue to make the changes forced on us by the people from other countries that came to live in America because it is the Country of Choice??????

Think about it!

All we have to say is, when will they do something about MY RIGHTS? We’ve gone so far the other way, bent over backwards to not offend anyone, that I am now being offended. But it seems that no one has a problem with hat. This says it all! This is an editorial written by an American citizen, published in a Tampa newspaper. He id quite a job; didn’t he? Read on, please!

IMMIGRANTS, NOT AMERICANS, MUST ADAPT.
I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Americans. However…… the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the “politically correct! ” crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others.

I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to America. Our population is almost entirely made up of descendants of immigrants. However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. This idea of America being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Americans…..we have our own culture, our own
society, our own language and our own lifestyle. This culture has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.

We speak ENGLISH, not Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Greek, Polish, Italian, French, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society,
learn the language!

“In God We Trust” is our national motto. This is not some Christian, right wing, political slogan. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women…….on Christian principles…………. founded this nation….. and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home………because God is part of our culture.

If Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don’t like Uncle Sam, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don’t care how you did things where you came from. This is OUR COUNTRY, our land, and our lifestyle. Our First Amendment gives every citizen the right to express his opinion and we will allow you every opportunity to do so! But once you are done complaining……. whining…… and griping ……. about our flag …… our pledge …… our national motto ……. or our way of life … I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other Great American Freedom …. THE RIGHT TO LEAVE.

It is Time for America to Speak up. If you agree — pass his along; if you don’t agree — delete it!

That is a weird piece. It makes connections between language spoken, right to call yourself a country’s citizen, God, liking a countryand the willingness or ability to speak the countries language. Hello??

I am not a US citizen and I do not live in the US. Futhermore, my mother tongue is a language spoken by 22 million people, instead of being native to one of the arguably four current world languages, being mandarin, arabic, spanish and english in that order, so my viewpoint is most definately “different”. Europe, other than the US, is padded with countries (instead of states) and many different languages (instead of Americanised English). I believe a huge factor in the devastating wars that have swept over large parts of Europe in the last 100 years has been language. Not being able to understand each other is key to alienation. Certainly, we didn’t do well there. Also, from a pure economical and social point of view, it seems not very smart to live ones live in a country, any country, when not speaking the language. It hard to socialize, hard to “fit in”, hard to get your things done.

Now, trying to move to a “swallow or choke” approach, as we call the approach the writer seems to take is very shortsighted too, if not plain stupid too. Our last, now kicked out by the voters administration tried that on immigrants (mostly from Turkey and Morocco) and it is only both responding as well as fuelling xenofobic behavior. Is not being smart, a factor for holding back citizenship? In our case, do we have a (criminal) problem with (mostly) young immigrants? Yes. Is that language related? A tad, but not much. Will a language test prevent those problems? Would flag waving and anthem singing? Keep on dreaming.

I think the writer is making an abvious mistake, and surely he’s not the only one. He is confusing being smart with abiding the law, both in the legal as well as the ethical sense. Everybody wanting to live in a country, or as far as the US goes in some matters even state, needs to abide the local law. Anyone

Let’s please give everybody, including the writer of this, the right to be stupid, either by choice, or by inability. I dare you my US friend, to learn a tad mandarin. Would be good overall for the US too, as the Chinese would not only be cherry picking on published developments in “our” world (believe me, they do understand english!), but the other way around too. If you believe that is complete BS, as we in the western world are so smart, find a few pictures of say Shanghai, or Tokyo on the Internet. If you believe it is a bit tough, I certainly concur.

BTW, over here, somebody not speaking my language but english only, will not have a hard time on anything, including socializing, with the notable exception of signs and labels. See, its easy to be nice.

It’s always risky to write about religion. But I think it has nothing to do with this subject. Feel free to disagree though. If so, I’d prefer to state that most of what we call wester society is basted on Christian-Jewish-Enlighted roots, which really REALLY goes beyond “In God We Trust”. Connecting the anthem’s language to God is the same as envisioning God as a bearded, white, man (male), with a huge book on his lap, sitting in a big chair in the skies.

A personal note: I spent a day or 3 in Tokyo about 10 years ago. I never felt so excommunicated in my life. My English brought me absolutely nowhere. So yes, it is smart to adapt to language. Smart. If not, that doesn’t make you illegal, just dumb.

February 5th, 2007

The Wiretappers of Europe

This country is the most “wiretapped” country in the world. European legislation is in the making requiring ISP’s and telephone companies to retain all traffic data for a year and a half. This is so wrong I cannot even start to rant about it. From “Webwereld”

… Where our administration errs, is that she treats information like potatoes and gives power she does not understands to people who she appointed herself and for purposes the technology was not meant for. The administration is very willing to treat on it’s civilians privacy if it comes in handy – lazy criminal catching from the armchair, who objects is target for suspicioun – but doesn’t understand how dangerous it is when it surpasses the individual case. (…) Nobody argues it can be helpful to tap a criminal suspects internet line . But to retain every citizen’s data for a year and a half just to be able to do some fine searching is asking for big trouble. The cure is worse than the illness. And it only springs to mind of policy makers bacause of the anonymous magic of technology: nobody would even think more than an second to state it’s unacceptable to follow every citizen’s move 24 hours a day.

… This is no democratic decision. It’s forced upon us. With fear on ones side, bad ideas get wings. Dataretentions is born out of lazyness and it creates a single point of entry for the bad guys. Even in The United States the government doesn’t dare to go this far, but in the Netherlands we want to go as far as possible. It is wrong an dit is based on lazyness, and the outcome can only be one of two: very harmful or fatal. (….) Data retention is criminogeen: it will create more crime than it will prevent or solve. If the law will pass it will only change the internet and the things that work now in policing will stop being effective too. Know what you ask for.

I couldn’t agree more.

February 5th, 2007

The man that flies

A Swiss invenventor is improving the JetPack. Remember James Bond strapping on the personal flysuit? Well, here it is, erm, well somewhat different, but hell this cool (video). I want one!

February 4th, 2007

The climate change

Fokke en Sukke

In todays newspaper cartoon “Fokke & Sukke” (yes, you read that right)

Title: Fokke & Sukke are leaking the next UN climate report already

Fokke: Global warming…

Sukke: … is rather very much most probably caused by humans.