May 10th, 2007

The Wolfowitz connection

I like to write on issues were somehow our countries are connected. At the time the Wolfowitz incident with his girlfriend was going on, Ad Melkert was the chairman of the Ethical Commission. Melkert, a socialist, kinda technocratic, Dutch politician denies that the EC was involved in the settlement of Shaha Riza career break, caused by Wolfowitz assignment as head of the World Bank (The bank forbids a private relationship in hierarchical lines). He stated that was simply not the commisions jurisdiction. Wolfowitz though states he brought the matter to the commission himself, which then instructed him to deal with the matter and, given she was about to have promotion, ensure this was fairly arranged. From the worldbank’s website:

August 8, 2005 – Letter from Ethics Committee Chairman Ad Melkert to PW

“1) The EC cannot interact directly with staff member situations, hence Xavier (yoh-there: Xavier Coll, Human Resources VP) should act upon your instruction.

2) The interaction with the staff member at this stage is only for information purposes, by way of courtesy, as both you and the EC have been preoccupied from the outset to have a procedure in place and an outcome reached that would duly recognize the record and career perspectives of the staff member, taking into account the scope of the EC which is limited to Board officials.”

Note that while there the contradiction is de-jura superficial, de facto Paul, the Iraq-war-string-puller, seems to to have a de-facto case. The fact that Ab thanked Paul informally for his prudent resolve of the tough matter, and by the way, why don’t you and Shaha stop by for dinner soon, doesn’t help either.

Disclaimer: the quote above is not a complete representation of the letters. The snippets shown on the worldbank’s site aren’t either.

Added: D’uhh, for me it is so obvious Melkert is a Dutchman, I only now realize I didn’t write that.

Added: It seems Wolfowitz days are counted. The United States administration changed its tune from blunt support to “do whatever is best for the Worldbank”. The Europeans want his blood. The developing countries are estranged by the impossible anti-corruption tactics and the focus on Iraq. For those who don’t know, the US, by unwritten law, supply the Worldbank president, while the Europeans choose the president of the international Monetary Fund. The US surely doesn’t want to give up this priviledge, but the situation is no longer maintainable. The ad-hoc commission investigating the case concluded that while the Ethical Commissions instructions were not very clear, Wolfowitz arranged Shaha’s transfer and raise completly between him and Xavier Coll.

Added May 18th: He resigned per June 30th.

May 9th, 2007

The gas

Frans van Anraat is a country man of mine. He is, or maybe I should say was a businessman. Today he was sentenced by the appeal court to 17 years of imprisonment for the trade of hundreds of tons of thiodiglycol (TDG) in the 80′s,  a crucial ingredient of the gas Sadam Hussein used to kill tens of thousands of Kurds. He showed no remorse at all. Justice at last. A bit.

May 7th, 2007

The phone call

Just put down the phone and informed my oldest son. The school called to inform the students that a classmate (last year of high school) died this weekend. The rumor is suicide.

So far, in the school career of my kids we had:

  • A Moroccan family living here was almost completely wiped out in a car crash in Morocco, on their vacation. Only one son survived. Parents and two other kids, both in the same classes (elementary school) as mine did not.
  • A classmate of my second son was hit by a car when he crossed a local road with his bike between cars in a traffic jam and was caught by a car coming from the opposite direction. He was in a coma for 2 months before he died.
  • Same son lost another classmate, described earlier here.
  • Now this one.

Added: Rumor travels fast. He is believed to be experimenting with gaseous drugs and was found with a plastic bag wrapped over his head.Loosing consciousness and then asphyxiation. If true, what a stupid waste. At least get a friend watching over the experiment. Please note this is all unconfirmed.

May 7th, 2007

The world record

American photographer Spencer Tunick broke his own world record yesterday photographing 18.000 naked people in Mexico City. Oh well.


May 6th, 2007

The micro or macro view question

Macro view (simplistic)

In Iraq, the Shiites are our friends, the Sunni’s are the enemy. Reasoning: Hussein was a Sunni. Please note that this is the same simplistic reasoning as “Iran is our enemy, Hussein fights Iran, ergo Hussein is our friend”. The Kurds in Northern Iraq, wanting their own state and in conflict with both Iraq as wel as Turkey, are viewed benevolent. Right? RIGHT? Think for a second please if this corresponds with your image of this part of the Middle East.

Micro view (simplistic)

I must confess I stumbled over the video is the day before yesterday before the story appeared on Boing Boing, but then decided it would not post it as there was no caption where it happened and why, and it actually made me sick, not my goal for this blog. The Amnesty report is the most objective I guess, but then, who wants to be objective?

In a short mobile video clip which appears to have been taken by locals at seen of the murder, the girl is seen being ambushed on her way home by a group of up to 1000 men who were waiting for her to return; the men killed her in the most brutal way possible, by throwing large stones on her head. The following clips show that while she is alive and crying for help she is taunted and kicked in her stomach until someone finishes her off by throwing a large stone on her face.

One moment there is a 17 year old girl, maybe bright, maybe stupid, maybe beautiful, maybe ugly, but certainly promising. 30 minutes later, after a barbarian scene, there is only the smell of fear and death and a pulped body. It is so, so wrong, no matter the “crime”.

May 6th, 2007

The explanation of life

Hehe, VideoJug (Life Explained. On film) is a website where common problems, such as Meeting your new girlfriends father, unblocking a toilet, unlocking a bra with one hand (Yes, I will do better now, promise) and Yoga Standing Posures are addressed in usually clear blocks. Funny, entertaining, and educating.

May 6th, 2007

The drawings of Leonardo da Vinci

Beautiful. This is Hands, dated 1474.


May 6th, 2007

The freedom of the press

Reporters sans frontiers (reporters without borders) is an organisation watching the freedom of press throughout the world. The ranking order for 2006 is published here. Freedom of press is a good indication of democracy and anyone who believes democracy is the best (or arguably the least worse) system, should watch this. The list has 168 entries. A few things that caught my eye:

  • The US is listed on position 53 (down 9). “Relations between the media and the Bush administration harply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.”
  • China is on position 163. “China (163rd) has dropped four places. The country’s media outlets are more numerous and aggressive now, but repression, carried out jointly by the government departments of propaganda and public security, has increased. The government of the world’s most populous country stresses that it wants to keep its monopoly on all news, mainly through the state-run Xinhua news agency. Censorship has been stepped up, penalties increased, many news websites shut down and physical attacks have escalated. One journalist was killed by police.”

My country is, in this list, still in the (shared) number one position, but that will surely change next year, by probably between 10 and 20 marks. Reason is that 3 journalists were (unsuccessfully) held hostage by the authorities for not revealing their sources. That would put us between the likes of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

More worrying than obvious repression of journalists doing their work is the increasing self-censorship, fueled by spokesmen and lobbyists. “If you publish this, we’ll never give you an item anymore” is an effective threat, especially with old media under time pressure and eroding revenues.

May 4th, 2007

The 4th of May

May 4th is a day we commemorate the fallen in WW2. The people who died for our freedom.On 7:58 PM the country basically comes to a halt and everbody is silent for two minutes, reflecting on the value of freedom and democracy, and the ultimate offer many gave to those values. Flags are strung halfway.

On May 10th 1944 1940 the German army invaded this country, assuring everybody though that nobody had to fear anything. Of course unless you were a Jew, Gay or Gipsy. 5 years later, 6 million were systematically murdered. On May 5th 1945 we were liberated. Therefor, tomorrow is a day of celebration.

Note: typo on the year. 1940 of course, not 1944. Thanks Jondo .

May 4th, 2007

The shame of Ireland

Catholic Ireland has a near total ban on abortions. The only exception is life a threatening issue on the mother. Thousands of women travel to the UK to have an abortion for this reason.

A 17 year old pregnant young woman is refused an abortion. The fetus  has a rare disease, resulting in the halt of growth of brain tissue. It will die immediately after it’s born. She has been invited to the highest court to be heard, but also received an order not leave the country. Her lawyer advised her to igmore the order.

This is so wrong.