Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A little marital discussion

He "called on judges yesterday to respond to the nation’s demand for protection by upholding stringent new anti-terrorism laws. He backed controversial police demands to detain suspects without charge for longer than 14 days and promised a fresh look at the use of telephone tap evidence in terrorist cases." See here.

She thinks that:"it is all too easy for us to respond to such terror in a way which undermines commitment to our most deeply held values and convictions and which cheapens our right to call ourselves a civilised nation". See here.

I think Cherie and Tony, have some talking to do. Tony, don't listen too much to that lawyer talk.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Histoire de belge

The French have this expression, une histoire de Belge, to describe something stupid that happened. I have two, first pork chops that were blown up out of precaution.

The second histoire relates to the first, namely the presence or absence of emergency plans for when things go wrong in Brussels (as for example with terrorist attacks becoming a part of weekly reality in Europe).

Sunday, July 24, 2005

On Islam

Doug Giles, an American conservative has two sarcastic columns on the recent terrorist acts in London and on that religion that is loosely associated with those acts. See here and here.

The greatest Belgian

... it is a complete oxymoron. But the best suggestions I read in an old newspaper of Het Laatste Nieuws, a flemish newspaper. Devriese suggested some time ago it should be Kuifje, also known as Tin Tin, the famous comic book figure of Herge. Why is he the greatest Belgian? Devriese's answer: "an imaginary hero from an imaginary country".

My favorite challengers are Rene Magritte because we Belgians live in a surrealist state. But my alltime favorite is Flor Grammens. (if you google on his name, something should come up). He was also a painter, far less creative than Magritte but a respectful painter anyway.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Ohio

The buckeye state and the feudal continent are in the same need. To reread Laffer, and have a look at his most beautiful curve. See opinionjournal.com

Sad Sad Sad Day

Belgium exists 175 years. Why does this make me sad? For a number of things, but looking at some salaries already makes me puke:

King Albert 6.048.602 euro
Queen Fabiola 1.115.521 euro
Prince Filip 788.302 euro
Laurent / Astrid 272.683 euro

Long live Moneyarchy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Livingstone

Livingstone also said that he does not distinguish between members of Likud and Hamas, branding them "two sides of the same coin."

Yes, terrorist organizations and democratic parties are really the same. What has he been smoking? If there is one nation that knows how important it is to stop these attacks, then it is Israel and Likud. (However, some say that Likud is too compromising, and that the withdrawal from Gaza is perceived as a victory by the Palestinians which reheats the whole conflict. See here and here.)

Anyway, Livingstone likes to flirt with the Muslim voter at the expense of Jews and gays.

Virgil is in the news

First of all because George W. Bush. See the satirical magazine the Onion.

And secondly because of the terrorist attacks in London, who says terrorism has to mention somewhere along the road immigration, and if you mention immigration in GB, you have to mention Enoch Powell citing Virgil. See here and here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Blaming the victim

I am currently reading Sowell's new book "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" (which is in fact a collection of larger essays). In his recent column he refers to the critics of the book. Like always he dedicated large part of his analysis to cultural factors which are often, too often negative. He reacts to the criticism:

This is not about "blaming the victim." Nobody can be blamed for the culture he was born into. But neither should he be kept mired in that culture, in the name of "identity" or with the pretense that all cultures are equal.

The politics of minories

Ruben Navarette has some nice observations about the democracts and republicans and the minority vote. See here.

"It's obvious that what concerns them is not that these nominees aren't real minorities, but rather that they aren't their kind of minority. You know, the kind that asks for permission before they speak and makes sure that what they say falls in line with the views of their liberal benefactors."

For the record, the quote is about the democrats.

Iraq: the nature-nurture debate

The IHT has an article about the relevance of evolutionary psychology and Iraq:
"The natural impulse to dislike outsiders is so strong that it barely matters who the outsiders are. When experimental psychologists divide subjects into purely arbitrary groups - by the color of their eyes, their taste in art, the flip of a coin - the members of a group quickly become so hostile to the other group that they'll try to deny rewards to the outsiders even at a cost to themselves. And when the members of a group really have something in common, like family ties, they're willing to fight outsiders even if it means their own deaths. Xenophobia produced genetic rewards for hunter-gatherer clans."

Genes however seem to allow for some variation in that dislike around the world. The experiments I know of, do not lead to terrorist attacks on the basis of who has which eyecolor. For those who have more affinity with the nurture explanation than the nature explanation there is still T.E. Lawrence:
"The Semites' idea of nationality," he wrote, "was the independence of clans and villages, and their ideal of national union was episodic combined resistance to an intruder. Constructive policies, an organized state, an extended empire, were not so much beyond their sight as hateful in it. They were fighting to get rid of Empire, not to win it."

Monday, July 04, 2005

Book review: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

I once had the rule never to read New York Times bestsellers. I did not when I read John Perkins' book however I should have sticked to that rule. Confessions of an Economic Hitman is an autobiography which contains more information that the reader cares to read. In the preface we are already confronted with the author' sexual frustration and his anger towards his parents -which is mentioned because that is one of the main reasons why he ended up being an economic hit man (EHM). An EHM tries to get money from an international institution for a developing nation and then slush it through to his employer.

The book thus definately has an antiglobalist core to it. It is also not just an autobiography but mostly a tool to show that the US is greedy and together with multinational companies the source of all evil. In the preface, the author utters the classic leftist idea that terrorism is caused by poverty -which plenty of researchers have proved false but the author is not bothered by any evidence. Next he disputes "the idea that all economic growth benefits humankind and the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits". Let us all move to Myanmar, North Korea or Cuba because these countries are at least not part of the 'global empire', as Perkins describes it. Another example "in many cases helping an economy grow only makes those few people who sit atop the pyramid even richer, while it does nothing for those at the bottom except to push them even lower". Marx is alive and kicking. Need more? "They (his capitalist colleagues) were convinced that communism and terrorism were evil forces" writes Perkins, "rather than the predictable reactions to decisions they and their predecessors had made". Hmmm, Perkins do we need to reappricate communism (with more than 100 million casualties) and terrorism?

Let us assume for now that the author was indeed an EHM, and what he factually describes is true. What do we learn from this? To be even more sceptical of development aid. I dont know if John Perkins realizes this but his book is again a story against empowering governments and political bodies in giving aid.

I am reminded of the fact that those countries that receive aid and money are the least capable of handling the aid. They do not have the institutions therefore aid and development as conceived by Bono, Geldof and others is dangerously naive. It only serves one purpose to make the organizers and those who attend to feel better. Countries are stimulated this way to be corrupt, and moreover they are being rewarded for being corrupt. When emotions guide decision-making, we are all worse off.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Quote of the day

Once I had to read Lani Guinier's book Tyranny of the Majority for a seminar on American government. I disliked the book a lot -in short because if we assume that tyranny by the majority exists, replacing it by a tyranny of the minority is even worse.

Anyway, one of the most discussed ideas of her book is so-called proportional voting. Instead of giving everybody one vote, you give people several votes. Minorities then can use these votes en bloc and gain power from this bundling of votes. (At least that is the theoretical idea, if I recall well.)

Paul Jacobs, an American conservative makes fun of her while discussing the debate over the future replacement of Supreme Court judge O'Connor.
"So, if these nominees don't please Democrats in the Senate or the Washington interest groups, perhaps there is another way. Take a page from Lani Guinier and establish a form of weighted voting. So, rather than pick a brand new justice, simply let Clarence Thomas vote twice on every decision."

Dutch Radio and TV

Interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, if you believe that the media is not biased... here. Some interviews are more decent. For the story of Wouter Buikhuizen, see here. Hans Jansen on live8 and other so-called aid at vrijheid radio. And last but not least, click here for an interview with Hans Werdmölder on his new book.

Various issues

Suicide terrorism?
Which nationality do suicide terrorists have in Iraq? See here.

Picture of the day:
Stalin was bankrobber, Ahmadinejad a hostagetaker ...See here.

For the tennis freaks :
Two 'losers' make a winning team; see here.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Clash of Cultures

Frits Bolkestein (Universiteit Leiden), Ian Buruma (auteur "Occidentalism"), John Gray (London School of Economics) and Hassan Hanafi (Cairo University) participated in a debate of the Dutch liberal party VVD on the clash of cultures (the term originally comes from Bernard Lewis and NOT from Samuel Huntington).

Most speakers were older, and I guess quite sentimental and fond of (intellectual) history. So the actual topic of the debate was the Enlightenment and its different meanings. In the end I agreed mostly with Bolkestein, and less with Gray and Buruma, and certainly not with Hanafi.
Why?

Buruma was going on about the detrimental effect of the nationstate (later joined by Hanafi). The implicit argument thus was: religion doesnt matter. Hanafi was telling us lies, plain lies. I ll give you two: (1) Islam is secular, (2) in Islam there is a personal relationship between the believer and God.

Detail: a former student of Hanafi, Dr. Nasr Abou Zeid had to flee Egypt because he basically said that the Koran although the word of God should be seen as a document of its time. This is how far the personal relationship goes. No comments were made by Hanafi on the influence of the clerus or e.g. the Al Azhar university which resides also in Cairo.

Too often there is too much respect in these debates. Sometimes it would be better if somebody knocked on the table and said: bullshit! (Harry G. Frankfurt has written a small book on this topic.)