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November 8, 2004

Bomb attack on Islamic school

Last night, an islamic school in Eindhoven became the target of a bomb attack, which is presumed to be linked to the murder of Theo van Gogh. There have been incidents of vandalism against mosques and Islamic schools in the past couple of days as well.

Back in those awful days of September, 2001, there was widespread fear that Americans would retaliate against Muslim communities in the US, but although I dimly recall that there were some incidents, they were proportionally fewer in number. A lot of the credit, I think, actually goes to President Bush: he talked the talk that stopped people from taking the law in their own hands, speaking of Islam as a religion of peace - a phrase that the bigots at The Blog that LGFWatch Watches are mocking to this day. In a characteristic pattern, many of his administration's actions contradicted that message, but the fact that he talked the right talk at that time had a calming effect. It was coupled with the promise of a vigorous response, making people feel that they were not powerless against an invisible enemy. That message, too, would change, but it worked at the time.
The Dutch government, in particular Gerrit Zalm who declared war on terrorism as if a fleet of airplanes had just ploughed into the Euromast, gave the nation one part of the message but not the other. To speak of Islam as a religion of peace would have been too politically correct, too soft - too liberal and reasonable for that part of the population that has already made up its mind. And unlike Bush with that odd charisma of his, the message that "it's war and we'll get them" won't inspire confidence coming from the likes of Zalm. I like Zalm, but he's just a good accountant who knows funny jokes. Leader in a war against terrorism he is not.

Update: Financial Times's coverage.

Continue reading "Bomb attack on Islamic school" »

November 9, 2004

Another mosque attack

I missed this one although it happened right under my nose (hat tip to studio mate Josje who mentioned it to me and prompted a web search):

Attack on mosque in Groningen.


GRONINGEN - Unknown individuals tried to set fire to a mosque in Groningen, using molotov cocktails last weekend.
Another house of worship was painted with slogans on Saturday night. The slogans refered to the murder of Theo van Gogh. A spokesman for mayor Wallage of Groningen confirmed this on Monday. Surveillance of buidings housing muslim organisations has been increased. No extra security for individuals is planned

From Het Nederlands Dagblad, seemingly the only Dutch paper whose cached at Google front page still linked to yesterday's edition. Untranslated text below the fold.

Continue reading "Another mosque attack" »

And another one

Breaking:
Another Islamic school has been daubed with slogans and set on fire. I didn't catch the location - more when I hear it.
Update: The fire took place in the community of Uden in Brabant, says Radio 1. The slogan refers to Theo van Gogh. A graphic that, judging from the description was probably a Maltese cross was also found on the wall.

By the way, I'm also hearing reports of violence against churches. When I posted the previous item on violence against a mosque, I got too frustrated with searching through newspaper sites to look those incidents up too. It wasn't my intention to ignore them. There's a spiral of violence going on, and my hope that Van Gogh's funeral would end it has proved unfounded.
Update: Radio mentions a Christian school in Boxmeer is burning.

November 10, 2004

Terror raid in the Hague

A long standoff around a house in The Hague has ended at around 17:30 with the surrender of two suspected terrorists. Another one had given himself up earlier.

The standoff started early in the morning when three members of an arrest team were injured by an explosive device, probably a hand granade, upon entering the house.
At least one person was arrested in the area around the house after skirmishes broke out between bystanders. A man was arrested in Utrecht in connection with the situation.

(From listening to the radio all day) |CNN coverage (English) | report in NRC Handelsblad (Dutch). NRC also has a factsheet on Islamic schools, which someone should translate into English for the benefit of denizens of The Blog That LGFWatch Watches who refer to the schools in Uden and Eindhoven as "madrassas". Uhm, don't look at me right now.

I should point out to people reading all my alarming missives of the past few days, that these incidents take place all across the country, and that the Netherlands, while small in area, is not so small that this means that there are riots and violent outbreaks on every street. For most of us, today is a lot like yesterday. It's safe to walk the streets. But the fact that these events are happening is creeping me out a bit.

Today's raid, and public statements from the Prime Minister and (indirectly) the Queen, should calm things down a bit. The raid was part of an investigation into the network surrounding the man who killed Theo van Gogh, so the government can now credibly claim to be doing something about it. That should provide a disincentive against people taking the law in their own hands.

November 12, 2004

Holland Hate Week Clearinghouse

Tobias Schwarz at A Fistful of Euros discusses the possibility of a new pillarization of Dutch society, and links to a Timeline at Viewropa as well as an article in Slate by Scott MacMillan.
Now all we need is a factsheet clearing up some misconceptions that have been doing the rounds across the blogosphere (most notably The Blog That LGFWatch Watches, but in sane and reasonable blogs as well). I may be able to make time for that if I get my other stuff done in time. Sorry, my time for that has just been snatched away by bureaucracy.

November 24, 2004

Interesting

Reader Mithandir pointed this out to me. I've been looking at the rise of the Euro against the US dollar, which should give Americans and Europeans alike the willies for different reasons. But the Euro is actually losing value against the Canadian dollar — the graph is almost a mirror image of that pitting the Euro against the USD. (saved images below the cut, in case something changes)

Continue reading "Interesting" »

November 25, 2004

How high is the Euro, papa?

$ 1.32 and rising.
Well the Euro's price's rising higher and higher
Soon our exports won't have no buyer
Looks like them Russkies will fuel the fire,
$ 1.32 and rising.

November 26, 2004

How high is the Euro, papa?

$ 1.33 and rising.
Well the dollar's gotten into free fall,
It's gettin' hard to keep track of it all
I'll make Amazon my shopping mall.
$ 1.33 and rising.

November 29, 2004

Doing an Arafat

The Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst is emphatically denying that Prince Bernhard is dying. Presumably, royalty-watchers are already updating their obituary files.

Seriously, I was hoping the old rogue would live to be a supercentenarian. He's a colorful figure, one of few in the Royal family with a brain of his own, and one whose opportunism was always good for a story or two. No wonder he recently became the subject of a biographical comic although having seen it in the shops I can't recommend it. The authors of that comic are very lucky to be putting it out at a time when the Prince is in the news so much.

December 1, 2004

Rest in peace, you old rogue

Prince Bernhard zu Lippe-Biesterfeld was hospitalised earlier today, but refused further treatment and passed away this evening. He had lung cancer and tumors in the intestines.
I generally don't care much about royalty but I've always had a soft spot for the old man. In his long life, he did some good things, and some bad, opportunistic things, but he was never dull and nearly always came out on top. He last flew his airplane 10 years ago at age 83, and he just had to do a backwards looping because that's the sort of guy he was. I'll miss him.
Official memorial with a biography. Together, the sanitized version offered by the Royal House and the rather unkind spin on his life at Wikipedia offer a good overview of the Prince's life and acts.

December 6, 2004

How High is the Euro, papa?

$ 1.34 and rising.

I think the currency movements could end up becoming the most important story of the year, but I don't have any clear idea exactly what the consequences will be, and who will be affected most.
Actually, I have some idea, but this 'flu is playing hob with my willingness to shoot my mouth off, so I'll save it for a future update. And by now you should know what that means: I will forget about it completely.
Update: The Economist is making some sense of the matter.

January 1, 2005

Keep the generosity competition going

Yesterday, I was about to post an irritated message, chiding a commenter on another blog for making a misleading comparison between the amount of money the US government had set apart ($35 million at the time) to help victims of the Asian Tsunami, and the much smaller amount pledged by "The EU". The comparison was misleading, I thought, because the EU as an entity is not comparable to the US government: it does not tax citizens directly, does not have anything like the US federal government's budget, and to make the comparison between the US and the EU, you have to look at contributions from the EU member states - that of the Netherlands alone exceeded the US's $35 million.
To do a proper job at fact-checking, I would have had to spend about an hour on New Years' Eve looking up the figures I could find on the internet, which I wasn't looking forward to doing. Then President Bush, bless him, rendered the whole issue moot by making a new pledge of $ 350 million, making the US the most generous donor... until Japan pledged $ 500 million this morning.
This is one pissing contest I would hope nations continue for some time. Thank you, Jan Egeland, for provoking it by calling the rich Western Nations stingy and challenging them to prove the opposite!
That same commenter (who has also posted here, so he'll read this) also pointed out, more correctly, that it's the American way to let the citizens themselves do the giving instead of raising taxes for emergency relief. Without going into the political dimension of that, let's hope that American citizens also choose to outdo their government in generosity, and likewise that EU member nations' citizens do the same. I have donated, have you? (link to Dutch coalition of aid organisations)
It's probably a bit tacky and tasteless of me to highlight this international competitive aspect of the rounds of donations. But to a certain extent, donations from governments are all about looking good, and buying influence. Realpolitik will creep into any country's motivation for giving. We might as well admit it. And if the desire to prove that country X is the best, the nicest and the most generous makes country X do more to help, then I'm all for provoking that desire.
After all, it would be even more tacky and tasteless if someone got the idea of raising money through a charity single. Oh, wait.

January 13, 2005

Bizarre US Army Plans.

From New Scientist

The Pentagon considered developing a host of non-lethal chemical weapons that would disrupt discipline and morale among enemy troops, newly declassified documents reveal.

Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behaviour among troops would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale, the proposal says.

The other plans - halitosis bombs, wasp-attractors, and the like, can be read about at the link.

One must ask, though: Is having sex necessarily a blow to morale, though?

February 4, 2005

Mother affected by chemical spill.

...Well, it would seem that a train crash in East Deer Township was rather close to home for comfort: only a hundred feet or so from my mother's home. She's been evacuated for several days, staying with my aunt and uncle, and is now back home, with burning sensations in her lungs and eyes.

...I'm rather worried about her.

April 2, 2005

Josh Marshall on John Paul II

Like Josh Marshall, my first memory of any Pope is of one of them dying and being replaced. Although I'm a bit younger than Josh, I started paying attention to the news a little earlier (so why am I the big Mr. Pundit Guy, hanh?), so my particular memory concerns Pope Paul VI, not the short-lived John Paul I. He's written a pretty good overview of John Paul II's place in history and his ambivalent legacy. Read the whole thing.

May 12, 2005

Quixotic is his enterprise and hopeless his adventure is / Who seeks for jocularites that haven't yet been said / The world has joked incessantly for over fifty centuries / And every joke that's possible has long ago been made.

...You know, now that Neal Horsley has admitted on the Alan Colmes Radio Show that he committed bestiality and tried to get his girlfriends to have abortions before he became an anti-abortionist campaigner, satire is dead. The real world has gone beyond it.

(via Digby's Blog)

July 7, 2005

London explosions

Rumour is flying about the Tube/bus explosions in London this morning. Nosemonkey at Europhobia is following it and has stated his belief that it's a terrorist attack. I'll wait for the dust to settle before making the call, but I can't see the original explanation of a power surge on the Tube working right now.

Update (12.57, CET): The media are now calling it an attack or a series of attack (the difference between the two being merely one of point of view), and considering the M.O. to be that of Al-Qaeda.

Addendum (19.30, CET): I'm not going to repeat the same list of blogs covering the attack that other blogs are showing, but if you're worried about someone in London who might be injured, dead or simply caught up in the confusion, go to the new Livejournal community dedicated to the attacks, and start your research there. Remember, though, that London is a city of several million and the casualties are likely to be fewer than a hundred dead and several hundred injured, so if your acquaintance is not listed anywhere as definitely alive, don't panic. It's terrible, but it's not 9/11, not even proportionally.

July 26, 2005

Van Gogh's killer gets life

So it's life in the slammer for Mohammad Bouyeri. Good, although considering what came to light about the man's obsessions during the trial, it would have been a good idea to send him back to the Pieter Baan Centrum for further evaluation (Bouyeri was sent there before his trial to determine if he might be insane, but refused to cooperate). In all likelihood, having been declared insane would not have got him out any earlier, but it would have had the beneficial effect of invalidating his motive for the murder of Theo van Gogh.
All crimes Bouyeri was charged of have been found proven, although in the case of two out of six charges, a terroristic motive was ruled out. Bouyeri does not get stripped of his voting rights, which the judge reckons he won't want to use anyway, but he has been ordered to pay damage to Theo van Gogh's family and other injured parties.
I'll link to the full text of the verdict and sentencing if and when I find it on the net.

Continue reading "Van Gogh's killer gets life" »

September 2, 2005

New Orleans: A Dutch view (and an American one)

Not my view... I don't have the expertise, don't live in the area referred to, and am not actually sure the 1995 Rhine/Meuse floods are even comparible to the effects of a Cat.3 hurricane (in my memory, the 1995 floods were merely a very local nuisance), but for what it's worth, Laura Rozen quotes a message from Dutch broadcaster and human rights activist Frank Tiggelaar:

Then, in just under two days authorities staged a forced evacuation of almost half a million people (total Dutch pop. is 16 million) and 2 million heads of cattle, pigs etc. It was the most orderly mass-operation I have ever seen.

I...witnessed how hundreds of ambulances, army trucks and dozens of medicopters (including German and Belgian air-borne operating theatres) brought in hospital patients, people from care homes and the disabled from the disaster areas. Roads were closed to all other traffic, in hospitals across the country an overwhelming – and fortunatly unnecessary – number of staff and volunteers were on stand-by.

The material damage was incredible, but there were no casualties, there were three meals every day for every temporarily displaced man, woman and child, all cows were fed and milked, there was no looting. National public TV within days set up a disaster charity show which raised over 60M guilders (EUR 30M) to pay for damages not covered by insurance.

What I'm seeing on TV now is a third-world country with a government unwilling or incompetent to fulfill its tasks. I feel very, very sorry for the residents of the area.


(Rosen:)What did it take? A plan and political will, both shockingly absent in this administration.

I'll keep an eye out for more views from the Netherlands.

Update, commenting on my own post: "not actually sure the 1995 Rhine/Meuse floods are even comparible to the effects of a Cat.3 hurricane". But that's the point, isn't it? We will never know if the 1995 flood was comparable in effects to what the hurricane did, because by the time the floodwater hit, we'd got half a million people out of there with enough time to spare to go back and fetch the cows. That's how good we were at the time, and that's how good the American government ought to have been but wasn't.

This should have consequences. Like the guys at Something Awful wrote on the emergency version of their homepage:

I am ashamed of my country's government in a universal way right now. Republicans, democrats, opportunists, it doesn't matter; they're all guilty in this situation. In a magical world where justice is actually served most of these people would not have jobs in a month or two. Instead the people without jobs will be the millions who have lost everything and found their government with its back turned. Remember that people are still dying because of this incompetence. Remember that when each and every one of these fools appears on TV for a photo op or complains about "placing blame later," because placing blame now is the only hope America has to change the situation.

September 6, 2005

Well, this does bring it closer to home

Just heard on the radio: a group of Dutch tourists were shot at by the police or the military (this wasn't clear from the fragment) in New Orleans, in what they claim was an attempt to stop them from leaving. They're out now, alive and well, but not happy with how they've been treated. I missed this in the papers, and, as often with Dutch news, can't find references online, but it fits a pattern in which British visitors were discriminated against in the evacuation (Via). Why are Americans shooting at Dutch tourists? Is it true that foreigners in the US have no rights?

I said I'd shut up, but there's so much to be angry about.

September 11, 2005

The Stupidity of The Sun

The Sun is a British tabloid written in an annoying, chatty style and only using easy words. It is, as you might imagine, not my preferred reading, but, finding myself with a long wait for my liver and onions in a cafe, I glanced through it.

And found something so offensive that it beggers belief. I quote.

The Sun, Saturday September 10, 2005 Page 21, "Clarkson"

In the last couple of weeks everyone has been asking how on earth the greatest and most powerful nation on earth could be o crippled by a bit of wind and rain

The rest of the world has disasters without the whole of society falling to pieces. So what is it different in America?

Well, if you stop and think about it, the answer is obvious

America may have given the world the space shuttle and, er, condensed milk, but behind the veneer of civilisation most Americans barely have the brains to walk on their back legs.

It's scientifically accepted that the stupidest creature on God's earth is alobster because it only knows to eat when presented with food and lash out when threatened.

Remind you of anything?

Even the President manages to get completely lost in his own sentences. "I love to bring people into the Oval Office and say, "This is where I office," he once said. Proving that, in fact, we never misunderestimated him at all.

More recently we got this little nugget. "Rarely is the question asked: 'Is our children learning?'"

Well, since most of them can't place their own country on a map, leave alone anyone else's, the answer is: No, not really. A few years ago I was told by a cheerily daft Forida policeman that you don't need common sense when you've got rules. And he absolutely could not see he got it the wrong way round.

Later on the same trip I was told on a plane in Dallas to uncross my legs during take-off. "It's a federal requirement," said the stewardess, who had plainly never thought what possible difference the position of a passenger's legs could make if the jet crossed into something solid at 520mph.

Then there was the time when, in a Reno shopping mall, I was told to put my shoes back on. "It's a state law," said the guard.

I see, so someone raised this at a meeting. It was discussed. There was a vote. And now it's on a statute book. That people must wear shes while shopping in Nevada. Sounds a bit far-fetched to me.

[He gives further examples. By the end there's... maybe one, two that are genuinely stupid acts and about six that make it clear he's an arsehole and an idiot.]

This is the problem. These people are told rules exist and they should not use common sense to question them.

So, when the rules and everything else were washed out of New Orleans, everyone went to the default setting of the terminally stupid: Violence.

I'm not talking about the armed gangs now. I'm talking about the authorities who, rather than try and feed the poor and needy, summoned the Marines and started acting like they were in a Hollywood film.

"They've got M16s which are locked and loaded," said one official. And I bet she hadn't the first idea what "locked and loaded" meant. She'd just heard Bruce Willis said at at some point and thought it sounded good.2

Hollywood has taught America that the military can solve anything. It's full of chisel-jawed heroes who never leave a man on the field and never fail to get the job done. So they'd have New Orleans sorted out in a jiffy.

Unfortunately, on the streets you've got some poor, starving soul helping themselves to a packet of food from a ruined, deserted supermarket. And as a result, finding themselves being blown to pieces by a helicopter gunship. With the none-too-bright soldiers urged on by their illiterate political masters, the poor and needy never stood a chance. It's easier and much more fun to abhor someone than make them a cup of tea.

[He then concludes by describing all Americans as racist bigots. But that's quite enough, no?]

...I have no idea what should be done about this idiot, but something should. Anyone know any American newssources?

November 9, 2005

A bunch of quick current affairs links

I had no understanding of the French riots until today. What was going on and especially why, I had no idea. Just about all blogospheric writing on the matter that I've seen, if it offered any analysis at all, was of the "the riots prove my politics are right" variety and pretty useless even as that. But today, Daniel Davies posted this comment to a post by himself at Crooked Timber:

I love the French and I think that smashing things up and setting fire to them is an excellent way to pursue your grievances against the French state. If these young chaps stick to it for long enough, maybe they will be as pampered and looked after as French farmers.

Game, set and match, folks. The riots are now Explained. Daniel's post on his own blog has a good quote as well:
These young men have got a political grievance, and they're expressing it by setting fire to things and smashing them up. What could be more stereotypically, characteristically French than that? Presumably they're setting fire to cars because they don't have any sheep and the nearest McDonalds is miles away. "French society is threatened by anarchy and lawlessness". I mean really. Everyone would do well to remember that this is France we're talking about, not Sweden or perhaps Canada.

In forthcoming weeks, I shall be applying similar analytical techniques to topics like "root and branch corruption is threatening the essence of Italian democracy" and "Muslim immigrants cannot fit into British society because they are insular, bigoted and sexually repressed".

Meanwhile, Andrew Rilstone dissects a "Political correctness gone mad" story from the Daily Express:

"NOW CHRIST IS BANNED"

[...]

Four words.

NOW

"In addition." "On top of everything else" "We knew things were bad, but this is really the last straw." The word drags us into the conspiracy.... we all know, it's so obvious it goes without saying, that many things have been banned recently, we can't think of any actual examples, but we're sure they have, and now this!

CHRIST

The person? The religion? Or just the word? I think there is a little wordplay going on here. We have just had the annual "local council abolishes Christmas" stormover. [...]We are supposed to infer: "Yesterday, they banned Christmas, and now, Christ is banned."

IS

The journalistic present. We are not reporting an event which has happened. We are informing you of a state which now exists. You have woken up in a bad new world where a new thing has been prohibited.

BANNED

A key tabloid word. It's meaning is ambiguous – it doesn't been prohibited by law, necessarily, or censored, or abolished – but it implies that Someone is telling us what to do, and we don't like it.

NOW. CHRIST. IS. BANNED.

Who is the evil authority figure doing the banning? The Curator of Cheddar Gorge geological museum. What has he done? Removed the letters "B.C" from the dates on some of his exhibits.

So in fact CHRIST IS NOT BANNED AT ALL
[...]
THE FIRST LETTER OF THE WORD "CHRIST" IS REMOVED FROM THE LABELS IN ONE MUSEUM.

That's it. That's the whole story. Main headline, front page, inside page and leading article in a tabloid on sale in every shop in the land, predicated on "Small Museum Re-Labels Its Exhibits."

Read the whole thing; it's a good analysis of the "political correctness gone mad meme". I'll add that I'm not looking forward to Christmas this year. On top of the normal suckitude of Christmas, I expect another crop of transparently made-up stories in which shopkeepers are prevented from wishing customers a merry Christmas with some bullshit "what's this country coming to?" moral tacked on to the end. I'm looking at you, Lileks.

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