All 11 entries tagged Politics

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November 01, 2006

I need help

We’ve got elections coming up in the Netherlands, and there’s too much choice! I more or less narrowed it down, however, but now I can choose between a large party that’s quite likely to end up in the government, but doesn’t really match my idea(l)s, or a small party that’s struggling to even get a single seat, but would represent me best.

Would you rather vote tactically, to get the large party in the coalition, so that at least the government is somewhat doing what you want it to do (but not enough), and your preferred party dwindles somewhere in the opposition? Or would you vote idealistically, hoping that your use of democracy gives the smaller party a stronger voice, and so that you don’t feel so stupid when the government messes up?


September 21, 2006

Yes it's * political

Hooray I’m back in the Netherlands, and so far I’ve enjoyed speaking Dutch, riding my bike (on the right hand side, as we do), and watching Dutch TV.

On my way here I bought the Guardian to keep me entertained. I like the Guardian, now that my hands don’t end up as covered in ink as they used to. It also has an elaborate comments section, with comments that make sense. Mostly so, because there are articulate people on both sides of the fence, getting nearly a page to voice their opinion. It does make it rather confusing reading about the Hungarian “revolt” eight times in eight different places from eight different perspectives in the same newspaper.

What really caught my eye however was a letter of some sorts by Compass. It was a heartfelt cry against the current social environment in the UK, where people (feel they) have to work immensely hard to matter. Where children are modelled into being consumers as soon as they can read. You get the idea. Great utopian image of everyone gets taken care off from the day they are born until the day they die. I do encourage you to visit their website and read The Good Society, as long as you care about politics.

Cue Holland. Not trying to brag here, and I assume some Scandinavian countries are better examples, but we’ve tried to get to this utopian society from since I was born, and it’s not all that great. Last night I read the Elsevier, a magazine similar to Time or The Economist, but – as opposed to Compass with a right-of-center ideology. With the next elections in November, they thought to point out what parties won’t discuss in their programs. Key points? Our social structure is too expensive, as the population is getting more grey by the day. Our social structure makes people lazy, as unemployment benefits are more appealing than a simple day job. Our social structure is too expensive, as companies and engineers move elsewhere to avoid high taxes. [1]

Now there’s an issue. Both countries in the EU: one would like more social security, the other wants to loosen it. If only there were a market for such things.

Let me say I’m glad I live on the right side of the North Sea. Sure, social security is expensive, and indeed it does make (some) people lazy. Yet, it gives those people that do want to achieve something a better chance of doing so. Until they start making too much money and end up in the dreadful higher tax bracket. The cradle to grave utopia might be costly to aim for, but I’d rather be in a society trying to go for it, than one desillusioned and giving up on it. Read The Good Society and start dreaming. [2]

1 Elsevier, 62, Nr.37, 16th September 2006. The article also mentions the increasing immigration (though other sources – my mum – report lower immigration figures), the islamification of the country, and the money spent on the developing world going down the drain.

2 Unless you’re so far on the right you don’t even know what right is.


June 29, 2006

Re:Touche

Follow-up to Touche from [TBA]

BBC News Article

Poor Harry Potter Balkenende, his second term seemed to fare so much better than his first. Or I could replace first and second by second and third, seeing that his first attempt actually stalled after the LPF fell apart in discontent.

No, after a record–breaking period of forming a new government two years ago, he still managed to get some bad seed in his council. Verdonk's self–glorifying behaviour and lack of humility didn't go well with the D66 members, who decided to leave the government and their positions in the cabinet.

Where Balkenende's first term was troubled by the near–political–legend Pim Fortuyn's legacy, this term ends with a row over another high–flying politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Guess I should sort out how to vote from the UK. Again.


May 16, 2006

Touche

Follow-up to The day democracy died from [TBA]

BBC News

For anyone who's fed up with Blair and Brown politics, go orange! At the moment, the Dutch political climate is set alight with debates concerning Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who gained asylum years ago and is now a prominent member of the Dutch parliament. Turned out she lied about her background when applying for asylum in the 90s.

As a result, the Dutch minister of integration and immigration [not exactly immigration, but can't think of a better word]. Decided to publicly annull Hirsi Ali's citizenship and give her a deadline by which she has to leave the country. Hirsi Ali is now planning to leave for the United States, of all places, after summer recess.

Anyway – haven't read that BBC News site yet, but it will probably explain more of what's going on. For now, I'll leave you with a letter from Dutch celebs [don't you just love them?] to the country's equivalent of The Sun [slightly less slantering, but with a strong right-wing flavour] showing their outrage of the procedure. Apologies for a sometimes rubbish translation. The letter was filled with Dutch idioms that have no equivalent in the English language.

We are ashamed of our country!

Ayaan Hirsi Ali will lose the Dutch citizenship and might even become stateless. How courageous! How courageous it is to treat the Number One Target of radical–islamic terrorists in this country as an unwanted person and to practically deport her.

Mohammed B.'s letter was addressed to Ayaan [Mohammed B. murdered Theo van Gogh 1,5 years ago, see trackback]

How courageous it is to persecute her with hyperformalistic jurisdiction, she, the MP who is cuffed by permanent threats, the symbol of intimidated freedom of expression.

How courageous it is, in a liberal, progressive country such as the Netherlands, to hunt her down, a brave advocate of women's and LBGT's rights, as if she's an animal.

How courageous it is, in the complex and often tragic history behind common asylum abuse, not to focus on the sometimes extremely criminal cases that enter the Netherlands (from Afghan … to Liberian child murderers), but instead to focus on that single Dutch asylum seeker who is praised around the world for her contributions to the debate on religion and politics.
How courageous it is to take advantage of the lies of a heroin, purely for political bravura.

How courageous it is to chase away a true Dutch Heroin, whom we have so few of already.

The Netherlands would fare well with less polarisation, but expelling Ayaan is polarisation to the extreme. The Netherlands shouldn't become a country of fear, a country for the faint–hearted people who will only sleep peacefully once Hirsi Ali has been removed. That cannot happen.

Ayaan deserves honorary Dutch citizenship. Beatrix, do your job!

Beatrix being Queen of the Netherlands

[End of letter]

Sadly, most Dutch people disagree. Turns out they don't want people who lie to enter their country. No matter what they're lying for. Now, where did I read the rules of gaining British citizenship?

Link to Dutch letter.


March 23, 2006

Killing in the name

Some people are driving too fast. Some people can't help but think they know what's best for their country. Some people can't help but think they know what's best for other countries.

Holland is a perfect example of what happens when there is no governing moral standard. The Dutch have decriminalized most drugs and people smoke dope openly in venues set aside for the practice. Prostitutes display their wares like mannequins in department store windows. And now we have at least one hospital murdering already born babies because someone has decreed them unworthy of life. Read here

Let's have a look.

The Dutch have decriminalized most drugs
Oh dear! Drugs… Let's assume you don't mean medicine, but the kind of stuff you don't get from a drugstore. You probably don't mean alcohol or tobacco either. Fact: so called coffeeshops are allowed to sell 5 grams of cannabis [weed, dope, grass] and as a result the posession of such a small quantity is tolerated.
Actually, of most drugs, only cannabis is tolerated, and in very small quantities. Turns out that coffeeshops are prevalent in Amsterdam [mostly occupied by tourists, though] which makes people believe you can smoke all the dope you want. But no.

Prostitutes display their wares like mannequins
Not sure what you've seen, and what you were looking for in the red light district. Yes, that says district – there are zones where prostitution is allowed, making up a wopping 0,00001% of the city centre [figure subject to author's abuse of mathematics] and there's no other reason to be in those zones but to have a look at those mannequins.
Also, none of them display their wares, for what would be the use to show what you've got when people can just stand outside looking at you without having to pay? So much for a job. It's just women with strong make up on in bathing suits, smoking a cigarette is optional.

Hospital murdering already born babies
This is what it's all about. Italian minister Carlo Giovanardi is convinced the Dutch are culling all the handicapped, blind, and ugly babies to make way for pretty ubermenschen. Fox News [why am I taking this seriously?] columnist Cal Thomas believes "Dutch parliament passed a law allowing doctors to actively kill patients they deemed terminally ill".
Fact: doctors are allowed to assist patients in euthanasia. This is in accordance with a patient's right to die. It involves lots of forms to fill out, by the patient as well.
Fact: in the law, minors from the age of 12 can request euthanasia. 12–16 year olds need their parents' consent. 16–17 year olds need to involve their parents in the decision process.

The current controversy doesn't speak about minors under 12, but focusses on newborns. Eduard Verhagen from the University of Groningen started the whole thing suggesting a protocol for termination of life for newborns. While looking for more information, I came across Verhagen's latest article [abstract]:

In the Netherlands, as in many other European countries, the majority of deaths in newborns are preceded by end-of-life decisions. In most cases, these decisions concern the withholding or withdrawing of treatment. Drugs with a potential life-shortening effect are often prescribed in the terminal phase of treatment of newborns to alleviate their suffering. The use of lethal drugs in order to deliberately end the life of newborns with a very poor prognosis and intractable severe suffering has been reported by Dutch paediatricians. Recently published data about end-of-life decisions in newborns in Flanders have shown that paediatricians in Flanders also consider the deliberate ending of life in newborns and young infants to be an acceptable option in exceptional circumstances. Real insight into the existing practice remains limited because the deliberate ending of life legally qualifies as murder in both countries. Few cases are reported because of the physician's fear of prosecution. Physicians in Flanders and in the Netherlands have pleaded for a different system of control of the deliberate ending of life in newborns. The Dutch government has recently announced the instalment of a multidisciplinary committee of experts to whom all cases must be reported. The advice of the committee to the prosecuting authorities will be crucial. It is expected that this change will increase the willingness to report cases.

It seems his sole purpose is to surface these cases that currently take place in murky waters. It probably happens in Italy and the USA as well, but this doctor would like to structurize the procedure and make it more humane, and as such needs a legal body to decide on this. For an objective review, go here. Anyone taking this whole nazi comparison seriously, please try and read up on what's happening before making Orwellian statements.


March 06, 2006

What they said

Writing about A slight rant. from My Blog.

Follow the trackback and read this

February 07, 2006

An overly long comment

Writing about Is this free speech? from Ankit's Reserve of General Mediocrity

Hence I decided on a trackback. Also to apologize in advance for possibly being pedantic. From the start.

The Danish paper MUST apologize

They have. The re-pubishing in other Western media seems to be the bigger problem.

If, however, cartoonists and Editors go out of their way to bait a religious group and then hide behind freedom of speech, then we have entered a wrong alley.

I still disagree. In this case, there was a reason for the cartoons when they were still in context. The main problem I see is that the Danish editors did not know the severity of depicting Muhammad [let alone in a degrading manner] and underestimated the impact of the images. As far as the re-publishing in other Western newspapers is concerned, I think that the ones excluding the prophet [eg. the school kid called Muhammad] shouldn't be a problem – cartoons like that have been printed for a long time and have not been cause for violent reactions as far as I know. The cartoons including the prophet could easily be described rather than printed.

Freedom of speech in my opinion is the freedom to say what you believe, and the freedom to inform [or try to persuade] others of your beliefs. If only the book that inspired the article – quite possibly ridiculing islam and the prophet in a similar way in word – were published, there wouldn't have been a problem. If it would have included the images excluding the prophet, there wouldn't have been a problem. The author would have brought his message across and the audience could have chosen to believe it or not.

The combination of the medium [an image - easily reproducible and anyone who can see it will understand at least some of it] and the message [highly offensive to some] caused this to escalate, and I honestly believe there is no reason to review the laws of free speech.

From the BBC we find Article 10 of the Human Rights Act:

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

The republishing of the offending images was irresponsible [knowing they had already caused a fuss in Denmark], and in that sense could be prohibited by law [a penalty on intentionally threatening local/national/global security]. I'm no Human Rights expert however, and it will be difficult to curtail such rights without losing the original idea.

just because media in Islamic countries show such flagrant hatred for Jews does not mean we demean and sully the image of their prophet in return.

Depending on your definition of prophet, either the Jews don't have one, or it will be a prophet for Islam as well.

About the cartoons: I thought only the ones describing the reactions to the offending comics were humorous. The others seemed unnecessary, and the bomb-turban actually made me want to look away.


January 17, 2006

Common misconception

Writing about Anti–Americanism = Racism from Kempez's blog

In addition to the ongoing debate [see trackback I thought I'd present a picture I found here over a year ago. For those geographically challenged, it is a map of the United States of America, where each county has been given a colour according to its political flavour [blue being mostly Democrat and red mostly being Republican, various shades of purple reflect 50/50 situations etcetera]. The map is distorted, as each county covers an area according to population [presumably of the electorate] rather than size.

The common misconception is basically derived from the news coverage of the elections. America is not as black and white, or blue and red if you want, as presented – rather shades of purple. Large, seemingly democrat strongholds such as LA [bottom left] and New York [two blobs divided by a white line, top right] are neighboured by significantly shaded areas [interestingly enough, our beloved OC near LA, and some New Jersey counties - the Sopranos, anyone? - near New York]. Location doesn't define your political flavour, and your political flavour doesn't define your values.

When voting, I personally have to make a choice: do I want to stand for my own values, and find the party that comes closest to them, and that I can actually trust with them [good luck finding one, even in the Netherlands!], or am I going to help knock the current government out of its seat and vote for someone I might not really care about but he/she doesn't seem too bad and can't be worse than the last dude. Idealism versus realism. If I were American, I can imagine there would be occasions I'd be inclined to vote Republican. Does that make me a div [thanks Hayley!]? Should I bar my windows, for people might think I'm anti abortion or anti preconceptives? I might just be thinking the Democrats have been spending more than enough money [or made enough of a mess, considering the California power crisis. Whether or not it was the governor's fault at some point doesn't matter anymore - if a crisis of this scale isn't resolved or took too long to resolve, heads will roll by definition], or their candidate could be a complete tosser whereas the Republican for once might not seem too war-faring.

It's easy and feels safe to be able to put a tag on everything and everyone. The Democrats are cool. Their last president at least tried to sit at the table with the Israelis and Palestines. And he played the sax. The Republicans are just silly. They spend all their money on defense and it seems like they're at war every moment they've had in the White House. And their leader can't finish a sentence without stumbling over a word. Go back a lifetime or two and you might have thought differently. Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, both Republicans, have brought about great changes in the world and in the States - and I mean great in the sense of positive, developing [Lincoln with the Emancipation Act; Roosevelt with the Panama Canal, conservation of resources, and mediation in world politics for which he won the Nobel Prize].

I'm Dutch and orange is my favourite colour. I smoke weed every day and I drink Heineken and I play football really well. I have never seen a hill and I love to work in the garden wearing my clogs. I sometimes find it difficult to find a TV channel that doesn't show porn. I eat cheese everyday and I love ice skating.

November 15, 2005

Why smoking should not be banned

Writing about web page /bjkeates/entry/the_boar_this/

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

Okay, that entry title was mainly to mirror the previous entry, but still. Smoking is stupid. Anyway, here’s the entry.

On a break from doing what most people here tend to do(studying) I came across this rant. It led me to the Union website and I had a look at the forthcoming referenda. For the record, I hate smoking. I understand that some people feel the need, and usually these are the more polite smokers, that get out of your way, and don’t smoke while you’re eating. Some of my friends are convinced that smoking while going out will actually make them drink less [mainly coz they’ll be having a cigarette in their hand rather than a drink]. Wait. I’m losing the point.

Basically, I don’t mind people smoking when I’m going out – provided the place has good ventilation and a high enough ceiling. I’m more annoyed by overly drunk and unnecessarily pushy people, by the music being about 5 times too loud [especially when the building is quite empty], and the general sweatiness of the Union. But well, I can see a Union without smoke could be more fun and less sweaty, so let’s see what we need to do to get there.

This Union Resolves:
4. That cuts to Union services, as a result of this policy, will begin with the following:
The least commercially successful events (possibly including Vapour, Crash, Pressure, Coalition, Heat and live music events);
Society funding;
Opening hours;
Computing and support facilities for clubs and societies.

Now I thought Warwick student life is mainly bearable because of a great SU, with many societies to choose from and where each day you can have a different night out. Without the “least commercially successful events” the Union will discard all its variety. With less funding for societies [I’ll leave it to you to find out how much funding there is now. Suffice to say that I know of only one society that doesn’t need Union funding to stay afloat. Who knows, there might not even be a Warwick Boar!] many will find it hard to stay functioning, and students will have to find other ways to bide their spare time. Maybe that time will be spent finding another uni…

Lately I’ve found that policy changes apparently have to be drastic. In Rev, there was the motion to ban alcohol from big national events. There is no need to bring alcohol to the building, as we usually manage to find a church with a pub around the corner, but sometimes people just need a drink after a hard day of singing/organizing/general stress, and that time might come after 11pm. To ban alcohol from all events is petty and shows of little faith in the choir members to behave. Sure, there have been occasions where individuals lost a bit of control, but there is no reason to let individual actions ruin everything for the rest of the choir.

Now with the smoking ban, the only way to change the current badly adopted policy is to turn to zero tolerance? There are enough enclosed seating areas in the Union to designate as smoking areas, away from eating establishments such as Rococo, South Central, and the Cholo bar. Similarly, if you ban smoking from the dancefloor [which is where most people will/should be at Union events, and where most oxygen is needed!] you still leave people with the choice to smoke elsewhere in the building, where they can still hear the music, talk to their friends, stay warm, and get their daily dose of nicotine.

Most importantly, the Union will stay an important place in Warwick students’ lives. I’m not sure but I hope this motion is just a big joke, to see if students care enough to read the policy changes and see how ridiculous they are. If not, then I hope the policy makers will rethink the motion and see that there is always a middle way. And everyone will live happily ever after. Just with a slightly blacker lung.

EDIT: Just found the policy list here hopefully the link works, but you might have to sign in for the Union portal to see it. The smoking policy is 368. The only changes necessary I can think of now is making Rococo non-smoking, with the Piazza area smoking instead. Then smoke will be far away from the food! Also, the Graduate Bar and Club are not being mentioned, whereas they seem to be the more cloudy places in the Union.


June 02, 2005

From Holland

Follow-up to In Holland from [TBA]

Nothing to do with my previous entry (although coincidentally I did ask my mom to vote for me while I was at home) [approving the 'constitution' for the sole reason that I like a united Europe and think it needs a constitution at some point anyway] but Charles indirectly asked for it.

This map (from Telegraaf who got it from ANP and CBS) shows all the towns and cities within their council borders and their voting pattern. The first list of towns have the highest percentage of "nee", the second have the highest percentage of "ja" votes.

I haven't done any data analysis for years, but this is roughly what I can tell. (Closest to) Voting "ja" were the Randstad suburbs (kind of left of the middle, green line), two student regions (Utrecht and Wageningen) and some more affluent regions (suburbs of Eindhoven [green scribbly circle, is where I'm from] and Groningen).

If there's any pattern in strong "nee" votes, it would be the so-called 'Bible belt' that ranges from the South-West (Zeeland) to North-East (Groningen) [yellow line]. Throughout the latest centuries, affiliation to church has been strong in these towns, and Christian political parties gain most votes here. I personally have no idea why they would vote "nee" however (though most of these are rural areas as well, so it might rather have something to do with lack of agricultural subsidies rather than religious beliefs that drove the "nee" vote).

One surprise to me is the region in the pink scribbly bit, the south of Limburg. This region is squished between Germany and Belgium, and you would think closer cooperation would benefit the region, and I thought it had benefited from the EU so far. It's also where Maastricht is (55–60% "nee") so a bit sad that even this city couldn't reach a "ja" vote seeing the important treaty created here.

Ah well. Charles' second entry shows a somewhat irrational reason to vote "nee" which was hardly the strongest reason. The Netherlands are per capita the largest contributor to the EU (or that's what we believe), and get hardly anything back. Our political power is too small (if we compare it to contribution, not to size), and we're afraid to lose our own identity (though in the mean time it seems like 90% of new words in the dictionary come from [American] English).

P.S. Apologies for crap picture quality. Can only use paint here unfortunately.


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