Saturday, August 14, 2004

U.S. plans to cut forces overseas by 70,000. I say it is about time, I don't think the Russkies will be charging through the Fulda Gap any time soon.

And even if they did, we have our man Michael with his can of whupass at the ready.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Jonah Goldberg is all over John Kerry for opposing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility. Not that we needed another reason to oppose John Kerry, but this a really good one.

Michael, I went to see The Greatest Band In The Universe last night at the Tweeter Center just outside of Boston. They were absolutely amazing. Their latest album is all covers of classic rock songs, so it was a lot of fun to see that mixed in with all their own material. They were onstage for over 2.5 hours. Now that's a real band. Check the site; they are doing some dates in the UK and continental Europe. It could be your last chance to see them...

For those following the FairTax discussion, here's a rebuttal from the FairTax group of Bruce Bartlett's recent column "A National Sales Tax No Vote" which was highly critical of proposals like the FairTax (this is a link to a Word document; not a web page.) As I suspected, Bartlett missed some key features of the FairTax in his article. This document clears that up nicely.

Many thanks to James Baird for putting this together and getting it to me so quickly!
Moqtada Sadr wounded? Keep in mind this is the BBC reporting, almost as dubious as "the paper of record" - The NY Times.

I just hope when this battle is over Sadr is dead, not captured.


"We are allowed to engage the enemy only in self defence and long enough to break contact," Maj Bob Pizzateli, from the 1st Cavalry Division, was quoted by AP news agency as saying. "That was a blanket order for everybody."

If true this is very disheartening. We should be going in to take care of this business once and for all. Second, if true, why are we announcing it publicly? I hope that is just the line they're feeding the press to keep down stories about the evil, infidel Americans destroying ancient mosques and cemeteries.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

What did I say?

Any comments Brian H?

Hat tip to Flex Flint, a compatriot of mine.
John and Harvey’s Excellent Cambodian Adventure

John: So, here we are in Cambodia. On Christmas eve. On my trusty Swift boat.


John: Hey man, I really like your hat. It’s groovy. Where can I get one ?


John: So, CIA, huh ? That must be pretty cool. Does it get you a lot of chicks ?


(conversation interupted by a severe pokata pokata pokata noise from boat’s engine. John fixes engine with rubber band and ball point pen)

John: That was a close one. Hey ! I scratched my wrist – better put myself in for another purple hea … uh, band-aid. I’d better get a band-aid.


John: You know, for a giant rabbit, you sure don’t talk much.

Here you go Scott. Momentum may be gaining...
Something needs to be done about Iran. Perhaps Israel will (yet again) be the only nation with the guts to do it. Personally I'm hoping for an Osirak type raid.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

This sounds like great news on the illegal immigration front.

"Citing concerns about terrorists crossing the nation's land borders, the Department of Homeland Security announced today that it planned to give border patrol agents sweeping new powers to deport illegal aliens from the frontiers abutting Mexico and Canada without providing the aliens the opportunity to make their case before an immigration judge."

"Under the new system, immigrants will typically be deported within eight days of their apprehension, officials said."
Here's another helping hand from our pals the Germans. So, despite the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that this guy was tortured, they're going to let him go because there's no proof that he wasn't tortured? What a bunch of spineless metrosexuals the Germans have become. We're so much better off without these limp writsted deeters in the coalition. I can imagine the whole case against Bin Laden being thrown out because someone stepped on a ladybug while capturing him. Feiglinge!!!


A.) There are those who like to make fun of Belgians in general and Belgian aircrews in particular, when fate has it that some stoopid cat manages to enter a cockpit and attack the co-pilot.

Curiously enough, one will NEVER hear those jokers when Belgian aircrews perform feats of remarkable courage and competence. Even more curious, these same people complain day and night about perceived bias when mainstream media allegedly puts a spin to matters of their concern.

In a situation reminiscent of the United Airlines DC-10 landing without hydraulics in Iowa in 1989, the crew of a DHL A300 hit by a missile relied solely on engine power without flight controls to land at Baghdad.

Pierre Ghyoot, secretary general of the Belgian Cockpit Assn. (BeCA), told Aviation Week & Space Technology that the pilots were able to guide the aircraft to a safe landing on Nov. 22 using only engine power settings. The aircraft lost all three hydraulic systems and all flight controls. Ghyoot said his organization is already planning to give the crew a safety award.

DHL was carrying U.S. mail to troops in Baghdad but shut down this operation for about a week after the missile attack. The 1979 vintage A300B4-203F was operated by DHL/EAT with two Belgian pilots and a British flight engineer. DHL offficials said the aircraft will eventually be repaired.

‘Nuff said, except that the Belgian pilots on the DHL flight were very likely Flemings and those on the flight to Vienna either Wallonians or Smurfs.

B.) The First Islamic Bank of Britain – but not the last - is a fact.

The British financial watchdog FSA (Financial Services Authority) yesterday gave the let-go for the first British Islamic bank based on the principles of the Sharia, the Islamic law. The do-gooders over at the IBB will invest deposits only in ethically responsible companies, and not in enterprises selling, e.g., tobacco, alcohol and pornography. As could be expected, it will also work according to the "lease" principle instead of with interests. A special committee with Islamic scholars will approve of the IBB’s banking services, investments and other activities. "Of course" it will also fall under the FSA’s scrutiny, "just like the other British banks".

My ass. In Belgium there’s a lot of Islamic-run companies in Brussels. I know firsthand from Tax Controllers that they are threatened when they demand to inspect the books. As a result many of these companies only get "controlled" every ten years, or even not. I have no immediate info on the British situation but I bet that FSA scrutiny will be even a worse joke than that cat story.

Anyway, the IBB will provide financial services to around 1,8 million British muslims. Its Headquarters, to be operational in September, will be in Birmingham, where there have never been the slightest problems with Muslim youths as long as they went off to Pakistan to do a bombing in Kashmir. The first London branch opens shortly after. In October further branches in Birmingham and Leicester follow.

Well, Europe counts millions upon millions of Congolese, Chinese, Polish, Thai, Indians, Jews, Buddhists and what not. Somehow they fail to attract my ears or eyes with stories of inbred development of own facilities meant to compete with the Belgian facilities instead of simply using these last ones. Of course I live in the province, but even reading about Brussels or Antwerp I’m never struck by initiatives from these communities to create a self-sustaining network that provides, say, sports, health care, cultural events or financial services. It’s safe to say that Chinese for example either use Belgian banks or else, if they don’t, make no fuss of whatever else they sluice their money through and to.

This latest Islamic banking initiative though brings again that uneasy awareness of the growing presence of a heavily religiously motivated group of citizens which stubbornly refuses to link itself, out of some sick and racist-in-itself disdain for the West, into the existing social, cultural and financial framework. In Paris last month the authorities recognized the growing problem of a subsociety which is literally developing into a state-within-a-state, with e.g. an own social network, own police, an own Sharia-based judicial system...

Multiculturalists will of course hail this development. I say it’s one more divisive issue. The Muslim Community does NOT want to integrate. It ultimately wants to IMPOSE. We should not be fooled by the slow pace at which this problem is unfolding. Stand still for a moment and watch Islam getting an ever sturdier foothold in the Western World, with demographics reciprocal to ours and a firm policy of keeping the distance. If this goes on like that, we will wake up one day in 2030 to ask ourselves bewildered how the hell Islam succeeded without the sword where it failed in 1683 before Vienna by the sword. We Westerners think in time intervals of days, months or a couple of years. They think in decades and centuries. I am utterly convinced that even the so-called moderate Muslim leaders aspire to have Islam ultimately imposed as the dominating religion in Europe… and elsewhere. If you think I’m grossly exaggerating, follow Islam’s timeline in Europe over just the past two decades. See where they come from and see where they have got.

Stay vigilant and start thinking of strategies.

Maybe we should re think any trips to Belgium Michael.....

Monday, August 09, 2004


Yesterday following my pig story Mark from the Centennial State had a question on US/EU Trade Agreements, and this is a very good link.

Without kind permission from my new EU boss Barroso I will reproduce the following paragraphs since they are quite relevant and illustrate how strange (tragic?) it is that two political blocs which are so dependent on each other economically, apparently seem to have such a political abyss dividing each other.

The EU and the US are each other's main trading partners and account for the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world. They are also the largest players in global trade.

The EU and the US both account for around one fifth of each other's bilateral trade, a matter of €1 billion a day. In 2003, exports of EU goods to the US amounted to € 226 billion (25.8% of total EU exports), while imports from the US amounted to € 157.2 billion (16.8 % of total EU imports).

The investment links are even more substantial. The EU and US are each other's largest trade and investment partner. The total amount of 2-way investment amounts to over € 1.5 trillion, with each partner employing directly and indirectly about 6 million people in the other. The share of EU investment in the US amounted to more than 52% of EU Foreign Direct Investment over the period 1998-2001 (€ 162.663 million a year in average), while US investment in the EU amounted to more than 61% of EU FDI inflows over 1998-2001 (€72.041 million a year in average).

So why it is obvious that the EU exports far more to the US than it imports from it, this is compensated somewhat by the fact that EU investments are more than double those of US investments in Europe.

Now that link offers new links to stuff like the Clinton-era New Transatlantic Agenda (1995) and the accompanying EU/US Joint Action Plan, which I fear is for a large part hollow letter. Much more interesting is the November 9, 1998 Tranastalantic Economic Partnership. Have a glance at it, there’s a lot going on without us being aware of it.

You may also note there has been that June 25/26 2004 EU/US Summit in Dromoland Castle, Ireland. Since that summit dealt mainly with Iraq, the Middle East, counterterrorism coordination and agreements on our respective navigation satellite systems (US: GPS, EU: Galileo), I don’t think the summit is that important from an economical POV. More important was imho the related Brussels June 25 meeting, the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue, or TABD. On that meeting recommendations for four priority areas were given, namely:

a.) Open Trade and Security
b.) Intellectual Property Rights and the Fight against Counterfeiting
c.) Capital Markets and International Accounting Standards
d.) World Trade Organisation and the Doha Development Round.

Note though there were only recommndations, not agreements. Still I thought it worthwile to mention this TABD. At least there seem to have been "considered replies" from both the US government and the EU Commission. I figure there's a lot going on behind the scenes.

There’s been some talk over here in recent years about the necessity of harmonizing our accounting standards (read modeling EU accounting standards to US standards). If I have some time left or Easter falls on a Monday I’ll try to entertain you about that last one, Inshallah.

Yawn. 1.29am. I am a fool after all.
For those who missed the O'Reilly vs Krugman debate on Tim Russert's show this weekend, it looks like there's going to be a second round tonight. O'Reilly is having Krugman on his show, along with Alec Baldwin. Should be good stuff...
CNN will probably have my balls for this but here goes:

(EDIT) A sharp eyed co-worker noticed this and couldn't help himself. I am not clever enough to have thought of it.
Try not to laugh.

I dare you.

Oh yeah, make sure the volume is on.
This editorial from The American Prospect is laughable.

"Whether Bush did enough to fight terror before September 11, or whether Kerry could deliver democracy to Iraq, are matters of interpretation. Kerry's record in Vietnam is a matter of fact. If people are lying about those facts, they need to be called on that and sent away. It is not a matter of these veterans, as The New York Sun wrote in a mendacious editorial last week, deserving "the right we all have to speak." They obviously have a right to speak. They don't have a right to lie..."

That's swell and all but how does he know they're lying? Because he disagrees? I love the way he dismisses the Swiftvets allegations because Kerry's service "is a matter of fact." That Kerry spent 4 months in Vietnam is fact, that he was awarded 3 Purple Hearts is fact - this does not obviate the allegations against him.
I just want to point out the futility crying politics every time there is some sort of terror alert. To claim that the Bush administration is doing this for political reasons implies that you KNOW that there is no real threat, and therefore the conclusion is that Bush has to be messing with us. Of course these people, like the rest of us, don't know anything about the intelligence information involved.

Could the alerts be political? Sure. But this knee jerk reaction by some every time the subject comes up does nobody any good, and probably has the effect of making officials in the administration second guess themselves whenever the timing of an alert coincides with political events, which we don't need them doing. I know some people are blinded by Bush hating rage, but this is dangerous stuff. I think we can all agree that we don't want any attacks, so how about some benefit of the doubt? Without putting forward some proof, this is just partisan BS, and potentially dangerous BS at that.

The real fear is that Bush's numbers go up every time there is a terror alert, so they must be questioned. Perhaps if these people could choose a candidate that didn't have such a soft national security record they wouldn't have to worry about his numbers taking a dive every time people are reminded that we are at war.

Sunday, August 08, 2004


Province of Hainaut, Belgium, August 8, 2004

and I don’t want to spoil your summer party but over here we have a saying "Oogst geschoren, winter geboren" (loosely translated as Harvest done, Winter born). Anyway, this pic is a good excuse to enlighten you with a couple of stats on Belgian agriculture. Small as Belgium is, it luckily manages to exploit more than half of its area for agricultural purposes (17,511 square kloms out of 30,528). A little less than 100,000 people (mid-2004 estimate: 97,700) are working full-time in farming, but their number is declining. Other than the photo suggests, Belgian agriculture’s mainstay is cattle in its various forms, and pig breeding is the crown jewel among these. A November 15, 2003 survey put the number of pigs in Belgovakia on 6,366,248, which is quite impressive when considering the number of Belgians (10,350,000). Since the pig business is mainly a Flemish undertaking (95%), and Flanders counts roughly 6,000,000 inhabitants, it’s an, ahem, interesting prospect we Flemings are outnumbered on our own soil by those happy (at least they think they are) pink grunting fourfooters. Considering the also impressive livestock of cows and veal, it is safe to say that the Belgian farmer is mainly a cattle farmer. Also important is the poultry sector with on average some 39,000,000 "units". I can tell, since my only neighbour is a poultry farmer who owns a chicken breeding farm churning out 42,000 ready-for-processing (ahem) chickens every six weeks.

Still Belgian crops can’t really be neglected either; chief among these are the grain crops which take in 319,625 hectares. Next come fodder crops, like maize for cows (logical in view of the importance of cattle in Belgian agriculture), on 248,409 hectare, and then the so-called "industrial crops" (sugarbeet, chicory, flax, cole-seed, tobacco, hop, and agricultural seed): they take in 134,873 hectare. The most important crop among these industrial ones is sugarbeet, easy to understand in a country where the chocolate industry needs huge amounts of sugar. Of the abovementioned 134,873 ha, 88,377 hectare is used for sugarbeet cultivation. I don’t have the numbers for Wallonia, the southern French-speaking part of Belgium, but in Flanders, where Tienen, the Mecca of Belgian Sugar production is situated, around 64 tons of sugarbeets are harvested per hectare. These 64 tons yield 10 tons of sugar. In other words, the sugar farmer’s 88,377 hectares produce 883,770 tons of sugar. Given that the sector is very heavily subsidized and that sugar farmers are – yet – guaranteed a sale at attractive prices, they are considered the Princes of Belgian Agriculture. The last important bloc of agricultural area is taken in by potato cultivation, accounting for 66,348 hectare.

As an afterthought, I might add that the Flemish farmer (again, I’m sorry but have no data on Wallonian farmers, read am too lazy to look it up), that the Flemish farmer doesn’t have to be ashamed next to his European counterparts. Flanders, with its roughly 13,000 square kloms (it is somewhat more than one third of Belgium) stands for only 0,47% of European farming grounds and counts only 0,56% of European agricultural enterprises – yet it produces 1,9% of European agricultural products.

.....(are you still there? Think of this as one of those indefensible rants)

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