Saturday, September 03, 2005


I thought this one was just too good.


From the inimitable Chris Muir of course. Btw, I am of the opinion that both Jan and Sam, but especially Sam, are looking incredibly sexy lately.

Serious now. The scale of the disaster in New Orleans and surroundings is baffling. So if you can spare a dime, please do so over here. Take your pick. If you still need a little prodding, you may want to check out this series of before and after photos. Via Townhall.



Pine State Red CrossThe Truth Laid Bear has a great initiative to raise bucks for the relief effort. Another illustration of the power of blogs. You are a Blog Aficionado, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this, and you can't claim it's for my beautiful eyes either. So then get off that lazy ass of yours and DONATE!!!

Me being just a nutty Belgian, I don't know that much about American charities. So, like I said, take your pick over here. Still not sure what organization to donate to, may I recommend then The American Red Cross? Hey, it's not just me! LGF's Charles Johnson endorsed it too! Follow the link just mentioned, ARC's Homepage is one of the first ones on the list. Wanna know where the Blogs' efforts stand? Check out Glenn Reynold's roundup.American Red Cross

OK, TTLB told MFBB to also include the Technorati Flood Aid Tag and since I'm a good boy, voilà: . Ditto for the Hurricane Katrina tag: . U vraagt, wij draaien. One last thing: when you have wired your contribution, please don't be shy to register it here. Doen!


Come on people, add a few bucks. According to the BlogLeaderBoard, Downeastblog finds itself somewhere in the middle, with 140 US$ donated so far (1.24 am Western European Time). Interestingly, we're just ahead of Barcepundit, who happens to be a Spaniard on the same side of the fence as we, or so I'm told.

Friday, September 02, 2005


For some time now I have wanted to shed some light on the recent emergence of a new Belgian rightwing group blog, called The Brussels Journal. Although I strongly suspect the main driving force behind the project are Dr. Paul Beliën, Flemish conservative writer and journalist, and Mr. Luc Van Braekel, Flemish Internet entrepreneur and Flanders’ top political blogger with his excellent, The Brussels Journal also has a European dimension since among its contributors we notice such names as Elaib Harvey, Norman Barry and Carlo Stagnaro. The Brussels Journal's aim is probably best summed up by Mr. Beliën:

"I believe in being free, acquiring knowledge, and telling the truth."

The above quote from the legendary American journalist H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) sums it up pretty much. The Brussels Journal is a project set up by European journalists and writers to restore three values that are so lacking in the so-called "consensus-culture" of contemporary Europe: Freedom, the quest for Knowledge, and the Truth.
We defend freedom and, though we do not pretend to know the ultimate truth, we strive to acquire as much knowledge as possible by presenting facts and views that are hard to find in the "consensus-media" of Europe.

- Dr. Paul Beliën

The Brussels Journal

Personally, I think that the birth of TBJ is another sign of the emergence of a significant and ideologically "pure" European Right. For decades, Europes "Right" was such in name only, its being "right" most of the time not amounting to anything more than not exactly being "left" – a matter of colours if you will. Indeed, when one looks at the behaviour of the French "Right" for example, it’s sometimes hard to disitnguish their actions from the French "Left", think French protectionism and subsidies for ailing industries par example. The contributors of TBJ on the other hand offer European Rightism with an ideological backing, and as such this new group blog reminds me of In the discourse they use one finds such concepts as the fair tax and even the flat tax, as well as an unashamed defense of individualism, self-accountability and free markets. In socialist dominated Europe, with its at best "mixed" markets, the existence of a group of independent thinkers and writers like TBJ is therefore a hopeful sign that the pendulum has taken a definitive swing to the other side. If we add also the fact that some – not all – of TBJ’s contributors are not ashamed to "out" themselves as Christians, or at least don’t bother to profile themselves as ethically conservative, we may indeed see the beginning of a European Rightwingism modelled after its American counterpart. Here’s hoping for the future!

While I am at it, may I point you to their regular postings which up until now invariably offer thorough and well-balanced insight and analysis. One of the last posts, by the hand of said Mr. Beliën, who is also a WSJ contributor, reports on a speech by Mr. Andrei Illarionov, Chief Economic Advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, while at a Mont Pélerin Society summit in Reykjavik, Iceland (The Mont Pélerin Society is a Hayekian think tank). I guess that over the past five or so years, most of those interested in Russian matters have watched economical and political developments in the former USSR with considerable anxiety, given Mr. Putins clampdown on corporate Russia as well as his apparent nostalgy for the Communist era and his governments actions against political dissidents and too indepenent media platforms. Well, I must say that Mr. Illarionovs speech more or less baffled me. Some excerpts:


Last week Illarionov pointed out that in the 1990s, when oil prices were relatively low, Russia lowered taxation (adopting a flat tax of 13%), privatised its oil industry, stimulated economic competition and attracted foreign investments. Since 1999 oil prices have been on the rise, multiplying five-fold. With the high oil prices "the Dutch disease" came to Russia, said Illarionov. Money has flown in, leading to a high money supply, high inflation and a rise of the ruble.

"An exacerbation of the Dutch disease promotes corruption, impairs the quality of policies, including those of an economic nature, and demoralizes essential federal and public institutions. The flow of revenues not earned through the hard labour of the government or economic entities has a degrading effect, thus encouraging the emergence of a ‘rent-oriented’ government and a ‘rent-oriented’ society. As a result, the idea of business through creative endeavors gives way to an aggressive ideology of redistribution."

Russia soon became a "petro-economy" where the government strengthened centralisation and began to implement a so-called "industrial policy" with a sharply increased taxation of oil companies, an increase in government spending and an expansion of government companies and the non-market sector. The "petro-economy" led to the "petro-state" with what Illarionov calls the "Venezuelan Disease Syndrome." Venezuela went through an unprecedented economic growth until the late 1950s when its per capita incomes and consumption levels almost equalled those of the U.S. and Switzerland. However, after the authorities nationalized the oil industry and other key sectors of the economy in 1957 the country entered a decline that continues today.Andrei Illarionov

"The Venezuelan disease [consists of] a policy based on increasingly stringent tax and bureaucratic controls over finances (above all, in the oil and gas industry), nationalization of the largest and most successful corporations, the continued government monopoly over infrastructure facilities, a ban on private ownership of mineral resources, exclusion of foreign investors from the development of the most promising natural resource deposits, and protectionism that creeps into all branches of the economy."

Today the Russian authorities are reaffirming their stranglehold on the "commanding heights of the economy." They have effectively nationalized the oil industry (Yukos). They intervene in the other economic sectors. The bureaucracy and the military are on the rise and the rule of law is dwindling. This has affected young Russians who are currently seeking career opportunities as government administrators rather than entrepreneurs.

Illarionov’s speech was, as Johan Norberg noted, "informative and powerful," but he was so outspoken that he left his audience baffled, wondering whether they had really been listening to the man who since 2000 has been Putin’s senior economic adviser. Some of the MPS members put forward the theory that the 44-year old economist, a self-declared fan of libertarian writer Ayn Rand, has been given permission by his boss to say these things so that the latter can show the world that he tolerates criticism and freedom of speech, even at the highest level. That explanation looks far-fetched to me, but as Mr. Putin is the former head of the KGB one never knows.


Johan Norberg is, as some of you may know, the driving force behind the Swedish pro free market think tank Timbro. You may want to bookmark that site. More on Mr. Illarionovs views here.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Cindy Sheehan is coming to Brunswick ME.

Tom, it's time to saddle up. You drive the Expedition through the masses of leftist freaks, I'll hang out the window and deploy the McDonald's shake to Sheehan's skull.

Monday, August 29, 2005


On the evening of August 6, my wife and I went to the Château de Beloeil for the yearly classical music festival "La Nuit Musicale de Beloeil", which is held in the Château’s park. The castle, main attraction of the village of Beloeil in Hainaut province, Belgium, really is an impressive setting for such an event, since its park is designed as a frame around a disproportionately large water basin stretching hundreds of meters to the left of the chateaus main façade. This basin is called the Bassin de Neptune, and as you walk around it and enjoy the performances of the dozen or so orchestras, ensembles and choirs, your eyes are inevitably drawn towards the majestic château across the lake. Since medieval times it has been the property of the Princes of Ligne, and over the centuries it saw many transformations, from 14th-century fortress to château de plaisance by 1780. Château de Beloeil, Hainaut, Belgium

Every year the works of an important composer are highlighted, and only over the past years Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi and Bach "passed the revue". This year it was Tchaikovski’s turn. Piotr Ilich Tchaikovski was born on 27 May 1840 in Votkinski in the Ural mountains to a wealthy middle-class family. His father was a mining director, his mother idolized French culture. In 1848 the family moved to Saint-Petersburg, where young Piotr became a first-class clerk in the Ministry of Justice. Only in 1863 he enters the Conservatory, where Rubinstein is one of his tutors. It was Rubinstein who appointed Tchaikovsi, on graduating in 1865, as Principal for Harmony at the Moscow Conservatory, a post he held until 1877. It was during these years that he wrote his 1st Piano Concert and the ballet The Swan Lake. More importantly, between 1876 and 1890 Tchaikovsky yearly received an amount of 6,000 rubles from an eccentric widow by the name of Nadezhda Von Meck, on the condition that they never meet. His financial needs thus alleviated, he dedicated his Fourth Symphony to her. In the eighties Tchaikovski spends a lot of time in Italy, where he will compose some masterpieces, a.o. the Italian Capriccio and the Opera The Queen of Shades. In 1891, on a Tour in the United States, he performs in Carnegie Hall, where he receives a warm welcome. In 1892, back in Russia, the famous The Nutcracker sees the light. In 1893 he composes his 6th symphony, better known as La Symphonie Pathétique. It will be his last. During a cholera epidemy he carelessly drinks a glass of unboiled water and almost immediately falls gravely ill. Despit heroic efforts of three doctors, Tchaikovski dies on 6 November 1893. Tchaikovski

As my wife and I strolled through the park, occasionally sitting down to listen to a choir here, attending a performance from a chamber orchestra there, I was musing how much I liked summer, not so much for the weather, since in Belgium you are apt to have cool and wet Julys every lustrum or so, but because it is the season where you can almost literally hop daily from event to event. Both in Flanders and Wallonia you can’t miss the ads for numerous musical, historical or architectural gatherings, often in inspiring locations such as châteaux, abbey ruins, medieval town centers etc. etc. Now, while I don’t consider myself a classical music freak nor a culture yuppie, every year I like to partake in some of these events, if only because a change of perspective and a flight from boring (work) routine refreshes the mind and liftens the mood.

Son et lumière showAnd so, this year we got acquainted some more to the works of Piotr Ilich Tchaikovski, who essentially was a tragical artist. You wouldn’t say so from his music, which does not strike you as fraught with Weltschmerz, although a certain melancholy is never far away. Not contributing to any gloomy mood whatsoever was the continuous lightshow being projected onto the castles wing facing the lake, and, together with countless torches and fires, as well as numerous opportunities for light snacks and beverages, made for a jolly good atmosphere among the 16,000 guests.

If you think you are not exactly familiar with Tchaikovskis work, you might want to check out this link, where you can listen to mp3 samples as well as buy entire pieces from the master. No matter how much you may consider yourself to be at odds with classical music, chances are that you recognize I Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso, from Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Opus 23, which you can listen at here, or Scene (Act II) – The Swan Lake, over here. I have another sample here, it’s called March of the Slaves, and while the sample itself is drawn from early on in the piece, it being rather a warming-up excerpt, I assure you that the finale of this symphony, played out extremely loud and combined with the most magnificent fireworks you’ve ever seen, would make your skin crawl. At midnight, as I was watching the plethora of fusées exploding over our heads, the myriad of colors reflecting magnificently in the mirror that was the Bassin de Neptune, and with the March of Slaves thundering over the black water, I was thinking that a country that has spawn a composer and music like that is a mighty, mighty country.