Saturday, January 17, 2004

Hey Michael, does this mean that the Belgian who becomes EU president next will have a Belgacom or Delhaize logo on the back of his suitcoat?

You're absolutely right about the motivations behind this exhibit, and I am as disgusted as you are with these people and their cause. It's probably a distraction for us to be debating what art is and isn't here, as this topic has been kicked around for ages and to my knowledge there is not a satisfactory answer. The apparent aim of Tom's original post was to point out the lunacy of the exhibit, and my reply probably got us a bit off track.

The basic point is this: The content of a piece of art cannot disqualify it as art, no matter how offensive and ill intentioned it may be. There is a famous quote regarding art who's author's name escapes me that goes like this: "There is no such thing as bad content, only bad form. This explains the place of form in art." I believe this applies here.

The rise of antisemitism in Europe is indeed frightening, and should be opposed at every opportunity. But what would we all say if a gallery in New York denied the display of artwork glorifying the creation of Israel on the basis that it was too offensive and ill intentioned to be considered art?
Tom, I’m on your side on this. Under other circumstances I would agree with Scott, underwriting his assessment that it is “art”, albeit really bad, crappy art. Being a European and given the fact the exhibition took place in an EU country I feel compelled however to put the whole thing in context.

The context is this:

*Last summer the Mayor of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, had to intervene personally in the case of the so-called “Black Schools”, where the majority of students are young immigrants, mostly Moroccans. In several schools the pupils made it impossible that history lessons on the Holocaust were given, wreaking havoc in the classrooms and shouting slogans like “Joden, die moet je doden” (“Jews, those you have to kill”). The case was brought to attention by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a 33-year old MP of Somalian origin and former Muslim. Check out this link. It's in Dutch but you'll get the meaning.

*There’s a Europeanwide phenomenon of anti-Semitism on the rise, with, e.g., threatening of prominent Jews and desecration of Jewish graves. If you got the time, take a look here.

*Past autumn German Press was for some weeks in turmoil over the forced resignation from his party by Christian-Democratic MP Martin Hohmann, whose bold remarks accused the Jews of being a people of perpetrators, citing that millions of Russians died in the early twenties in a Revolution orchestrated by Jews. A symphatizing Bundeswehr Special Forces General, Gunzel, was also force to resign. Read the story at Time. Believe me, a lot think like Hohmann and Gunzel but speak not out (yet).

*Gretta Duisenberg, the wife of former European Central Bank President Wim Duisenberg, made a lot of press the past years for her biased stance in the Palestinian issue, always glorifying the suicide bombers and accusing the IDF of terrorist behaviour in the Occupied Territories, and even going so far as hanging a Palestinian flag from her house. Btw, there's a strange side-story on this lady, do a Google for former CIA-agent Philip Agee.

*On Dec 5th, 2001, Brussels Head Rabbi Albert Guigui, was beaten and spit in the face in a Brussels metro station by a group of youngsters of North-African origin.

*etc. etc etc...

Believe me, it's just the tip of the Iceberg.

The bottomline is, in Europe as a whole there’s a frightening rise in Antisemitism, more often than not thinly veiled as anti-Israelism. One can rightly criticize the IDF’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza as being harsh and humiliating to the Palestinians, although when history will pass its judgement the Israelis’ actions will become – are already – quite understandable. The point is that in Europe hatred against Israel for its policy is being used as a vehicle to commit Europes ages-old disease: Anti-Semitism.

And that’s where this so-called “art exhibition” comes in the picture. What's embarrassing me is not so much that the "work" was from Jews themselves – I frown upon and consider as a nutcase many a modern artist - but the fact that such a distasteful thing was organized in a European country which praises itself for its religious tolerance. Exhibiting crap like this fake bloodpool is just another sickening example of "Political Correctness". Glorifying wackos blowing innocent civilians up is good. But don't try to make a hush about a burnt Paris synagogue. It has NOTHING to do with art. Not even with bad art.

Regarding the Swedish art exhibit, I have to disagree with you. Like it or not, this is art, even if it is silly, pretentious art based solely on shock value, which anyone who knows anything about art knows is the easiest and least sophisticated way to express an idea. This is why we see so many images created by political artists with Bush depicted as Hitler. It's hopelessly easy, shocking, (at least is still is to some) and juvenile, and doesn't speak to anyone other than those already living on the same fringe as the artist.

This is how I judge all political art: If the work cannot convince anyone of its intended message beyond those who already hold the same belief as the artist, then it is a silly rant and deserves no more attention than the temper tantrum of a child. Unfortunately, the political art scene seems to be a catch all for talentless people who feel that a shocking, shallow message wrapped up in leftover childhood angst is enough to qualify their work. I mean really, when was the last time you saw a beautiful piece of political art?

Unfortunately, all this crap is still art; it's just really bad art. The Israeli ambassador made a big mistake by making such a scene. He would have been much better off ignoring the piece, or dismissing it quietly for the waste of matter that it is. The creator of that piece is now getting entirely more attention than he deserves.
I want to have about 6 more kids, buy another huge SUV, and move to the Bay area just to piss these people off.
This kind of crap is not art. What the hell is the Museum of National Antiquities doing displaying it. I'd probably have done more damage than the Israeli ambassador.
Interesting article (USERNAME:; PASSWORD: downeastblog) on past judicial recess appointments (of which there have been more than 300).

"Some of the more famous cases include Earl Warren's 1953 appointment by President Eisenhower to be chief justice of the United States and Thurgood Marshall's 1961 appointment by President Kennedy to the 2nd District Court of Appeals."

Hat tip to NRO's Corner.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Nice culture.

"Reem Raiyshi a mother of two from Gaza...was named as the woman who blew herself up Wednesday at the major crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip, killing at least four Israelis and wounding seven others."(Emphasis mine)

I'm sure that her children's lives have been improved by her actions. I'm also sure that somehow it is George Bush's fault that these people are ignorant, murderous, barbaric savages, But you already knew this.
Christ, and I thought Lieberman was a moderate, not a stinkin' commie. He's not fooling Kim though.

O.K. The real reason I posted this link is because Mr. Du Toit says "a first class ball-kicking" which makes me laugh. But he does make a good point about Lieberman as well. The entire Democratic lineup is definitely rather underwhelming.
The most foul and foreign French.

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie says her government is willing to help train Iraq's police and military but rules out sending French troops there.

Huh? Maybe they are planning on setting up an online training class.

Interesting story by a liberal assailing some of the anti-globalization idiocy that seems to be trendy these days.

"Perhaps the candidates are simply pandering to unions, or bashing President Bush. But my guess is that they sincerely believe that such trade policies would help poor people abroad — and that's why they should all traipse through a Cambodian garbage dump to see how economically naïve these schemes would be."

As usual, the motivations behind these "moral" stands are not thought through. Something similar is going on with genetically modified foods. Millions in Africa are starving because their leaders will not accept food from the U.S. because it is "genetically modified" and therefore European nations (EU?) will not deal with them or fear of "contaminating" their crops.

But it just "feels good". Yeah. Tell that to a Cambodian scavenging a garbage dump.
"Toronto-area Muslim leaders say thousands from their community are boycotting travel to the U.S. in their trek to Mecca this month..."

Hat tip to NRO's Corner.
Goddamnit. This sort of thing is becoming all too common. I don't care what your opinion on the death penalty is, the encroachment of "international law" into the U.S. legal system is a very disturbing trend.
I almost threw up when I read this: "Prime Minister Jean-Claude Raffarin and conservative government have pledged to cut value added tax (VAT) on sit-down restaurant meals to 5.5 percent from the standard 19.6 percent." (Emphasis most definitely mine)

And France has to ask the EU's permission to lower its own meal tax?! Michael, you most assuredly mad Belgian, are you sure you support this whole EU thingy? I'll be glad to send you an application for U.S. citizenship.
I'm very happy that President bush has nominated Charles Pickering to the federal appeals court. While it it is only effective until the next congress takes office in January 2005, the president effectively took charge of this ridiculous situation and made the first move. I'm not sure what the Dems are thinking but all of this delaying and refusal to do their jobs has to be turning off some of their own constituency.
George Will takes a very insightful look at the concept of the nation state and how it relates to current world affairs. The forming of the EU and the attempt by the US to create democracy in Iraq are not treated kindly here. This is a long read, but well worth it. Will proves here that he is one of the top political commentators around, if just a bit long winded.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Ayatollah Sistani seems to be threatening trouble. I think this would be very short sighted approach to shaping the future government of Iraq. First, with this much clerical interference, Iraq is well on its way to being as successful as Iran or Saudi Arabia (which are on their way out). Secondly, (and perhaps the reason he insists on immediate, direct, nation-wide elections) if things play out according to Sistani's wishes the Kurds and Sunnis are going to be slightly under represented. Thirdly, I am not sure the Iraqis will really cotton to theocratic rule. For all of Saddam's negatives, religion was not shoved down the people's throats and women had more freedom than in most of the Middle East.

So Sistani, we in the West have hundreds of years worth of experience in democracy, you have hmmmmm, oh yeah, NONE. Shut up and learn something.
This story makes my gun-toting inner-child feel all warm and squishy. Common sense, and in L.A. of all places!

P.S. I'd be glad to oblige anyone who asked me to use my banana "in a happier way." My guess is that it would only be happier for me.
This is the sort of attitude that would frighten me as a European. Particularly this line:"The Brussels-based commission is currently considering whether to mandate the smoking ban Europe-wide, or give each state the freedom to decide whether, and to what extent, to ban smoking in public." (emphasis added). This shouldn't even be up for discussion, of course each state should have the freedom to decide.
Amazing. I actually agree with the French on affirmative action. I particularly like the line: "Affirmative action has traditionally been seen as an ill-conceived American invention that celebrates differences and encourages divisions." Amen to that brother.
Sigh. The "Lion of Kosovo" unimpressive as ever. Oh look! Here's the actual statement.
Regarding immigration policy depending on nationality, I tend to agree with Scott. Part of our problem these days is that we've offered our nation up as a sort of huge, milk laden teat for all the world to suckle. Back when our immigration policies actually made sense (ie. we were discriminating in who we admitted and denied) it made sense to grant asylum to Cubans who were fleeing a ruthless, totalitarian regime. The difference was they were looking to escape their situation, our social services were not beckoning them to latch on to a big ol' nipple. Also, these people for the most part planned on returning to their nations someday, once their totalitarian governments were overthrown.

Alas, today the picture is a bit different (Thank you Senator Kennedy and the 1965 Immigration Reform Act). People from oppressed nations can tug at our heartstrings claiming to be fleeing oppression when they really just want the freebies the American taxpayer provides.

I believe that particularly since September 11th, 2001 we need to make drastic changes to our immigration laws. An amnesty for illegals, pardon me "undocumented workers" is not the answer. We can find Americans to perform the menial labor that these people currently do (See this article by Kate O'Beirne at NRO) by removing (my preference) or otherwise heavily gutting our national social services so the people living on these services will have an incentive to work. This would also dampen the zeal of those from around the world who flock to our nation for a handout.

(RANT ON) I know, I'm a heartless, conservative bastard. It's called pragmatism, and while it may not make your inner child (gag) all warm and fuzzy it will allow you clowns to remain in your little syrupy, utopian dreamworld because we'll still have a United States of America. If we had things your way and lived in our little collectivist commune and Read Marx out loud as we played our bongo drums, guess what? You guys would be the first one complaining because of the totalitarian way things were shaping up, AND you guys would be the first ones shot into the shallow graves you'd just dug yourselves.

So yes, you soft-hearted, softer-headed, "can't we all just get along?", group-hug types should be thanking the likes of me. And you're welcome! (RANT OFF)
What the hell is the matter with President Bush? This new initiative to promote marriage is egregious on two fronts. First fiscally, we need to be cutting spending. I'm not talking about the federal government's interpretation of cutting, ie. increasing the annual buget by only 6% instead of 7%. No, I'm talking about cutting millions and millions and millions from the budget. This initiative is right up there with the National Preschool Anger Management Project (I am not making this up, scroll down a bit). We need a sea change in the attitudes of our representatives when it comes to spending money. They need a firm budget amount each year and then have to work everything in under that number instead of just piling the pork on without even a thought as to how it will be paid for.

Second, the government should have no purview here whatsoever. This includes the courts forcing gay marriage on states, decreeing no fault divorce, etc,. Apparently "Compassionate Conservative" means free-spending, big government, and now - Dating Service!
Regarding immigration, one thing is for sure: Our policy has to remain the same regardless of one's nationality. I don't mind discrimination when it comes to immigrants, as long as it's based on things like potential employment, financial status, criminal record, etc. Essentially, all things that can lead to a person damaging our system rather than improving it. (I'm sure the PC weenies are loving that.) Political fashion has no place in deciding who gets in and out of the country.

The fact that we border an impoverished nation is irrelevant. We need to do what's best for us. We have no obligation to any other nation when it comes to securing our borders, unless those other nations would like to start paying taxes into our system. If you look at the history of Mexico, they had as much opportunity to get things right as the U.S. did, but they squandered the opportunity. It reminds me of the bleeding hearts that were wailing when we invaded Afghanistan, whining that these poor, peaceful people have been overrun by countless armies over the centuries, and we're just the latest invader to come and beat up on them. At what point are these people responsible for their own problems? Is it somehow our fault that nations like Afghanistan, despite being around much longer than the US, can't seem to get it right? Of course not.

I'm for helping out Mexico insofar as it helps the US, and no farther. Beyond that, it's just another handout that will come back to haunt us.

I think the Bush marriage initiative is a crock. As many others have already outlined, the government has no business meddling with marriage, period. I also believe that the premise that marriage encourages fiscal responsibility and productivity is highly suspect. The statistics suggest that people who are married are generally more financially stable and create more stable environments for children, etc. I don't dispute this. What I do question is the cause and effect implied here, as if marriage itself magically makes people more responsible and more productive, and therefore less likely to live in poverty. It seems like a classic case of letting the policy drive the data rather than the other way around. It is just as likely that people who are predisposed to marriage are naturally more responsible and productive people to begin with, which means that promoting marriage (which would likely be ineffective anyway) would do nothing to reduce poverty or increase productivity. Of course, this is only one of several potential misinterpretations of this data. It is like saying that children who listen to classical music at home score higher on standardized tests, therefore classical music makes children smarter. It is also possible that parents who expose children to classical music are generally smarter or more involved in their children's education than those who don't, which would explain the higher test scores.

No matter what you believe about marriage, I'm sure most sane people can agree that the Bush administration needs to start talking about ways to spend less money, not more. Enough already.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

This sounds rather ominous.
Hey Mainers! I know this is just from Cable Nuts Network but it's therefore not less relevant!!!

So when GWB steps down in 2008 will you send him over here? Cleaning up Belgian mess would be a nice old man's pastime.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

It looks like the whole Paul O'Neill thing is fading quickly. With the government now investigating him, he made an appearance on NBC's Today show this morning, and was seriously backpedaling on many of the statements in his book. He asserted that the whole thing about Bush planning for war with Iraq before 9/11 has been spun by the media, and that he thought this was a responsible move by the Bush administration. I haven't read O'Neill's book (like I'm going to buy that), but it its believable that the desperate left would seize upon any scrap of evidence that could be used against Bush, whether it has substance or not. O'Neill also said he would "probably" vote for President Bush in the next election.

We all know that this guy was a lousy Secretary of the Treasury. It seems plausible that his statements weren't all that bad, and the left is simply running with them because that's all they have. It also seems plausible that he's a weenie and doesn't have the backbone to stand by his statements. Either way, this is shaping up to be a non starter.

Put this one into the vast "evaporated hopes of the left" file.

Monday, January 12, 2004

This comment on Tim Blair's site pretty much sums it up:

Look, Howard Dean's head is shaped like a thumb. Or, a big-toe.

I simply can't hear the voice of someone whose head is shaped like a digit, or a pied.

His head isn't a real man's head, it's a cartoonist's head. Maybe that's what makes him so mad .......... his head looks like a toe.

Hat tip to Jeff Jarvis.
Thomas Friedman has a very interesting Op-Ed piece (requires registration) regarding the upcoming decision whether to admit Turkey to the EU or not. While I don't necessarily agree with all of his suggestions (such as the U.S. subsidizing the E.U.), I think a lot more hinges on this decision than economics alone.
This from The American Spectator:

What former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and other Bush administration blabbermouths failed to mention when leaking NSC documents and the like for the forthcoming book O'Neill worked on, is that the Clinton administration had many of the same documents prepared laying out plans for a Iraq post-invasion Iraq.

"We had the same stuff," says a former senior Clinton Administration aide who worked at the Pentagon. "It would have been irresponsible not to have such planning. We had all kinds of briefing material ready should the president have decided to move on Iraq. In fact, a lot of the material we had prepared was material that the previous Bush administration had left for us. It just isn't that big a deal. Or shouldn't be."

Exactly. It isn't that big a deal, especially considering the source. I believe Mr. O'Neill spent a large chunk of his time in office touring Africa with rock star "Bono".

Sunday, January 11, 2004


Thanks again for "EU 101". You pointed out a lot of things that I was not aware of.

As Kerry points out, this all seems like a recipe for a massive, lethargic bureaucracy, but we can't claim to be immune to that on this side of the pond, either. I still feel that the much greater cultural differences within the EU versus those within the U.S. will make it that much harder to get anything truly productive done. Here's to hoping that both the U.S. and the EU someday figure out that less is more when it comes to government.
The left's position against Bush on the war in Iraq is going to start looking even more like a house of cards if this turns out to be true. The anti-war left is so committed to the theory that Bush lied about WMD's that if these shells turn out to contain chemical weapons, they may as well forfeit in 2004.

Just for grins, here's some potential responses from the left if the above story turns out to be true:

A few artillery shells with chemical agents don't count as WMD.

Sure we found WMD's, but how come Danish soldiers could find them and American soldiers couldn't? We need a full scale investigation.

Since the shells have been buried for at least 10 years, then it's possible they were buried before the first UN resolution banning them, which makes them only "sort of" illegal.

Bush Sr. had the weapons planted back in the first gulf war, knowing that his son would invade Iraq 12 years later, find the weapons, and fulfill their evil Illuminati plot.

These things have been sitting in a swamp for 10 years, how dangerous could they be, anyway?

Ok, so there's chemical weapons in Iraq, but where's the evidence of Saddam's nuclear program? Bush still lied!

Bush knew about the chemical weapons from the beginning and waited until an election year to reveal them for his own political gain. Wait, that would mean that he wasn't lying. Never mind.

Hi you all. Kerry, I promised you to pick up the thread on your Dec. 31 questions and here it is. Permit me to quote you:

“Michael, upon re reading the agreement, it says that unanimity (one country blocking is enough) is reserved for among other things foreign policy and defense. This caused some interesting feelings, my first was, "oh no worries, they'll NEVER get anything done that way"--then it hit me, "OH NO, that's exactly it!". If there were an event such as Iraq, in this layout, it would take only ONE state (France, say?) to say "Mais non, les Americains, malheureusement, je regret...." well you get the picture. One state could block help from the entire of Europe under auspices of "defense" or foreign policy.”

Well, this was the bottomline of your worries. It shows that you have been reading the resume on an earlier posted link quite well. Before addressing your topic, allow me to elaborate:

The EU’s “government” consists basically of two parts, namely:

For those people remotely aware of the EU’s functioning this is the part of the executive body that mostly shows up in newsreels. From May 2004 on, there will be 25 commissioners (ministers), one for each country. I don’t know yet if and how their terms will be affected by the enlargement but until now each commissioner served a four-year term and one of them is President. Right now this chap is Romani Prodi, a Centre-Left former Italian PM with a good record. Well, until now and in order to not complicate things too much for you Americanos, I said that this Commission was the EU’s government. Hmmm, that’s not exactly the whole truth. Let us rather say that the entire executing body is comprised of, indeed, this Commission, AND the so-called Council of Ministers (see b.). Not gonna make this post top-heavy and indigestible, if you want to know more about a.) check this out.

Well, this Council of Ministers, the part of the EU’s executive body that’s less often in the spotlights, has the final say on legislation. Unlike the Commission, membership is fluid, with each government mandating an appropriate minister depending on the subject to be treated. E.g. the issue is border control, then the Foreign Ministers form the Council.

The presidency of this Council of Ministers rotates among the member states with each state being “Council Host” for a 6-month period. Want to check out more about this, click here.

And another good link on the Council is this.

Have I got you this far? Unbelievable. Take a cigar.

Now, if you want to get the final clue hold on for a sec. Are you puzzled by the appearance of Berlusconi suddenly popping up last summer as “head of the EU” but don’t you know how his function relates to Prodi’s? And now Berlusconi has been succeeded by the slightly less colourful Bertie Ahern, Ireland’s Taoiseach (gaelic for PM) but his fella Prodi is still around??? How come???

Well, it’s all about the EU’s governing body being made up of the Commission on the one hand and the Council of Ministers on the other hand. It’s really not that strange, compare it with a Board of Directors and an Executive Committee if you want. The Commission handles the day-to-day business but the Council prepares and takes the strategic decisions. So Prodi who is President of the Commission just serves out his four-year term, Ahern on the other hand is President of the Council and will be replaced again in six months. Prodi does the shopping and cooking, Ahern plans installing a new kitchen (ahem ahem).

Now that I assume that you got the stuff above locked and loaded, let me elaborate again on Kerry’s concerns. As said, it’s the Council of Ministers which has the final vote on strategic issues and for that the following voting system was put in place (on the 2002 Nice Summit):

a.) UNANIMITY is required among the Council’s Ministers for, yes, the key matters defence, foreign policy, all kinds of taxation, culture, education, health, border control etc… And indeed Kerry, if ONLY ONE of the 25 member states opposes a decision this decision cannot pass!

b.)QUALIFIED MAJORITY VOTING, the two formulas are:

* Decisions taken on a proposal of the Commission (e.g. the internal market):

From May 2004 (25 member states): require 255 votes of the 342 PLUS must be approved by simple majority of the member states (one country = one vote, in this case 13!)

• Decisions taken in all other cases:
Require 255 votes of the 342 PLUS at least two-thirds of the member states (in this case 17).

Well Kerry, in a way you are right with you concerns. On really important matters France’s vote can block any decision even if all 24 others are in favour of it. Truth to tell, I’ve been worrying too because it indeed does not bode too well for when gut-requiring issues are at stake. On the other hand we should not be too pessimistic. After all, the EU’s Council of Ministers is a democratic entity, with envoys from democratic countries. Any decision-making is ultimately subject to the approval of European citizenry. On that we must stake our hopes for reason and sound judgment ruling the EU’s decision-making. This is not some kind of process like the UN’s Security Council voting system you know, where – let’s call a spade a spade – a dictatorship like China, or an increasingly pro forma democratic Russia can block all the goodwill on the Earth. You can be quite sure that when France is too stubborn on any given subject there’s going to be a lot of talking and negotiating behind the scenes. And contrary to the UN, the EU’s countries’ economies are getting so intertwined there’s plenty of room for bargaining, so that if again France would refuse to bend, it has to reckon that e.g. other countries won’t be that indulgent when at a next meeting Frances interests would be more directly involved.

Hmmmm, think I will post somewhat on the EU Parliament and its judiciary, then something on the EU’s military plans and then it’s time for some other stuff. Your servant, Michael.