Friday, May 28, 2004

With all of the talk of another major attack on our soil this summer, I thought it would be an appropriate time for a little reflection. Below are two links to articles written by Thomas Sowell a couple days after the attacks of 9/11. They will certainly bring you back, which I believe is a good thing. So many people have forgotten the essence of that day, or have reworked it in their minds to better fit their ideology. Sowell nails a few predictions in these pieces while dispensing his usual wisdom in the process. My favorite prediction:

"No doubt any further acts of terror after the administration's response will be blamed on that response, even though such terrorist acts were probably already planned before the administration did anything. But escaping blame is a major preoccupation in Washington, so the response may be inadequate, for fear of being considered excessive by "world opinion." But when members of your family are dying, you don't worry about what the neighbors will say."

Sept. 13, 2001

Sept. 14, 2001

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Here's one from the "you won't see this in the mainstream news" file. Why talk about this when we can show those Abu Ghraib pictures for the hundredth time...

Here's another installment from our new pal Kevin...

Hi everyone. Thanks for letting me participate. It's been
fun...gulp...sharing different ideas and perspectives with everyone. Next
up, I'll tell ya' why Bush is going to lose the election...


Okay, here are a few of the points I have made today in our discussion. I'd
like to summarize so you don't think my postings were "pointless", and per
Frizzle's request, list some general ideas that could help change things:

-THERE IS A COST FOR EVERYTHING. My point is that everything has a ying and
yang. Every single thing we do affects others in some way. So, knowing
this and keeping it in our conscious mind when making decisions goes a long
way to improving everything...everywhere. This is just basic personal
responsibility, but brought into corporate boardrooms, as well. SOLUTIONS:
We should put as much thought into the consequences of our actions as we do
energy into the actions themselves. Alternatives will never show themselves
unless necessity dictates or we put great effort into improvements.

think this is inevitable with large companies, so they have to work even
harder to stay in touch with what got you to that place. Most small
businesses don't have a problem, because they have their hands on their
products every day and are talking with their customers. It's not so easy
for large companies. SOLUTIONS: How about doing it like UPS does it? Every
couple of years, every employee at any level has to go and work a couple
days at a shipping plant...unloading trucks, moving boxes, etc. This is a
great "out of the box" idea that some companies would laugh at, but it's
worked well for UPS for a century. I talk to employees all the time who
don't even know their own products as well as I know them...sad. I don't
get this at mom and pop shops...

EVERYONE. It's like putting a salary cap on the NFL teams...competition is
no worse off with it. Matter of fact, it is the most competitive league in
pro sports. As long as everyone plays by the same rules, I think it's okay
to make or even remake the rules to achieve other goals like smart growth,
beautification projects, etc. SOLUTIONS: ALWAYS be consistent across the
board when changing or putting down new rules/laws. Do not create so many
that it takes away the entrepreneurial spirit and ability for businesses to
function/maintain profitability. (Profitability...not 100x.)

far healthier for a community to have several hardware stores, several
coffee shops and several movie theaters versus a Starbucks, a Home Depot and
a Megaplex. You may pay a few more cents at a small place, but it is
CONNECTED to your community. (See above.) The decision-makers are living
next door to you. This has to be better...maybe not cheaper, but better.
SOLUTIONS: Local and state governments should stop with such HUGE incentives
for the big boys and instead give the tax breaks to the small businesses.
Every town should have some sort of incubator program for small, homegrown
businesses, rather than giving enormous breaks to Walmart. (But they'll
employ 100's? Yeah, the same 100 people they are putting out of work from
the local small shops.)

-FRIZZLE CAN'T SPELL TERRORISM. SOLUTION? Send that boy to school. Oh and
Frizz, for the record? I think you have it wrong in saying (in jest)
Americans are ignorant. Blinded by riches and wealth? Maybe, but not

PS-I didn't do this to "throw water on the fire." This was a planned email
from weeks ago and just coincidentally was sent after our debate today. :-)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Hi Kevin, welcome aboard. I'm the nutty Belgian. On the pic below you see me with my late uncle (PBU). Some evil character on this blog likes to accuse me of wearing a cheesy hairpiece but you can clearly see that ain't the case. The bozos who run this place hired me back in November to provide them with, hahaaaaa, fasten your seatbelts, useful info on the EU and stuff and boy did they wish they could turn back time!

Me and Uncle Adolph

Kevin, don't get intimidated by these shameful greedy slimeballs. I for one recognized a soulmate. These are the quotes the dimwits failed to notice:

"I love making money..."

"I know all you guys are very pro-big business. That's fine..."

"Big biz is great..."

Son, I NEVER confused you with the likes of Chris Martin (ecofella who wed Gwyneth Paltrow and who also sings), who put this ephemeral wisdom on his CD (A Rush of Blood to the Head) (the only thing making sense in this title being Rush):

"For countries to develop or even survive they need to be able to trade fairly. At the moment poorer countries are strangled by ridiculous international trade laws and ruthless western businesses, keeping millions trapped in poverty and widening the gap between rich and poor."


Ladies and Gentlemen, like me Kevin is NOT a Chris Martin aficionado, (well... except for his music maybe because the fella has talent in that field). Kevin is like me, he wants to put a humane face on big development and capitalism WITHOUT making it impossible for it to thrive. In one of the previous comments I elaborated a little on the concept of "Ruimtelijjke Ordening" (again, how would you call that in your language?). Fact is, whereas twenty-five years ago businesses great and small in Flanders could do just about anything (like storing a huge deadly cocktail of dangerous chemicals and explosives in the heart of Ghent), they are now mostly grouped together on neat industrial zonings. This required legislation, true. It required financial efforts - from the authorities (buying and readying the terrains) - and from the companies (relocating). But guess what? Today investors great and small wouldn't want to be anywhere else than on these zonings. Access is easy (delivering raw materials, transporting finished stuff), the personnel can get there much more easily using public transport (bus stops in the zonings), and to some extent there is mutual enrichment. Of course we shouldn't forget the additional bonuses of not having the city clogged by heavy transport, plus that the visual pollution is kept to a minimum (zonings shielded off by shrub and larger trees), preservation of our scarce landscapes elsewhere.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I can't help but thinking that you, me and Kevin are basically on the same side of the fence, one only being a little more radical than the other. Big business' role as a nationwide provider of jobs, wealth and added value should be recognized and preserved. If they weren't there the socialist charities would have nothing to distribute (a fact they often tend to forget). On the other hand, if our companies can sustain it, why not gently require them - make that encourage them - to help us to make our countries not only rich but also pleasant to live in. Lke Scott said, living and working in a suburban sprawl ain't fun.


Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to my friend Kevin (his last name has been witheld to protect the innocent.) He's been lurking on our site for a while and is making his debut post today in reaction to my comments below regarding Atlanta, development, etc. Please welcome Kevin to the mix; he's sure to provide a different point of view on many topics. Let the debate begin!

Here's Kevin's post:

The overdevelopment of Atlanta and many other cities is a great example (and
product of) the downside of extreme wealth in this country and the focus on
money, money, money. I love making money...but at what expense? If
anything, we Americans know that there is COST FOR EVERYTHING!

All businesses begin by smart, hardworking people that take on an area that
they know something about and do it better and/or cheaper than everyone
else. But, as they accumulate wealth, it's quite natural to get more distant
from what got them there in the first place. The more distant...the more
soulless, imo. Suddenly, it's all about profits ONLY and there is no
cultural or personal return.

As they make more, they can venture into other businesses for profit only,
where they really have no experience, skills, or love of the concept. But
they do have money, so they can afford to make mistakes, burn bridges and
piss people off. None of this would ever work with a small business.

Years ago, people would work on the places they lived...the places they
walked by each day. These days, developers are so disconnected from the
area, that there is no real pride in the work and what their work does for
people, but instead a sole focus on money. How many developers do you think
live in the area that they developed? How many of these developers are even
based in Atlanta?? I bet very, very few. What do they care about the city?
As long as their execs can buy that Hummer they've been eyeing...

So, I know all you guys are very pro-big business. That's fine. But, we
reap what we sow, and we can't forget that. Atlanta is a great example of
how relatively few people made a ton of money while developing the hell out
of a city. Stand still too long and you'll have a billboard painted on your

I now live in Raleigh...a place where zoning has outlawed all billboards.
There are none in this city. And yet...all the businesses are still on a
level/equal playing field and the place is beautiful. Competition is just
as alive here, but without all the visual pollution. How is this zoning

Big biz is great, but don't any of you get frustrated with the many negative
products it puts out? I sure do. Are we all certain that our way is the
best way? We are the richest, aren't we? Is that better?

Brought down to a human level...I see a whole lot of corporate clowns every
day that are far richer than me...but, I wouldn't trade places with them for
anything. Ya' think there are countries out there that think that way about

Monday, May 24, 2004

Ok, so I just got back from 6 days in Atlanta, GA for my brother's wedding. I was going to post a history of Atlanta, but I don't think I could equal Michael's brilliance, so you'll just have to look it up. I will say that one of my heroes, William Tecumseh Sherman, burned the city down in the civil war. This event is still blamed for Atlanta being somewhat of a cultural wasteland in the eyes of some.

As far as the trip goes, I'm glad it's over. I had to give the best man's speech, which means I was not able to relax all week until the speech was over. I think I did pretty well; I even got away with a Jewish joke in front of a mostly Jewish crowd: "The name Frizzle is actually an old Yiddish word that loosely translates into 'gentiles from the north.'" I got laughs.

I lived in Atlanta for 9 years, and I can confidently say that overall I am glad that I left. Not that Atlanta doesn't have a lot going for it, but it's just too damned hot for too damned long, and has some of the worst suburban sprawl you could ever imagine. Our hotel was right in the middle of this mess, and it is depressing as hell to face that every day. I had forgotten what road rage was like until I had to face 8 lanes of motionless traffic again. Too many people living too close together. Good barbecue and Mexican food, though.

Anyway, I'm back and ready to blog. I've also decided that it should be a law that all homes and public places have wireless internet. I REALLY missed that.
'Only nuclear power can now halt global warming'. And this from a greenie. This ought to throw the enviroweenies into a tizzy.

Sunday, May 23, 2004


As some of you may know by now, I’m married to a Polish girl from Wroclaw, which is Poland’s fourth largest city (pop. appr. 600,000), located in the southwest. Every year in April we go there to visit my mother-in-law and brother-in-law and to celebrate Easter. I thought I’d share some hard info plus some personal experiences with you, as, after all, in the present struggle in Iraq Poland is still one of your key allies. Also, Poland recently joined the EU (May 1st), together with nine other countries, and since somehow the emerging EU will be a reality the US will increasingly have to take into account, rather than the separate constituent nations, this is another reason Poland deserves some attention.

Polish Republic Post WWII

Poland is a republic with capital Warsaw, a surface of 312,685 square kloms and a population of 38,6 million, thus making it about three quarters the size of California, but with California, on the other hand, having only roughly three quarters of Polands population.

Polands history begins in 966 with Prince Mieszko I converting to Christianity (the word “Poland” stems from the Polish word “Pole”, which means field or plain). King Kazimierz The Great (Kazimierz Wielki, 1333-1370) established a.o. the famous University of Krakow (1364). The year 1386 saw the birth of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth under King Wladyslaw Jagiello. This Commonwealth officially became the Polish-Lithuanian United Republic in 1596 and was the greatest European Kingdom at the time, stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The pre-1500 period saw struggles with the Teutonic Knights, the Germans being then already a rather trigger-happy folk. Economically, politically and culturally Poland knew its golden age in the 16th Century.

An important document from this era is the so-called Privilege of Radom (1505), a document issued by King Aleksander granting rights and privileges, somewhat comparable to the English Magna Carta (1215). Another very important document is the Parliamentary Constitution of 1543, written in that year in a Sejm session in Krakow (the old seat of the Polish Kings - today the Polish Parliament is still called “Sejm”). And yet another very liberal evolution came about with the Warsaw Confederation (Jan. 28, 1573), a charter granting absolute religious freedom. An important King in this time frame is King Sigismund I (1506-1548).

The 17th and 18th Century saw the Kingdom gradually weakened as a result of internal turmoils (an important King being Jan III Sobieski, latter half of the 17th Century - the chap got immortalized with his name being taken for a famous brand of cigarettes). By the end of the 18th Century Poland had become so unstable that it was an easy prey for the three upcoming superpowers of the time, Prussia under Frederick The Great, Russia under Catharina The Great and Austria's Maria Theresia. The process of the cutting up of Poland is known as the Polish Divisions, the first one in 1772 and the second one in 1793. Polish patriotism spawning a figure like Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a revolt took place the year after, which even knew a resounding military victory over the Russians during the Battle of Raclawica (1794), impressively depicted in the famous 360° mural painting exhibited in the Panorama Raclawica in Wroclaw, which I was able to see during my first visit to Poland. Worldwide there's only a handful of such paintings (another one being in Waterloo in my country), so if you happen to visit Wroclaw, don't miss it.

This Polish victory over the Russians was short-lived however, because 1795 saw the Third Division take place and thus the final demise of the great Polish-Lithuanian nation, an event that was formally "ratified" at the 1815 Vienna Congress.

Poland had to wait till 1918 before emerging as a nation again. The Poland of the interbellum (the years between the First and Second World Wars) had a shape which was distinctively different from the shape on the map above, namely 200km further to the east and the eastern portion jutting out northwards. A famous strongman was Marshal Pilsudski, who led Polands armies succesfully in a war with Ukraine in the early 1920s, Poland even briefly occupying Kiev. It was also Pilsudski who at a very early stage saw the intrinsic danger of Nazi Germany, urging France and the UK to wage a preemptive war in 1935 already. Too bad political correctness is not only a phenomenon of our times, so Poland got carved up a fourth time in 1939 between Hitler and Stalin, despite heroic resistance with outdated equipment. Poland suffered greatly in the Second World War, with nearly 6 million Poles killed. However, many of its soldiers fought on major European fronts and in key battles (Monte Cassino, Arnhem).

After WWII Poland shifted two hundred kilometres to the West and got its shape as shown in the above map. A.o. large portions of German Silesia became Polish, as well as the key city of Breslau, which became... Wroclaw. The photo below shows Wroclaws Main Square, Rynek in Polish.

Rynek, Wroclaw

Th most important head of State of the post-Stalin era was Party Leader Gomulka, who was initially relatively liberal-minded. Student revolts in 1968 and a workers revolt in 1970 in Gdansk forced him to step down and in his place came the pragmatic Edward Gierek, who sought an opening to the West and was a man of compromise but who nevertheless remained loyal to Moscow. 1980 saw the emergence of the Free Union "Solidarnosc" under Gdansk shipyard electrician Lech Walesa. His demands met initially with few resistance from the government, until General Jaruzelski brutally assumed power in 1981, declared martial law and imprisoned the key members of the new movement. It is said that by doing so he prevented a Russian invasion.

...(to be continued)...