Friday, July 30, 2004

Hi there. I’m succumbing to the old adage that “if it bleeds, it leads”, but this was pretty devastating. A massive gas blast occurred at about 8.30am local time on an industrial estate in Ghislenghien, which is only some 8 kilometers south from where I live. It appears a ground working machine pierced a gap into a large gas distribution tube. The actual explosions took place when a team attempted to seal off the leak. The explosion was horrific, and up till now it is reported that fifteen people have been killed and some 112 wounded, 30 of them with very severe burning wounds (U1 and U2, whatever that may be). Had I been at home, I would have heard it and seen the flames and the ensuing smoke pillar. It was all over the news, national and even international, see BBC and even CNN.

Interior Minister Patrick Dewael was first on the site, PM Verhofstadt and Minister of Public Health Demotte suspended their holidays in Tuscany and Bulgaria and hurried home. Most if not all people killed appear to be either police or firefighters. The Firefighter Chief of Ath, the city lying closest by, and appointed only two weeks, was among those killed. Very sad. I saw helicopter shots form the explosion site and surroundings and it looked like hell, with half of a factory blown to smithereens, several other industrial buildings nearby severely damaged and car parks with all parked cars in ashes. Part of the surrounding corn fields had been set ablaze too. The government declared it a national disaster.

Gas transport and distribution throughout Belgium and to the surrounding countries is the responsiblity of the FLUXYS company. There’s a large LNG Terminal in the North Sea port of Zeebrugge. Not only gas tankers moor there, it’s also the endpoint of the so-called Zeepipe, a gas pipeline transporting Norwegian natural gas to Belgium over the sea bed. Anyway, when you look on the Fluxys' small map (note Belgium’s jagged contours and triangular shape) you notice the purple lines, representing high-calorific gas lines, and some yellow lines, which stand for low-calorific gas transport. The explosion occurred somewhat two-thirds down the axis Zeebrugge (in the northwestern corner) / Blaregnies (central down). A lot of that gas crosses the border towards France, so I guess the gas supply of a lot of households and industries in Northern France got cut off. Luckily, from the map it seems the cut off line can be easily bypassed by the grid’s redundant conduits. Note also that Fluxys’ share was taken off the Brussels Stock Exchange.

Now that I am on it, I may elaborate a bit on the so-called Zeepipe. Part of it, Zeepipe I (the oldest tube system) links the Sleipner East and West natural gas fields in the Norwegian North Sea to Zeebrugge. The line carries 13 billion cubic metres of gas per year.

I have to mention yet that just today I read latest prose

Worse still, the commission has helped to resurrect the fable that we are hated for what we do or don't to Muslims rather than who we are. But the collective brain power of the commissioners could not adduce a simple explanation as to why French and Germans are busy rooting out plots to blow up their own citizens — despite billions of EU money sent to terrorist organizations like Hamas, support for Arafat, and cheap slurs leveled at America in Iraq. Why do Muslim radicals hate Europe when Europeans have no military power, no real presence abroad, give billions away to the Middle East, despise Israel, will sell anything to anyone anywhere at anytime, and have let millions of Arabs onto their shores? Are daily threats to Europeans earned because of what Europe does — or is the cause who they are?

I keep repeating myself when I say that Europe desperately needs columnists like VDH or Mark Steyn. These guys baffle me time and again with their compelling prose.

Here's a nice statistic from Time magazine:

Percentage of France's population that is Muslim: 6%

Percentage of France's prison population that is Muslim: 50%

Michael's reaction to this statistic: Priceless

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Ok, Kerry's speech is over, so let's have at it. I think it was solid, but not terrific. Discuss...
OK, I caught most of Edwards' speech last night, and from the the standpoint of the Democrats, I think he did pretty well. It's clear they're going full out on the optimism angle, which is probably a good strategy. One aspect of the speech for me was very telling. At one point Edwards started reeling off the specific things that the Kerry administration was going to do for Americans. Every sentence started with "we're going to give you..." followed by some tax credit or some other item. This sums up what is wrong with the Democrats in my view. They see government revenue as the government's money. When they decide to distribute this wealth back to the people, they see this as "generous." What garbage. It's the people's money, and you shouldn't be bragging about giving it back to those who didn't put as much into the pile to begin with. I'm convinced that if the American electorate truly understood how our taxes work, the Democrats would be toast. Until then, the class warfare rhetoric will always find an audience. "Look how much the Democrats care about us." Please.

We need the FairTax now. Can you imagine what these politicians would have to do to get your vote if there was no way to buy it?

This rocks.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Michael Moore and Bill O'Reilly went at it on Fox. I wish I would have seen this live, but this transcrpt pretty much tells the story. They both got their shots in, but I'm pretty disappointed that Bill O'Reilly didn't bring up one simple point that shatters much of Moore's argument: Those "children" killed in Iraq VOLUNTEERED to join the military of their own free will. This crap about "would you send your children" isn't even a proper analogy, I'm surprised O'Reilly put up with it.

"'They're not patriots,' Moore said. 'They're hate-triots, and they believe in the politics of hate-triotism."

Can you say ass-clown? Michael Moore sure does a spot-on impression of one.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

What CAN'T this guy do?

This will give you a warm fuzzy feeling, especially if you're flying any time soon.

There should be separate airline flights for people who don't support profiling. That way they can travel in comfort, knowing that their moral superiority is on display for all to see, and the rest of us can have some actual security. We'll take all the air marshalls too, since most of these losers probably don't like the idea of armed officers on flights either.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Place your bets. Will this get as much coverage as Dick Cheney's recent off color comments?

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Old pic, don't shoot me.

Hey you jerks and ladies out there, he did it!!! He is Mr. Armstrong of course. No, not the guy from Ohio, that one from Texas.
Ok, all of you baseball nutjobs probably look down on cycling but over here in the good ole (cough) Europe cycling is really considered a top-notch sport, and a guy who wins the Tour de France even only once becomes an instant hero. Four riders won it five times: that’s Frenchman Jacques Anquetil (in ’56 and again in ’61, ’62, ’63 and ’64), my compatriot Eddy Merckx (in ’69, ’70, ’71, ’72 and again in ’74), Frenchman Bernard Hinault (in ’78, ’79, ’81, ’82 and ’85),  and Spaniard Miguel Indurain (in ’91, ’92, ’93, ’94 and ’95). In ’99 Lance came into the picture and he has won all six Tours from then on in a row, which is AMAZING!!!! All the more considering this guy, at age 25, had    testicular cancer which had also spread to the abdomen, the lungs, and the brain.
Anyway, today he was so far ahead in the general classification that only some disaster could have kept him from winning the Tour. That, fortunately, did not happen. The only real thrills which were in store were in fact to whom the so-called Green Shirt would go. Australian Robbie McEwen, who happens to have married a blonde Belgian virgin (well, at least she used to be) had the biggest shot at it, although Norwegian Thor Hushovd still was not entirely chanceless. It turned out to be the Aussie though. God put a final smile on your servant’s face by prodding Belgian Tom Boonen to win today’s prestigious stage. Maybe you’ll remember he already won once in the early stages of this Tour.

In case Maine keeps smirking about the noble sport of cycling, take notice that in Texas they do know how to appreciate it.

Never mind the denigrating Frogistanese talk in this last link. Too bad Napoleon wasn't a Tour de France champ.

As an afterthought, I have compiled this little list for my dear readers. From a Time article. It shows the 2002 figures for European tax revenues as a percentage of GDP, in declining order:

Sweden                       50.6%
Denmark                      49.4%
Belgium                        46.2%
Finland                         45.9%
France                         44.2%
Austria                         44.1%
Norway                       43.1%
Italy                             41.1%
The Netherlands          39.3%
Czech Republic            39.2%
Hungary                       37.7%
Iceland                         36.7%
Germany                      36.2%
United Kingdom          35.9%
Spain                           35.6%
Greece                         34.8%
Poland                         34.3%
Portugal                       34.0%
Slovakia                       33.8%
Switzerland                  31.3%
Ireland                         28.0%

Notice the third country in the list (no, I’m not a Slovak; the third from above). I’m optimistic however because soon now, very soon (mid-August) I will start working for myself in 2004. Notice that all Scandinavian countries are well represented. It would be worth doing some research into the reason it’s precisely these countries which have the most appalling tax rates. Interesting too is that the Czech Republic and Hungary have already rather high tax rates too. Indeed, there, too, manufacture of low-key technical parts is already outsourced to Ukraine, with some Hungarian companies even investing in own plants in that country.