Saturday, August 21, 2004

New EU chief urges greater effort in Iraq. This is a very good thing, hopefully he will be able to effect some positive change.

Friday, August 20, 2004



As most of you know, Belgium’s northern neighbour, The Netherlands, is part of the "Coalition of the Willing" and has as such done its share by sending a troop detachment of about 1,300 men to keep Iraq’s southern province of al-Muthanna secure. Now while this contingent may seem small in comparison to the area to be controlled (somewhat 1,5 times the surface of The Netherlands itself, which is roughly 40,000 square kilometres), one has to keep in mind there is only one major city in the north of al-Muthanna, and that’s as-Samawah. The rest is mainly desert.

At the handover of power from the CPA to Iraq’s current interim government under President al-Yawer and PM Allawi, Dutch Parliament voted for prolonging the stay of its troops till after the January 2005 elections.

Mariniers and Army Infantry on Joint Patrol

The photo was taken on or around March 9, 2004, and shows a joint patrol by Army Infantry (42nd Battalion Limburgse Jagers) and Koninklijke Mariniers. No Humvees, but Landrovers and Mercedeses.

A brief overview of how the detachment is composed:

a.) Its infantry component is formed by the Tweede Mariniersbataljon (2nd Battalion Marines) under Lt. Col. Richard Oppelaar. It fields around 650 men. Note that unlike the Marines in the United States, who form their own arm, Dutch Marines are subordinated to the Koninklijke Marine (Royal Navy).

b.) A loose collection of Koninklijke Landmacht (Army) engineer, communications and security units

c.) The Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Royal Air Force) participates to the so-called NLDETIRAK II with an air transport unit of three Chinook CH47D helicopters and approximately 90 men, and an air attack unit of six Apache helicopters with roughly 100 men, both units based at al-Tallil airbase.

d.) Two small units of the Koninklijke Marechaussee (Military Police)

Al-Muthanna province is not known for harbouring hard-core religious groups or ex-Baathists, so the Dutch were able to pull of a good job with few men. But those days seem to take an end. In May of this year, the Dutch contingent suffered its first fatality when Sgt. Steensma died in a grenade attack. Then came a lull, until the recent outbreak of unrest caused by al-Sadr’s insurgence stirred things up here too: there was an attack on a patrol vehicle in the neighbourhood of ar-Rumaythah, some 40 kloms north of as-Samawah. A rather fierce gunfight reportedly ensued in which a Dutch emergency unit, the so-called Quick Reaction Force, was called upon, as well as some of the Dutch Apaches. Two insurgents were killed. And just lately, on the 15th of August, a 29-year old Dutch MP was killed.

Personally I think the Dutch contingent is quite capable, especially since the bulk of it is formed by a Marinier Bataljon, which in the Dutch armed forces is considered an elite unit. It is therefore all the more deplorable that the recent spate of attacks immediately results in unrest on the homefront, with relatives of soldiers openly calling for the troops to come back and leftist political parties demanding the government put an end to the Dutch operation. While in my car this evening I heard on Dutch radio that the commander in Iraq called upon the homefront not to panic (!), since "most Iraqis are still glad the Dutch soldiers are around".

I’m not downplaying the Dutch losses, but I find this apparent frenzy among the Dutch civil scene highly disturbing. When you are a military man, you know the risks. You know that you can be called upon to do your duty and have to go where your government sends you to. Apparently large swaths of the Dutch population do not see it this way and think the Army is for sunshine soldiers only. Never mind that the Iraqi local government and the councils of towns in the region have pleaded for Dutch troops staying a while longer. It’s just another manifestation of European lameassitude. For when the time that we Europeans are able to distract ourselves from our cosy lifestyle, face the fact that we live in a world of risk, and take up responsibility? Just imagine, the recent fatality led ALL political parties except the liberal (mind you, over here that’s rightwing) VVD to ask for a Parliamentarian Debate on safety in Iraq (read finding reasons to cut and run). One word says it all people: Sitzpinklers.

Kevin posted this link about Iran's threats to the US in the discussion below, and I thought it deserved it's own space, so let's continue this discussion here.

We're going to have to deal with the Iranians sooner or later; I vote for sooner. And in a big way too.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

It's George Bush's fault that the America's basketball team is doing so poorly in Athens. This and other brainless observations from the always open minded Maureen Dowd, who incidentally makes it to the top of my "Political Pundits That I'd Like To Spank With A Canoe Paddle Covered In Toothpaste" list.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

My son Will,

ate a fried worm today. No, really. Kerry cooked it up and he ate it with ketchup.

No sitzpinklers in this house, no sir!

"The (Sierra Club) report said the Bush administration "has learned nothing from the illnesses and hardships suffered by the ground zero community. Rather, it plans to perpetuate them in any future national disaster anywhere else in the United States."


I did not know that President Bush replaced every single employee in the EPA with political appointees.
The EU is doomed. Give up now Michael.

Hat tip to The Corner.
Here's Bruce Bartlett again, arguing even more forcefully against a national sales tax.

Prompted by a reporter's question, Keyes gave a brief tutorial on Roman history and said that in regard to reparations for slavery, the U.S. should do what the Romans did: "When a city had been devastated [in the Roman empire], for a certain length of time--a generation or two--they exempted the damaged city from taxation."

Keyes proposed that for a generation or two, African-Americans of slave heritage should be exempted from federal taxes--federal because slavery "was an egregious failure on the part of the federal establishment."
I am still in shock that this reasonable article on energy came from The American Prospect.

Monday, August 16, 2004

I think this asshat is on to the man and his tricks.
More lameassitude from the Kerry camp.

Liar or just incompetent - it doesn't bode well(well actually, it does for me).

Ok, I guess you were not exactly waiting for it but here it is: the distribution of portfolios in the new European Commission, the EU’s "gumint". There are 25 of them, Chairman Barroso included. The smarter ones among you (could it be I’m not holding my breath) will already have noticed 25 is also the number of EU states in the new, enlarged constellation. Indeed, until 2014 every member state has the right to delegate one commissioner, regardless of its relative power. So Slovenia, population 2 million, gets one commissioner, and Germany, population 80 million, too. Seeing that the US gumint does not count 51 ministers must have ringed a bell though, since after 2014 the number of commissioners will be reduced to 18, regardless of whatever or how many states will join still.

Whether you like it or not, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso has given a fairly good impression as a man of deeds, not words till now. Dismissed by many observers as your typical colorless compromise figure at the time of his appointment, he has so far proven he’s nobody’s stooge. He wanted one third of commissioners to be females, he got them. The local powerhouses, rightfully fearing their voice would be diluted, wanted "constructions" still granting them power – Barroso did not budge. E.g., in the previous Commission the big countries had two commissioners. Germany, backed by the UK and France, asked for the new Commission a "Supercommissioner" to take charge of all aspects of economic performance, read it asked for a commissioner to whom several other commissioners wouild be subordinated. Barroso quickly made it clear he and no one else would decide on his team’s composition. Anyway, here it is:

Chairman of the European Commission: José Manuel Durao Barroso, former PM (Portugal), centre-right

Transport Commissioner/Vice Chairman: Jacques Barrot, former Minister of Work (France), rightwing

Justice, Freedom and Security Commissioner/Vice Chairman: Rocco Buttiglione, former Minister of European Affairs (Italy), centre-left

Administrative Affairs, Audits and Anti-fraud/Vice Chairman: Siim Kallas, former PM (Estonia), centre-right

Corporate Sector and Industry/Vice Chairman: Guenter Verheugen, former EU Commissioner of Enlargement (Germany), leftwing

Institutional Relations and Communications strategy/Vice Chairman: Margot Wallstrom, former Commissioner of Environment (Sweden), leftwing

Economy and Monetary Affairs: Joaquin Almunia , former Minister of Employment and Social Affairs (Spain), leftwing

Fishery and Maritime Affairs: Joe Borg, former FM (Malta), rightwing

Environment: Stavros Dimas, former Commissioner for Social Affairs and Employment (Greece), rightwing

External Relations: Benita Ferrero-Waldner, former FM (Austria), centre-left

Education, Formation, Culture and Multilinguality: Jan Figel, former State Secretary OF Foreign Affairs (Slovakia), centre-left

Agriculture and Rural Development: Mariann Fischer-Boel, former Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fishery (Denmark), centre-right

Budget and Financial Progrmmation: Dalia Grybauskaite, former Finance Minister (Lithuania), no party

Regional Affairs: Danuta Huebner, former Minister of European Affairs (Poland), leftwing

Energy: Laszlo Kovacs, former Foreign Minister (Hungary), centre-left

Competition: Neelie Kroes, former Minister of Traffic and Waterworks (Netherlands), centre-right

Health and Consumer Protection: Markos Kyprianou , former Minister of Finance (Cyprus), centre-right

Trade: Peter Mandelson, former Minister of Trade and Northern Ireland (Great Britain), leftwing

Internal Market: Charles McCreevy: former Minister of Tourism, Trade and Social Affairs (Ireland), rightwing

Science and Research: Janez Potocnik, former Minister of European Affairs (Slovenia), centre-right

Information Society and Media: Viviane Reding, former Europarlementarian (Luxembourg), centre-right

Enlargement: Olli Rehn, former Advisor to Finnish PM (Finland), centre-right

Work, social affairs, Equal Chances: Vladimir Spidla, former PM (Czech Republic), leftwing

Taxes and customs: Ingrida Udre, Chairman of Parliament (Latvia), centre-right

And, last but not least (snicker):

Surveillance of Salmon populations in Lofotian fjords: Louis Michel, Eternal Dimwit Par Excellence (Belgium), Maoist in disguise

As you can see I did a little research on the place of our beloved EU-bosses and bossettes and the result comes as a moderate surprise to me. Always struggling with the slightly different notions of a right-and leftwinger on either side of the Atlantic (e.g., over here a "liberal" is considered a moderate rightwinger, whereas you would call our "socialists" half-communists), I have decided to distinguish four categories, namely "Rightwing" (conservative), "Centre-Right" (liberal), "Centre-Left" (Christian Democrats, Social-Democrats) and "Leftwing" (socialists). Not taking into account Lithuania's Mrs. Dalia Grybauskaite, who reportedly has no political affiliation, I've come to the following results:

Rightwing: 5 Commissioners
Centre-Right: 7 Commissioners
Centre-Left: 5 Commissioners
Leftwing: 7 Commissioners

In other words, Left and Right are neatly divided 50/50 in this new EU-Commission. I never did such an inquiry for the previous Commission, but I bet the Left was stronger represented. Anyway, this rightwing transition, coupled with the fact that Mr. Barroso is moderately pro-American (his predecessor Romano Prodi was not), should give you Americanos some hope for the future. And of course, the political process will be influenced too by a European Parliament in which France's and Germany's voices have significantly lost weight and have been effectively replaced to a certain extent by the rather pro-American voices from the new countries in the East.

Just have some patiece yet, as the new EU-Commission will only assume EU leadership in autumn, if I'm not mistaken at about the same time a new US President gets elected. So if Bush wins, as I hope and still expect, then a case can be made that slowly but irresistibly the Western World is turning more conservative (sorry, Kevin). This process should not come as a surprise given the the dawning realization among a majority of western voters that our common problems, a.o. immigration, need firmer solutions.

I would also not exclude that many people for whom "liberal" issues were never a problem, are growing increasingly uncomfortable with the ever-more prominent alternative lifestyles which our media more and more display as the norm. I'll give you just one example: this weekend my wife watched on dvd "Under the Tuscan Sun", with Diane Lane (she's getting older btw, although she's still quite a broad). Diane finds out her husband has an adulterous homosexual affair, she divorces, her lesbian friends, of whom one, who is Asian, is pregnant (father unknown), organize a trip to Italy with her with a gay group, she buys a house and has an affair with a smooth-talking Italian who bangs another woman twenty miles further down the road, blah blah blah... are you still following???

Anyway, I get the disitnct feeling that a growing number of the "conventionals" are not taking it for granted anymore that we should swallow the ads for alternativo lifestyles, and want some "traditional" values re-emphasized. This is not just a gut feeling, the Belgian story of the rising relevance of the rightwing "Vlaams Blok", once a political pariah, may very well be a study in microcosm of a rightwing trend in the Western World.

Ok, forget that sermon, I was talking about Barroso and crew. Let me finish by saying that Barroso, on the press conference on which he presented his equipe, also made clear what his two main aims were: making the EU by 2010 the most competitive economy in the world, and maing it better known among European citizens. If he succeeds, then by that time we may feel ourselves a little more like Europeans and a little less like Slovaks, Italians, French or whatever. I might hope so.


Sunday, August 15, 2004

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Questions about John Kerry's truthfulness.

Just more fuel for the fire.
By the way, will someone please BUY THIS @$#&% CAR?!!!!!

Here's a somewhat more scholarly response to Bruce Bartlett's column which was not kind to the FairTax (are you guys getting sick of this yet?) Again, this is a linked file, not a web page.

I'll give this organization credit; they are extremely responsive to requests for information and seem very well organized. I've yet to really stump them on any aspect of this plan, and I've tried many times, often with critiques I've heard on this blog. There's still some cheerleader in this response, but it seems pretty solid. I hope Bartlett responds. I'd like to see more public debate on this topic.

"Iran's world judo champion Arash Miresmaeili refused to compete against an Israeli Sunday, triggering a fresh crisis at the Olympic Games where race, creed or color are barred from interfering in sport.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) failed to agree how to deal with the politically explosive issue at an emergency meeting and said it would hold further talks Monday."

Let's hope the Olympics aren't run like the U.N. and the Iranian team is sent home. Call me a pessimist, but I somehow doubt it will happen.

Actually, I want the Olymics to kick them out AND bomb the Bushehr nuclear facility.