Thursday, February 21, 2008


June 2004, San Francisco. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) addresses a meeting of woman Senators for US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who is up for reelection in the fall. The senator (Clinton) tells those present that under the Democrats, the Bush tax cuts will be a thing of the past.

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you," Sen. Clinton said. "We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."


..............BACK IN EUROPE...............


An article by Per Wirten, Swedish journalist, Chief editor at Arena magazine.

Poverty in Europe

Impoverished German children dream of the USA; one Greek person in four is behind with their most basic bills; sixty per cent of the poor in Romania have outdoor toilets. Cracks are appearing in Europe's beloved image of itself as the egalitarian alternative to the United States, writes Per Wirtén.

What do we really know about poverty in Europe? Not a lot. The constant flow of facts, images and stories from the other side of the Atlantic means I know more about American poverty than its European counterpart. There is a steady stream of books and articles about "the working poor" at Wal-Mart, Latinos in Los Angeles and Afro-Americans in run-down slum districts. How many of us have read books like Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich's account of struggling to get by in low-wage hell? Or avidly immersed ourselves in the slums of Baltimore in the TV series The Wire?


Last summer I walked in the shadow of thunder clouds through Stockwell in south London: dilapidated buildings, worn pavements, grilles over the doors and windows of each individual shop. The whole environment was reminiscent of the former GDR. The next day, I travelled through small, dreary, post-industrial towns in the north of England. On my journey I read that a British report had found that the proportion of poor people is back at the level it was in the 1960s, that growing class divisions are tearing the middle classes apart, and that the only positive news is the reduction in numbers of the most vulnerable.


In October 2007, while in Berlin, I read two German sociologists' description in the anthology Neighbourhoods of Poverty of the situation of the poor in the working class district of Neukölln. Those interviewed had a monthly income of between 300 and 500 euros, that half had not had a proper job for 15 years, that they have given up on the labour market, and that, by relying on a disciplined "management of scarce resources", they get by on odd jobs and welfare handouts. Children become locked into poverty when they are forced to give up school to help bolster the family's meagre income. Many dream of emigrating (maybe to the US).


In the autumn of 2005, New Orleans was submerged after hurricane Katrina breached the levees. It was the city's poorest quarters that suffered the greatest devastation. The authorities' arrogance and inability to react shocked the rest of the world. Europe offered the US emergency relief; in Paris, intellectuals wondered how the country could afford to wage war in Baghdad but not to protect its own people; and Swedish premier Göran Persson declared that a catastrophe of such a kind would be unthinkable in European welfare states. Exactly two years later, Greece was in flames. The Greek state was just as ineffectual as the American state had been after Katrina. Help from the EU was slow to arrive; people died and villages were left in ruins. Of course, questions were asked in the European media, but the criticism came nowhere near the wave of indignation that was directed at the US after the New Orleans disaster. Yet Greece's position in the EU as one its most corrupt, unequal and poorest member states is not unlike that of Louisiana in the US.


For most of my adult life, I have wanted Europe to resemble the United States more. It's not that I don't see the wrongs in American society, it's just that plain old sense tells me that if the US are the world's most favorite destination for immigrants it can't be that bad. Sadly, lately it seems exactly the opposite is going to happen. To those Americans who think that it's America which should resemble Europe more, be careful what you wish for.

Hat tip No Pasaran! Hillary graphic Hilldabeast.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Sigh. You know when you are getting old when Roy Scheider dies at 75 and you have to celebrate a lustrum for defending western civilization. Well, no lustrum for me personally, actually. While DowneastBlog indeed celebrates its fifth birthday this month, I only came on board ten months later, in November 2003. One of the co-founders of this blog, Kerry, had the swell idea was so foolish to bombard me European guestwriter. But by then DB, a project of Kerry, her husband Tom, and Scott, had been online since 9 February 2003, that's right, the month before OIF started. I think it's appropriate, at the occasion of our fifth birthday, to reprint that very first post. It's a time document, a sketch from the past, a snapshot of the mood. Here goes! The actual posting was done by Tom, but actually it's a rant from Kerry:

Kerry's vent:
If I see one more thing about "Iraq making concessions for U2 planes" I am going to lose it! How can they concede something that they already "conceded" in 1991.

As far as all of the people that don't want war, not many people actually "like" going to war, or actively want it to happen, however, history has shown us that in times it is a justified and necessary fight. I love all of these people in Hollywood that think that they know better than those actually having to do the job. No matter what they say about Bush, they can hardly say that he is a "war monger" if they are as "open minded" as they claim to be, he hardly hides his Christianity as his guiding influence. Thankfully after his State of the Union address some people are getting that, with his proposals on funding for the AIDS crisis in Africa, etc. To anyone reading that thinks it is easy to say that if you aren't on the receiving end of the destruction of war, I have more to lose than a lot of these people, my husband is still IRR in the Navy, and could get called up and we have close friends that will have to fly missions if it goes more than a couple of months. My husband's two brothers are in the Army, and his father died serving the Navy for this country. I'd like to see Sean Penn giving equal time to the families living on military bases without their husbands and wives, moms and dads so that he has the freedom to take trips to Baghdad. I'd like to see him talking to those that have nightmares, depression, and all of the other horrific fallout from living through 9-11-01.

Do people actually believe these people that "report" from the streets of Baghdad about the "anti-Americanism" that is there? As if anyone that values their own or their families lives are going to say anything against the regime! I can much more appreciate the Pope's sending a "peace envoy" to try admittedly "as a very long shot" to get the Iraqi regime to cooperate. That is the moral high road, to strive for peace until every possiblity is exhausted, but we differ on where that line is drawn. They've had 12 years to co operate. Anyone in basic management or parenting should get this. It is like saying to your child, "if you keep treating your toys poorly then we will take them away." "Now we really mean it this time, you'd better stop." Imagine a parent doing that for 12 years with a kid. Guess what you'd have? An out of control kid that then believes that nobody is going to follow through because that is the experience. Guess what we have? A dicator that is out of control for the same reasons, thanks to the fabulous leadership of the UN. The lack of commonsense just baffles me.

OK, another Iraq related thing. Tom is going nuts over the word "unilateral". "We are making unilateral moves, rushing to war", you can read in various periodicals on a daily basis. Guess what folks? There are somewhere about 16 nations with us, that isn't "unilateral". And as far as a rush to war, we've been in a "war" with Iraq still since 1991. There was a cease fire agreement, which they have violated at every turn for 12 years. Yes, we have to take some responsiblity for not pushing the UN to do something before this. We have hardly been a rush to war, when it has been 12 years that we have tried the waiting game, which has only fostered growth of defiance and production of weapons of mass destruction. September 11 has changed everything, that is a reality. Boy, it is a good thing that we "waited" to deal with Al Queda and Bin Laden, huh? What does it take for people to get it?

God Bless our troops, our President, our people, every last one, and especially those that misguidedly don't understand that much as you wish for peace, you can not negotiate it with a fanatic.

Five years on, I still find myself in agreement with the basic tenets of this vent, or rant, or whatever you want to call it. Of course, it's easier for me to say so than those who face(d) the enemy on the battlefield. Many brought sacrifices - and too many, by now, the ultimate sacrifice. But I believe that if fate had placed me in their shoes, my reactions and opinions on this conflict still wouldn't have changed. These days I get the impression that far too many people desperately want to get back to the time when all we had to care about was a grounded spy plane in China and how to set your first steps on the Internet, and the most exciting news was that Saparmurat Niyazov was proclaimed President for Life in Turkmenistan. Sorry, but it ain't gonna happen. These days don't come back, and besides, Saparmurat Niyazov is a goner anyway. There is but one sole option: carry on this WOT till we have won.

Over here at DowneastBlog, we are willing to continue, and do what little we can to support those who do the real fighting. As far as I am concerned, if that takes staying around long enough for celebrating the next five years, I'm ready for it. Are you?


Sunday, February 17, 2008


For five long years, the bulk of the Belgian ISAF contingent in Afghanistan - 300 troops drawn from various units - has been guarding KAIA, Kabul International Airport, a job I gather is considered the safest in the Hindu Kush. The photo above shows two Pandur troop carriers and two of the new Dingo MPPV's (centre) on patrol in the greater Kabul area (apparently global warming hasn't reached Afghanistan yet). In addition to the KAIA guard detachment, a staff of 60 is performing the actual management of the airport itself. Finally there is a platoon-sized unit assisting the Germans in Kunduz, primarily with demining activities. By contrast, our northern neighbour, The Netherlands, has been actively engaged in the fighting, its contingent being among the five or so NATO contributors which actually confront the Taliban on a daily basis. And the sight of body bags returning to Holland has become, unfortunately, a constant reminder of the danger the Dutch troops are facing. The bulk of the 2,000 strong force - with heavy matériel at its disposal, including mechanized howitzers, scores of tracked AIFV's and Apache attack helicopters, is engaged in the volatile Uruzgan province. They get air support from six Dutch F-16 fighter bombers.

Over the past year, the pressure put on Belgium for doing more in AF has been growing steadily, and when US Secdef Robert Gates recently warned against NATO becoming a "two-tiered alliance of those willing to fight and those wo are not", he certainly must have had Belgium in mind - amongst others.

The Belgium interim government under Guy Verhofstadt - he is to be succeeded by the Christian-Democrat Yves Leterme on March 24, but only fools believe that - has now announced, for the first time, a truly active participation in the fight against the Taliban. Four F-16 fighter bombers and 100 ground personnel will be sent to Kandahar Airfield (KAF), where they will join the six Dutch planes in an Air Task Force. Even though the extra Belgian effort is still very modest, the Dutch are pleased with it. Like Gates, they have been asking for a long time for more support from their partners. Back in June 2007, right after the Belgian parliamentary elections, Dutch PM Jan-Peter Balkenende called Yves Leterme - at the time everyone was still convinced Leterme would quickly assume the post of Belgian PM - and asked him "Yves, do something for us in south Afghanistan!" Too bad for the Dutch June 10, 2007 marked the start of the longest coalition talks in Belgian history, which would ultimately drag on for 192 days during which Verhofstadts caretaker government was unable to answer the Dutch call. And even then no satisfactory accord was reached, since pressure from the EU, which needed an active Belgian government to sign the Lisbon Treaty, forced an interim government upon the Belgians - under Verhofstadt again! This interim government, in its second month now, is actually composed of the losers of the June 10 elections, but there is one bright spot: the disastrous Defense Minister André Flahaut (Parti Socialiste) has been succeeded by Pieter De Crem, a Christian Democrat who under Verhofstadt II had constantly lamented the demise of the Belgian military. And it is De Crem who has been the catalyst in the decision to send the fighter bombers to aid the Dutch. To be sure, this is not the first time Belgian F-16's head to Afghanistan. Four other ones were deployed from KAIA two years ago, but Flahaut did not permit combat flights, only patrols. This time will be different, and the planes will be actively engaged to pound Taliban positions - a welcome reinforcement for the Dutch, be it, unfortunately, only from September on.

Socialists would not be socialists if they did not object to even this almost negligible contribution. Barely had the decision been announced or Dirk Van Der Maelen, MP for the SP.a (Flemish socialists) asked for a parliamentary round to debate the deployment. To illustrate how extremely difficult it is in Belgium to pursue a realistic defense policy, including a responsible and fair attitude within the NATO framework, I'll now cite several top ranking SP.a officials:

a.) Caroline Gennez, Chairwoman SP.a, a cunt of the first order.

"Belgium should not blindly wage a war. This is an unwinnable war. We absolutely disagree to send combat troops at a time when the conflict escalates."

b.) Ludwig Vandenhove, Chairman of the Defense Commission in Parliament. Asshole Superdeluxe. Vandenhove on February 7, 2008, during the debate on the mission in Parliament:

"If the government decides to commit our country and our soldiers to such a dangerous, lost war, it is only logical that this decision is explained as quickly as possible in Parliament. In addition, because of this engagement, Belgium will become more than ever the target of terrorist attacks."

c.) Johan Vandelanotte, MP, former SP.a chairman. Wants to starve what remains of the Belgian Army by reducing its strength of 40,000 to 20,000 and cutting its budget in half. The money thus freed should go to development aid, even when it is crystal-clear that 50 years of extensive Belgian development aid in a.o. Africa has achieved nothing.

"Pieter De Crem is the errand boy of Balkenende."

Dirk Van der Maelend.) Dirk Van der Maelen, MP and Fraction Leader for SP.a. A coward, a f*cking dhimmi and an outspoken enemy of corporate Belgium. Got himself huffed and puffed up two years ago in the Belgian press with a litany against Paul Wolfowitz and the pay raise the latter gave to his girlfriend. Was less concerned about the fact that a certain Sabine Steels, girlfriend of his mate Patrick Janssens, the socialist mayor of Antwerp, landed herself without exams a cushy job as Antwerps "Safety Director" via a stop between Janssens sheets. But I digress. Van der Maelen on sending just four Belgian jets to AF:

"Now that George W. Bush sees the end of his term, he realizes all the more that he will enter history as the president who lost two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan). Hoping that American troop reinforcements can turn the tide in a lost cause, the US are pushing for more. But do we really want to go to Afghanistan to save the honour of Bush?


Therefore we plead to open the debate and, e.g., think about a bigger role for the UN. A greater UN-mandate directed at development and stabilization, reinforcement of the institutions... that is what the country needs. No poodle wagging his tail running after Bush without a thought, in the process wasting money which harms purchasing power or, worse, endangers the lives of soldiers and/or citizens."

[note from MFBB: I fail to understand how the purchasing power of Belgian citizens can be badly affected with a Defense budget amounting to 1.3% of the GNP. If Van Der Maelen was really concerned about our purchasing power, he might want to do something about our taxes, among the highest in Europe.]

Just remember, these ball-less assholes are total military ignoramuses - I doubt there is even one among them capable of distinguishing a spare track for a Leopard from an ammo canister.

But there is more.

Money and defense, sometimes they do go together for or moral betters.

Willy ClaesA "high" mark in the not so brilliant history of Belgian contributions to NATO is the appointment of Willy Claes to NATO Secretary General in September 1994 - an function he held for a mere fifteen months, when he was forced to step down. The reason? The involvement of Claes in the so-called "Agusta scandal", an affair whereby the socialist parties (both the Flemish and Walloon ones) received kickbacks for pushing the Belgian Army in 1988 to buy 48 mediocre A-109 attack helicopters from the Italian helicopter maker Agusta S.p.A.. Trials had revealed other choppers to be far better, but Agusta sealed the US$267-million contract by paying the Flemish Socialistische Partij US$1.72 million in bribes. When the purchase took place, Claes was Economic Affairs Minister. Six years later, as NATO Secretary General, he first vehemently denied any knowledge of the payments, then admitted that he had indeed been at a meeting where the kickbacks were discussed. As the investigation into Claes' involvement deepened, the affair began to stink to high heaven. Still, even as late as February 27, 1995, the Vice President of the United States, a certain Al Gore, deemed it necessary to issue a statement saying:

"The United States has full and complete confidence in Secretary General Claes."

Guy CoemeIt should be noted that Agusta was a state-owned company controlled by Bettino Craxi's PSI, the Partito Socialista Italiano. If you still have the stomach to follow that link, yes, that's a hammer and sicle in the PSI's logo. The difference between Italian socialists and Italian communists is basically that the former have a better stocked canteen. Where was I? Oh yes, Claes. Back in 1988, when the decision to buy the A-109's was taken, two ministerial signatures were absolutely needed. One was the signature of Willy Claes as Minister of Economic Affairs, as we have seen. The other one was, of course, the signature of the Defense Minister himself. AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!! The Defense Minister in the late eighties was none other than Guy Coeme, a Walloon of the Parti Socialiste!!!!! By the time the scandal broke out, this illustrious predecessor of André Flahaut was being investigated not only for his involvement in the Agusta scandal - the PS also received part of the bribes - but into another scandal as well, namely the payment by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault of a 2 million US$ bribe to the Walloon Socialist Party for a contract to modernize the Belgian Air Force's F-16 and Mirage III jets in 1989. This affair became known as the case of "The Three Guys", since the main protagonists were Guy Coeme, the Parti Socialiste Defense Minister, Guy Spitaels, the Chairman of the Parti Socialiste, and Guy Mathot, a former Budget Minister from the Parti Socialiste whose most memorable quote regarding the Belgian state deficit was: "the deficit came out of the blue, it will disappear the same way."

Agusta 109 - favored over the ApacheAll three had to resign in 1994, and it seems the success of the investigation was due to the results of yet another investigation, namely the inquiry into the murder of a former Parti Socialiste Chairman, André Cools, who was shot in broad daylight in 1991 in Liège, reportedly because he had threatened to reveal nasty details about the party's finances - not that Cools himself was a saint, far from. However, you know how it goes in the Mafia. But the really interesting year with regards to the bookkeeping of both the Socialistische Partij and the Parti Socialiste was 1995, when Etienne Mange , chief of the Belgian Postal Services AND Treasurer of the Flemish Socialist Party (and a close collaborator of Willy Claes) - was arrested in connection with the Agusta kickbacks. When Belgian magistrates discovered a secret bank account in Switzerland early in 1995, Mange confessed that the Flemish SP had indeed received a gift of $160 million Belgian francs (the 1.72 million US$ from above, you will recall) from Agusta via a Swiss bank account held by Luc Wallyn, a Belgian employee of the European Commission (as a sidenote, Wallyn was also vice secretary general of the Flemish Socialist Party). It was Mangé who sealed Claes' fate. He told the police that he had discussed Agusta's offer to pay bribes to the Flemish Socialist Party with a.o., Claes. Claes finally stepped down in December 1995. While it is entirely possible that even at that stage Al Gore still had full and complete confidence in the man - Socialists-'R-Us - most if not all NATO officials had by then distanced themselves from their chief, one US official saying that the real question "was how Willy Claes could have gotten NATO Secretary General in the first place." He was right. In the early eighties, the Reagan administration installed tactical nukes in Western Europe, a.o. in Belgium. This to counter the threat of Soviet SS-20 tactical nuclear missiles already deployed. In Brussels, a giant demonstration was staged by the usual moonbats: 400,000 people, the largest in Belgian history. One of the prominent organizers was... Willy Claes.

And so we can conclude that you can always count on socialists to do the wrong thing after they have tried all the other wrong things. They were dead wrong in opposing US nukes while they were hunky dory with their Soviet counterparts - and one of the great unwritten books of that timeframe is the one dealing with the reportedly very intensive and friendly contacts which then existed between western european socialist parties and their comrades from across the Iron Curtain. They were dead wrong when Afghanistan was invaded by the USSR - I have been a keen follower of Belgian politics since I was 16, and I can assure you that our dear do-gooders never questioned the Soviet invasion - quite unlike another "invasion" in the region some five years back. They were dead wrong in the Agusta and Dassault scandals, and they were dead wrong in the first Gulf War, when the socialist Defense Minister refused to sell artillery ammo to the UK. And speaking of Iraq, they were dead wrong when they did everything to hamper the preparations for OIF, the lunatic André Flahaut at some point even threatening to deny Belgian airspace to US warplanes.

And now they are dead wrong in opposing the dispatching of a mere flight of four fighter bombers to Afghanistan to be deployed against islamic extremists of the worst possible kind - who just days ago blew up 80 marketgoers in the worst carnage since the country was liberated in 2001.

What do our moral betters from the SP.a propose then, apart from getting the UN involved? Well, as you probably know by now, Messrs. Claes, Vandenhove, Vandelanotte and Van der Maelen, to name but a few, are the co-authors of a pact between Belgium's so-called democratic parties to never talk or form coalitions with the Vlaams Belang, Flanders' only truly conservative party. This situation is called the so-called cordon sanitaire. With regards to the Taliban, however, the gentlemen propose to hold talks with the "moderate ones" among them.

I get it. For socialists, talks with the VB are haram. Talks with the Taliban however are halal. You know what talks I prefer? I can't wait till those four F-16's start pounding Dirk Van der Maelens preferred speaking partners.