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"Weekly" comments (Weblog)

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Nederlandse versie,

which presently is more up to date than the English version - die ik op het ogenblik beter bijhoud dan de Engelse versie.

A more or less regular column on contemporary living and politics in this world by an old man, who tries to understand and explain some facets of daily life, without always succeeding. And who thinks it is useful to take experiences of older generations into account.

Comments are welcome to, but please leave out the words NOSPAM (I hope to avoid spam this way).

Hans van Rossum

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Crisis according to Albert Einstein (14th June 2009): Let's not pretend that things will change if we keep doing the same things. A crisis can be a real blessing to any person, to any nation. For all crises bring progress.
Creativity is born from anguish, just like the day is born form the dark night. It's in crisis that inventive is born, as well as discoveries, and big strategies. Who overcomes crisis, overcomes himself, without getting overcome. Who blames his failure to a crisis neglects his own talent, and is more respectful to problems than to solutions. Incompetence is the true crisis.
The greatest inconvenience of people and nations is the laziness with which they attempt to find the solutions to their problems. There's no challenge without a crisis. Without challenges, life becomes a routine, a slow agony. Therešs no merit without crisis. It's in the crisis where we can show the very best in us. Without a crisis, any wind becomes a tender touch. To speak about a crisis is to promote it. Not to speak about it is to exalt conformism. Let us work hard instead. Let us stop, once and for all, the menacing crisis that represents the tragedy of not being willing to overcome it. (Albert Einstein 1879-1955)

New Year resolutions 2 (7th January 2009): I don't know whether the following thoughts fall under New Year resolutions of are just some contemplations of some-one about 80 years old. The New Year probably is the trigger for all kinds of thoughts about the year to come and related to my age. And I thought about how important it is, when you get older, to let go. To let go timely, before it is too late. To make life as uncomplicated as possible. My impression is, that we all hold on to things far too long; we think we can still handle quite a few things: our responsibilities, our appointments, our duties, our administration; we grow older but don't realize that sufficiently, until suddenly some things may becomes too much. We are past our "prime", can't concentrate as well, can't do as many things at the same time as before, need more rest. One can still be curious, creative, if lucky, but one needs empty space, room to select, room for the new. Don't over-estimate your own capabilities and let go of the old before it is too late, that is my advise to myself and to people my age. That does not mean to become inactive; stay active and interested as long as you can.

New Year resolutions (4th January 2009): New Year resolutions - do they still exist? Does the idea of a NEW year still exists in people's conscience? Too many Christmas cards are being sent with all kind of good wishes, and for convenience's sake new year wishing is often added, but that's about it. The custom not to send cards but to personally wish every one one meets a Happy New Year has mostly disappeared. I still remember that when we were children we went together with our parents to our grandparents to give them our best wishes; it was almost an (not unpleasant) obligation. It seems the start of a new year has lost its symbolic meaning; the idea of a new year in which we can try to modify some of our attitudes and try to do some things differently. Is the world moving too fast, to depressive, too fated? Does the TV show us too much violence? Do people not look at their own share, their own influence, their own "mistakes" anymore?
Anyway: I wish all of you a happy and peaceful 2009!

No style (20th December 2008): From an interview with Freek de Jonge, Dutch comedian: .. to call someone that has said something openly on tv a coward, without mentioning your own name. From such things you can see a lot about the times we live in. "No style" it is, the times we live in, that is a good name for it. You can also say "No form", "no norm". People have lost the form, the grip on life. And then only dissatisfaction, anger remains and that has to come out. Apparently we still have a repressive apparatus that keeps people home, but God help us, when they all storm the streets.

Lazy buyers or stupid shopkeepers? (14th December 2008): I was walking in the center of Alkmaar - quite busy, in spite of the crisis - and I noticed again that almost all shops were well or even over heated inside and at the same time had all doors wide open. Heating the outside; the warming up of our earth does not go fast enough, the shopkeepers seem to think; let's help a bit to speed it up. Or do they think: buyers are so lazy or handicapped, so mweak, that they can't open doors anymore, or are too sky to come in if doors are not open all the time?

Allotment garden in Amsterdam (28th November 2008): Allotment gardens (peoples gardens) have been very popular in Holland; for people living in a house without garden a cheap way to garden, to grow vegetables and flowers. By and by one could add little things: chairs, table, a small cabin. One of my friends had such a garden, in Amsterdam, but with the construction of a new subway he had to leave, collecting a decent compensation from the city. He had not been there a couple of months and when he came to break up, he fgound that 2 friendly Polish men had been living there some time in his tiny cabin. Obviously, they had to leave, which they understood well. "We'll find something in the neighbourhood all right"!

Scooters in Amsterdam (14 November 2008): 10 September I wrote about the scooter of the grandson of my friend in Amsterdam and today he told me the continuation. The grandson had for a short moment parked his scooter in front of a shop and when he turned around and looked the scooter had disappeared, been stolen. And because my friend did not want to spend E.3000 on a new one, he tried something else: he offered, left and right, a reward for the "honest finder" of the stolen cycle of E.500. And yeah, after a few days a message: someone knew where the cycle was and could arrange the return, but for minimum E.700. My friend agreed and so his grandson with some friends and the money went to meet the finder with some friends and the scooter and the exchange took place. The police later told him: "If you had warned us, it would not have cost you anything.", but my friend, after his previous experience, was quite happy that by tackling the problem his way he had limited the damage!

The economic (or moral) crisis (12th November 2008): De economic crisis is no fun at all for most people; especially if they lose their jobs, but at the same time the crisis could force us to change our lifestyle: spend less, drive our cars less, in short consume less. and pollute less. And an opportunity to change direction. An example: General Motors. This company did not modernize at all, did not realize that the world had to change and continued building bigger and bigger cars consuming more and more gasoline. Instead, they could have done research, invented electric cars, small cars driving on sun-energy, factories driven by sun-energy. But no, they did not want to change. And now they ask the government for financial assistance and may even get it. Coming to Washington to beg, in the company private jet! These spoiled, rich, fat cow chief executives should be jailed immediately The government should rather subsidize firms that don't add to pollution and that make products we need in our changing world. We are continuously told to consume more: if we don't fly, airline companies go down, if we don't drive cars, don't buy food with lots of packaging, the respective industries go broke. And so on, and so forth. But it could be different: industries could change into new industries that don't pollute, that look for green energy, that make water pumps for Africa, etc. New job can be created in education, a field that has been neglected too long; maybe even a highly needed course in moral values could then be added. And maybe we need a new Marshall plan for Africa: 1n 1945 it worked for Europe. What we need most is politicians that can think outside the pond we are in, that can come up with and support new ideas, new ways. Sure, workers in factories that have run their course will be dismissed, but wisely done, new work can be created where these people can be employed again,. The credit/economic/moral crisis does not necessary have to end in total disaster; we can change the world for a better world and all have a job as well.

Obama has been elected as the next U.S.A. president. (5th November 2008): Astrologically the planets Saturn and Uranus are in exact opposition to each other right now: Tradition, the Old, McCain and the New, the Unknown, Obama. And as it should be: the slower moving planet Uranus has won. What enormous harm Bush has done to his country these 8 years and what a relief that he will finally go. The recession is sufficiently earnest without him making his usual mistakes. There are some people in America that maintain, that Obama has not been born in the U.S.A.; let us hope that he will be sworn in as president in January and that he will live up to the world's expectations.

Movies and society (15th October 2008): Around 40 years ago Linus looked up from a newspaper in his hands and said in the famous strip Peanuts to his sister Lucy: "What a bad world we live in!" Lucy replied: "Do you read the front page?" "No" said Linus, "The movie page." So not much has been changed or rather movies have become even more cruel and violent during the past 40 years. Apparently that's what most people enjoy most: violence.

The children books of Dr Seuss (8th October 2008): To change to a lighter (and possibly more valuable) subject: today I leaved through some of the books of Dr Seuss. He has written those books setting himself the task to use only a limited number of words, and it is most surprising how much he could do with those words. The illustrations are wonderful too; you enter a new world: the Dr Seuss world. I noted with pleasure, that Dr Seuss was again nr 1 of the New York Times list of children books some time ago. When my children were young, 40 years ago, I read his books to them. And they inspired me to make a drawing with some words in his style every evening, which I attached to their bedroom door; their first reading lessons.

The (financial) crisis (2nd October 2008): A lot has been written about the very serious crisis we are in, such as about the irresponsible speculations of banks with the money entrusted to them, but I have read next to nothing about another, very important, reason why ordinary people are in trouble. Namely the irresponsible and immoral sales technics used by banks, mortgage agents, insurance people and all kinds of other commercial firms through telephone calling teams and other most modern methods, full of psychological tricks. Selling people mortgages at a low starting rent, increasing mortgages as soon as houses become worth more (without warning for higher interest rates, for falling home prices, selling investment schemes, unnecessary policies etc., etc. True, buyers should know better, but they are no equal party for the tricky sales agents. There should be measures in all countries to protect naive buyers, as is done in France, where buyers have 8 days after signing a contract to annul it, even when buying a house. As it is now, too many buyers of simple mind believe the stories of sellers and are stuck with contracts which they cannot afford and on which they lose money when markets change. and that's what leads to a mortgage crisis, where too many people are tricked into too high mortgages they cannot afford. (see also my astrological article about the present situation, long before forecasted, on artikelen)

Stock-exchange chaos (18th September 2008): Financial markets are in panic through the credit crisis caused by irresponsible manipulations of almost all banks, with managers looking for high bonuses for themselves only, putting aside all necessary risk management that could limit those bonuses. But let's talk about a different aspect. What could be done to bring back some order? The FED and other Central Banks have come with important rescue measures, but a very important one (in my humble opinion)is missing:: control measures to reign in hedge funds and speculators. There is so much free money with these funds and others and they have so few limitations, that they can almost make and break the system. Why not make rules for speculators and hedge funds; why not limit short selling? It should not be too difficult to raise margins, to raise transaction costs, to limit the sales of shares that one does not possess. Obviously that would mean fewer transactions and lower profits for the exchanges, but it also would mean a sounder financial system. Also internet transactions should be involved. And now that so much tax-money has to be used to try to safe the situation, why not put taxes on financial transactions on the exchanges? That would kill two flies at once: reduce speculation and also allow governments to recover some of the money they used for their "saving the financial world" actions! A problem might be, that many exchanges and countries would have to draw one line, but looking at the existing coordination to safe things, that should not be too difficult!

Scooters in Amsterdam (10th September 2008): My friend in Amsterdam told me the following story: A few weeks ago he had given a new auto cycle to his grandson. And a week later that grandson of 16 stood talking at 11 pm with 2 friends on a street in Amsterdam, all 3 with their auto cycles next to them, when 2 Moroccan men of about 23 moved over. One drew a gun and said: give me the keys of your auto cycle. So one of his friends gave his keys and off they rode. The next day the boys wanted to declare the theft to the police, however their declaration was not accepted: If we would take notice we would have no time for anything else. The police had regrets, however; the next day when the boys tried again, they accepted the declaration, saying at the same time that chances to find the thiefs were nil. The story has a tail: my friend got a telephone call from the father of the boy that had given his keys: "My son has sacrificed himself for his friends, as his was the oldest auto cycle, so I think it is not more than fair that you pay your share for a new auto cycle for my son".

Less meat, less heat (3 September 2008): This was the subject of a lecture of Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate of the V.N., partly based on the study Livestock's long shadow of the FAO. The present way of producing meat of cows, calves, pigs, chickens and even goats not only is extremely cruel and inhuman, it also is very bad for our climate and will also be the cause of the rising sea level. The life stock industry is responsible for at least 18% of the CO@ in the air! And that percentage will even increase as China and India get richer and people there also want to eat more meat. Did you also know that the life stock industry is using lots and lots of energy? To produce a pound of meat 25% more energy is needed than to produce a comparable amount of vegetables. It is not necessary to become a vegetarian overnight, but one can start by eating less meat and by throwing away less meat and other foods. Even with rising prices for foodstuffs the quantity of food thrown away daily in the rich Western countries is amazing. These days even children don't have to empty their plates anymore and are allowed to throw a great part of their meal away.

Fairs and soccer (28 August 2008): In the Dutch city of Alkmaar, famous for its cheese, this is the week of the yearly fair. From the moment the fair opens early afternoon till late at night the center of the city is filled with lots and lots of people. Did you know, that the fair people together have to pay as much as Euro 400.000 to the city for the space they occupy? Yes, Euro 400.000! Obviously this amount has to come back some way, so tickets are made more expensive. While at the same time the city subsidizes the local soccer club with millions of euros. Is soccer so much more valuable than the yearly fair, does it provider so much more entertainment to so much more people to justify the difference? I always thought that the soccer fans are just a percentage of the population, while about every-one visits the fair. So why do the fair people have to pay the city, while the soccer club gets millions? City council of Alkmaar, please explain.

Elections for the most important job in our world (26th August 2008): The candidates for the presidency of the U.S.A. are now ready to start on the last stretch till the moment of truth: November 4th. In a way these are quite democratic elections, but at the same time they show the power of commercial interests, of big money. The candidates are sold like Unilever sausages or soap and presented as honest and capable as possible and at the same time all and any means are used to paint the opponent as black mas possible, using any falsehood their campaign managers deem use full. Hopefully the American people will look more at what the candidates say about themselves then what they say about their opponent and not believe the advertisements, the commercials!

Georgia - Russia (17th August 2008): It is amazing, how the U.S.A. government first gets the Georgian president to start a military action, and then accuses Russia, which comes to the rescue of the Osetian people, for having started the aggression. In fact, when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered the city of Tskhinvali to be bombed by warplanes and shelled by heavy artillery last Thursday, he knew that he would be killing hundreds of civilians in their homes and neighborhoods. It is clear, that he only could only have started this act of aggression with the backing of Bush and his Government, which has for a long time already been busy getting Georgia to provoke Russia. And now the U.S.A. has the cheek to try to ask Nato to punish Russia! If anyone has to be punished, it is the Georgian president and the U.S.A. government. Hopefully Nato countries see the truth and don't fall for pressure and money like Poland did recently.

Politicians (2nd Augustus 2008): Politicians don't have to follow studies, don't have to pass examinations, in fact don't have to have any degrees. They have to talk well, have to be liked in order to be elected and then a lot of time passes before they may face new elections and may be judged, may be dismissed. The absence of a good "education" to prepare them for their profession can be seen far too often. Too many politicians completely lack common sense, vision, a long-term policy. Not to talk about self-interests that often influence their decisions. A good example is the small Dutch municipality of Leidsendam. In Leidsendam people talk already a long time about enlargement of a speedway; the enlargement may tempo rarely reduce congestion but in the long run may again increase traffic and pollution. What have the Leidsendam politicians done? To get the money for the enlargement of that road they have sold a large building-site with license for a new branch to Ikea. Result: that Ikea branch once ready will attract so much new traffic, that the effect will only be: more congestion than ever before. What policy, what municipality, what short-sighted politicians!

Memory 4 (26th July 2008): Yesterday I met an old friend from Japan, who was visiting in the Netherlands. We asked each other how and what we were doing, but half of the time we talked about the past, somewhat boring for the other people present. However, today I am left with more questions about what he is doing today, how he is feeling today. It would have been better, to talk less about the past, more about the now!

Website (15th June 2008): Right now I am writing down some memories, in Dutch, which you cam find here: herinneringen Therefore new entrees on this English page may be more spread out.

Desire has touched us (5th July 2008): This is the title of a book written by Bert Natter. I have not read the book, but find the title fascinating. I can only agree: these past years desire has touched us. You can even say: desire has enslaved us. Whether this has blown over from the United States or is something appearing all over the (Western) world: there are more and more people that want to have everything: 2 or more cars; the latest and biggest TV or computer or Apple musicbox or mobile phone with all the latest gadgets; the most expensive bycicle for themselves or for their children, new breasts, a new face, everything. The list is long, endless. They are wasting so much time making money to pay for it all, to buy and use it all. Indeed, wasting time, because about the most heard expresion of the generation of 25-45 years old is: I have no time right now! No time to meet you, no time to relax, no time for anything.

Bycicling in Paris (25th June 2008): The Paris townhall has arranged that there now are bicycles available for cheap rent in all of Paris and these bicycles can be returned again everywhere. There already are more bicycle stations than Metro stations and there are more to come. And more and more people use this service. The bicycles have a basket for shopping items and are somewhat heay, but practical at the same time. Paris is looking more and more like Amsterdam: bicycles everywhere. The system exists in other French cities as well and deserves imitation everywhere.

Bush and Iran (15th June 2008): Rumours galore about a planned attack on Iran by the U.S.A. and or Israel. Knowing the character of Bush and the fact that a cat in trouble makes strange jumps, one has to take those rumours seriously. I am afraid some European Governments don't do that. I would like to say to those Governments: If you don't tell the U.S.A. clearly that you are against bombing Iran, you are responsible as well for whatever may happen!

(Olympic) sport and children exploitation (1st June 2008): China (and presumably not just China) has for many years been most keen to excell on the international sports stage and to get as many merdals as possible, by any means. how they go about it? Little children that seem to have a talent for sports are taken away from their parents (bought from the parents) at a very young age and then will undergo years and years of very intensibe training in Govermental sport institutes. The children have to do what they are commanded to do, have no say in the matter, like slave workers, healthy or ill, nothinbg matters except training and training. Sometimes they, as small as they are, only see their parents just once every year. What does this haver to do with sports, with the original Olympic spirit? I have not heard any Olympic oficial raise the subject. Aftert all, sport is business only.

Israel 60 years; joy and sadness (14th May 2008): The birth of Israel has been a strange one; no-one wanted to give the Jews a piece of their own territory and so the powers that were decided to give them a piece of land taken away from the Palestinians; what to do with those Palestinians living there was left for later. And the Israelians (I rather call them that instead of Jews, as not all Jews are Israelians, nor are all Israeliens Jews) have since then accomplished a lot, made furtile land out of a desert. Well worth our admiration. And at the same time what oppertunities lost. No honest living conditions for the Palestinians, more and more emphasis on militairy might, on grabbing more territory, on bombing civilians, on torture. Almost as if they are imitating Hitler's Germany. After the glorious start, Israel has degenerated into a country that ignores human rights. Also for that reason I differentiate between the words Israelier and Jew; the Israeliers have gone into a most pernicious direction while a lot of Jews certainly don't agree with that policy. The 60 years birthday could have been an exellent opportunity to change direction; to start treating others like fellow human beings; unfortunately this has not happened yet.

Letting go in time (27th April 2008): when growing older, one may have to learn to let go, transfer responsabilities to younger people, a new generation. That does not mean, that one may not give "advise", write a column, but one should no longer be responsible, in charge. There are parents that find this dfifficult; often the children may then force them. But there are parents, that just don't move. Imagine a mother, who nhas gromed her son from baby onwards to take over the business; his whole education, his studies have been directed to that purpose, that goal. And then, when the moment is there, when the son is ready, she will not step aside, will not give him the fulfilment of what he has been forced to learn, to expect. She fearfully sticks to her "position" of authority. All grooming, study for nothing. Are there such mothers? Look at the English queen, who has educated her son as crown prince and future king and who will now Pityful, frightened queen, pityful crown prince. No nweonder he has rebelled against her authority!

Golden handshakes (7 April 2008): The exhorbitant golden handshakes given to departing managing directors and others by companies that at the same time suffer substantial losses caused by mismanagmnt of these directors, cause a lot of anger to the great majority of people. Also politiciens talk about it these days. But they do no more than talk. And for a good reason. Because in the political world, at least in Holland, it is a long standing custom, that politicians that function no longer or are burned out, or have to be promoted out of the way are given lucrative jobs, such as mayor of a large city, governer of a province, etc. These jobs are not named golden handshakes, but tell me: what is the difference?

Yearly Tax Returns (1st April 2008): In Holland it was time again to fill in and send out the yearly tax return forms; for the year 2007 they have to be completed and sent in by april 1st. The Dutch tax ministry has a wonderful slogan: We can't make it more pleasant, however, we do make it easier. I wonder, when I see, how long it takes me, 80 years old but still rather healthy in body and spirit, how older people in general cope? If the tax returns already are difficult for people with a normal intelligence, how do all those older people fill in the forms, with their various smaller or greater health and mental problems that are coming with age? Can they do this without help, and if so, from whom? I don't think there are statistics, but asking around, I get the impression almost every-one (also younger people) uses a tax consultant. And since one has to pay the consultant, who, after all, has to earn a living, I presume the consultant is not at all a luxuarity, but a necessity. One has to mention on the form, whether a consultant was used, so the tax office can easely see the number and percentage of people using consultants. And then they might have to come to the conclusion, that filling in the forms certainly is not as easy as they want us to believe and even, that in its present form it is too difficult to be forced upon all people by law!

Expensive pensions, for whom? (25th March 2008): There is a lot of talk about expensive pensions for older people, because they grow older every year. I wonder, whether, when saying this, one takes account of inflation as well. Because it is a fact, that pensions, that are not adjusted for inflation, go down in value by the inflation percentage every year. The amounts being paid remain the same, however, because the money has become less valuable, one can only buy less each year and likewise these pensions cost less to the insurers. An inflation of say 4% means about 150% in 10 years and even 225% in 20 years. Wonderful to become older, at least if still healthy, but at the same time one can buy less from one's pension and becomes poorer, while the insurers pay out less!

Chinese Terracotta figures and Bronzes (15th March 2008): We visited the exhibition of the righfully famous Terracotta Army of Xi'an, finished about 2218 years ago, in Assen, and of the Ancient Chinese Bronzes of the Shanghai museum cast 2000 tot 3800 years ago, in Groningen. Well worth the visit, or, as the Michelin guide phrases it: well worth the journey. It is a miracle, that we can see these wonderful objects so close by. People often talk about evolution, but as far as art is concerned we actually don't come even close to the old Chinese art. Even in the towns of Assen and Groningen the older buildings look so much better than the new ones; as an example compare the so well balanced Groningen Railroad Station with the ugly modern PTT building standing next to it. China is on its way to become a "modern" country with "modern" art; don't miss this chance to see this unsurpassed old Chinese "art" collection so close by in Europe, Holland!

1 out of hundred adults in prison! (29th February 2008): I read that in the United Stastyes of America 1 of 100 grown -up citizens is in prison. Imagine: 1 in 100, almost unbelievable, hard to imagine. What does that tell us about a country, its moral condition, its society and its government. About a failing policy. World champion prisoners; what a painfull championship. 2,3 million adults in prison in the U.S.A. Known costs 55 billion, which money, in my opinion could, at least partly, be spent in better ways. Such as on education, improvement of slums, jobs for the less-educated. The figure of 1 out of 100 is an average. If you look at adult males of latino origin, the figure is 1 out of 36 en the figures are for black males 1 out of 15, for black males between 20 to 34 years even 1 out of 9! And as far as women are concerned: 1 out of 355 white women and 1 out of 100 black women is in jail. And knowing the bad conditions of Amercan prisons and the fact that most jails are run by private firms that want to make as much profit as possible, that does not make the figures any better. America, America, land of hope and future, what has happened to you!?

Is the "Western" world really democratic? (20th Februari 2008): The "West" (Western Europa, North America) is very keen to bring its democtacy to the Middle East, Africa, Asia. Apart from the fact, whether these countries are ready for it (beliefsystems, differencves in income, etc.) one has to ask oneself how democratic the "West" is in practice. Democracy in my opinion not only means more or less honest elections (which are more and more influenced by the money candidates can spend en are more and more difficult to controll with elections by computerprograms that can be manipulated), but also and may be foremost should mean that the winning party will not govern looking after their own interests only looking after the interests of the whole country, sdo including the minority. Regularly we see, however, that even a small-margin-majority is dictating what happens. In the U.S.A. for instance, we have seen regularly that the highest judges are appointed, that wars are started,that taxes are raised or reduced by the party in power only. In England we saw the nationalisation or denationalisation of utility companies, depending on whether Tories or Labour were the party in powert, and even if in power with a very small majority only. The exprerssion "Party in Power" says it all. One can be that party in power with say 54% against 46%, even though these figures only mean that out of 10 people not even 6 are for or against something. There are numorous examples of misusing power in the Western democracies; it almost seems the rule. Do we have to praise that kind of democracy into the heavens and export it? Should we not first improve our own democratic system and the way it is practised?

Protection of citizens (12th February 2008): Hirsi Ali, protected in the Netherlands, is visiting France, asking for ort being offered French protection in the whole world and willing to take on the French nationality. Will she then have to learn the French language (which she does not speak) and learn about French laws and customs? Wilders, a Dutch parlementarian, protected in the Netherland, is expected to bring out a critical film about moslims and his protection obviously will be continued. It is only normal that free expression of opinions is protected, but one wonders, how far, where and by whom. Should someone (like Hirsi Ali) get Dutch protection when volontarely taking on a job in the United States or in Kenya, in the Sudan? Where is the border line; I would say, countries can only ofer special protection within their borders. And Wilder, a Dutch parliamentarian, with his movie mof which contents are as yet unknown; where does free expression of opinion change into provocation, where starts the inciting to violence. For me that is the limit where free expression changes into criminality. Those that threaten free expression of opinion in the Netherland (a right guaranted by the constitution) by even threatening with violence, in my opinion either should learn fast to accept the Dutch constitution or leave for a country, where they are allowed to silence others --- and in those countries they possibly will be silenced themselves too.

Bio-industry (5th February 2008): Everyone that knows something about agriculture also knows already a long time, that growing grains etc. to replace oil as source of energy is a wonderful idee for farmers that want higher prices and politicians that want farmer votes, but that otherwise the idea is stupid. Firstly, growing corn takes so much energy through fertilizers and inseticides, that the energy gained is practically zero. Secondly it will lead to sharply higher grain and soybean prices (as we have already seem the past year) in a world where there is a shortage of food already and which will only increase, if food is used for car-fuel. And thirdly, there is the enormous risk, that the higher prices will lead to more and more rain forests being transferred into grainfields. And those rain forests we need so badly against warming of the earth.
Bio-industry means: letting the richest people drive their cars on the meals of the poor!

Time, responsibility and relationships (2nd February 2008): A recent article in Opzij, a Dutch weekly, mentions the greater number of break-ups, especially amongst younger partners, also the fact that partners spend less time together on their relationship, and that the present generation of men, male partners, is afraid of taking responsibility and of binding themselves. Society has changed. Women work more often, men are more often growing up with absent fathers, absent male-model; both partners more often want to continue their evenings out with friend, less together, also as one of the partners may have to stay home to look after the kids, if there are any. Also there are male partners not too keen to have kids, afraid of the responsibilities. Divorce is more acceptable now, everyone has his own car, contact with neighbours before (when transportation was more difficult) was more frequent. Marriage is indeed a commitmen, not appealing to all, and one has to work to bring in new exitement, but living "single" is not always as exiting as it seems either and also requires effort.

Internet problems (31st January 2008): Somewhat by accident I uploaded the update 7 to my Internet Explorer and right away I could no longer connect the Internet Explorer to Internet, even though I had a connection established already and Outlook Express worked fine, the new program tried to phone for a new (extra?) connection. After trying out everything I could think off, I phoned the provider's helpdesk, who told me it was a known failure of the program and that everything would be fine again after deleting the update. Which was true. Strange, that an update of the largest computer firm does not work (nor give a warning about this) for certain systems of connections. As strange as the fact that websites of a lot of the great computer firms are not easy to navigate. They seem to have trouble knowing what we, the simple minds, need.

Joint increases chances of lung-cancer considerably (22nbd January 2008): About the advantages or disadvantages of canabis and smoking a joint a lot has been said and written; in different countries thoughts about this subject are quite different, but disdussions center around the subject whether cannabis is a dangerous drug or not. I now read, that researchers in New Zealand have found, that people that smoke 1 joint a day for a longer period have a 6 times greater chance to get lung cancer as compared to smokers of tobacco. It was not a large-scale project, but still... It is known already quite some time, that cannabis contains twice as much cancer-producing elements as compared to tobacco. As smoking a joint is becoming more and more common in the Western world, the research commission expects an epidemic increase of lung cancer before long. And those that arte hit will need stronger drugs than cannabis.

The new soldiers without rules (8th Januari 2008): We know from our history lesons at school, that in the Middle Ages soldiers were professionals that might fight for the country that paid best. And that lateron France had its Foreeign Legion. This was before the time countries depended on the own population to serve in the army, through (compulsery) conscription. Now the U.S.A. underkind of mercenary troops. The most important reason was financial: by letting non-military firms do military tasks, payment would fall not under the militairy budget but under other budget groups, thus hiding the real cost of a war. That paymentys to these private firms are exhorbitant and thus much higher than before appearently was far less important than hiding them outside the militairy budget. Amongst these tasks are protection and security tasks. The alarming fact is, that these private firms such as Blackwater don't fall under military or other rules and controlls and act as if above all laws. And as result the regularly surfacving stories of misbehaviour. I was against the war in Iraq but if one fights that war: at least do it with regular soldiers with army rules and not with private firms that are above the law and just want to make money.

A New Year (2nd january 2008): A new year, that is asking for me to wish all readers a happy and healthy 2008. And to hope that things will go better in our world this year. A bit of tolerance between Israel and the Palestinians, between Shiites and Sunis. Tolerance amongst Muslims but also amongst Christians and other "believers, who so often are so fanatic. Less polution of our earth, which we don't own but are actually just allowed to live on, provided we take care. Less cutting down, whether illigal or legal, of the trees we need so badly. A reduction of the cultivation and export of poppies in Afghanistan. Fewer "top"managers, that only think about their own riches and shorttime results and manage their companies into serious difficulties in the long run. May we wish for politicians that are somewhat "wiser" than the past years? For citizens that are not just individualists, but also willing to work for the wellbeing of all? Money is not everything; material posessions neither, hopefully that thought winns ground. As well as the thought, that military force often is not the solution of a problem; that one cannot force people to think the same you do yourself. Anyway, let's wish for a somewhat better world in 2008!

Climate (15th December 2007): What did we accomplish in 2007? After Kyoto a conference in Bali with more good intentions but nothing definite. Sti9ll the United States of Bush that try to block changes and that now after Australia signed is the only country objecting to Kyoto. The North Pole ice disappears faster than we thought and fortunately more and more people take the change of climate seriously. By and by some governments subsidize wind or sun energy or cleaner cars, but the effect is neglectable, compared to the still fast growing energy consumption. Obviously it is difficult to prohibit developing countries the same luxuries the West already enjoys a long time. Or to volentarely reduce the energy consumption the Western countries are used to. Governments will have to step in and force! And have to be more inventive. Take as an example the way Dutch children travel to their schools: most of them are brought and fetched by car; the backseat generation; one car for each child. In France the government is using schoolbusses but in Holland the Government is doing nothing about this problem. No school busses there, and what is worse: no safe roads for the children with safe bypasses so children, untill a certain age, just cannot reach the schools alone, even while distances from home to school are short in this overpopulated country. An example out of many: in Rotterdam a nen suburb has been erected but children cannot walk to their schools alone: the schools are situated at the wrong side of mainstreets with busy car trafic; a townshall with brains would have built a (wooden) bridge over that road so children could pass alone and in savety, but no, lets force the parents to bring them! Will we stop asking Google energy-eating questions? Or tyell our children and ourselves to use mobile telephones less? This Christmas and Year-end many homes will be decorated with extra lights and many towns and villages will do the same throughout the night. And the whole year many unnecessary lights will burn dasy and night on the larger roads; in some countries such as Holland even cars have their lights on at daytime while the sun shines. So first of all stop the unnecessary use of energy such as for stand-by tv's etc; don't let car motors idle and use more economical lightbulbs and apparatus. Governments, force people to do this. And more important force people to use the clean energy so plentiful available in nature, such as sun, wind and sea energy. One wonders also, why in the sunny parts of the world, such as the Sahara, no energy is won from the sun. And, with the threat of higher sea levels, why no sea water is pumped to those places into salt-winning artificial lakes, reducing sealevels with the added advantage, that the evapurated water makes the surroundings more humid and would also give thyem more rain. Scientists and Governments, use your fantasy, your imagination, not just for commercial purposes, but for us all. There are so many possibilities; it is almost ununderstandable that so little is done.

Women (2 December 2007): Regarding the way women were and are treated I would like to quote Alfred de Vigny: "After having studied the position of women in all times and all countries rather than say hello I would like to beg pardon."

Human rights (1st December 2007): A few days ago I wrote about the critisism of Russia by the U.S.A. and others. Now one country where human rights are practically non-existant is Saudi Arabia. And with the rights of women it is the same thing; they are treated more like household animals than like human beings. The other day a woman was raped there (not the only one presumably, but she made the news); she was not protected, not revenged, but judged and punished. Imagine: being punished for being raped! But do we hear any critisism? Off course not; they are our allies!

Elections in Russia (29TH November 2007): It is election time in Russia and it seems clear that Putin will be the winner at ease. Not that strange, as by a healthy, sound econimic policy (and helped by high gas prices) he has made Russia and the Russians so much richer in a comparatively short time. And not only that: he has given back to the Russian nation its lost self-confidence; he has put Russia back on the map of strong nations. Therefore it is quite suspect, how the U.S.A. and some West-European nations are critisizing these elections and are harping on human rights and election manipulation. Manipulation not needed by Putin, as he is extreemly popular. It sems clear that the U.S.A. is not happy at all with a richer, more powerful Russia and that that is the main reason to critisize that country. Bush and his followers might well be more critical about elections in the U.S.A. (such as investigate what happened in Florida a couple of years ago) and about the loss of human rights in the U.S.A. during the Bush presidency.

Is the influence of women on education growing? (29th October 2007): I read, that the number of female teachers in primary schools and also in higher education is growing more and more; a male teacher seems to be an exeption. According to the auther one can see the effects already in the way the children play at school. The boys are restrained to play wild games, to act agresively, to try new things; the female schoolteachers like them to be well-behave. And this tendency may well continue and raise a generation of boys more conforming, less agressive, less inclined to take risks and try out new things, discover thngs. The same is true in one-parent families, wher most often the father and male influence is absent, and female influence dominant. It might be interesting to investigate this trend and its effects further. It might be true, that males with their agresion and ambition have been dominant in science, in scientific advancements, but on the other hand men also have caused a lot of misery via wars, unequality in income, sexual intimidation and rape and much more. I can well imagine that more female influence on education doen not have to be all that bad!

Ex-Vicepresident Gore, president Bush, environment and war (19th October 2007): Ex-vicepresident of the U.S.A., Al Gore, has received the Nobel price for his movie and talks about the environment. I realy admire Gore for the fact that, after his unlawful loss of the presidency to Bush, he did not sulk in a corner, but became actively engaged in defending the envirement and warning against climat change. What strikes me about his firm and letures (as well about the activeties of other envirement defending groups), is that the attack on the envirement by the military their exercises, testing and using of new weapons, their "military missions" where so many bombs are thrown, and wars. With the CO2 produces by how many cars, how many planes can a war be compared? I don't know. Why is there no talk about the pollution by armies; does one think that that pollution is not important, that wars are so beneficial, thyat they compensate tyhat pollution? The day before yersterday Bush made a speech again somewhere and he mentioned the increasing chances for a World War III; in his opinion because of the threat of Iran obtaining nuclear weeapons. But helas, the threat does not come from Iran but from Bush hyimself. By now everyone knows or can know that Bush pulled the American nation, the Congress, into the Iraqi war by pertinent lies. No nuclear weapons were there, as they also are not there in Iran. (They are in Israel, as in Pakistan and India but that doers not trouble Bush!) Everyone also knows that the populariry of Bush has declined sharply because of his many faulty decisions and blundering. And that therefore he is like the cat in the tight hole ready to try anything to escape judgement, even a new war; in this case against Iran, again using the same pertinent worn-out lies about non-existent nuclear weapons. From Hitler Bush has learned (and made his own motto) that when you repeat lies often enough, some people may start wondering whether there might be some truth in them. That the atomic commission that monitors Iran carefully, says there are no weapons at all does not bother Bush; he just continues hammering the same lie. It is strange, that the American population, the American Congress, are leaving Bush free to continue his fatal and dangerous courseand that procedings for impeachement have not yet started. Is the falsehood propaganda too strong; are Americans too dumb politically or uninterested; is money more important, or does one, in the great United States, just know too little about foreign countries? The threat that Bush starts a 3rd World War is very serious, very real. Bush has the blueprints all ready for bombing Iran in order to lengthen his life as president. And when that war starts, Bush himself, as he has said many times, will not hesitate to use atomic bombs. Imagine what that means for the world, for our world as we know it, it may mean the end, an inimaginable pollution of nuclear weaste with a very, very long life and with unnumerable dead. And all for the wims and the gloryfication of one man, Bush. It surprises me, therefor, that Gore does not warn us about the planns of Bush, about the disaster around the corner. It seems "not-done" that ex-vicepresidents and ex-presidents critisize their succesors. But now there is too much at stake. Al Gore and also Clinton and Carter, open your mouth and warn your country, your fellow citizens; work on Congress to curtail the power of Bush; probit him to start a war without approval of Congress and ask Congress to start the impeachment proceedings. Al Gore, if the envirement is important to you, stop Bush! And I would like to ask the E.E.C. countrys: don't further support the disaster course politics of Bush.

Dangers to older people and taking care of them (17th October 2007): In an article in the New Yorker dated 30th april 2007 following facts struck me: first of all, that falling is the greatest danger for old people. A bad fall often means the end of a still reasonably independent life. Off course, it is basically known , also to the elder people themselves, that the feeling of balance, the maintaining of keeping one's balance go downhill with age, and that one will lift the feet less than before. But regularly that fact is forgotten and one strumbles more often or "almost" falls. Untill the time when one really falls with very bad consequences. The danger of falling is increased, because some of the many pills elder people often have to swallow may cause dizzyness. It is important for elder people, as well for those that take care of them, to realize this. Another strange fact of modern society is, that while the percentage of elder people increrases rapidly, the number of geriatrists declines as rapidly and geriatrics derpartments in hospitals are being closed. Sickness insurance companies do hardly compensate this branch of medicine and hospitals more and more close unprofitable departments. Profit is more important than necessity! And more and more physicians in their training are choosing, rather than geriatrics, the more profitble meedical fields such as the fast growing plastic surgery. And additionally, old people often are not the most gratifying patients to cure; they may have so many complaints that the non-specialized physician hardly knows where to start. De geriatrist also cannot cure that much, but he knows better, how to help people not to lose what they still have, what they can still do. His task is to help to maintain as long as possible the existing quality of life. And for maintaining that quality of life 2 things are important: that existing illnesses or handicaps will bother the patient as little as possible and that the patient can still partage in society as much as possible. Apart from avoiding unpleasant falls, it is important that elder people eat well and eat more often in the company of children or acquaintences, and that they take cre of their hygiene. Generally old people keep themselves reasonably clean, however, the danger spots are the spots they cannot reach well anymore, such as the feet. To get more physicians into training to become geriatrics seems impossible, taking into account the present finantial side.; the only solution to maintain their wealth of knowledge might be that the still existing geriatrists start educating nurses how to take over some of their tasks!

Should Dutch soldiers stat in Afghanistan? (10th october 2007): What will the Dutch Government decide? When the Dutch soldiers started their mission, not so long ago, their mission was aid to the population; helping the country recover. This was the argument with which that mission was sold by the government to the country. It seems everyone has forgotten that; the Government that wants, under American pressure, wants to keep the soldiers there; the population; and most important the press, the journalists that more and more forget their own mission of bringing the facts impartially.We insisted, at the beginning of the mission, that we would not be part of torture and of killing the normal population, but only Taliban. Meanwhile we have killed innocent citizens and the only thing Nato has done is suggesting we may use smaller bombs in order to kill less innocent people. While the goal of reconstruction,rebuilding the country has mostly been abolished. What our soldiers do is assisting the American army to push, by their behavior, more and more people in the Taliban direction. Helping them to yearly almost double the poppy crop? A lost fight, a lost mission in a country that more and more is seeing the foreign soldiers not as reconstructers but as the occupation, as the enemy.

Warnings in advertisements (28th september 2007): Nowadays it is an obligation for advertisers of cigarettes to mention, that smoking kills; it is a good thing, that governments have finally come down on one of the richest and powerful industrial lobbies. Likewise advertisements for alcoholic drinks have to mention that we should only drink moderately. Finantial institutions when selling us investments have to warn us that past results are no guarantee for similar results in future and that we may lose a lot of money, that an investment is risky. But what about warnings in other fields? For cars, especially those large suv's, they might mention that their consumption of gasoline is exhorbitant and very bad for the envirement. Travell advertisements might mention something similar about holiday trips by plane. And what about those cleaning fluids that are so effective on TV, but also so strong, that one should not even touch them, what about their effect on the environment when the leftovers are thrown away. Especially with advertisements inducing children to eat or drink more and more sweets, should manufaturers not be forced to mention on the wrappings as well as in the advertisements, that they are most damaging for the childrens' teeth and health in general? The profit motive is holy; after us the deluge! There are many more products advertised and sold to us that have very bad side-effects, but warnings? They still are the exception. Should the public not judge for themselves rather then government measures? With the art of advertising having become so scientific, so clever, so seducing, governments really should do more to protect us. Unfortunatyely our governments, our senators have more urgent matters they want to keep themselves busy with: starting a war, savings on healthcare, building more roads.

Wine and the language of the "connoisseurs" (19th september 2007): I am an amateur and lover of wine, but certainly not a connesseur, one that knows everythng about that godly nectar, which is, after water, my favorite drink. I don't need the most expensive wines; a honest country wine, if selected with care, is good enough; I always look for the cheaper but not necessarely less tasting wines. In the French Provence, where I live most of the year, I usually buy my wine in bulk, have my 5 literr containers filled at local coops or Chateaux. Each one produces a slightly different wine; by now I know which I like best for my red wine, which for white or rose. Other wines i like: Spanish red wines; the Rioga's, which now are often too expensive, Red Burgondy, Beajolais, Santenay, some Italians; whites from the Bergerac, Muscadet, the sweeter Montbasillac, white wines from Chili, not too expensive and quite good; Pouilli Fuisee. Red wines again from the Argentine or California, which, because of the Euro exchange rateshave become more attractive in price. In France we say that you need 2 glasses of red wine per day to stay healthy; not too difficult an order to fulfill; it is more difficult not to go on to the 3rd glass.
When you read what the eperts say about wine, how they describe the results of their tasting, it's most amazing and poetic. An arroma of black berries, granberries or apples, of pear and heather honey; a snif of pepper, a nuance of citrus and a touch of minerals, a hint of prunes, cassis and cederwood, supported by a tiny bit of vanille with a very soft tannine. It is wonderful when you can taste that much, but also, how many of the more common wines will then not any longer meet those high standards. Sometimes I also wonder: why do producers not throw a red or black berry, an apple, some pepper or mint, a little bit of vanille in the wine casks during the production process, but no, let us hope our wines will be honst wines with the secret tastes that are the results of the grape varieties, the soil- and the weather conditions.

Ballet and Tai Chi (1st september 2007): I love and follow ballet since around my 20th year; I also am one of the fortunate that has seen the famous Ulanova dance Giselle; it was around 1953/4 in Osaka, Japan. She not only danced as I had never seen anyone dance before, but also with such emotion, that the whole public was in tears when Giselle was deserted and finally went mad and died. I still cannot listen to the music of Giselle without being touched to tears. And since a few years I have discovered Tai Chi, which I now practise with a small group regularly. So it is no wonder that when meeting a dancer/choreographer some days ago, I mentioned the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre from Taiwan. According to my (not always modest) opinion this is the best contemporary ballet company around. Their choreographer Lin Hwai-min is a genius. The dances are a mixture of classical and modern ballet forms combined with Eastern movements. Especially in the ballet "Moon Water", which I like most and consider their best, the influence of Tai Chi is considerable. And it is surprising, how wonderfully beautiful the slow movements are. Movements that, almost like the hands of a clock, seem to stand still but actually move continuously without any pause, in ever different forms. It is regrettable that this company hardly ever performs in Europe, so take advantage of it when they are. As the Michelin guidebooks say: they are worth the detour; they are even worth the voyage! And there are DVD's of their ballets, amongst which also one of "Moon Water", that I highly recommend you to buy.

Children and the computer (30th august 2007): This afternoon I had the visit of a granddaughter; 4 years old, a bit listless; she said she did not feel well and would like to go home, which is quite unusual. While she was looking out from the balcony, I did a few things on the computer. She came inside again and I opened the program paint and showed her how you can draw with thin or thick lines, how you can choose the different colours by clicking at the right place and, while it may take older people some time, she got the hang of it quite quickly. Soon the screen was filled with lines of all colours. And then I showed her how to fill the various sectors with colours; at first I clicked on the colour of her choice and she moved the mouse to the desired place, but soon she did that alone also. The end result was a quite remarkable painting, which I printed out for her to take home. 4 years old and already working with computer paint! I usually am not that enthousiastic about the computer games children play with, but making a painting to me seemed a good alternative.

Children and the beach (20th august 2007): This summer there was not much summer in Holland. Often grey skies that made you think of autumn. But still, not too much rain so one could cycle, and also 2 weekends with decent beach weather. Being at the beach with grandchildren: you go into the water more than you wanted. You teach them what you have learned when at their age: not deeper into the water than when it reaches your navel; how to build castles and boats not too far from the waterline, so they can be surrounded by the sea before you leave. Some knowledge of the tides is welcome. And also: you meet some of your age-limits: too long shovelling, too much running with the kids gives pain in your back the next day. But its not just meeting limits; it's also seeing how much there is to enjoy; things you can still do. And you don't have to look at your watch; you have time now. The beach is so much fun, with, but also without sun. There is so much to see and to do and you only need your eyes and a shovel, because the water and the sand are there already.

Curiosity and age (10th august 2007): I have read some interviews with people of 90 jaar or older, all of them still quite alive and curious about what is happening around them in the world. Obviously they have their limits, travell less, need more help from others, forget things, but all of them still seem curious, news-hungry, interested in news, new things. Curiosity probably is one of our most important charactristics, as well to stay mentally fresh when old, as to grow, to want to experience and discover new possibilities, new roads when still young. Children are extreemly curious and I think that it is very important to stay curious as long as possible. One could say: the more curious you are, the more alive you are. Not trying to stick to the old, the known, but giving room to the new, to new experiences, new discoveries, might well be the essence of life!

Home-waste being collected with separation (8th augustus 2007): Here in the Netherland we already for years have brough our old papers to the paper container, the old glassbottles to the glass container, and split the rest into green and dirty waste, which are colleted separately each forthnight. Splitting the home-waste is more difficult in the larger cities, but since a year undergound containers are being placed, for the time being only for paperwaste and dirty waste,to make separation easier in large cities as well. On tv and in the newspapers we are now being told, that soon also plastics will be collected separately and recycled, a.o. for making golf balls. I don't know about other countries such as the U.K. and Germany, but in France, at least in smaller cities and villages, the separate collection already is practiced far more than in Holland.
Today I had the visit of a wallpaper-expert in my flat in Alkmaar and my wife asked him: "Does old wallpaper qualify for the paperwaste container?" His reply was: "That does not matter here, as while the collecting is separate, the burning is done at the same time, together." If that is true (and why should we doubt his words, which sounded familiar anyway), it is a striking example of citizen-misleading by authorities; collecting separately and then secretly burning together, and then saying: look how we work for a better environment. Could it be, that the E.E.C. has laws about collecting home-waste but not about the disposal of it and about recycling? Or do city councils deliberately ignore those laws? City-council of Alkmaar, your reaction is welcome.En om nog even op het gescheiden ophalen van plastics terug te komen: vandaag hoortde ik de voorzitter van de milieu organisatie hierover op de radio ongeveer het volgende zeggn: deze maatregel heeft nauwelijks zin; het enige wat helpt en waar we al jaren voor vechten is statiegeld op plastic flessen etc en daar willen de industrie, supermarkten en (dus ook) regering niet aan. And, to return to the collection of old plastics: today I hyeard the chairman of the environment movement say on the radio: this measure is of no use; the only thing that works for the recycling of plastics and for which we already fight since years is a deposit on plastic botles or other packing but the industry and supermarkets and (so also) government so far are unwilling to cooperate.

Prisons in the U.S.A. - disturbing facts (26th july 2007): Right now the United States has a higer percentage of people behind bars than any other country exept North Korea. Well, with what we know about North Korea, it certainly is not a thing to be proud of, to share the top places with that country and to be ahead of such ncountries as China, Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe and Burma - countries considered evil by the present U.S.A. government. Of the wellll over two million Americans in prison, about half are violent criminals and sex offenders that should be in jail, but the other one million spend years in prison for non-violent and petty offenses such as small-time drug dealing, street hustling, prostitution, bouncing checks and even writing graffiti. The United States prison system can be compared more and more with the Stalinist "gulag" system. Even the number of women with small babies in prisons is growing at alarming rate.
One reason for the very high number of prisoners is that many prisons have been turned over to private companies and that prisons have become a highly profitable business, the more so, as American politicians have repealed two federal laws (the Hawes Cooper Act and the Ashurst-Sumner Act) that virtually outlawed prison labor;a number of corporations in America have taken advantage of prison labor in what might be called "Operation Sweatshop." Corrections Corporation of America now is the nation's largest owner and operator of privatized correctional and detention facilities and one of the largest prison operators in the United States, behind only the federal government and three states. So prisons often are not run anymore as government organisations without commercial interest, but as units where the profit motive is foremost. The "tough on crime" propaganda now masks a profit motive. These commercially run prisons have just one goal: make a profit. And this can be done two ways: a: having a continuous flow of new prisoners, so propagating earlier and longer prison terms and b: Being cost-conscious, so spending as little as possible on prisoners, so economising on food, on airing prisoners, on staff, on space each prisoner occupies. Commercial prisons: a dangerous system, that can in its most excessive state be compared only to prisons run by Hitler and Stalin and other dictators that ignored human rights.

A group of 2nd generation Israelis plans a suit against Germany (15th july 2007): A group Israelis, calling themselves 2nd generation Holecaust survivors, plans a lawsuit in Tel Aviv seeking payment for psychiatric therapy from the German Government. They say they have been reared with fear and depression and therefore they cannot adjust to society and are in bad need of therapy. At first thought this seems strange: grownup-children that need psychiatric help beause of what their parents experienced, but it is not all that strange; children can be straddled by parents with all kind of complexes, that make a "normal" life difficult or even impossible when grown-up. Therefore I would like to go further and ask Germany to offer psychiatric treatment to all Israelis, hopefully enabling Israel to rid itself of its "Holecaust past" complex and thereby of its ideas of taking revenge and its nazi-like treatment of the populations of its neighbours.

The Kalasshnikov this year 60 years old (5th july 2007): The Kalasshnikov, the notorious Russion gun, that can be found everywhere people figh, is 60 years old; do we have to look at the inventor full of "admiration" of should we look full of horror at the sea of blood that this weapon has caused in all places where countries have fough one another of where terrorists or liberation armies have fought with government armies? A development I never would have though about: the oicial Russian manufactorers complain about the illegal production in many parts of the world; copies much cheaper than the oroginals. Copy-right on weapons, somewhat strange, if you know that most sales of these weapons are illegal anyway!

Some reasons (but I could easely name more) why France is such a wonderful country (25th june 2007): Nr 1: The wine, off course. Not just the fact that they produce so many good wines, but also the way they drink. One glass at a time, in good company, taking litle sips, tasting well. They surely don't drink wine the way people in other countries drink beer: one glass after another, a kind of match who can drink the most and the fastest. Nr 2: Eating is important; you don't see French workers eat sandwichers in the office out of a little basked brought along from home. They go out to lunch (preferably) or go home if home is not too far. Eating is important and food has to be tasted without hurry. In fact, eating is considered an art. Nr 3: The French generally own old, small cars, that will be driven till they fall apart. Not that many large, gasoline consuming monsters as in a lot of countries. Nr 4: Even the garbage collectors are polite; in fact most French are, once they conquer their shyness of talking to strangers. Nr 5: Time in France seems to have a different meaning. People usually take their time and are not looking at their watch all the time, are not that impatient. They may be late for appointments too, but never mind, enjoy yourself while waiting. Nr 6: Work is one thing, but the quality of life is another, more important matter. Spend free time in nature, with friends, at the beach, in your garden; relax. Nr 7: Solidarity. One reason why strikes usually are effctive in Franc is that solidarity is in a Frenchman's grains; they work together but also strike together. Nr 8: The country is so beautiful; there is such a lot to see; not just the countryside but also most cities are worth your visit. Nr 9: Patrimony. Heritance is important: old customs with yearly festivals or parades, in memory of a saint, a liberation or whatever. Everyone out to eat at a restaurant on mothers day. Art festivals. Old buildings being restored. Roads being constructed leaving untouched the old tree that is standing in the way. Nr 10: The Tour de France, not because it is the greatest bicycle race and an enormous sportive happening, or because of the doping problems, but because the daily tv covering is concentrating at least as much on the surroundings, the landscape, as on the participants. The Tour goes through beautiful parts of France and that is shown, with the help of the many shots from the helicopters.
I could go on, but you will get the idea: I love France and think France is well worth it.

The little stickers on fruits (10th june 2007): I like to eat my apples, pears, nectarines etc. in the skin, so everytime I have to carefully remove the little sticker that some idiot has ordered his workers to put on each little fruit; not just apples and pears, but even bananas, oranges, mandarines, etc. Since one find these stickers on so many fruits, it is not just one idiot that orders them pasted on with filthy, sticky glue. I always wonder why they are there, just to annoy consumers, or also to pollute our environment, and I also wonder whether the stickers and the paste have been checker for poisonous contents. They are not necessary for pricing; all supermarkets have all prices at the exits. Looking at my fruitbowl, I see my banana is a BanaSport, official(?) supplier of energy, my nectarine is a yellow nectarine, nr 4036, my apple is 100% country, nr 4017. Wonderfull to know this before eating them! So far my onions and garlic have not been labelled yet; maybe I should not have mentioned this as a whole army of idiots may be waiting to start there also.

The anti-missile system of Bush in Europe? (30th may 2007): Today is mentioned in the news, that the Russians have tested a missile that can break through the anti-misile system, planned to be installed in Europe. Also Putin said, that the U.S.A. stationing the anti-missile system in Europe (a.o. in Polen, a staunch ally of the U.S.A.) could make the Europeans live on explosive powder. In this case I agree with Putin and I still hope the European commission will prohibit the installation of the anti-misile system on European territory. Apart from the fact, that the system has not had succesfull tests so far, it is complete nonsence that placing such system in Europe is done against threats by North Korea and Iran. This clearly is a fallacy as first of all these 2 countries don't have the technical knowledge yet to attack the U.S.A. by missiles and even more important: if Bush really is afraid of those countries, why not place the system in the direct route from those countries to the U,S.A. and closer to home? The reason seems very clear: placing the anti-missile system in Europe has great advantages for the U.S.A: there will not be any danger for the U.S.A. of fall-out of any shutdown missiles; that risk of fall-out will be entirely the risk of the Europeans. So by allowing an anti-missile system on its ground that is under U.S.A. command, Europe has no say in the matter of how and when the system is used and at the same time has to take all the risks of fall-out of intercepted missiles that even were not launched against Europe. And fall-out in Europe is for Bush far less a problem than fall-out above the U.S.A.! And obviously he will not mention this fact.

American marines pay for dead Afghan civilians (9th may 2007): I read in the International Herald Tribune of may 9th, that American marines have apologized for killing 19 innocent Afghan civilians and wounding another 50 and that they have paid about $2000! for each death. Mistakes can happen, though in the American army there certainly have been a lot of mistakes. But a compensation of $2000? Compare that to what compensations are set by judges in the U.S.A. for all kind of mishaps, bodily harm, death, caused by all kinds of mistakes, by smoking, chemical drugs, asbestos etc. etc. The mightiest country in the world pays $2000 as compensation for the killing by mistake of innocent civilians. The amount does show how the Amarican army thinks about the value of those civilians: less than 1% of the value of American civilians. What should we think about an army (and its commander in chief) that shows so little repect for civilians of other countries and in fact considers them so much inferior to themselves!

French elections. (continued) (5th mai 2007): Tomorrow will be the final voting for the election of a new French president. Therefore it is intertesting to make some remarks about how the elections were conducted. First of all, it is remarkable that money plays only a very small part, especially regarding tv time. Both candidates get about the same time; this is arranged very democratically; all tv stations give both candidates the same time, similar questions. The same goes to some extend for the newspapers; they may have their preferential candidate, but also the idees of the other candidate are reported. An example that should be followed in other countries, such as the U.S.A. where one gets the idea more and more that elections can be (and are) bought. Another remarkable fact is, that both candidated are rather respectfull toward each other: no mudslinging. Obviously both candidated try to get it across, why they would be a better president, why their ideas are better for the country; they may exagerate the effectiveness of their ideas but there is no outright dishonesty. One would almost say: the French elections still are oldfashionedly decent!

French elections. (24th april 2007): Much has been written about the French elections and about the fact that France has to change, that it is old-fashioned, behind the times, about its banlieus (the poor districts), etc. The poor (immigrant) districts are not a special French problem; we find it in most richer Western European countries. And the United States has its own very large group of poor people without equal chances. French industry does well, but unemployment still is too high; all parties want to do something about it and about the banlieus. But otherwise, does France really has to change very much? France is the favourite holiday country; we all want to visit it. How many people from England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavia already own or want to buy a house in France and are quite happy there; is that because things go badly in France? In the recent elections 85% of the population voted; you cannot call that undemocratic. Compare that to the about 50% voted in the U.S.A. for the latest presidental elections and the meager 25% that were suffgicient to elect Bush! France fortunately does not want to become a copy of the U.S.A., it appreciates other values; values a life where money is not the sole factor, where one lives well. The French work hard but that is not all one lives for in Frane; there has to be culture, enjoyment of nature, free time, wine and good food. The French don't just look at American movies and shows but have their own; on TV there are more discussion programs (also political) than probably anywhere else. The French make other choices, on purpose, than in the U.S.A. and those countries that copy U.S.A. culture. So why the criticism - could it be jealousy about a country where life still has value, is so much more pleasant?

Cars outside the law - why? (20th March 2007): I wrote March 4th about rails or asphalt. I have another question for governments: why don't they take measures against traffic queue's by making car drivers and car owners more reponsible for the queue's they cause? Obviously there are the daily queue's in the morning and evening, but if you listen well, you know there is more going on. When you listen to the radio at home or in the car, you will notice it: when a queue is reported, almost always the cause is an acident, a collision or an overturned truck and most often those accidents are caused by careless driving, too fast driving, driving with a too heavy load, drivers that are sleepy or tired, etc. Police, fire brigade can work their ass off, cleaning the mess, all other cars can wait, but the people, the cars that caused the queue's go free. I call those queue's caused by accident unnecessary and I believe if drivers, owners were held properly responsible for the damage caused by their careless and reckless driving that caused the accident, there would be far less accidents and far less queue's.

Rails or asphalt. (4th March 2007): In the Netherland, as in many other countries, there is a lot of dissatisfaction, of critism aount the publis transportation system: trains and subways are too crowded, don't arrive in time, etc. But can we only blame the transportation systems and should the blame not go to governments that (almost) only build asphalt roads for cars and not iron rails for trains? More and more people travel by public transportation and the railway companies have done a lot: ordering larger wagons, with 2 levels so more people can get in, making scedules tighter with the help of computers, but after all, these trains still need "roads" of rails and there the government should do far more. The present rail system in Holland is being used to the limit and the only way to get, to enable more people to use trains now is to build new rail-roads and tramwaysfor trains and trams instead of asphalt-roads for cars.

The green roofs of Chicago. (2nd March 2007): There is posiiv news as well, fortunately, in our changing world. I read, that the mayor of Chicago wants to make his town the greenest of the U.S.A. To start with he gave the good example himself by planting gras on the flat roofs of the town-hall. I still remember my fascination with houses in Norway covered with gras, over 10 years ago and my resolution to to the same if ever I own a flat roof. In Chicago they have measured the effects. And the result: a substantial savings on energy and on soundpollution, as well as reduction of the discharge of water into the sewer system. So now this mayor has made it obligatory for the whole town to grow gras on all flat roofs. One can try to safe our climat by asking people to do things volontary, but obliging them often may work much faster! Likewise one could make it an obligation for factories to plant trees around their buildings and borders; to use energy saving lightbulbs, etc. etc.; volontarely they may not do anything.

Economizing. (24th Februari 2007): The Netherlands has a new Government, that says it will give high priority to economizing ofcivil servants. But it is curious that they start with a bigger Government than before, more ministers, so with bigger expenses for the government itself. And obviously each new minister will need its own civil servants to assist them. A poor beginning and poor example. It is to be hoped that their economizing does not follow the usual pattern of governments and companies: economizing on the lower salaried people and paying out more at the top.

Energy 2. (20th Februari 2007): Yesterday I drove in the dark at 10 in the evening fom the Hague to Alkmaar. Well, dark? The road actually was almost as light as at daytime. One wonders who has authorized this energy squander. It certainly is not necessary for the drivers, as they can see the road very well with their frontlights and don't need, as is shown by other countries such as Belgium, the extra lighting. The lights along the Dutch highways are extreemly powerfull, are placed at the smallest distances from each other possible, sometimes one row only but more often in 2 or even 3 rows. Who pays for them - certainly not the traffic and road minister himself. And as the officials give the bad example you see almost all factories and housed over-lighted on the outside as well, even though the factories are all empty by this time and the houses are well lit on the interior and the outside lights have no function at all. On this route you also pass Schiphol, the airport, with its immense lighing; not just the lights which the planes need for arriving or departing, but also of the whole industry of services to the airport, even though most of these buildings are empty late at night. And then, near Akersloot, a few miles of road without lights. Driving is not more difficult there; there are not more accidents. These few miles up to just before Alkmaar show how it should be; no excessive lights; possibly at some sharp bends reflectors alongside the road.

Sports and religion. (10th Februari 2007): A few days ago I read in a local sports journal, next to information about new activeties, an interview with the local clergyman and pastor. Both praised the growing sport-participation in the community and said something like: sports and religion have much in common: comradeship, tolerance, surpassing race and other bounderies. Appearently these two religious leaders communicate that way, but to see this as a characteristic of religions?! Maybe with budhism but otherwise I don't know. Think about Kain and Abel, the ordering of killing of enemiers we can find throughout the Byble, about Ireland, India and Pakistan, Christians and Moslims, Sunnies and Shiites, just to mention a few not so tolerant religious acts. How to treat others, ennemie, women, children as taught by the various religious books is far from tolerant, far from love your neighbours, others! Alas.

Russia. (17th Februari 2007): I read in my newspaper about the speech of Putin and his remarks that the U.S.A. hmakes war, wants to decide everything by itself, ignores the United Nations. I fully agree with his remarks; it is a pity that Western nations don't have the courage to critisize the U.S.A.; they are all too often allies or even vasals of that mighty power. For me the point is not whether Russia acts better or worse, but whether what has been sais is true or not. And at the same time I am reading a book by Toon Telligen: the train to Pavlovsk and Oostvoorne, with stories by his Russian grandfather. I don't know anything about that writer, but I do know, that in my opinion the Russian "soul" is portrayed beautifully. We (at least me) often try to explain or judge world events, countries based on our own civilisation, own history, own "soul", but that approach does not work at all. Each and every country is different and has its own legends, own customs and own feeling- and thinking world, own basic "soul". Each Russian citizen with his history of Tsars and slaves, rich landowners and wodka, endless prairies and snow, with Dostrojevski, has atotally different inner world than an American, an Iranier, a Dutchman. We in the Netherlands think about a rebelling Piet Hein, about practical solutions, individulity, a sort of tolerance; A Russian is thinking about authority and trying to forget the present, an American about cowboys and guns. It is clear we all, in all countries of the Earth, are totally diferent. How can we expect that all those diferent world"citizens" with their so different background and basic "soul" can understand each other, hear what the other is really saying? It is like the tower of Babel: we don't understand each other at all, even though we may use the same words.

Taliban and how their recruiting is made easy. (2nd February 2007): I don't know who concocted the idea, but the U.S.A. is forcing the Afghaan government to destroy all poppy fields by bulldosers first and then to spray the fields so that nothing will grow on those fields again for a long time. I am not for poppyfields, but imagine: distroying small, little farmers' fields, without giving them any alternatives; destroying their lifehood for years, without creating new possibilities! What better way to drive the farmers into the hands of the Taliban! The soldiers of the U.S.A. and with them of Nato, giving themselves the name of destroyer and not of rebuilders of Afghan society, what better way of becoming the hated occupation. Has nothing been learned from the fiasco in Iraq? Is it still not known, that you have to befriend a population, not to make them hate you? Fortunately one visiting Dutch minister opposed the measures; let us hope the full Dutch government and thereafter Nato and all occupying forces as well as the local government follow her lead.

Energy. (28th January 2007): In a few days a report will come out by the United Nations about the human influence on our climat. The heating up of the earth and the consequenses thereoff are more in the news these days. Because we often think, that only by denying ourselves a lot of things we can reduce energy use, it is refreshing to read about the ideas of Amory Lovins. A typing error in a report (the m of megawat was mistyped as n) he coined the term negawat; a negawat is a megawat that can be saved. He believes, that we decuce energy consumption without changing our lifestyle too much. Can safe a lot of energy! He believes that with the right changes the U.S.A. does not nee to consume any oil by 2050, can reduce consumption of oil and gas, and be very prosporous at the same time. People dont see the many possibilities to safe energy. It is, he says, like the economist walking with his daughter; she sees a 20 dollar bill and asks whether she may pick it up; he replies that that is useles as if it would be genuine, someone would have picked it up already. Lovins has a consulting firm and as clients some of the largest firms in the world, amongst which Walmart, whom he helps halfing its transportation costs, a.o. by gadgets to stop the motor of their trucks from idling and reducing the weight of the trucks. If we look at the electricity wiring in most buildings, he says, we realise that by making the wires thicker, we could safe so much energy, that in a short while the savings would pay for the extra wiring and thereafter safe a lot of costs and energy for companies or inhabitants. He also designed windows that let through 6 times as mich light and at the same time let in 10% less heat than normal window, saving on light bulbs and airconditioning at the same time. He designed a chipsfactory that consumes 205 less energy, uses 35% less water and is 30% cheaper tp build. Why do building firms all over the world not look better at his ideas? Bu often building firms are not interested what happens after the buildings asre sold, as they think they have no part in savings lateron. But then, for more economis buildings they could ask a higher price. Reductions of energy without denying ourselves things, it sounds like an utopy, but it really is possible. But, as Marshall McLuhan already said: great discoveries are protected by disbelief. It is (again) the New Yorker as one of the few publications that draws attention to Lovins' ideas.
To me it is clear that governments should enforce most of his ideas, but unfortunately governments seldom think ahead. His books should be in the hands of those governments.

Worldpower. (20th January 2007): Many people are against president Bush and his foolhardedly policies; the man has done more harm to the U.S.A. than any presdident before him. More and more people are against his policies even in the U.S.A..Almost all of us hope that the democrats, since they have won the last elections, will finally show their teeth, because, to be honest, they have hardly opposed Bush and his crazy war in Iraq that more and more looks like Vietnam. The U.S.A. of Bush: a blundering bossy bully. But while we look for a better, more idealistic America, this does not have to mean hoping for a powerless America. The U.S.A., under better presidents, has done a lot of good things in the world, been active in avoiding conflicts, in sending aid. A superpower, if working not just for its own interests but also for the interests of the world, does not have to be undesirable, can enforce or take the lead for improving life. Let us hope, in first instance, for a better America, not for a powerless America.

Ivan Wolffers, Heimwee naar de lust (homesick for (sexual) desire). (15 January 2007): As far as reading concerns, the year started very well. The first book I read is extreemly interesting: about a man of around fifty with prostate cancer and what that means. Taking the medications and encounter the various limitations caused by them, in a way become another person, or not taking the medications with all risks involved: thereby stay yourself as much as possible, but also take the risk of dying sooner. Ivan Wolffers writes about his very active life, travelling all over the world to fight against aids, lecturing about all kind of subjects, about his wife Marion Bloem and her activeties for a better treatment of seekers of asylum; about what it means to lose your sexual potential beause of the side effects of the medication. A book I can recommend to everyone that meets restrictions because of geting older; everyone that is involved with people with serious illnesses and their problems - not only of the body but also of the mind, and everyone, who wants to understand those people or themselves better. And of how you can try, in spite of your limitions, to find out what you still can do.

A new labtop. (9th January 2007): So I have done something I have postponed already 2 years: bought a new labtop. The reason of the postponement was that the old one still worked well and I really did not need all the extra's. However, with the modem not working well anymore I had no choice; they don't make programs and tools anymore for the old 95 windows. So now i have to get acquainted with windows xp and learn how to use the new programs and how to get what I write on my website. By the time you read this you know I have succeeded.

A new year. (4th January 2007): Just before the Yearend I forgot to disconnect the modem of my old labtop during a thunderstorm, so the modem broke down; the new(?) modem I finally found (modems for windows 95 are not made anymore) became slower and slower and in practice unusable during the first days of January, so as far as internet communication is concerned the year starter rather badly. Otherwise, as far as human contacts are concerned, I had a good time, first in the south of France and then moving early Januari to the Netherlands. When your computer does not work properly you realise, how much power you have given it over you and that you should watch out not to become its slave. And realise that there still is the slow mail of posting letters and the telephone for more personal contact. Like with the portable telephone: some people think they have to react to all and every sms received and others just can't be bothered. New technics are fine, but what matters is: who is the boss! So anyway, belatedly, I wish all of you a healthy 2007 and that you may fullfill some of your good intentions. And that this may be the year of a turning point in our relationship with our environment!

Le Canard enchaine (The chained Duck) and Les Guignols (the Handpuppets). (27th December 2006): France is known for its wine and its beautiful landscape. In fact it is the foremost wine and tourist country in the world. Less known, but as unique as can be are the weekly Le Canard enchaine (The chained Duck) and the weekly tv programme Les Guignols (The Handpuppets). Le Canard enchaine is in its 91st year of publication; a very special weekly of about 8 pages bringing France the facts behind the facts officially published by the normal papers. Mainly French government scandals, but also those of other countries, are taken out of the extinguisher, where they were hushed up; paid kickbacks, the real cost of the Iraq war; no businessman, tv director, actor or government official will be spared, independent of their political party. The hidden facts are brought to us, often with a sarcastic or humourous twist and with clever illustrations.
Les Guignols is a weekly tv programme, in which current affairs will be commented on by the puppets, generally with great humour. The masks of the puppets are extreemly well done, somewhat caricatural, and the programme has some very clever imitators of the voices of the "persons" shown. Sarkozy, Chirac, Villepin, Segolene, they and many others all get a chance to have their own puppet.
Where in our world, in what other country does that still exist: a weekly and a tv programm that can, without restraint, say the truth and make us laugh about officials, without censorship. England had its satirical tv programms, Holland had them long ago. But regrettably either the public does not want censure of its officials (as in the U.S.A., where it is considered unpatriotic; but where, on the other hand, the film of Michael Moore has become popular)) or the officials themselves repress it, or the owners of newspapers and tv stations don't allow it to their reporters.
Blessed France, the country where the truth can still be said, where jokes about itself and its institutions are allowed and even appreciated.

Christmas, a fairy story or commercial hoax? (20th December): Christmas 2006 - in many places no more a White Christmas, due to "exceptional" warm weather. Unfortunately, figures of all climate scientists show that there is nothing exceptional about it anymore, as the earth is warming up more rapidly than originally thought. A Peacefull Christmas - where? In what countries does one not take part in one or another war, and to make it even stranger, most of these wars are between people belonging to a same country. A time of religious feelings? At a time there is a bloody fight going on between people of various religions? A time of commerce, advertisements, inducements to buy presents , surely, that is our Christmas. There are discussions amongst psychologists when, at what age, to tell our children that Santa Claus does not really exist. When will it be the time we have to and are going to tell them that the world full of peace and presents does not exist, exept for the few happy rich? That our earth is endangered, that something in our lives and the way we think has to change, that maybe we cannot ask for more presents every year and consume more energy every year, own more cars every year. When will we tell our children how we care for their future and their future home, our much warmer planet, with all the resulting disasters?

Stories for Children at bedtime? (30th November): Telling or reading stories for your children, a wonderful custom. Why do we do it: because we like to do it ourselves and possibly not only read stories from books but also invent stories? Because the children like it and it is a good finish to their day? To make it easier, more fun, to go to sleep - something a lot of children find difficult, unpleasant? An agreement beteeen parent an child: I'll read you a story and then you will go to sleep without protest? Fairy tales, bedtime stories, Dr.Seuss, Alice in Wonderland, Pinokkio, they may help parents to have a few quei moments with their child/children, but also serve the purpose of the agreement: and now you will stay in bed quietly. Whether the child will sleep immediately or lets free its fantasy is another question and maybe not that important. An when the child is older, 9 or 10, parents can turn off the light but cannot check easely whether the child will still read a bit with a battery light under the covers. Although custom makes it easier, a child cannot always sleep on command; one child may fall asleep immediately and another may not, being equally tired, but still too exited and restless, has difficulties to go to sleep immediately. And what to think about younger brothers or sisters, that keep you awake? The right stories can help, better than punishment. Reading a few more stories for a child that needs that can avoid a lot of frustration for parent or child. The present day unrest with parents that live under pressure too, thye TV being used too often to keep children quiet during the daytime, it all works together for children having more problems to fall asleep and telling or reading them a few stories may be more important than even.

Politici that dont want to resign? (25th November 2006): In the Netherlands we just have had elections and 2 of the three large parties lost heavily. The party leaders clearly made a lot of mistakes in the campaign, but already stated they would not resign, not accept thye personal consequences. We see this more and more; also with government ministers during the past years, in cases where years ago ministers would have stepped down. Not only that these party leaders don't want to resign; also they don't give room to others in their party, think they know all the answers all by themselves. I don't want to compare them with dictators, but being the head of a democratic party, it is sad they don't apply the party rules to themselves. President Bush may not act in aq democratic way either, but after all, contrary to those Dutch party leaders, he has been elected for 4 years and those years are not over yet. Today's politicians, for them appearently their personal job is more important than the well-being of the party.

Air-pollution due to smoking or gasoline? (12th November 2006): In France, as in other countries, new laws have been passed about smoking, when and where. By itself not bad at all; people that don't smoke themselves are no longer forced to inhale the smoke of others. This way Governments hope to reduce the number of cancer patients. What always surprises me, is that almost never figures are published (as by smoking) about cancer caused by the exhaust fumes of cars, though the harmful effect is wellknown and most probably far more serious than of smoking. In the Netherlands they call cars the "holy cows". And those cows indeed are so holy, that no government is thinking about (or even dares thinking about) taking really effective measures against the exhaust fumes of the holy cow. A little bit is done, here and there, such as 80 km zones around some cities, but it is like mopping with the taps fully open, as the pollution by cars does not diminish much by this sort of measures, while at the same time these governments do talk about fighting traffic jams, not by reducing the number of cars ass one would think, but by building more roads. Cars are economy (as are airplanes) and that is first priority. More cars, more planes, more cancer. People prefer driving above health! Long ago we used to walk to the grocer, now we drive. We used to walk to school as children; now we prefer not to build safe footpaths for them so they could walk again, but to bring them by car. Pleasure now - the complete pollution for our children later!
And after writing the above, it even gets crazier. I read: The nr 1 killer of teenagers doesn't have a trigger. It has a steering wheel! Motor vehicle crashes are the nr 1 cause of death for teens. They take, in the U.S.A. alone, 6000 lives and injure another 300.000 every year! So cars don't just kill with cancer. Isn't it time to put those killers behind locks?

Voting by computer, is it safe? (3rd November 2006): In a couple of days there will be the mid-term elections in the United Stated. Important elections as there seems to be a chance that Republican majorities in Congress and the House may be reduced or may disappear. Important, as so far Bush has governed unchecked by representatives willing to grant his every wish, be it tax reductions for the rich, starting a war in Iraq and letting escape the terrorists in Afghanistan, allowing torture, polluting our environment, etc. To sum it up, to allow him the powers of a dictator, allowing him any kind of mistaken policy, allowing him to drag down the image of the once so great United States, that served all of us, at least in Europe, as an example of unheard of possibilities. These elections are really important for the whole world; regrettably but understandably, we non-Americans cannot vote. What is new is the fact, that almost the entire voting will be done by computer. The dangers are played down by the White House and the Republicans (even the Democrats are not protesting at full force), but the dangers are enormous, as these computers counting the votes and giving the final results first of all are not faultless and sometimes not even ready to handle the job and secondly can be manupulated fairly easily. And if there is one thing we know, it is that humans are no angels and especially this White House under Bush has a record of lying, of manupulating the facts, of making it difficult for their opponents (the poor) to vote. We have had to live with all kinds of scandals under the Bush government, whether it had to do with Haliburton's contracts in Iraq, with the business scandals of changing the figures, with the socalled aid to be given to the victoms of the floods in New Orleans, with the outsourcing of torture, so we certainly cannot be sure, that this government will not manipulate the computer figures and results. There should be complete openness about the computers and system used, who produced the computers and software and who placed the buying orders with what kind of specifications, about the safegards installed, what ways there are (and are also implemented) of checking the figures by all parties. But helas, with the elections due so shortly, the whole business of voting by computers is open to large misuse and it is sad to say: we can be almost sure, given the history of the Bush government, that the figures will be manipulated!
Also in many other countries voting by computer is studied or is being installed, such as in the Netherlands; beware and take note of what can and may happen in the United Stated to fraud the system of democracy! I am not against voting by computer, but want to be assured, that we can trust the system used and that manipulation by government, political parties or commercial interests is absolutely and totally excluded.

U.K. fears disaster in climate change (31st october 2006): Based on the latest scientific facts as stated in a long awaited report that has just come out, prime minister Blair warned of an economic tragedy well within our time of life, if no strong measures are taken immediately. Apocalyptic effects, such as droughts, flooding of large areas of the world, famine, spread of epedemic illnesses, a collapsing economy. "The consequences for our planet are literally disastrous", Blair said. Costs will multiply each year, even each month we delay action! We have had ex vice president Gore with his movie, now we have Blair speaking out on the basis of the most thorough and comprehensive report that has come out so far. And still the United States under Bush has reduced and reduced the money it spends on investigating new forms of energy, refuses the Kyoto treaty, even when we know now that that treaty does not go far enough. But not just Bush and the American citizens. We all are guilty. It strikes me time and again when talking to them, that parents of today are not concerned about the future they leave their children. They still want 2 cars, a couple of holidays each year by car or plane, dishwashers, plastic bags at the supermarket, a throw-away society; throwing away the earth. These same parents often are not interested in politics at all, they don't, on behalf of their own and their children's future, insist or even ask their governments, their representives, to start acting! The society is a society of parents that want fun today, that don't care, don't do anything. Come hell or high water for themselves and their children later - so what!?

Intelligent without memory? (3rd october 2006): That one can be intelligent and at the same time have a lousy memory is proven again and again. And not just in mathematics and similar professions, where insight and intuition may count more than in most other fields. In business, appearently one can become chairman or managing director of a large company and get paid millions of dollars a year and still be without any capacity to remember anything, as was proven in the case of Enron's leading managers and in numourous other cases of court cases inthe USA and other countries. In politics we see the same thing time and again. Politicians are asked questions and far too often say that they can't recall anything about the facts asked about. A recent case is Condoleezza Rice, who does not recall a meeting and its contents of july 10th with central intelligence officials warning her about an imminent attack inside the USA, just two months before the actual attack took place. One rrreallllly has to admire Condoleezza Rice, for having achieved so much in her life in spite of the handicap of her selfstated deficient memory! It does, though, bring hope to people with a poor memory: having a bad memory appearently does not make it impossible to finish primary school, college, one's further studies, become a professor, a security advisor, a secretary of state or president of the United States and what not; one may still be considered a most capable and intelligent women, while aty the same time having such serious memory deficit. One wonders, does she remember the names of her colleagues in the USA, the names of her colleagues abroad, when they met and what they discussed? It must have been tough for Condoleezza to answer the question whether she could remember that meeting, as by saying the "truth" she at the same time had to admit that she was not half as intelligent as people presume and had in fact to acknowledge that with her poor memory she lacked the credentials for her present or any other top job in government or business! Jokes aside, it really is disgusting that people in high positions use the obvious lie of not remembering things so often!

The war on terror that ruined Rome, (2nd october 2006) I read in an article by Robert Harris (author of "Imperium: a Novel of Ancient Rome") in the International Herald Tribune. He makes the point that in the year 68 B.C. something very similar to 9/11 happened: a daring terrorist attack on the very heart of Rome, with 2 senators kidnapped and the consular war fleet at Ostia destroyed. In the ensuing panic the Roman people were willing to compromise on their ancient rights; a new law was proposed, the Lex Gabinia, giving the 38 year old soldier Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus uncontrolled power over every-one and an enormmous war-budget. As the author says: by the oldest trick in the political book: the wipping up of a panic, he became the most powerful and richest man in the Roman Empire. The citizens rights ceded in that panic were never returned. The disproportionate reaction to the raid on Ostia unquestionably hastened the fall of the Roman republic. What similarities, the author asks, can one draw from the Romkan and the USA war on terror, the Lex Gabinia and the recent vote of the American Senate to suspend the right of habeas corpus for terrorist detainees, the new wording about torture and the licencing of the president to declare legal residents of the United States enemy combatants? Is this the destruction of America's century old constitution and as such the beginning of the end of the American Empire?

What to learn at school and when? (2nd september 2006) In Holland (and I guess in many other countries) there have been discussions on the subject for many, many years; many new laws have been passed to make new forms of school systems possible; new school systems have been put into practice with schools growing to larger and larger units. And, regrettably, most of the changes have not brought the improvements in education that were promised. The age for entering prepschools has been lowered (as a servce to working parents, to the children or to foreign-born children that do not speak Dutch at home?) at a time when people are going to live longer and now there is a discussion whether children should not be taught more at "infant"school (age 3 to 6). Should there also be more attention for discussing moral standards? Another discussion point: should the trend of emphasis on freedom of creativety, not on knowledge and discipline, not be reversed somewhat? Do schools forget too much that knowledge is the basis for creativety? A painter has to learn how to work with paint, how to draw, learn his profession of perspectives, mixing of paints etc. before making a work of art. So does a musician; he has to study and study, as has a plumber, engeneer, in fact everyone has to master his trade before being able to work creatively. A certain basic knowledge is necessary. The Dutch philosopher Ad Verbrugge, who teaches at a Dutch University, complains that nowadays a high percentage of his students don't even know how to write in their native language (Dutch). And I think he faults the school system and the lack of learning and discipline as he says: if you have never learned to write well in your own native tongue, how can you expect to write about new philosophical idees (or in fact about anything else) lateron? I also mentioned discipline; there should discipline in school and children should be taught to accept a (reasonable kind of) discipline and be taught the value of self-discipline; without the self-discipline to work hard, to learn, to set rigid hours of training, one will not reach anything, be it in science or other professions, in arts or in sports.

8 Things you have to know about sex. (28th august 2006) 1: It's not like you see it on TV! Your mom and dad (or you and your partner), after being home from work and having put the children to bed, dont jump at each other, tear off each other's clothes and have wild sex on the wooden floor of the living room, moaning so loud that the children wake up and come down to see what is happening. 2: It's not like you see it on TV! Whenever they still have sex, solidly in bed, Dad (or you) wont (with or without viagra) perform for hours and hours; it's more likely he will finish within 10 minutes and fall asleep solidly, possibly even snore, while mom (or you) is thinking about what has to be done tomorrow. 3: Doing it on top of the office desk is somewhat hard on the bones! And so it is in the car, or outside on top of thorny bushes. 4: It's not like you see it on TV - an abundance of well-shaped men or women just waiting for special you to have sex with. 5: Don't think sex is like you see it on TV! After all, most of us also dont wear the same clothes as the stars, own the same cars and houses and also go to the hairdresser every few hours! 6: It's not like you see it on TV, that you don't have to use condomes, don't have to check whether your sexpartner could give you sexual diseases or aids and that you can start intercourse with complete strangers or even people known to you without tremendous risks to your health! 7: In spite of what you see on TV, sex doesn't have to look like the New York marathon and it can be fun, can be beautifull and inspired, especially if real love is there! 8: Contrary to what the TV tells you, it is not important to remove hairs from legs and other places, to hide wrinkles and do all other things advertisers want to sell you; it is about how you really are and what you really do from within your own self .

The double standards of Israel. (24th august 2006) In Israel much has been written about the gas-chambers of the war of 1940-1945 and also people have been brought to court and have been sentenced, which is absolutely correct. However, nothing has been written or said in Israel about the clusterbombs, which were thrown by Israel over Libanon; no-one responsible was held responsible, charged, brought to court; there was no offer to clear up the non-explosed bombs; no excuses were offered. To condemn the crualties of others and to allow oneself everything: measuring with two complete different measures, that is the present day Israel. It is to be hoped for that for once also within Israel there will be critics and protest!

Newspapers have to choose (18th august 2006) I read in a Dutch newspaper. That certainly is true, but the question is whether newspapers are making the right choices. They seem to shift towards more popularity in choosing the contents, they look more and more alike as a lot of their contents are appearently coming from the same news sources and own critical news gathering often is absent. And own critical reporting is what keeps old and attracts new serious readers. Where are the journalists that go out and investigate? Where are the journalists that are still allowed and still wanting to be independant, without conforming to the business interests of the owners? A critical paper with critical journalists would stick out, would be better than its competitors and thus would have a reason for being there. Regretfully, ev everywhere quality nand independance of newspapers have suffered; almost the same stories written rthe same way appear in most newspapers; its matters little what newspaper one reads in a given country. And these stories often hardly differ from the news as reported on TV. There are exceptions, such as the International Herald Tribune, condensed stories and still giving more ways of looking at it. Also that paper, after september 9th became fully patriotic but after that regained its independance. Look also at the New Yorker with its publications of the articles of the famous Seymour M. Hersh, exam[le of what reporting should be. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel (in The elements of journalism) publiced some guidelines for good reporting, of which I cite (in part): First duty of journalism is serving the truth; First loyality: the people, not the government or an organisation; True journalism: the verification of facts and statements; Independance from organisations or people or people in power; Following their own conscience when they write. I am optimistic, that for papers following those rules there is no need to worry about their future.

The World is flat - a brief history of the twenty-first century by Thomas L.Friedman (8th august 2006): A highly interesting book, though not all that brief. You can learn a lot about outsourcing (and not the usual negative propaganda), new techniques, developments in many fields, economics. The long view rather than the short views expressed by many shortsighted politicians, out for cheap, immediate success. The first chapter is called "While I was sleeping"; a realistic attitude, as so many developments happened almost overnight, almost without being noticed, as if we were asleep. Friedman talks about the new situation and says: the world has flattened. An anecdote about different muslims: A poor Indian muslim, on seeing a rich person living in a very big house will say: One day I will be that person. Another poor muslim in some other country seeing a rich person living in a very big house may say something quite different: one day I will kill that person. Progress really depends on one's attitude! At the end of the book there is a chapter: The curse of oil and Friedman mentions: As long as the monarchs and dictators who run these oilstates can get rich by drilling their natural resources- as opposed to drilling the natural talents and energy of their people - they never have to introduce real tranparancy or power sharing. Or develop their people's talents, for that matter. The book covers a lot of subjects, more than I can mention here. All in all, while one does not have to agree to everything, this book is an eye-opener, it shows you a lot of things that are going on, are changing so rapidly, and it makes you think. One would like a lot of politiciens to read this book!

Being a rich succesful businessman(woman) and being generous. (20th July 2006): We have seen a number of reports of business leaders cheating, enriching themselves by any kind of tricks, so it is extreemly heartening to see there are still succesful businessmen being not just generous and caring for humanity, but doing so all out, in bigger ways than ever imagined. First there was Bill Gates, giving away enormous sums of money to fight against various illnesses, such as malaria. He is just putting aside a tiny percentage of his wealth for his children, all the rest is going to his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help humanity. And now Warren Buffet, almost equally rich, has done the same thing and 31 billion dollars (most of his fortune) will go to the Gates Foundation. This wonderful news has been reported by all newspapers, but regretfully this really fantastic deed has been burried under Israel's fight against Libanon. I hope more of the super rich, the rich and in fact of all of us will follow this example, all in proportion to our personal wealth. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, thank you for caring and for doing things that all of us should do. And to all those cheating, options and bonus collecting, selfenriching managers - may Gates and Buffet make you think again about your own attitude!

Israel's morality and the support they get. (18th July 2006): 3 Israely soldiers were kidnapped by terrorists, a terrible thing. Kidnapping by gangs, by terrorists, it should be punished. The question is who and how. Imagine a kidnapping in our Western European world, where the police force would bomb a number of houses and kill a number of innocent men, women and children, just to kill the kidnappers. In fact that is what Israel is doing. It is said, that Israel's generals have just waited (prayed) for such an excuse to attack Libanon. And what happened before the kidnappings? Didn't Israel make life for the Palestinians impossible already a long time; did they not reject a number of United Nations resolutions, amongst which 242 and 338, asking Israel to withdraw from occupied territory and go back to the borders of 1967? Has Israel not sabotaged all efforts by others to come to a honest and respectful peace? They have never really tried to make peace and have instead been using the weapons and aid they get from the U.S.A. to suppress the Palestinians and others, not to live together peacefully. Can we say that the state of Israel is one of the most violent, most warlike in the Western world? And if so, why? Israel and its attitude presents us with a number of moral problems. First of all, was it right to chase away the original population, the Palestinians without any compensation? Whatever the case, the existance of Israel now is a fact, a reality. What we don't necessarely have to take as unchangeable fact is the way Israel has treated and is still treating its neighbours and the people, the refugies that once considered the same soil theirs. Let me make one thing clear; when I talk about Israel, I am not talking about the Jewish race; the Jewish race is as good (and as bad) as any other race; many many Jews are wonderful people with high moral standards. Why is it, then, that Israel as a nation is so different, so full of revenge, so afraid of anyone that they just try to kill off anyone that might at some future timer become an enemy? Does the history of the 2nd world war have anything to do with it? Old, unconscious pains and fears probably, but so regrettable. I realise that it is difficult for well-willing, civilised Jews all over the world to critisize Israel, but they should do it, they should not remain silent about Israel's violence, about the danger that Israel may be the country that starts World War 3 and cause us all to perish. We all know that by bombing you make ennemies and by helping people, by giving them a chance to work and eat you make friends. Why don't they do just that? Moreover people that have a decent life are far less dangerous than people starving. Israel, wake up! Start talking, negotiating with your neighbours, do not just ask but also be willing to give concessions
Israel has become the country of hate; who would have thought so when the country was established? By its relentless bombing of civilians, women and children Israel almost forces us to hate it.

Is Iran really dangerous? (1st July 2006): Hitler Germany, Stalin Russia, they knew how to use lies and public relations, in other words "advertising" tools. Since then commercially and on country levels the spin docters have been used by Governments more and more and increasingly succesfull. Blair in the U.K. was a master; Bush in the U.S.A. is using spin, lies and omissions (secrets) to its fullest and most developped extend. Off course they are not the only ones; all governments use stories favourable to them to greater or lesser extend. As historian Martin van Crefeld pointed out, for a full 15 years secret services have warned the public that Iran could build the atomic bomb within 3 to 5 years. Why 3-5 years? This figure has nothing to do with Iran but with domestic politics within the U.S.A. only. Presidential terms are 4 years, so 3 years is within that period - the president has an excuse to do something, and 5 years is outside his term; someone else can finish the job. These days, again, the public is taken for fools. As everyone can know firstly there has not been found or given any proof that Iran is working on the bomb and they may just be working on clean energy, and secondly it would take Iran well over 10 years starting the count today to come close to building atomic bombs (by the way, why are there no stories about the danger of Pakistan?). And if we look at history: Iran has never started a war and historically is not a warring country at all, contrary to the history of the U.S.A., that has gone to war time and again, often under false pretentions, last in Iraq and without even a declaration of war, and so the U.S.A. rightly can be called a warring country. So why do so many people believe the stories spread around by the U.S.A.? As Goebbels, the German public relations master has said: if you say a falsehood long and often enough, more and more people will start to believe you. It is extreemly serious that a large part of the Western press repeat these lies without taking the responsibility to do their own search and try to come out with the truth. Appearently it is easier and sells better to spread fear than to publish truth! It is curious that the U.S.A. started the war against Iraq, when Iraq started to sell oil in non-dollar currencies and that now, when Iran is also selling oil in other currencies (Euro's), the treaths against that country multiply. America's trade deficit is growing and to maintain its living off imported goods depends on the dollar remaining the oil currency and thus a currency one may still trust and one may sell to without cash payment. Without a reliable dollar the American empire would crumble. The situation with Iran, however, is far more serious than it was in the case of Iraq, which had hardly the means to counter any attacks. Are we in the beginning stage of World War 3? Will we finally see the war of all wars and the extinction of the human race and by that war make the earth unlivable? Do we really have to believe and support the U.S.A. under Bush? Think about your children, your grandchildren and do something about it. Tell your governments that you dont believe the lies, that you dont want that war!

Suicides at the U.S.A. prison at Guantanamo and the prise for most cynical, crude and cruel comments. (12th June 2006): 3 Suicides in this famous prison, famous for its inhuman treatment of prisoners, a few days ago. While th U.S.A> for many, many years has been a showcase of freedom, this prison is one of the showcases of the type of freedom the U.S.A. is offering the world now. The official comments, that should get the 2006 price for the most cynical, crude and crual remarks are as follows: To help prevent more suicides, military officials said that "guards would now give bedsheets to detainees only when they go to bed and remove them after they wake in the morning." So no different treatment, no halt to torture, to hoods over the heads, to intimidation by dogs; to no lawyers, no trials, no nothing to make life at least somewhat bearable, no Geneva convention to be followed! Just make it physically harder for the prisoners to executer their only escape from their inhuman treatment! Rear Admiral Harry Harris, the Guantanamo commander, and other officials further said: "They (the prisoners)have no regard for human life. I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymetric warfare against us". How one can turn things around in one's favour! Is this the Gospel according to the U.S.A. government? One wonders about the sort of people that order the inhuman treatment (or, in order not to insult non-human living creatures, should we rather say the Bush treatment) at Guantanamo and the sort of people that execute that treatment and the sort of people that make those statements! One is tempted to say: let them burn in hell.

At the UN, how we envy the World Cup. (10th June 2006): I read an article by secretary general Kofi Annan under above title. It is indeed interesting to see the importance of soccer over all other things in this world of ours. Peace or war, genocides, mass- starvation of children, they do not even take second place in the minds of the great majority of people. On the other hand, even religious zealots are now silent, be it for a short while. Annan mentions the universal approach: FIFA has 207 members, the UN 191. And the fact that soccer brings people of most nations together; interracial teams. And he ends: the most envable for us at the UN: at the World Cup we actually see goals being reached. He has a point there: for various reasons internally as well as externally the UN finds it very difficilt to reach goals, although we should not forget that in spite of everything also some important goals were accomplished. He doesn't mention, though, the sponsers, the power of the money in soccer. The result of the commercial interests is the fact that a lot of poor people in a number of countries will not be in a position to watch the games, because in their countries they will only be broadcasted by pay-tv stations. I guess he would not vote for the UN being sponsered by the highest bidders and thereby loosing some of its independence. There is no substantial indifference to soccer, as there is indifference to the function and succes of the UN; to the lack of money to reach goals. And in soccer there is not the attitude of various UN countries, such as the USA, Sudan, Israel, to name just a few, to block its functionning when that functionning is perceived as against the national interest.

Deserts in danger, (3rd June 2006) according to ONU, I read in our local paper. And deserts comprose 25% of the earth' total land. The deserts are mostly threatened by the changes in climate, by getting salter, by disappearing species of plants and animals. Wild plants are important sources for medical and agricultural research. Temperatures have risen between 0.5 and 2 degrees from 1976 t0 2000. And a further rise of 5 to 7 degrees is expected by 2071-2100. Still, deserts, that abound in sunshine and storms, could become this 21st century the energy supplyers of the world, using sun and wind energy! It is said by scientists that the Sahara alone could capture sufficient solar energy for the world's total energy demand. America's standing in the world, (3rd June 2006): After the torturing of prisoners in Abou Ghraib, the killing of at least 24 civilians by U.S.A. marines in Haditha and various other incidents involving the U.S.A. military in Iraq, Afghanistan and in their prison compound in Cuba, and the many statements by U.S.A. authorities that all events will be thoroughly investigated and punished, I read that the American sergeant involved in torture in Abou Ghraib has been convicted to, you will not believe it, a mere 90 days of forced labour! This while higher echalons in the armed services know already that they will not really be punished at all for what happens under their command! So in other words, Bush and Rumsfeld are saying clearly: soldiers, go ahead, punishment, if any, will be light! They seem not to mind that not only the tortured and dead and mutulated have suffered, but that the image of the U.S.A. in the world under their command is steadely going to pieces.

Another America. (May 2006): The ex vice-president of the U.S.A., Al Gore, came out with a movie about the environment and the threat to it and what should be done to keep our earthy somewhat healthier for our children. What a contrast with the ruling president G.W. Bush, who calls himself a Christian (if I were a Christian, I would feel that as an insult), but who is doing everything in his power to leave his and our children a totally polluted and warmed up earth. After me, Bush the deluge!

A society that grows older (part 2), (10th april 2006): The idea of euthanasy, law in some countries already, is still taboo in many others, but for how long still? As people grow older (too old?) and less children are born, the pressure to stop keeping older people alive at all cost will increase. There will be room (maybe even pressure) to allow people that want so to die at their own chosen time and in their own chosen way. There will be a time, when there are too few younger people in a number of countries and when those countries will think about trying to get young immigrants, instead of limiting immigration. A time when unemployment will go down rapidly because the young people that are there are greatly demanded by employers. A time, when it is no longer normal and affordable to retire at 60 or 65 end when older people will be encouraged (or even forced) to work longer. When younger people may refuse being ruled by older politiciens and will demand a greater voice for their group that after all will have to supply the labour and production necessary for the functioning of their society. Right now nothing is done about problems such as malnutricion in Africa, but before long countries may have to compete for that labour force. In short, a number of problems we wrestle with right now may solve themselves. Obviously new problems may take their place. Will the younger people with more power be as disinterested about the heating up of the earth, the pollution of our envirement, the starting of wars, as their parents are right now?

A genocide, racism and discrimination, what do we do about it? (27th march 2006): It isn"t racism against black or white people, against Jews, Moslims, Christians or atheists; it is the attitude towards women of any colour, any race, any religian by men of any race, colour, religion, that makes you feel ashamed being a man. How is it possible; do most men hate their mothers that much, to take revenge against all women, their whole grown-up life? That they even had to invent religions that give them the right to consider women as inferior? That gives males the right to buy and sell women, to exclude them from public offices, to violate them at home or on the streets? And those mothers, have they been so suppressed, that they could not teach their sons to respect and love women and treat them as equal? The position of women in this world, it is unbelievable, one could not have imagined it. In the Herald Tribune of 25/26th march some facts are mentioned in an article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. 1: selective abortion of girlbabies in countries where boys are so much more appreciated. 2: In many countries the percentage of girls dying is far higher than of boys dying, as the boys are taken care of so much better and are fed better. 3: In a number of countries fathers and brothers have the right to kill their daughters/sisters if those refuse forced mariages. 4: In various countries women are killed if their fathers have not paid the dowry. 5: The international sex trade (trade in women) has grown considerably over the years; those women are in fact prisoners that are constantly abused and mistreated. 6: Each day about 6000 girls are operated in the most primitive way on their sexual organs; they may die or live ever after in pain. 7: Mistreatment of women at home exists in most countries; some even die of the violance at home. 8: About 1 out of 5 women in the world has been raped at least once. 9: Each year about 600.000 women die during childbirth because of bad medical treatment. I could go on, the list is far from complete. The examples are base upon figures of the WHO. We all know (can know) of the mal treatment of women, but we act as if nothing is the matter. In first instance all males should feel responsible, feel ashamed and finally start doing something about this situation. But also women might be able to do more, teach their children a better attitude, organise themselves, vote differently - although, let us not underestimate the pressure upon them in most countries. The suppression of women is not just a crime; also economically it is a bad business; countries where women have more or less equal rights generally do much better economically. We should no longer hide behind laws of religions invented by and for men. International courts or local courts might be used more often to stop maltreatment. Money should be made available for this. I would like to say to all men: we have suppressed women already too long; let us start treating them as equal human beings.
And something else: have we males done so well in regulating the world with our macho attitudes, our obsession with money and power, our making war, spoiling the environment, etc? Is it not time to see whether women might not make it a better world than we have done?

A society that grows older. (10th mars 2006): I just read the book Das Methusalem komplott (The Methusalem Complot) by Frank Schirrmacher. Very interesting. Off course we all know, that the average age of people in the Western countries (and everywhere else, for that matter) is growing all the time. Probably less known perhaps is that to the contrary the figures of new births is going down at the same time. The result is a growing percentage of old people. Some examples of percentages of the population of people over 65 for 1990 - expectation 2030 - expectation 2050:
China 5,6% - 15,7% - 22,6% India 4,3% - 9,7% - 15,1%
Korea 4,3% - 9,7% - 15,1% Mexico 4% - 19,9% - 18,6%
Canada 11,2% - 22,6% - 23,8% Japan 12% - 27,3% - 31,8%
Italy 15,3% - 29,1% - 34,9% U.S.A. 12,4%- 20,6% - 21,7%.
The figures for people over 80, over 90 are advancing similarly. What does this mean for our society, for the contact of older people with youngsters, and in reverse the contact of younger people with older ones. For the buying power and for the articles that will be advertised and sold. For the free time necessities and the retirement age. For the age group of soldiers in a war. Will we see, before long, a fight between the younger and the older age groups; the younger generation that with a decreasing number has to take care of an increasing number of older people; older people, that if still healthy, may want to work longer, may refuse to be set aside as fast as is the custom at present. And what does the trent signify for medical science; up to what point will we use all modern means and devices to try to keep people alive. A revolution in social relations seems possible if not necessary. Nature used to give us, force upon us, strict rules of length of life: older people would live as long as useful: capable of reproduction and of educating their offspring. But that rule of nature seems not to apply anymore in our present society. In a future article I hope to expand on the possible consequences of a society with morfe and more old people.

Lawyers and their value. (8th mars 2006): In the Herald Tribune I saw an article about the fast growing number of lawyers in the world. In New York, as an example, they already count one lawyer for less than 200 inhabitants. Lawyers can be used for all lind of disputes, such as trade disputes and takeovers, divorces, lawsuits for murder, rape or minor delicts; their knowledge of the law is indispensable. But their are other fields, where we can use lawyers. Think about the lawsuits against the tobacco industry. One can visualise that at these times of persuasive advertising for a lot of unhealthy or even dangerous products, a lawsuit might be the only thing left to force sellers of wrong or dangerous articles (one example: foods that make fat) to stop misleading the public and especially misleading children, through huge compensations awarded to their victims and even to stop selling those products. Are we (and our children) not capable to resist those misleading advertisements? The answer is a loud no. A quite different field, where lawyers could be used and be quite succesful is the coercion of governments, keeping governments in check. Unfortunately this possibility is not been used to its full extent. Only recently the American government has been forced through a lawsuit to publish the names of the prisoners at Guantanamo, Cuba. Civil rights organisations had asked for those names quite a while, but only by being forced by a lawsuit could the government be made to apply. One could think of other lawsuits against governments: asking for huge compensations in the case of torture, of unlawful imprisonment without access to a lawyer, such as is happening at Guantanamo, Cuba and Abu Ghraib, Iraq. Also the socalled illegal wire-tap in the U.S.A could be tested through a lawsuit for being not in accordance with the constitution. There are, fortunately, still a great number of judges, that act and rule independantly and ignore government pressure, and through those judges in countries with some kind of an independant jurisdiction much could be achieved to force governments to stick to the law, to behave correctly.

Soccer milionaires (1st march 2006): Today a number of friendly matches were played between National teams, in preparation for the world cup. And as is usual, before play starts the national anthems are played. Obviously, different from club games, all players have to have the nationality of the country they play for. Also they all say they consider it a honour to be selected for the national team. That that selection may also enhance their financial value is besides the point. When the national anthems are played, the player are standing on the field, neatly next to one another, and one would expect that they would pay back for their honorable selection by joining others in singing these anthems. Nothing is farther from the truth. Some coaches may sing along, but the players themselves almost all remain silent, mouthes closed firmly. Do they not know the anthems, don't they believe in it? One would say that with the salaries they obtain it should be just a very little effort to learn the words and by singing along show that they really want to play for their country.

Public service in different countries (20 februari 2006): Travelling from the Netherlands to France one may notice a lot of differences between the two countries, as between any two countries for that matter. This time the difference in postal tariffs and the differences in collecting household garbage. Why are postage tariffs in the Netherlands higher than in France? Holland is so densely populated that the postman can deliver almost all letters on foot; almost all houses are next to each other. On the contrary, in France in most cases (except the big cities) the distance between homes is considerable and delivery of mail consequently takes more time, more legwork or rather more motercycle work. One would therefore expect the the smaller distances would make delivery in Holland cheaper rather than higher. Is the Dutch PTT less efficient, do they make more profit? It might be interesting to compare those tariffs in more countries. As far as collecting household garbage is concerned: in Holland "green" garbage in collected once a fortnight as also the non-green garbage. Not all that hygienic. In the South of France, where I am writing this, this is different: the garbage is collected 3 times weekly in winter and 6 times weekly in summer and one weekly extra collection of old papers, bottles etcetera' And also here applies that the distances between houses are fairly large in France. Obviously this comparison does not necessarely have to mean that most things are better in France.

Politicians and the people, a story about the Netherlands, but that may apply to many other countries as well. (4 februari 2006): Yesterday I watched on TV (Nova Politiek) a political debate about the sending of soldiers to Uruzgan, Afghanistan, to which the Dutch Parliament had just agreed. Some discussions about the attitudes and handling of this matter by various parties, mostly one party that had been opposed but with wrong arguments. Gleefully, the other parties pointed this out. I, and with me I expect many others, had one burning question, that unfortunately was not asked by the journalists in charge of the debate: how was it possible, that a great majority of the politicians in Parliament were in favour of this dangerous mission, while a large majority of the Dutch people (about 70 percent according to a recent report) were against. Politicians with substantial majority voting in favour, while a great majority of the people were against; how can that be without leading to a discussion, without politicians explaining why, why the opinion of "the people" had to be ignored, without the journalists of the program asking about it. Is the population, the "People" too stupid, does one only take into account their opinion at times of elections? Why do politicians condsider it unimportant, unnecessary to explain why they voted against the general opinion of the population, their voters? A nice (I should rather say: dreadful)example of the gap, the gulf existing between politicians, politics and "the people", which at the same time shows clearly why that gulf is there. An example of again not listening to the population, of ignoring what the majority wants.

The New World? (january 2006): The world, our world, how will it look 10 years from now, 50 years from now? Or even 5 years from now, we don't know. I just read The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, I remember Brave New World by Huxley, read long ago. A news item on TV the other day about chips inserted in lantern posts in Totyo, Japan, giving out all sorts of information. About a man, who had his new passport chip with all his personal data injected in his arm. The American president Bush, allowing (or rather: ordering) a special investigating unit to spy on all telephone (and surely also internet) conversations, with, as I imagine, special computer programs sifting through it and sorting out whatever is wanted. Maybe about terrorism for now, but about anything else if wanted. And I think: this Brave New World as imagined by Huxley is not far off anymore; maybe quite different in a way, but regarding the general idea of total inspection, total controll, the same as well. Soon we, our children, babies can all be injected with chips far more powerful, telling someone, some program, all about us, about our conversations, our movements, our thoughts maybe. And all of the technical advances and information gathering can be bought, be used by anyone that has the money, the power, to inforce it, to set it up, to sift through it. It may be that we are not far from the time, when the old song "Our thoughts they are free" is becoming obsolete, a thing of the past! Regretfully, we are lulled into sleep by the gradual way things are developping, not noticing how fast things may happen.

The U.S.A. and Iran (january 2006): We are in the first days of a new year; what will happen to us in 2006? What new things will get started; new techniques, new society movements of which we may have no idea yet. New computer techniques? New weapons? A U.S.A that by bombardments will start a war against Iran, as if they have not learnt anything from their Iraq "adventure"? Iran, we all know, has no atomic weapons, no mass destruction arms. As also Iraq did not have them. Why Iran and not North Korea? Why not Pakistan and India? Why not Israel, one of the most violent nations in that region? There is another, hidden reason why America wants to attack Iran. Because there is another similarity between Iraq and Iran: Iraq started to trade its oil in euros instead of dollars just before the U.S.A. attacked, and Iran will open an oil exchange in euros in march this year. And if oil is sold more and more in euros, this can be catastrophic for the dollar and the dollar exchange rate. Sinds Bush is president, America is practically bankrupt and it imports far more than it exports and presumably secretly already prints more and more paper dollar bills, as figures for that printing do not have to be published anymore. The imports so far are financed by investments in America by the larger exporters, such as Japan and China. Oiltrade in other currencies than dollars will have an enormous impact on the dollar exchange rate and thereby upon the American economy and on the popularity of Bush and that is what the American government wants to avoid at any cost. Off course, a war with Iran is no remedy; America's interior problems will not be solved; there will not be more or cheaper oil for America in case that war is started, to the contrary, and moreover, we may all have a chance to die if America starts a nuclear war. Will humanity never learn?

A happy New Year ! (january 1st 2006): The new year has started. What will it bring to us? The city of Rotterdam sold its incineration of refuse unit for a record price, as investors are quite convinced that the waste mountain will again grow in 2006. Also the number of dogs will most likely grow and the owners, "bosses", will not educate these dogs better than before, so the "dogshit" on the sidewalks will grow again. Already this new years day producing their turds on the beach; some owners may look somewhat embarrassed, but they seldom clean up. Afghanistan will this year, in spite of Nato intervention, grow more poppies and sell more drugs than in 2005, more than ever before. And then to remember, that under the terrifying Taliban rule no poppies were grown at all! TV programs will not become better, but ever more commercial and vulgar and violent in 2006. More Mobiles will be sold with more features and SMS traffic will further grow; one wonders when the mobiles will be implanted in our bodies? Schiphol, the Dutch largest airfield and a national monument, reported a record year in 2005 and the people living around it experienced a record nuisance and also the number of people being troubled by the noice and gasoline smell and pollution grew and will grow again. Regretfully we cannot expect the Dutch government to take measures, even thought each new investigation shows that figures about the noice and pollution are manipulated. More children and grown-ups will become more fat; more fast food will be eaten; the difference between rich and poor and the number of job-less will grow further. A HAPPY 2006 !

A free press (december 2005): I have always considered the larger newspapers in the U.S.A. the best in the world. There are other famous newapapers, such as the Monde in Paris, the Times in London, but a New York Times, a Washington Post or a International Herald Tribune are in a class of their own. Other papers in Western Europe and elsewhere, provided they have some freedom to write, often copy their big brothers in the U.S.A. It was therefore, that after 9/11, with all American papers being super patriotic, I was worried. No more criticism, no sound thinking; everything Bush did was just splendid. I understand the terrorist attack right in the U.S.A., right in New York, was a tremendous shock. But still, if the government made mistakes, lied, started a war for the wrong reasons instead of catching the terrorists, why not say so. Unite behing the leader was the thing to do, the slogan, obviously. It is therefore with great pleasure to see that during the year 2005 the American press has come back to business as usual, which in their case means independant clear thinking, commenting on and reporting on what is right but also on what is wrong in the world and with their government. This is not an easy matter: reporting things as one sees them and if necessary uncovering what is hidden does not make one popular with the government, or sometimes even with the readers. Being patriotic means wanting the best for one's country and that again means reporting about what is going on in the government and elsewhere without holding back; praising where praise is due and condemning where government is wrong. And a lot of things have been uncovered by the press during the past months. Therefore, newspapers of the U.S.A., I say to you, with admiration, continue your mission.

Children in prisons (december 2005): A few days ago I wrote about children and internet. Today I read, in the International Herald Tribune, about children in the Philipines. Children that roam the streets as they may have no parents that take care of them. Children that may commit crimes, usually minor ones, and then are condemmed to prison terms. And then have to go to ordinary prisons for grown-up criminals, as special prisons for children are non-existant in the Philipines. We could imagine, what happens to those children in those prisons amongst grown-ups, but when one reads about it, one realises that the imagination fell short. They are ccontinuously raped, badgered, violated in every possible way by the other prisoners. They have no separate cells, no protection from wardens; in short, these children are not punished for their relatively minor crimes by being sent to prison: they are sent to hell!

Children Porno? (december 2005): With Children Porno we usually think of children that have been abused, violated by older people or by people selling the images of the abuse. There seems to be a vast public. A new form was published in the Herald Tribune/New York Times: children that volentary and without the help from others place pictures of themselves more or less undressed and playing all kind of sex-games, on the internet and have people pay to look at them. They can do this with the webcam in their own room without any problem. The published story is about a lonely boy of 13, who placed his picture on the internet, hoping this way to make new friends. However he was not approached by other boys or girls, but by older men only, that offered him money to show more and more of himself, finally for having sex with prostitutes. This boy meanwhile has contacted the police at the advice of the journalist that wrote the report and is cooperating with the investigation. The number of websites of "children" that get themselves paid for pornographic pictures is rising. Should one blame these youngsters? Actually yes, but in my opinion even more the grown-up world. The well-known bird saying: "As the elder sang so the young chilped" applies here. I don't want to say that it have to be the own parents, that set the example, although somewhat more controll would not be a bad thing, but rather older people in general, that show children and teenagers a world on tv, in business, in relationships, regarding the environment, that often is just plain bad. Succes often is most important, as is also money and sex; is it strange that children start doing strange things?

The process of getting old, a taboo? (part 2). (november 2005): What kind of problems (if we may use that expression) can we encounter while growing older? I name a few, but obviously the list is far from complete and the problems differ for each person. I am not talking about the "normal" illnesses such as cancer, hearttroubles etc, which we can all encounter and are not specifically linked to getting older. Being part of getting older are such things as Parkingson, a mental decline, gradual failure of eyesight, of hearing, dementia. But apart from this there are the daily things, that together can make life more difficult. Such as the loss of friends that die before you, making your circle of contacts smaller and smaller. But also the little things, the small setbacks, that make life more difficult; I saw this happen gradually with an (old) aunt of mine: walking became more difficult as also getting out of a chair; not being able to read the papers or watch tv, becausde of eyetrouble; not hearing the telephone ring or hear the other's voice; problems in dressing (stockings, underwear); not knowing where you have left things. Feeling superfluous; as such a rather natural feeling; after all life is almost done. Are there children that will visit you without seeing this as an unpleasant duty, grandchildren, neighbours? And what changes if one goes to a retirement home, to a nursing home? What kind of warmth do you still receive? There is a small vilage in Japan, where the inhabitants have solved the problem of getting old long ago: at a certain age one will go with the eldest son to a neighbouring mountain covered with snow, where one says goodbye and is left alone to die. One would say: a very old form of mercy killing, euthanasia. However, euthanasia is only allowed (and that by far not everywhere) when one is seriously ill, not when one has enough of life, cannot cope with lonelyness and other inconvenientcies anymore. Off course, one may stay healthy and not too rigid very long, be lucky that the brain is still working well and that there is room for new experiences, that the partner is still alive and healthy in body and spirit, that the relationship with the children, if any, is good. One has the free time to choose what to do and the steps backwards are still small steps; life is still fun. But also then, time will at a certain moment strike, even though in that case later than for most other old people.

The process of getting old, a taboo? (part 1). (october 2005): Unless we die young, we will all be confronted with the process of getting old/older. It is well known, that we generally are more inventive at an earlier age, that the ideas for most inventions come when one is still relatively young and that those inventions then can be further completed at an older age; Einstein got the fundamental ideas for his epoch making theories at an early age. It is sometimes said, that people are at their top of physical and intellectual vitality around age 35 and that after that one has to gradually take steps back; at first hardly noticeable but then, somewhere between 50 and 70 at accelerating speed. Obviously this is a generalisation, with exceptions. I think about Churchill, who got his calling quite late in life. But at the same time, that calling was rather defending the old, excisting society, than inventing something new. Old age often gives a certain stiffness, a rigidness, not just of the body, but also of one's way of thinking. Most people that are not old themselves don't really like to be confronted with the process of aging and its consequences. This is expressed in various ways: 1e: older people should not complain and not air their problems. The attitude of many younger people is: be glad that you are still alive and don't moan about it. 2e: younger people often deny the process of getting older. They may say to old people: "you are not so old yet"; "you are in better condition than most people your age"; "you can still do a lot of things". 3e: Older people should behave inconspicuously, not draw attention, I might say: not be in the way with their slower speed, their cars or walking sticks, their louder talking when their hearing gets worse. I read in the Volkskrant that older people in some dutch villages or towns regularly meet in McDonalds or other such places for having a cup of coffee and a chat together. And that younger people and also the management of such establishments are getting annoyed about this and want those people to stay away: they talk too loud, take up too much space and stays too long. But where should they go and meet? In most villages or towns there are almost no places where they can meet; meeting rooms or clubs are practically non-existent. That actually is a general situation for older people: there are hardly any facilities to do things together. So what is the alternative when one is old? Sit in front of the windows and look at what happens outside? That is, if one has a window that looks out on a place where something is happening! (to be continued)

Goldmining is one of the most polluting of all mining industries and I read, in the International Herald Tribune, that therefore we are advised to stop buyng gold and stop giving our loved ones gold bracelets, rings etc. While definitely consumers have power and consumer strikes could have great effects, it's not likely consumers will strike and stop buing gold. It would be much better to impose strict envirement rules on gold mining, rather than giving the gold mining industry an almost free hand, especially in underdeveloped countries. (september 2005).

Recently far more accidents caused by trucks on the Dutch roads, as reported by various newspapers. (september 2005). A few months ago we read about the new rules in the Uropean Union causing many Dutch (and other West European) transport companies either to engage more and more Eastern European truckdrivers (Poles being a majority), because they work for cheaper wages and will work longer hours, or to open shadow companies in those countries, thus avoiding minimum wage and other (also safety) regulations in Holland, France and other countries. And now we read about the increasing number of accidents caused by trucks. Much more road congestion as well because of those accidents. One wonders whether there is a connection between the cheaper paid truckdrivers and the increased number of accidents? Are there more drivers with less qualification or that drive too many hours or who are not used to our trafic on our roads? I don't know, frankly, however, one might expect responsible newspapers and journalists, that reported first the engagenent of cheaper paid drivers and then the increase of accidents, to study the matter and to let us know whether the connection is there or not!

Use your brains (september 2005). I just read the book "Use your brains" by Jan-Willem van den Brandhof and can recommend it to all. A number of the facts about our brains are probably known to you, but the books does not just give facts but also very practical suggestions. We can all, reading the book, use nour brains better. It mentions the enormous capacity of our brains asnd the fact that little of this capacity is used. The importance of positive thinking (already known since the time of Coue, but often forgotten): "Winners see what they want, loosers see what they don't want". The importance of a goal one wants to reach: "For those that don't know what direction to go, there is no favourable wind". Simple steps that can be taken to improve thinking, also about better and faster reading (a better placement of the book, using a ruler), how to better remember things that are important, the importance of relaxation in between intellectual work. Or about habits: "First we form habits, than the habits form us". The book is confronting as well: what direction to choose, what goal to pursue, when you dont really know, don't (yet) have clear goals or have not sufficient trust in your capabilities? Know: "When you think: I can do it, or I can't do it, you will be right in both cases". This was said long ago by Henry Ford. And: "Al our dreams will come true, if we only have the courage to try to make them come true". (Walt Disney)"

World championship taxidermy (stuffing of animals). My tv guide mentions that tonight (22nd august 2005) the BBC will report on this world championship; 29 countries will participate. The guide further mentions: "as an example: the Canadian Ken is trying to find a pre-historic wapiti-deer and the Texan Roy is trying to find a hunting-leopart in South Africa, that he wants to stuff." It is amazing on what subjects someone will organise a world championship. And in this case: how many animals will be killed for this championship, not only fairly common animals but also animals that are almost extinct? I wonder what's the fun. Should not the organisers, if this championship is to be held at all, limit the animals to be stuffed to animals that still exist in sufficiently large numbers?

The medicine Vioxx. I read in the journal NRC of 20th august 2005, that the firm Merck has been found guilty by a jury in Texas to the death of a man who used the pain releaser Vioxx and Merck was sentenced to pay damages of 253 million dollars (24 million for emotional damage and 229 million as punishment payment) to his widow. Now I dont want to defend the pharmaceutical firm Merck, if it is true, that Vioxx is dangerous to people's health and if Merck knew this, but still, where is the end with this kind of damages? Why are firms like Merck sentenced to this kind of extreme and exhorbitant compensations, while individual murderers or rapers are punished with prison terms without having to pay compensation to their victems or their victems' families; why do car-drivers that cause death by their reckless or drunken driving often end without any prison term, any compensation payment? I don't know, what kind of mariage this was and how sad this widow was, but a compensation of 253 million dollars? Absurd, in my opinion. Is this typical American, or are we heading the same way in Europe?

Marten Toonder has died, the creator of Tom Poes (Tom the Cat) and Ollie B. Bommel and many other exeptional animal - but so perfectly human - strip-figures. Stripfigures still from another world than ours and especially from another world than today's world. A world still of imagination and unlimited possibilities but also with certain moral standards, with bravery, honesty and clearness. The scoundrels are scoundrels, the police is the old-fashioned type, the officials are what we think officials should be, and in these surroundings Bommel, in his somewhat clumsy way, makes things come out right again. I hope,that something of Toonder's world will remain in our daily life.

Pronounced prison terms and reality, there is quite a difference. In the Netherlands, as in some other countries, it has become a custom, that prison terms are reduced by 1/3rd, originally as a reward for good behavior, but more and more as an automatism. I wonder, how this works out and why this has become a custom and why this custom continues. Does one think that judges punish too severely? Does one think, that someone who really regrets his mischief and who promises not to repeat, should be freed earlier? But how does one judge the repentance, the absence of danger, without falling into automatic reduction of prison terms? What to think of a raper, who rapes again after being freed? And what will judges do, knowing that the officials in most cases will reduce their sentences by 1/3rd, will they not be inclined to raise the sentences or will society not demand this of them? And what to do with "life" sentences? To me, a layman, a non-jurist, the whole system of reduction of prison sentences as it is now applied seems most confusing and also a statement of mistrust towards our judges. A solution could be that the judge, in his judgement already indicates whether (and in the affirmative, under what conditions) a reduction of sentence is possible. (juli 2005).

The bombs in London, 15th july 2005. In many places in the world 2 minutes silence were observed for the victims of the bombs in London. While we all know and agree that it is a tragedy that innocent people have been killed (at last count 53) and been wounded by terrorists in London, one also wonders what the value of a life, of a human being is in London, as compared to that value in Irak, which country was bombed illegally for years by London and Washington politicians and then attacked, resulting in a number of deaths immeasurably higher than in London. Or compared to the value of a life, a human being in the Sudan, where close to a million people were killed. Or in Atjeh, in many places in Africa, in Usbekistan, etc. Another comparison: what is the value of a human being killed by terrorists in London, as compared with the far greater number of people being killed yearly in the U.K.(and in other Western countries) by drunken drivers and drivers that exceed speedlimits, drivers who mostly go unpunished while hardly any measures are taken to stop the killing, or as compared to people dying of cancer or other illnesses because of polluting factories (who remembers that city in India for instance?) or polluting cars and motorbikes. The number of examples is endless. We all know - or can know the number of children in the world dying of hunger, but judging from what is being done for them, they are at the bottom of the list; their value appearently is judged next to nil by the same people that obseve the silence for the London victims. When people are killed by terrorists, the value of their lives goes up immediately; when they are killed in a major Western city, the value takes another steep leap. Maybe one should take a look at other places than the Western world and at other causes of death than terrorists and mourn somewhat more for those deaths as well, try to avoid those deaths and go after and punish the people that cause those deaths with the same energy that seems now only reserved for terrorists acting against the Western world.

The elections in Iran for president have been held, and a so called "hardliner" has won. Many people, especially in the United States, have expressed their surprise. However, it is not all that surprising, after the war in Iraq and the occupation of that Muslim country by the United States. We are in a period of history, where fear plays an important part in people's minds, partly because that fear has been fired by a number of politicians. In the United States the re-election of president Bush was greatly helped, even depended on, the fear-factor and the fact that the threat of terrorism and the need for a war-president was stressed to the limit by the Bush camp. In Iran the same thing happened, but here it were not the terrorists, but the United States that were seen as the major threat. And it was not just the war against Iraq, it was also noticed in Iran as well as elsewhere, that Iraq without having mass-destruction weapons or even, (after the Gulf war), an army worth that name, was bombed for years and then attacked, and that North Korea, with mass-destruction weapons and a sizable army, was not. It has been said, that president Bush by his attitude has been the world's number one recruter of terrorists. Likewise it could be said that he is the number one recruter for the Muslim fundamentalist religion and for promoting the electing of hardliners. Understand me well: I am against atomic (mass destruction) weapons in North Korea and Iran, but, different from Bush, I am against those weapons in Pakistan, India and Israel as well. (27th june 2005)

Japan does the most with least oil, I read in the International Herald Tribune of June 6th 2005. In these times of global warming a heart-warming heading! The Japanese Government, as the article goes on, recently started a campaign urging people to replace their older appliances and buy hybrid vehicles as part of a patriotic effort to safe energy and fight global warning. On the Matsushita appliance showroom floor these days, the numbers scream not the low, low prices but the low, low kilowatt-hours. A vacuum-insulated refrigirator, which comes with a buzzer that sounds if the door stays open more than 30 seconds, boasts that it will consume just 160 kilowatt-hours a year, one-eighth of the power needed by standard models a decade ago. Some countries work on energy savings too, but all are lagging behind Japan. For instance, France and Germany expend almost 50% more energy to produce the equivalent of $1 in economic activity; Britain's energy use is nearly double; that of the United States is nearly triple and China's almost eight times as high. From 1973 to today, Japan's industrial sector nearly tripled its output but kept energy consumption roughly flat. At JFE Holdings, a leading steel company, plastic pellets made from recycled bottles now account for 10% of fuel in the main blast furnaces; Japanese paper mills are investing heavily in boilers that can be fueled by waste paper, wood and plastics; within 2 years half of the electricity used in the country's paper mills is to come from burning waste. So far the article. While what Japan is doing is giving me some better feeling about our future energy problems, one wonders, why Japan can do these things and is working on it to do more, and why the United States (and to a lesser extend Europe) that is technically so much more advanced and has so much more money to spend is doing so little, if anything at all, and continues to be by far the world's number one energy user and polluter. Some may say it is president Bush, but even a president could not get away with it, if not a sufficient number of the civilian population agrees with him, that "after us the big flood, the deluge", let our children drown in it!

Climate changes part 3 (21st may 2005): Many environmental scientists think that the destruction of tropical rain forests is about the worst thing that can happen for our climate and environment. This year, I read, we again lost a big chunk of rain forest in Brasil; an area the size of Belgium. The indifference shown by us towards our earth and towards the condition of the earth that we are going to leave to our children is really staggering! Most people appearently rather have bigger cars, bigger houses and more money for themselves and could not care less about what is going to happen to their (our) children.

Torture (may 2nd 2005): Many people in the socalled "Western world" think torturing prisonners is a thing of the past, no longer morally allowed by countries of the European Union and by the United States. In fact new members of the E.U. have to conform to the human rights laws of existing members. While the history of torture by the Christian Church is known by most people, as well as the knowledge that torture is still being practised by a number of countries under dictatorial or other non-democratic rulers, it is a shock to read that in that most Christian and advanced country of our Western world, the United States of America, the Government has gone a great step back in civilisation by allowing their Secret Services and goalers to use torture again to get information from its prisoners. The U.S.A. government clearly shows its moral uneasy-ness of the use of torture by a preference to submit its prisoners to torture outside its borders, sending people they want to torture to such countries as Cuba, Egypt, Usbekistan, Morocco, etc. where torture seems more common, and by hiding their torture policy from the greater public, even transporting these people by unregistered planes and by having them made unrecognisable by hoods etc. In a lengthy article in the New Yorker magazine of February 14 and 21 this policy is given the apt name of Outsourcing Torture! The country whose government calls itself the defender of Freedom and Christian values, is sending people without any form of process to countries like Usbekistan, ruled by one of the most brutal present day dictators, to be tortured overthere. This in addition to the torturing done in American prisons in Afghanistan, Irac and Cuba. A weird kind of defence of freedom!

Climate changes part 2 (30th april 2005): If people would really understand, what the warming -up of the earth and its consequences mean, they would likely talk more about it and insist to their governments to really start doing something about it. People may think that the speed of the warming-up is linear, in one straight line, while actually the process gains speed as it feeds on itself. In the New Yorker magazine of 25th april I read a.o. about the albedo factor. This factor one obtains by deviding the energy reflected by a surface by the energy received. Ice covered with snow reflects almost all energy (warmth) it receives and so has an albedo factor of almost 1, the highest there is. The energy of the sun will be send back into space almost completely by this surface. Water, on the other hand, retains almost all energy it receives and will transform that energy into warmth; it has an albedo factor of almost 0. Now what happens, if snow and ice melt into water, as is happening all over our planet: a surface of the highest reflection is transformed into a survace of the lowest reflection; by melting ice and snow, less and less energy is send back into space and more and more is retained on earth, so the earth gets warmer and more snow and ice melt etc. etc. And the process increases in speed!

Climate changes (8 april 2005): While in fact all scientists agree that our earth is warming up and that our human activeties are the main cause, and while it is quite possible, that if the process continues as it is going on now, live on earth ultimately will be impossible for the human race as well as for other forms of life, there are very few people and politici that are worried, that see the seriousness of the threat to life on earth, to their children and grandchildren. Already now we see more extreem weather situations: violant storms, tsunami, periods of draught. What is coming our way? The ice at the poles is melting, as well as the snow at our mountain tops. The melting pole-ice will give us higher sea-levels; in the Netherlands one has the choice to highen and strengthen the existing dykes (by how much and for how long will they hold out?), to build new dykes in sea, or to let the sea cover a good part of the country. The higher sea-level will cause larger and more powerful waves with a greater risk to lower countries or islands. A challenge, one would think, to work on solutions!? The melting of the snow on the mountains will give other problems again: that snow was the ideal reservoir for rainwater in the form of snow in winter, coming down in spring and summer to give people and crops the necessary water when needed most. I read, that the melting of snow in the mountains, when accellerating, will in first instance lead to large flooding in countries like India and China, hitting at millions of people, making them homeless. But then, when all snow has melted, there will be great droughts and people and crops will lack that precious commodity, water, as the snow reservoir is there no longer. The world's problems seemed far away at a time, but are coming nearer at a faster speed than thought. We want more welfare, a more luxurious life, also for our kids, but we will have to ask ourselves to what price and whether we will leave our kids a luxurious world in which they cant stay alife!

European Constitution (26th march 2005: In France the last sondations for the upcoming referendum about the proposed European constitution show a majority intending to vote NO; the French citizens (and presumably also many other European citizens) clearly are not convinced of the usefulnes of the present text. I am reading in a local French paper, that the proposed text, thanks to a group of bureaucrates that wanted to regulate even minor details, consists of 400 long pages, reading of which off course is beyond the patience of any normal person. Not all is good that comes from the United States of America, certainly not these last few years, but Europe could well have taken the U.S. constitution, just 10 pages long and still covering all essential subjects that have to be regulated, as an example. Even 10 pages will not be read by all citizens, but 10 pages mathematically is 40 times better than 400 and instinctively may be even 400 times better!

Parents in the Netherlands are no longer allowed to hit or slap their children (17 Februari 2005); there will be a new law to this effect. It is clear that child abuse is an international evil and that this has to be stopped, that children have to be better protected even against their own parents. Parents that abuse their children - and there seem to be more of those parents than we would expect - have to be well punished. But the law, as it is proposed, seems somewhat illogical. The difference between a small educational slap on the behind without any bodily damage and a severe hit is not made sufficiently clear; also it is not clear when parents will be charged and how they will be punished. And it is well known: laws have to be clear and reasonable with a sufficient chance for offenders to be caught, in order to be succesfull. It is regrettable also, that only this part of child abuse is catching the attention of lawmakers in the Netherlands. How long will it take before they understand that all the violence on TV that children are exposed to daily might also be bad for them. And not only for children, but for society as well, a society that gets to deal with a great number of teeners that have learned that violence is the most common thing in the world. Surely the fact that TV programs can continue to show violence unlimited has something to do with the power of money, the power of the money behing the TV stations? And with the fact that money seems to have become more powerful than anything else?

"Disappearance of dining-table bad business for family life" I read in the Noordhollands Dagblad of 11th Februari 2005. And: In England 30% of households has no longer a dining table. Also more and more families don't cook themselves. Eating before the TV often goes together with precooked meals or snacks, junkfood. According to a random test in 53% of the Dutch households there are no more cooking pans on the table. And: at this moment 1 of every 7 kids is too fat. That's lower than I thought, but the number is growing. I am not against TV, but unfortunately watching TV often leads to watching TV too much and then replaces good things like eating properly, reading books, eating at the dining-table and having time to talk together. And unfortunately, also when it concerns eating, parents often give the (bad) example to their kids.

Closing of Nursing-homes?: In Trouw of 11th Februari 2005 I read that the Dutch government is going to make public the performances of nursing-homes. The secretary of State will attack abuses in the nursing-homes. Finally, I think it's high time. And hopefully more money may then become available for those institutions that provide care for older and handicapped people, because in the Netherlands, one of the richest countries in the world, this sector provides less and less quality service. And generally, the people working in this field are not to blame as they often try their very best, but the increased pressure upon their work due to the cuts in their budgets by the government. Budget cuts and economising of the Dutchy government hit the weakest groups; the healthy average Dutch person does not have to cut down on his daily beer. Further on in the article: if a nursing home does not meet the necessary standards, we can all read this on Internet. And in case there are no improvements soon, the Secretary of State may impose penalties or even close a nursing-home. This last measure: closing, to me seems highly illogical. Already now there are waiting lists, that only would become larger when closing one or more nursing-homes. I think the Secretary of State should concentrate on forcing nursing homes, that fall short, to improve, checking this with better control measures. And also concentrate on checking whether budget cuts have not gone too far already!

Schiphol, the main Dutch airport (5th February 2005): The paper reported today that since Air France went together with (or rather took over) KLM, things go very well for Schiphol. It must be true, because here in Alkmaar, the cheese city, about 40 kilometers north of Schiphol, we are noweadays woken up each morning by more and more planes flying over our heads with more and more noice as they set in the landing procedure for Schiphol earlier. should we really be proud that schiphol is growing, that it is one of Europe's main airports? Because the cost is noice pollution and air pollution; the increasing number of planes make for mopre and more noice and more and more gasoline smell. Holland used to be a clean country; it is no more. Economically we may still be doing well, but the quality of life nin Holland is rapidly going down. I believe Schiphol is more a status symbol for the dutch politicians than really that important economically and it certtainly brings down the quality of living in Holland.

Advertisements (1st February 2005): Advertisements are everywhere; on the streets, the radio, the TV. We can hardly avoid them. And what about our children, exposed at an age far too young to defend themselves. Money is everything and only a handfull of people care whether their children are corrupted by unasked for and unwanted lies about what is good for us, what we have to do or eat or buy to belong, to feel secure, to succeed, to be popular. First the advertisers tell us we feel unsecure, tell us that we are unpopular, that we are ugly, not as we should and could be; then they tell us what the remedy is, how we can make boys or men, girls or females look at us, love us, want to fuck us. It would be a good idea to force the companies, that seduce us to buy, eat, use their products, to buy, eat, apply the products themselves. There are products that are fairly clean, such as, for instance, computers, books, language courses and what not; there are unfortunately a lot of products that are far from clean, that corrupt. Somehow, I have the oldfashioned idea that we should protect ourselves and our children against that corruption.

Portable Telephones (28th January 2005): I am still one of those "last of the mohicans" without a portable phone; my wife though, younger than I am, is using one, be it sparingly, that was given to her as a present by one of her sons. Probably I should buy one: when having an accident with the car or a flat tire (do flat tires still exist?), when breaking a leg on a mountain hike or falling off the rooftop, it is nice to be able to phone for help. Obviously, the telephone is not what it was in my youth; it was unthinkable that we, as small children, would touch it, while now, whenever one of the children is on the phone, all their children are practically forced to say something to us as well. And at that age telephones were solidly fixed to the wall. Now one sees more people phoning than not phoning someone. In trains, on the street, on the bicycle, while holding a baby, pushing the baby-carriage, even while walking and talking with friends. Possibly soon Microsoft's Bill Gates will team up with some cell therapy company to have new babies being born with phones. I always wonder who is paying for all those calls, even though I know telephone rates have declined substantially. There was an article in the papers about the use of portable telephones and teenagers and pre-teeners. Reports indicate that all of them have portable phones but that most of them have incurred substantial debts, mostly to their parents, as they are in no way in a position to pay for their calls themselves or even of repaying those loans. I guess without making the calls, they have no status with their peers, so what are they to do, especially since most parents use the portables without limit themselves and find it difficult to say no to their children anyway.

Wrinkles (20th January 2005): If we have to believe the advertisements, wrinkles are about the ugliest and most shameful thing that can happen to us, especially when we are female. We have to do everything possible to avoid them (the wrinkles, off course). Wrinkle removing operations, wrinkle removing creams, thick layers of beatifying plaster, that make us look like robots, anything is better than wrinkles. We all have to look like we are still children, like we have not aged, not experienced life! I like people as they are, with the characteristic wrinkles that show that they have laughed a lot, cried a lot, lived a lot; I like those faces far better than the bland faced that have been treated and made expressionless. But the advertisers want to make money and so try to impress on us how bad wrinkles are. And unfortunately they have convinced a lot of people! Still, fortunately, not all of us.

The "look" of factories (10th January 2005): Holland is a full country; a dense population with more and more young people wanting to live independently, so a lot of building is going on of both houses, flats and also of factories and offices that have to house the workplaces of this population. If one visits Holland after having been away some months, it is really staggering, in how many new places houses have been built and are already occupied and how much new building has started again. The Dutch generally like 2 or 3 storied houses with small gardens, so the new housing developments soon have some trees and flowers to make up for the stone and cement that replaced the meadows. But with the new factories and offices it is different: one ugly building after another makes us longing for the countryside that was once there. In the far past one tried to hide those buildings behind trees and a garden in front, and one wonders why the officials that issue building permits do not insist that new factories and offices plant young trees around their buildings. The young trees would not cost much and would, as they grow into full trees, be a wonderful weapon against eye-pollution.

A movie about hamburgers (10th December 2004): A movy has come out about eating as many hamburgers as one can, eating nothing else but hamburgers, and about the results on one's body. What a wonderfull idea. We all know that hamburgers belong to the group "junkfood" and that far too many people are unhealthely fat or let's say "oversized" because of eating too much junkfood, and here we have a filmmaker, showing us this in no uncertain manner. Will it help, will the movy change our eating habits (at present mostly American eating habits, but spreading rapidly)? I don't know, but I applaud this movymaker, as it is better to speak out for one's ideas than remain silent.

Dutch cows (30th August 2004): The other day, when driving on one of the Dutch main roads, with meadows on both sides, I was surprised to see no life cows, but instead a cow-like construction in the middle of one of the meadows.
It looked awfull. I found out later, that the artificial cows (I saw a few more later on) were placed there by an environment group protesting against the expanding urbanisation and fighting for preservation of the typical Dutch landscape with life cows. And now I wonder, why this group with their laudable purpose did not use real cows to bring home their point. Are cows becoming that scarce in Holland? Certainly not. I hope for their next action they will use real cows!


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