Sunday, June 29, 2008

If I were king

(china guccio)

I would decree that shoe sizes would just be the length of the foot.

The same for men, women and children.

Going to visit relatives in the U.S. and trying to figure out what size clogs to buy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Urk Cops Beer


My fascination with the city of Urk is growing. I feel it may be my destiny to go there someday and see it for myself.

Here's a translation of a story in today's Telegraaf. (Dutch)

I find it raises so many more questions than it answers...

"The police station of Urk has been full of beer crates for some time. So sayeth mayor Jaap Kroon of the fishing village on Tuesday.

A security firm is carrying out extra patrols around the dikes of Urk to keep an eye on youth drinking.

Kroon says that in the summertime the Urkish (Dutch: Urker) youth drink more than is good for them on the dikes around the village. That's why the police have already taken so much beer into custody recently.

"The police station has never yet been so full of impounded crates of beer," he claimed.

The mayor wants to take even more measures, but doesn't know what is legally permissible. Extra police are one possibility as far as he's concerned.

The many crates of beer at the bureau will be destroyed in any case, says a police spokesman. "We won't drink it ourselves," he said.

(thomas hawk)

Yeah, sure.


For the linguists, an interesting poem hanging on the side of the boat of the person who posts as "Yapsalot" on Flickr.

"Laat haters haat
en nijders nijden
wat God mij gunt
moet ieder lijden."

I have no idea what "Nijden" is, but I'm guessing it's either some kind of trivial repair you do to a ship _ or an old fashioned word similar to "hate", related to "nijdig," which means "angry and irritable."


Let haters hate
and the envious envy
Everyone must suffer
What God grants me

Dutchies: is that the right idea?


Monday, June 23, 2008

Russia vs. Netherlands 3-1 = Orange Crush

Full disclosure: your author was inebriated while taking these photos.

The mood was better before the game:

Holland at its best: After the loss, all of the Dutchies agreed the Russians deserved to win and sought out the one Russia fan in the cafe to shake his hand.

Brief photo essay after the "More"

(1-0, Russia sweat)

(1-1 equalizer! Hilarity ensues)

(2-1 in extra time and the Dutch are minutes from elimination)

(3-1 and it's all over but the crying)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Spiked III - Rem Koolhaas - CCTV

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands _ One odd building stands out amid the smog of Beijing's skyline, and is sure to attract attention once images from the Olympic Games are beamed around the world next month: the CCTV, the future headquarters of China's state-controlled media company.
Nearly complete, it takes the form of an enormous twisting polygon, with two leaning towers, and looks like it might just topple over at any moment.

It was designed by architect Rem Koolhaas, who until he won architecture's prestigious Pritzker prize in 2000 was known as an influential theorist who often lost contracts because clients found his plans too unconventional or impractical.
The CCTV building is a vivid symbol of his firm's growing business and future in Asia and the oil-rich countries in the Middle East, he said in an interview with a small group of reporters at his offices in Rotterdam last week.

The 63-year-old Dutchman rejected criticism that recent successes by his firm come at a moral price because many of them are awarded by authoritarian regimes.
"We felt that China over time is evolving in a direction that deserves to be supported," he said.
Architecture can contribute to social, economic or political change, but "the influence is not very strong, I'm afraid," he said.

Like much of his work, the design for the CCTV building incorporates elements intended to present challenges and contradictions for the very people who are funding it.
The CCTV building "doesn't have a single kind of monumental identity," Koolhaas said.

"On the contrary, if you walk around the city it has maybe 150 different identities. Sometimes it looks strong, sometimes it looks weak, sometimes it looks beautiful, sometimes it looks weird. And I think that even to insert something like that into a system, which is so unstable and so ambiguous or makes people think _ it's ultimately a good thing."
While Chinese television is state-controlled, the building includes passageways throughout its entire "loop" _ representing the various stages of the news-making process _ that are open to the public.

Asked whether there were any regimes or customers his firm wouldn't work for, he says yes. "I'm not giving examples, but we've recently been saying 'no' quite often."
Since Koolhaas won the Pritzker, often considered architecture's highest award, high profile projects with the Seattle Central Library and Prada have boosted his name recognition in the United States, making him as much of a celebrity as an architect can be.

But the Harvard professor said he is uncomfortable being identified so personally with the buildings designed by his firm OMA, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture.
"This is a firm traditionally where almost anyone who walks in on the first day can make an important contribution," Koolhaas said. "It wasn't hierarchical, and it's still not."
One thing that sets buildings designed by OMA apart is the amount of thought that goes into considering their social context.
For commercial clients like Prada "we try to introduce elements that make them less about greed," such as leaving spaces in them for public performances.
But he denied that this approach is unique to his firm, and added that his love of complex, deep thinking about design hasn't historically been good for business.
Architects "are still paid according to medieval rules," he said. "All of us more or less get a percentage of what a building costs. So if you work very hard, it's very stupid because you basically spend what you earn. So in that sense there's a kind of internal contradiction to all architectural effort."
While OMA has numerous projects in North America and Europe, perhaps its most ambitious plan yet was announced in April, a design for "Waterfront City," a 2 square kilometer (0.8 sq. miles) mini-Manhattan in Dubai.
One of the cornerstones of Waterfront City is a multifunctional building which resembles the "Death Star" from the Star Wars films. At least, it looks like the Death Star in models on the desks of the young architects from around the world who are working on the project.

Paradoxically, OMA was handed the Waterfront City award after losing a contest for a skyscraper elsewhere in the fast-growing country.
Its losing proposal was for a plain, book-shaped rectangular building, which would stand out by its very plainness amid the many fantastical high-rises springing up in the desert.
But the OMA slab had at least one unique feature: it was designed to rotate 180 degrees, following the sun.
Koolhaas doesn't rule out the possibility that it will eventually will be built.
"We are exploring in a kind of very weird time full of unbelievable contradictions, with massive impossibilities and massive possibilities," he said.


Oma offices in Rotterdam are not that impressive, compared to the work that goes on inside.

Rem Koolhaas explains the inner workings of the CCTV building (poor sound).


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague

How the Netherlands' three largest cities greet arriving visitors at the heart of the tourism season...

(Den Haag/The Hague)



There is no

Okay. There is something more, the bonus bike of the day:

The sign says "everything box."

Monday, June 16, 2008


(flickr: raphael.gerber)

I was originally planning to ignore the soccer completely, because sometimes I feel like sports takes up a disproportionate amount of life.

Sport is so trivial. But then, what isn't?

Under the circumstances I find myself strangely compelled to opine.

The Dutch have savaged Italy 3-0 and France 4-1 in the first two matches of Euro 2008.
As reader Branko points out, so much for the "Group of Death."

The Dutch team has been brilliant, and no matter what else happens this tournament, their demolition of the defending World Cup holder and runner-up is one for the history books. Most of the 7 (!) goals will also go onto the tournament highlight reel. My absolute favorite was the second goal against Italy, with three moments of greatness in quick succession from Giovanni van Bronkhorst, Dirk Kuyt and Wesley Sneijder.

The Italy win was deeply satisfying because if anyone deserves to lose like that, it's the Italians. This is their comeuppance for years of treating the world to negative (I won't say catenaccio) football.

The France win was awesome because they were worthy opponents and they still got beat. When the Italians went down 2-0 I expected them to open up their game and show off some of their formidable talent. I was very disappointed when they kept playing like they were defending a 1-0 lead. Including attempting to delay the game with bogus injuries (?!) The Dutch, to their credit, were looking to make it 4-0 at the end of the game.

The French came out after halftime playing (quite rightly) all out, like men with nothing left to lose. So both teams played fast, beautiful soccer. Kind of like the magnificent Dutch loss to Czech Republic at Euro 2004.
The French came very close to scoring a number of times, and when Thierry Henry pulled it back to 2-1 I thought we were going to have a tight game on our hands.

And then Arjan Robben scored a freakily good goal the very next minute to make it 3-1.

Which brings me to my real theme: luck.

The best team doesn't win in football nearly as often as in other sports. I've heard it said that this is because it is so difficult to score that a single goal in either direction is usually decisive.

Fun with statistics: the second goal is actually an even better predictor of who will win a game than the first goal.

In any case, a marginally better team will tie or lose to a marginally worse team at least half the time in soccer. A team usually has to be either extremely better or significantly better and somewhat lucky in order to run up a lopsided score.
In the case of the Italians and French, the Dutch may have been significantly better, but to have so many goals fall in _ they were also very lucky.


Stepping out of the orange fever reality distortion field for a minute and looking at the team, I would say this: the Dutch have a range of very good to brilliant attackers (Van Nistelrooy, Van Persie, Robben and Kuyt) and midfielders (Sneijder, Van der Vaart).

However, in my book their only excellent defender is Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Khalid Boulahrouz is playing well right now, taking away a lot of balls, but I don't know him enough to know whether this is exceptional. Last time I saw him play, he was also making a lot of mistakes (ditto for Bouma and Ooijer, formerly of PSV).

Of course Van der Sar has somehow become a truly great 'keeper in his old age, which is crucial. But there are also always goals that no goalie can stop.

I don't really think Van Basten makes a difference either way, but I like one thing about his attitude from the start: there's no problem in drawing Italy and France in the first round, because if you can't beat any team in the tournament you might as well go home.

So, in my view the Dutch are vulnerable on defense and we'll see what happens: they must have at least a 1-in-8 chance of winning the tournament now, if you figure 50-50 chance in the quarters, semi and final.

Call it 1-in-6 because the Dutch *are* the best team in the tournament, by all appearances.

I certainly hope they win because:

a) they deserve it when they make the game so pretty and fun to watch and
b) it's going to be very entertaining to be here to watch the Netherlands go nuts if it happens.

But the odds are still against them and in the meanwhile it's in my nature to be the guy whispering into Caesar's ear during the triumphal march: "Memento Mori."


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Lethe

6:30. Consciousness. The baby is wide awake and chattering.

8:00 Showering with my 2-year old. He busted the coffee pot with a single well-placed blow with a ceramic dessert dish last night. So today we go cold turkey.

9:00. Crap! I'm late to learn of a big story: Corporate Express has agreed to be bought by Staples. EUR9.25 per share but what's the full price? 182 million shares outstanding according to Euronext * EUR9.25 per share = EUR1.68 billion. Make it "Around EUR1.7 billion." Why, after numerous attempts, am I not on the Corporate Express email list? On the bright side, it will never matter again after today.

10:00 CORRECTION! Staples' press release says the purchase price was EUR3.1 billion. They outta know, it's their money. That's cost plus debt. No breakdown, but that appears to be an awful lot of debt CE is carrying.

11:00. To office, to office, jiggety jig.
Amsterdam is beautiful.

12:00 Bureaucracy. What's the price on Corporate Express? Company says 185 million shares outstanding * EUR9.25 per share = EUR1.71 billion. And EUR1.09 billion in debt. But that's still just EUR2.8 billion. EUR300 million has gone missing.

13:00 London and New York like the idea of a story on how coffee shops will be affected by a smoking ban. It's scheduled for next week, no backing out now. Also, no word on what happened to that Koolhaas feature I turned in 2 weeks back.

14:00 A co-worker gets bad personal news. No time to talk, I have to leave Amsterdam *right now* and head for The Hague. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's right hand man Motjtaba Hashemi Samareh is doing Q&A with reporters. Ride with the photographer, he's got a motorcycle, it's quicker. I'm getting too fat and old for riding on the back of motorcycles.

15:00-17:30. The Iranian Embassy is a very civilized place for a talk about Iran's confrontation with the West over nuclear power.

I have trouble pronouncing the name Ahmadinejad. I laugh privately to myself about the idea of asking Samareh whether Iran has considered trying to get the Olympic Games to Tehran, to improve its image.

(Samareh .. he had something of Ed Norton in his grin)

I don't know as much about the situation as I would like, let alone as much as I should.

The press conference drags on and on. I "reject" five phone calls while Samareh speaks. He carefully avoids direct answers to direct questions, and invokes national pride and a feeling of justice when explaining why Iran is so determined to enrich uranium even if it harms the country's economy and international standing.

He says:
"I have a question for YOU: is having access to nuclear energy good or not? If it's good why shouldn't others have it? If it's wrong, why do you have it?"

(An anecdote ... in short, even the school children in Iran are singing songs about the importance of nuclear power. It's a matter of national pride, so he says. The sound quality is terrible. Once again, I realize I need a better video camera).

17:30 Start walking through diplomatic neighborhood to tram to train to bike to home. Trouble with computer on train. Woman asks me not to play recording of Samareh out loud. Work with earphones on. Paris has taken over the Iran story, send Samareh quotes through to them. My dad calls. An editor still wants to know about Corporate Express's purchase price. Leave messages with Corporate Express and Staples.

1830: Amsterdam is beautiful as always.

1900: My dad wants to talk details about our upcoming family vacation. Two children are crying when I walk in the door.

1930: Corporate Express and Staples call back. Neither can explain the purchase price in a way that makes sense. But Staples says there are 200 million shares outstanding * EUR9.25 per share = EUR1.85 billion. And the real number including debt is EUR3.06 billion: they rounded up to EUR3.1 billion in the press release. We're closing the gap!
Corporate Express says perhaps the debt figure is higher for Staples to buy than it is on CE books _ hmmm.
Staples denies that. Certainty may elude us on this today.
I think we're best off just sticking with the EUR3.1 billion figure we had in the first place.

2000: "Quality time" with the kids. My daughter has learned to grab her feet. My coworker calls to further explain bad personal news. Sympathize, briefly. A contradiction in terms? I dine on chips and candy bars I swiped randomly from a "party bowl" left out at our office yesterday.

20:30: A lawyer I left a message with days ago, Liesbeth Zegveld, calls out of the blue to talk about the Srebrenica hearings next week. What Srebrenica hearings? Civil suit against the Dutch government seeking compensation for failing to protect Bosnian Muslims during the fall of Srebrenica in 1995. The lawyer explains there are two totally different cases, Monday and Wednesday. Local hire employees on Monday, class action suit for 'civilans' on Wednesday. The U.N. and the Dutch government are accused in both. Dutch gov't is protesting jurisdiction. Why not go after the Bosnian Serbs, they were the ones who did the killing, I ask the lawyer. (Answer: deep pockets. And Dutch voluntarily subject themselves to the rule of law). She claims juridical shennanigans by Dutch Justice. I can't vet those kind of claims well from where I sit. We talk for nearly 45 minutes. I'm glad she called. Next week is going to be hell.

21:30: My wife announces she's going to bed. That prompts a marital debriefing.

22:00 My wife goes to bed. "My" time begins.

22:30 Idea for blog post germinates and is rapidly brought to fruition. In theory this day shall not be forgot. Yet all shall be forgot...

23:30 Check Facebook, answer emails, then bed. Hope I can sleep.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

An Overview of Things Threatening Dutch Society

(photo:cretinous hippy)

One of the better press releases to cross my desk recently was this little gem:

"An Overview of Things Threatening Dutch Society."

Sent out by the Ministry of Internal Affairs on May 30.

"The cabinet has made an inventory of the threats that could come up on us."

Executive Summary (the 'smart quotes' are in the original text):

"The breakout of a flu epidemic forms one of the greatest threats to Dutch society. The breakout of a pandemic is 'probable' and the results will be enormous. The oil crisis is also a great threat for national safety. A great sea flood is 'very improbable' because of the protection by dunes, dikes and other water protections. But if one of those really big floods did happen, the consequences are 'catostrophic.' In these scenarios, Dutch society would be seriously disrupted. There could be talk of (many) fatal victims, great economic damage, serious disturbance of daily life, and fear or anger among the populace."

"The chances of other threats to national safety are a little or much greater, but the consequences are smaller."

"The chances of a big heatwave with drought, a national power outage, or left or right-extremist riots are in the 'possible' to 'probable' category. Depending on the circumstances, the consequences would then be limited to serious."

Ah, your tax euros at work.

I find it comforting and intriguing that "Immigration" and "Threat of Muslims introducing Sharia Law" didn't make the list.

But who actually put this list together, you ask?

"Different ministries have worked together with a number of independent institutes and scientists to work up the list and the scenarios. Corporations and other governments helped, too."

And why?

"On the basis of the list and the scenarios per threat the Cabinet is taking measures."

I shall await news of further progress anxiously.

PS: Please don't underestimate the flooding danger, guys!

(jon appleyard)

Anybody think I'm kidding about this PR? Full text in Dutch after the "more."

Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties

Persbericht Ministerraad

30 mei 2008


De uitbraak van een grieppandemie vormt een van de grootste risico’s voor de Nederlandse samenleving. Het uitbreken van een pandemie is ‘waarschijnlijk’ en de gevolgen zullen enorm zijn. Ook een oliecrisis is een groot risico voor de nationale veiligheid. Een grote overstroming vanuit zee is ‘zeer onwaarschijnlijk’ door de bescherming door duinen, dijken en andere waterkeringen. Maar als zo’n echt grote overstroming zich zou voordoen, zijn de gevolgen ‘catastrofaal’. In deze scenario’s raakt de Nederlandse samenleving ernstig ontwricht. Zo kan er sprake zijn van (veel) dodelijke slachtoffers, grote economische schade, ernstige verstoring van het dagelijks leven en angst of woede onder de bevolking. De kansen op andere bedreigingen voor de nationale veiligheid zijn iets of veel groter, maar de gevolgen zijn kleiner. Zo vallen de kansen op een hevige hittegolf met grote droogte, landelijke uitval van de stroomvoorziening of links- of rechts-extremistische rellen in de categorieën ‘mogelijk’ tot ‘waarschijnlijk’. Afhankelijk van de omstandigheden zijn de gevolgen dan beperkt tot ernstig.

Dat blijkt uit de inventarisatie die het kabinet heeft laten maken van dreigingen die op ons af zouden kunnen komen en die tot ontwrichting van de samenleving zouden kunnen leiden. De inventarisatie volgt uit de strategie nationale veiligheid, en is met voorrang gericht op de thema’s klimaatverandering, energievoorziening en polarisatie en radicalisering. Op basis van de inventarisatie en de scenario’s per dreiging neemt het kabinet maatregelen. Op die manier kan zo veel mogelijk voorkomen worden dat de maatschappij ontwricht raakt.

De ministerraad heeft op voorstel van minister Ter Horst van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties besloten de zogenoemde Nationale Risicobeoordeling naar de Tweede Kamer te sturen. Verschillende ministeries hebben samen met een aantal onafhankelijke kennisinstituten en wetenschappers de inventarisatie en de scenario’s opgesteld. Ook het bedrijfsleven en medeoverheden hebben hieraan meegewerkt.

De risico’s die de Nederlandse samenleving bedreigen zijn ingedeeld in drie categorieën:

1. Grote kans, grote gevolgen

* De uitbraak van een wereldwijde grieppandemie, met een virus dat tot dan toe nog onbekend is. Nederland heeft de afgelopen jaren al veel gedaan om verspreiding in Nederland te voorkomen, zich hierop voor te bereiden en er goed op te kunnen reageren. De ernst en omvang van dit scenario vraagt continue aandacht en de voorbereiding is nog niet klaar.
* Een oliecrisis of olieschaarste als gevolg van wereldwijde politieke ontwikkelingen. De Nederlandse regering streeft naar energiebesparing, het meer inzetten van duurzame energie en het internationaal spreiden van de herkomst van olie.

2. Kleine kans, maar grote gevolgen

* Grote overstromingen. De kans dat Nederland getroffen wordt door grote overstromingen vanuit zee is zeer onwaarschijnlijk. Om de veiligheid op peil te houden zijn de programma’s van de regering "Zwakke schakels kust", "Ruimte voor de rivier" en het "Hoogwaterbeschermingsprogramma" van groot belang.
* Moedwillige verstoring elektriciteit (regionaal). De kans hierop is onwaarschijnlijk, er zijn geen aanwijzingen voor een aanslag op de elektriciteitsvoorziening. Bovendien worden al veel maatregelen genomen om het elektriciteitsnetwerk te beveiligen.

3. Grotere kans, kleinere gevolgen

* Polarisatie en radicalisering. Met het "Actieplan polarisatie en radicalisering" heeft het kabinet een aanpak gepresenteerd gericht op signaleren, voorkomen en interveniëren. Het lokale bestuur speelt daarbij een centrale rol.
* Landelijke uitval elektriciteit. De bedrijfszekerheid van het elektriciteitsnet is groot. Door betere Noordwest-Europese afspraken over verdeling en transportcapaciteit moeten regionale problemen worden opgevangen.
* Hitte en droogte. Als gevolg van klimaatveranderingen neemt de kans hierop toe. Sectoren die afhankelijk zijn van koelwater moeten zich hierop voorbereiden, net als de binnenvaartsector i.v.m. lage waterstanden. Ook de voorbereiding op grote natuurbranden vraagt aandacht.

RVD, 30.05.2008


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What Does Hillary Want?

(photo stolen from random website).

It's the game anyone can play!

Pundits everywhere are opining about what Hillary Clinton wants from Barack Obama now that he has defeated her and won the Democratic presidential nomination.

It will be fun to look back and see who was right and who was wrong after the fact.

The Oracle of Amsterdam would hardly be worthy of his name if it didn't venture a pronouncement.

Thus, we insert a coin into its mouth and the Oracle begins to speak:

Hillary will be Vice President.

For those who prefer predictions to be backed up with reasoning, read on.

Use Occam's Razor. Hillary's motivation is right in front of us, and has always been: she wants to be President.

As demonstrated by her energy and persistence in the primary, she is a vigorous woman of 60 who still sees many paths to the White House.

It may be hard for those of us who don't share that kind of ambition to understand, but so it is. She has simply made the decision that she is going to "give it her all" to achieve this life goal.

So the question she has asked herself in the mirror since it became clear she was going to lose is, how can she best to leverage a very close second place finish to achieve that goal?

Answer: demand the Vice Presidency.

Consider the many paths to higher power the VP spot holds:

1) Obama screws up massively before the convention.
2) Obama dies before the convention.
3) Obama wins the 2008 election but dies in office.
4) Obama wins the 2008 election but performs so poorly she can challenge him _ or he doesn't run for whatever reason _ in 2012.
5) Obama loses the 2008 election and she can run in 2012.
6) Obama wins in 2008; whether he wins or loses in 2012 she can run again in 2016.

Number six 6) is probably the least attractive option for Hillary, but in any case, she has no reason not to make history as the first woman Vice President.

It's worth mentioning that as a member of the Democratic ticket, she can ask Obama to take over her campaign debts (I believe she owes $20 million).

She is in a strong position to get Obama to agree to make her his partner because:

a) however he feels about her personally, he risks a huge amount _ everything _ politically if he forces a rift with her.

b) He makes an exceedingly good chance of winning if he accepts her.

Politics is about compromise.

And I'm not completely cynical: I believe she will try her hardest to help him win.

By the way, don't let the statisticians convince you the Vice Presidency is a bad place for a politician with presidential aspirations.

Since the dawn of the television age, being "number two" is an excellent place to launch a campaign for the number one spot.

It's far superior to toiling away anonymously in the Senate.

Dick Cheney certainly hasn't allowed the Vice Presidency to grow less important lately.

Who knows, perhaps Obama will also promise to put Hillary in charge of Health Care reform.

Corrupt Dutch Police


A story today in De Telegraaf and elsewhere about the start of a case in which the Dutch police are pressing charges against a guy for "assaulting" their reputation.

The defendant, Dénis van Vliet, designed and wore a t-shirt (above) that used the police logo and style, but substituted the word "Corrupt," for "police."

Yes, insulting a police officer in the Netherlands is not just a bad idea (as it is everywhere), it's actually against the law.

I've posted previously about one case where a guy who gave the finger to the police and was convicted. And other about a guy who called a cop a "homo" and was convicted: his defense was, how can a "homo" be an insult, when under a politically correct legal system, it should be a neutral remark about someone's sex preference?

I've also posted quite a bit about freedom of speech, and how the right to say what you think fundamentally includes the right to insult. Call it the Theo van Gogh argument, or the John Stuart Mill argument.

I accept there must be some limits to freedom of speech _ clearly in the case of shouting "fire" in a crowded theater or directly inciting violence.

My mind is somewhat muddied about hate speech _ I hate it, but I doubt that banning racists and holocaust deniers from speaking is either effective or wise.

But I'm definitely opposed to this law that gives a special status to two groups in the Netherlands: police and the royal house, making it a criminal offense to insult them (and nobody else, though people can sue in civil courts for reputation damage).

Frankly, powerful people must be insulted, in my view.
Police have the monopoly on legal violence under our system, and that makes them powerful.
(Monty Python)

The Queen can't be insulted on the theory that she is powerless to reply, under the Dutch political system. In my view, she is powerful enough to both merit insult, and to be able to defend herself sufficiently.

In the current "Corrupt" case, the police may or may not actually find the T-shirt insulting, but it is certainly legitimate and even very important political speech.

One of my first posts on this blog was about how there appears to be a serious problem with corruption within the Amsterdam police force, and how scary that is.

Imagine: you are being harassed by a criminal. You go to the police for help. The police immediately call the criminal to tell him.
The criminal has you killed in order to intimidate others.

That's what appears to have actually happened in Amsterdam in the Willem Endstra case. And that may be just the tip of the iceburg.


I'm still waiting to hear about what happened with the squatters who put up banners with the text "Rita Verdonk, Murderer" in 2005 and cops went in and seized them.

Verdonk was then immigration minister carrying out a major crackdown on illegal immigrants when fire broke out at a prison and killed 11 detainees. These were people guilty of nothing but entering the Netherlands illegally.

If calling her a "murderer" in that context isn't important political speech, challenging controversial policies (that were later found to violate human rights laws) _ then what is?

To their credit, the squatters put up posters of "Rita Miller" instead. The word for "miller," molenaar, closely resembles the word for murderer in Dutch, moordenaar.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Dutch parents and kids on bikes in Amsterdam


(or shine)

I should probably post these to Flickr instead, but then again why bother? Nobody goes there anymore...

This is a collection of Dutch parents and kids on bikes, all taken in Amsterdam except for the final film. Use and peruse them to your heart's content.

I guess the only thing I want to say about them is that these are completely normal here. The bikes with boxes up front, "bakfietsen" are about the equivalent of owning a luxury car, and cost upward of $2000.


(the "suicide" position)

(front and back)




(cheaper alternative)

(tandems also come in numerous variations)



(yes, some people wear helmets)