Thursday, June 01, 2006

Eugh, football!

Just as I’m beginning to think I may be the only person who’s not so crazy about the football World Cup craze, a group of women (Vrouwen voor een Voetbalvrij Nederland, VVN= Women for a Football-free Netherlands) have set up a website called “Stop the World Cup” ( link to the UK version for English). It’s mostly directly at married women who have to bear certain unbearable habits of their husbands:

Men steal precious broadcast time.
Men ignore us, pay attention no more to our needs.
Men are unable to communicate.
Men pay attention only to the ball.
Men all of a sudden seem to think they know all about everything.
Men grow ugly watching football.

Romantic getaways have been replaced by jeering and other loutish and boarish behaviour over 22 men who have nothing better to do than running around on a field, kicking a ball back and forth for no apparent reason. Is that what separates us from the animals?

Some of their rules include:

2. We will not tolerate to be left in the offside position any longer.

4. A ball in the house = A ball less elsewhere.

5. Each and every hour of televised football will have to be compensated with two hours of Sex and the City / Friends / Desperate Housewives. Prime Time.

7. Each goal scored by [The Netherlands] will have to be compensated with one afternoon of shopping. At man's expense.

10. All remote controls in the house are subject to (VVN)'s authority.

And of course as in everything there is also the opposite end of the spectrum. Believe it or not, a ‘habituation’ course (inburgeringcursus, a pun on the current ‘civic examination’ that immigrants are required to take) in football has just kicked off. The aim is to educate football-dumb women so that the men can enjoy more pleasant company while watching the World Cup (WC), instead of the usual complaining and whining. It aims “to ensure that women are [smartened up] in the foreign culture of football-watching.” It also aims to prepare women/wives to comfort the men/husbands should the unfortunate event that the Netherlands lose the WC.

I did a quick online test and scored 5.5 out of 10...which means I'm in dire need of such a course.

A sun is born

A sun was born yesterday, weighing 3700grams.

He greeted the world with such an air of calm and peace, and seemed to take away all the doubts and anxieties around him. This is the moment so many have been waiting for, praying for.

May you grow up as an individual, free and happy.
May you see the world with open eyes and embrace it in your arms.
May you cherish the ones around you who have been there and will continue to nurture and love you.
May you love and be loved in return.

There will be times when you will face difficulties in the path you travel,
May you overcome them with an open mind.
There will be times when you will face sadness and tears,
May you realise that they like all else are impermanent.
May you live a life of happiness, health and peace,
And may you forever shine and bring light to others and to yourself.

Welcome to the world, Sunny.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Rutte new VVD primary

Mark Rutte, the current Minister for Education, was just declared winner of the intra-party elections at the VVD. He won the elections with 51% of 40,000 votes, beating Rita Verdonk (46%) and Jelleke Venendaal (3%).

Opinion polls (Maurice de Hond) in recent weeks have always shown Rita Verdonk as the favourite. But I guess the Ayaan Hirsi Ali debacle cost her precious support. And perhaps proves, to the benefit of voter intelligence, that support cannot last based on lies, repeating hardheaded dogmas ("rule are rules") and by being unfeeling and aloof to realities on the ground.

Unlike Verdonk , Rutte seems to be more cool-headed and actually has an agenda (instead of support based on Fortuynistic-populism). It will be interesting to see how in the next year or so till the next general elections the Rutte camp will try to (as they aim and claim) make the VVD the biggest party of the Netherlands. Rutte thanks his opponents (refering to Verdonk as a "Formidable opponent"), called for party unity:

"With the VVD the Netherlands must become a country with less rules and less chagrin. Our goal is to make the VVD as big as possible, maybe even the biggest."

Within moments after the outcome of the elections were made knownand calling herself as a "sportmanlike loser" , Verdonk was no where to be seen and not available for comment.

This is the first time in Dutch political history that a party primary was held. In the Netherlands voting is based on a list of candidates that each party proposes. The "lijsttrekker" ("list-puller", and also parliamentarian faction leader) is placed on top of the election ballot for the parliamentary elections. The custom is that the party with the biggest share of votes also functions as the party responsible for forming a coalition government. And the party primary would then also serve as the prime minister.

At present Partij van de Arbeid (Labour Party) seems to be the nation's favourite, andcould rely on a total of 47 out of 150 seats in Parliament (if elections were to be held tomorrow).

Update 1 juni 2006

“Overtuigd zonder overtuiging” [Persuaded without persuasion]
Roland van der Vorst, pg95 Vrij Nederland, 27 mei 2006

How tough is Verdonk, and how much of this tough Iron Lady image is a facade rather than real?

Wanting to be tough is a sign of weakness […]

A minister with the image of a tough leader. Someone who dares to say what it is [all] about and [does not leave anything to chance]. Imperturbable as well. A type of leader that we do come across on the school yard, but that is seldom in Dutch politics. Authoritative demeanour of a politician is tolerated, only if this can be justified by belief or persuasion. A leader who arrives at the top just like that—because of the simple fact that he is charismatic—arouses suspicion. Dutch politician do not continuously cry out that it is all ‘about the contents, and not the form’ [“het gaat om de inhoud, niet om de vorm”], for nothing.”

UPDATE 2 juni 2006

Someone alerted me of the fact that primaries have been held more than once in the Netherlands, by the D66 (Democrats) and PvdA (Labour Party). In the comment there are more details. Sorry for this misinformation. Thanks to Jeltje van Nieuwenhove for this info!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Which way now?

Had a nice stroll through the forest just now. It may be almost June, but the temperature and cold feels like it's the middle of winter. You know how when you are outside and the breeze and air makes your nose and eyes water? That was how it was.

I've been to the forest many times since I got back here almost two months ago. But where I didn't go was further into the forest, where I walked to often after school. That was five years ago. Each step I took seemed to bring back memories, and also some inspiration for the story that I'm writing at the moment. At the same time, each step took me further into the future, and also left me wondering what steps and which direction I should take.

Still no idea. I got a rejection from the International Court of Justice saying that "after careful consideration of your experience and qualifications, the Court has decided that it is unable to offer you an internship at this time. " So that's that then. It didn't really bother me that much, I really applied to see if there was something I could do to pass the time and help me decide what I want. Or maybe these are words of self-condolence.

I looked at the tall trees, at the birds, the flowers, the new born ducklings that wobbled as they tried to keep up with their parents... how nice everything was, how calm and quiet. It was good to be alone in the forest. No one around to disturb you, just you and the rest of the world that seemed so big and empty.

It's a temporary escape from reality. Posted by Picasa

Youth and sex online

A new sexual revolution is taking place on the net among teenagers (12-18 yrs) sexuality expertise centre, Rutgers Nisso Groep .
In a report entitled "'Seks is een game': Gewenste en ongewenste seksuele ervaringen van jongeren op internet" [Sex is a game: desired and undesired sexual experiences of youths on internet], there were revealing facts about the behaviour of young people toward sex (11.000 respondents).

-Sex has become sought after by young people, with 82% of guys and 73% girls having flirted online in the past year.
-One in four boys and one in five girls have had cybersex
-57% of boys and 42% of girls have met someone in real life for a date.

And it doesn't stop there. Questions with sexual tints and requests to perform sexual behaviour on line is prevalent too.

-72% of boys and 83% of gilrs have been asked about his/her appearance or sexlife.
-40% of boys and 57% of girls have received requests to take off something in from of a webcame or to do something sexual.
-Girls (62%) tend to not be happy wit the request, whereas only 13% of the boys would decline. Boys generally are more 'excited' or 'turned on' by such requests.

The risk internet poses is that it distorts the barrier between reality and virtual reality. You can be who you want to be, or claim to be, and nobody will ever know. But is it also contributing to the fulfilment of sexual fantasies of people whose indulgences were previously regarded as
vulgur and immoral (eg peadofilia)? Even if the perpetrator and victim do not meet, cases of 'sexual absuse' still do take place, according to the police.

(Thanks to Frits for the suggestion.)

UPDATE 4 juni 2006
So the new NVD Party has been established. On their website was a reference to this report, and it seemed like they were using it to justify their campaign.

Party for paedophiles

A new political party will be established tomorrow.
Besides the party for workers, party for animals, party for seniors, as of tomorrow there will also be a party for paedophiles.

Serious now. The party for Naastenliefde, Vrijheid en Diversiteit ( NVD, Brotherly love, Freedom and Diversity) was established with the aim to “shake up The Hague!” (seat of government). According to the homepage the current cabinet has used the mantel of ‘war against terror’ to restrict fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and assembly, and the NVD will be established to resist these “Stasi- and DDR-practices” [Stasi was the infamous secret service of the DDR, Democratic Republic of Germany].

What are their (more controversial) agendas?
About sexuality and intimacy of course!

  • Sex education to be given in kindergarden
  • Children to be allowed to have sexual contact from the age of 12 (currently 16), based on consent of course. Forced sexual contact remains forbidden. In situations where there is a ‘dependent relationship’ (eg teacher- student) and in cases of incest, age remains at 16.
  • Pornography be allowed to be broadcast during the day
  • From the age of 16, teens should be able to appear in a pornographic production
  • From the age of 16, teens should be able to enter the prostitution profession
  • Everyone can walk around naked in public. (But they do have to use a towel when they sit in public seats, like a park or at the station).
  • Child pornography will be permitted.
  • Marriage be abolished, since whether or not one marries should not have any influence on legislation at all.

    For the rest of their agenda, read this.

I'm all for representative government, diversity and the usual freedom and liberal mumble jumble..... but is this not going too far?

UPDATE 4 juni 2006

A few days after the establishment of the party, and the online forum has been innundated with insults and anti-NVD members...with really sickening pictures and name calling. Protest, but not in this way.

-------Before I get hatemail I want to make clear: in no way is me writing about this issue a show of support for the NVD party or sexual abuse or abuse of any kind of children. I simply want to look into an issue that is making news and share it with other people.

Just reading the discussion in the forum, and someone made a point that is worth noting.
Basically the argument is that among paedophiles ('child-lover' if you break the word down) there are two types:

1) child-lover: one who is attracted to children, who would never do anything that the child does not want and shall not force children to do anything. They listen to the child, and to what he/she does not want and respect this.

2) child-abuser/molester: one who sexually abuses a child to satisfy his/her needs.

Most of the media coverage and public opinion focus on the latter, and lump paedophiles together as one and the same, giving the former group of people a stigma and bad name. There are people who are sexually attracted to children, yes, but they also know the limits of this attracttion and would not do anything to jeopardise the trust and safety of the child.

And then there's the issue of where paedofilia comes from. It is suggested by a member that it is in the genes; that you don't choose to be a paedophile, just as you don't choose to be gay/lesbian/heterosexual etc. Is that the case really?

Perhaps there is more to the story than meets the eye, if only people will open up to different opinions.

Monday, May 29, 2006

letters confirm Hiris Ali's story

Ayaan Hirsi Ali claimed that she lied about her peronal details (name and age) because she had reasons to fear retribution from her family and clan members.

The New York Times has seen some of the letters, one of which is from her sister warning: "almost all Osman Mahamud [her clan] in the region are on the look out for you. You are warned." In another letter from AHA's father the father said he didn't want to have any contact with her any more and writes: "Go to hell! And the devil is with you".

I don't have direct access to the NYT, but this is according to this report.

Verdonk broke rules!

Oh, oh… the Iron Lady who has always maintained that “rules are rules” has broken rules herself! It was revealed by the College Bescherming Persoonsgevens (CBP, Directorate of Privacy Protection). In the case of Kosovar girl
Ta├»da Pasic, who was forced to leave the Netherlands in April, Minister Verdonk of Immigration Affairs apparently revealed details of the girl to a newspaper in violation the law protecting privacy of individuals. The violation, according to the CBP resulted in unnecessary publicity and infringements to the life of the 18 year old high school student, and says Verdonk acted “carelessly and unjustly” in the matter.

CBP report: “Authorities and government officials are require to respect the fundamental law on the protection of personal living space in the performance of their duty. Attention in the media for policy [matters] or the performance there of […] does not [deprive of] this fundamental legal protection.”

Verdonk in her defence says that when the situation is urgent she has the ministerial capacity to reveal such facts to the public, and points the fault at the media for “uneven reporting”.

Taida came to the Netherlands in 1999 after the outbreak of the war in Kosovo. She and her family returned to the country in 2005, with less a year to go until Taida completes her high school examination (VWO). In original article Verdonk accuses Taida of “trying to sell nonsense” trying to slander IND [immigration service] workers. According to Verdonk rejected Taida’s two request to return to the Netherlands to complete her high school examination. Verdonk accuses Taida of committing fraud, because she came to the Netherlands anyways, but on a French tourist visa.

UPDATE 3 juni 2006

Here is minister Verdonk’s reaction to the CBP’s accusation that she broke the law.

Part of the ‘reasoning’ is that because of new media like the internet reporting and discussion of individual cases are receiving unprecedented public attention in ways that may jeopardise decision making. She argues that misinformation or wrong reporting can affect public opinion, so in revealing information to the newspaper she was simply trying to strengthen “social support for policy and the social confidence in the careful and legitimate execution of immigration-related legal procedures”. By revealing personal information of Tadic, she was trying to “bring balance to the case”

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Mao brand

Mao's image and portrait is taking the world by storm, even almost thirty years after his death

A couple of days ago China also marked the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Reveolution. BBC News has a good coverage of that and the changes that have taken place in China today.

Speak out against web repression!

Thank goodness I was born and live in places that allow me to say and write whatever I want to, however I want to. But for many millions around the world that is a privilege.

Join the campaign, don't let the web be censored!

Here are the reasons why:

Unlike any medium before it, the internet puts the ability to publish information directly into the hands of ordinary people. It is an engine that liberates individual expression. It can be a powerful tool to spread democracy. As such, it is feared by repressive regimes. States that cannot tolerate dissenting voices have previously found it relatively easy to stifle them. Presses can be confiscated and radio signals jammed. But the decentralised nature of the internet - the way it routes information around the world with no regard for national borders - makes it difficult to censor. That has not stopped authoritarian regimes from trying. Citizens of countries such as China, Iran, Vietnam and Syria have been targeted - sometimes jailed - for posting opinions online.

That is why today, The Observer joins forces with Amnesty International to launch, a campaign to uphold free speech in the digital age.

Amnesty has a long and proud tradition of defending those who are silenced by the unjust exercise of state power. But one thing that makes this new campaign different is that it calls also on the private companies that provide the bulk of internet services to take some responsibility for what happens to dissidents. Digital giants such as Yahoo, Google and Microsoft stand accused of working in complicity with authoritarian regimes, customising their content at the behest of state censors.

You can follow BBC correspondents' reports from countries that censor the internet.

UPDATE 30 mei 2006

You know there's something terribly wrong when 'democracy', 'freedom', 'Tibet' are placed in the same censorship category as pornography.

To the point

Two articles here about Taiwan in the Washington Post.

This is about how big China is afraid of the little island because of its democratic success.
It's Hu you know

It's more than coincidence that China is always agitated when the people of Taiwan go to the polls or otherwise demonstrate the island's commitment to popular sovereignty.
On a trip to Japan last year, Mr. Bush cited Taiwan as a model for China. "Modern Taiwan is free and democratic and prosperous," Mr. Bush observed. "By embracing freedom at all levels, Taiwan has delivered prosperity to its people and created a free and democratic society."
Prosperity they'll take. But freedom and democracy are the last things China's rulers want. In his brief rule, Mr. Hu has relentlessly cracked down on anyone who would challenge the communist oligarchy. By encouraging these aspirations (if only by example), Taiwan presents an intolerable challenge. The People's Republic views the island not as a model, but a menace, and so it arms for reunification.

And this is about the World Health Organisation's continued exclusion of Taiwan from its membership, which poses a threat to world health.
WHO's Keeping Taiwan Out
While clearly unjust, no one is going to die because Taiwan isn’t a member of the UN. Not so the island’s isolation from the international health regime, the latest chapter of which was played out in Geneva this week.
Taiwan’s advanced research facilities, location and transportation and communications networks would make it an ideal regional hub for tracking and counteracting an avian flu outbreak, if only the World Health Organization could overcome its political hang-ups, and put the emphasis where it properly belongs – on health not appeasement