I Found It! At Last!!

Oh, please, please, please, click on this link:

It’s not dangerous, obscene, violent, or anything else. Just funny.

File Sharing

Every morning as I drive my kids to school, the traffic jam reports on the radio take almost as long as the journey from our house to the school.

Now I should add that the school is only a few kilometres away, but still: a few minutes are an eternity in radio terms – trust me, I used to work for the radio and have had to do entire news bulletins covering all the latest world news in two minutes.

As if to intentionally add insult to injury, they have recently started adding the total amount of tailbacks, or “files” as they are known in Flemish. “There are 100 kilometres of ‘files’ today… there are 150 kilometres of ‘files’ in our country right now…”

I didn’t even know that you could find 150 kilometres of road in Belgium. Well, sort of. But I looked it up on Google Earth. You could line up the entire morning tailbacks almost anywhere in the country and find them reaching straight through the country – and back, in some cases. We’re talking ‘files’ of a kind which – if you could move them – could theoretically start in Holland and not end until well into France.

Talk about file sharing.

This morning, the sum of the tailbacks was 180 kilometres. Yesterday it was 185.

And on and on it goes. Listening to the chanting of the same points of reference every day makes you understand that something is seriously wrong. “Between Stroombeek and Wemmel, between Waterloo and Tervuren, at Groot-Bijgaarden…”

In fact, it would probably be easier to have the traffic report highlight the roads that are not congested, and just assume that all the others are.

Selling Belgium By The Euro

As those of you who read the comments on this blog have already noticed, the man who tried to sell Belgium on eBay has a new listing up: Get a Belgian citizenship for EUR 25.

“The perfect Christmas gift”, writes Gerrit Six, journalist and now also officially prankster, as he offers buyers the chance to enjoy, amongst otgher things, “speculoos, Belgian fries, tax evasion, hilarious elections” and “never winning the Eurovision Songcontest”, the latter sadly proving that he has already forgotten Sandra Kim, but that’s beside the point. Other benefits of course include “national debt (300 billion Euro)”, and, “for those who enrole before Christmas an extra bonus: THE WORLD RECORD RUINING THE COUNTRY WITHOUT GOVERNMENT”, he writes.

He could have added “the largest percentage of a country’s surface occupied by congested roads”, but I’ll elaborate on that in the next blog post instead.

Full link to Gerrit Six’s latest offer: http://cgi.benl.ebay.be/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=200178129569&ssPageName=ADME:L:LCA:BE:1123

Shout, Shout

Can someone please tell me what in the name of peace people think they will achieve by demonstrating outside the EU buildings in Brussels about this or that.

Every single time you arrive at the Schuman roundabout in eastern Brussels, between the Commission’s four-armed fatso building, the Berlaymonster, and the Council’s even fatter, pink behemoth Justus Lipsius – the open space between the two is invariably filled with some group or another, demonstrating against something or another. Today, the Ministers of Agriclture convene in the Council colossus, debating the future of the Common Agriculture Policy, so there was a group of farmers ranting outside, shock horror and all that.

But their war cries were barely loud enough to be audible over the traffic noise. At the distance of some 20-30 metres, where I passd them on my way from the Metro station to the council building, I could not hear a word of what they were chanting over the megaphone – only just make out that they were speaking French. As soon as I entered the building, the sound of it all vanished. Right now, I am sitting in the Council’s press room writing this, and believe me, the only thing to be heard in here is the quiet murmuring of journalists mumbling into their mobile phones or occasionally to eachother, the muffled sound of footsteps against the wall-to-wall carpets, the odd Windows dingohdong, the tapping ticticiticiticticiticiticticiticiticticitici of laptops being typed on, the bababababababa of my hammering on my laptop (I grew up using a typewiter with a ribbon that hadn’t been replaced for years, which is why my computer’s keyboards rarely last for more than 18 months to a year), and the occasional clanging of my coffee cup.

There cold be riots with water cannons going on outside – we wouldn’t notice.

And yet, I can understand how the reasoning has been going. “Let’s not just sit here! We’re gonna go to Brussels, we’re gonna show them how many we are, we’re gonna tell them that they can’t squash US, weeeeee’re gonna let them KNOW!!” And so, a coach is summoned, filled with placards and banners, people and fighting zeal, and off they go. The chanting probably goes on all the way to the Belgian border and perhaps beyond. Off they go, out they go, into the rain and outside they go. They chant to deaf office windows and mute concrete building facades, they break their voices shouting out the slogans that only the surrounding police officers will ever hear, leaning around the fences and against walls as they usualy are, tired of wasting another day watching another pointless manifestation.

Afterwards, perhaps a few drinks or – if they’re lucky – a decent moules-frites meal later, the demonstrators re-enter their rented coach, patting eachother’s backs about actually having DONE something, and may perhaps share a few remaining chants to their mutual edification before snoozing off before crossin the Belgian border again.

Back home, they can enjoy the satisfaction of filing an entry in this year’s annual report of their organisation about having PROTESTED TO THE MINISTERS as one of this year’s accomplishments. A report that might even be read, and perhaps reach its primary objective of edifying their own ranks, before eventually being filed, shelved, and forgotten.

Maybe one day they will actually wake up to the fact that nothing actually came out of it. Maybe not.


The winter vomiting disease is over us or so I hear from various parts of the Northern Hemisphere. I am not surprised one whit.

After all, how often do you see people washing their hands after using public lavatories? Public, that is, which are usually dirtier than the ones you have at home. And then the current trend is to sell everything without packaging – especialy food, so the same hands which were just performing various bodily duties then go to digging around among naked lettuces, tomatoes or – as was the case with the one elderly gentleman I once saw performing something between swiming movements and archaeological excavations among them – spinach leaves.

When you have dug out your own fruit or veg, where all left bacteria have happily fermented during the days they have stayed in the shop – at room temperature – while being liberally sprayed by sneezing fellow customers, you then place them bagless in your shopping cart, the health benefits of which I have generously elaborated on in this previous blog post (clicking the image to the right will also get you there). Say no more.

And oh yes, I forgot, let’s swing by the burger bar on our way home (after digging around among pocket residue and perhaps left but used Kleenexes for your car keys), and eat some food with our bare hands just in case the bacterial labs you have just stuffed into your grocery bags doesn’t do the trick.

It’s more of a mystery to me that we actually manage to stay as healthy as we do.

Can Your Prime Minister Write? Watch The Web For Proof

The EU has – in an act of breathtaking madness – decided to push through with flying its 27 Heads of Government (accompanied by some Heads of State) to Lisbon on December 13 to sign the Lisbon Treaty, only to fly them all back to Brussels for a summit the day after.

I got the formal press information on the matter by text message (SMS) yesterday, which stated that there will be no press conference, but the entire event can be followed on EuroNews or http://www.eu2007.pt , the Portuguese Presidency’s website.

Too bad we journalists will be unable to attend an informative press conference, then, where the questions would doubtlessly be variations of the legend “How did it feel to hold the pen?” But it is reassuring to know that we will be able to watch live on TV when our respective Prime Ministers sign their names on a piece of paper, probably the first photographic evidence that that they are capable of doing so.

After their ludicrous decision to fly themselves all across the entire continent to put a signature on a document, expectations of their capacities in general are not exactly reaching any summit levels.

A Response To The Economist

The Economist magazine usually provides good reading, but in their latest blog entry about the Belgian crisis, they’ve got it completely wrong.

In the entry http://www.economist.com/blogs/certainideasofeurope/2007/11/belgium_the_model_european.cfm , they argue that the Belgian crisis is not anything to worry about for the EU, since Belgium is only an analogy of the EU, but the EU is not the same thing as Belgium.

They’ve completely missed the whole idea. It is not merely a question of Belgium being an analogy for EU in some sort of symbolic way, as The Economist itself puts it: “because Belgium is a federal state merging different language communities, and hosts lots of EU institutions, it is a model EU in miniature”.

The problem is of a completely different kind. As I have elaborated on in my blog entry https://newtonline.wordpress.com/2007/11/09/belgian-crisis-why-you-should-be-worried/ , it is far, far more than a question of mere symbolism. The problems with Belgium are parallelled point-by-point in the European Union as an institution.

Belgium merged different language communities without asking the people, and the current crisis is in much a question of many of these people wanting a different deal than their ruling elite offered them. That’s your first clue, which The Economist fails to recognise.

The lack of public legitimacy, the lack of public support, the lack of public interest in the state/union on an everyday basis, the democratic deficit in the establishing of the nation/union, the tension between the net payers and the net receivers, the sentiment of groups being marginalised, the endless corruption… all of these are at the heart of the Belgian crisis and all of these lie at the heart of the current EU as well.

This is way beyond Belgium being a miserable souvenir in a EU tourist shop… it is an example of what all the above issues can and will lead to on a European level as well, if they are not dealt with properly. Brushing things off the way The Economist does will only speed up the advent of the problems.