Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Today in short answers to simple questions

October 8th, 2010 by Reinder

Jessica Bennett in Newsweek (via Making Light, comments section of post):

Indeed, if these students are bullies, according to the law, what does that make the rest of us? Massachusetts’s anti-bullying statute defines bullying as repeated behavior that, among other things, "causes emotional harm" or "creates a hostile environment" at school. If it were applied to the real world, wouldn’t most of us be bullies?

No.

The rest of that article is a weird mix. I think the author tries to add some shades of grey to what has so far been a very black and white account of a high school student being "bullied to death", and she does make some good points: Phoebe Prince's death may not have been completely attributable to the bullying, the perpetrators are now themselves being bullied quite viciously, and treating their behaviour as criminal risks wasting the potential they still have to grow up to become better adults. But what Bennett ends up sounding like is someone who excuses the bullies on the grounds that they are such bright, preppy kids; someone who shifts part of the blame back to the victim on the grounds that she was no angel herself; and someone who has some scary ideas about how normal adults relate to each other.

Wall Street Wives…

October 27th, 2008 by Reinder

Treaclelilly at Livejournal linked to this article: Wall Street Wives had the richer, now they're a bit poorer in the LA Times online, refering to the wives in question as her choice for "asshats of the day". I'll admit it's very hard to feel sorry for people who earned ten times as much as Treaclelilly or I do, managed it so recklessly that they end up with nothing or so close that they can't get by anymore, talk like they feel entitled to having what they used to have and still haven't learned to control their spending. But psychologically, there's more going on than that. The people in this story worked hard and dreamed big, and now their plans are in ruins. For all their flaws, I can feel sorry for them because of that.
It also strikes me that at least one of the couples in the story, the Monds, have more going on than is mentioned in the story itself. They had tried to get out of the Wall Street life in 2001 and found that they couldn't. And they saw the problems coming two years ago, had started cutting down, and still got swept up in the downswing. Whatever motivates them to want so much is more complex than simple greed - they seem addicted to the Wall Street way of life, to their dreams, or perhaps motivated by a fear of poverty. Looking at them that way, they don't look so unsympathetic.

Dodged a bullet there

October 8th, 2008 by Reinder

Just weeks ago, I was contemplating opening a savings account at IceSave - for people outside the Netherlands who haven't been following along, IceSave is an online savings bank owned by the Icelandic bank Landsbanki, which offered over 5 1/2% interest rate on its mainstream savings account product. Ironically, this was prompted by a mailing from my regular bank, the Postbank, which suggested I upgrade to a different savings account from the low-yield one I was using.

Why didn't I do it? I read up. I read up about how the banking guarantee system worked, and found that while the savings account would be covered by the same guarantees that banks in the Netherlands offered, i.e. the first €20,000 would be fully guaranteed by them and then the second would be 90% covered by the Dutch Central bank, actually getting to that first 20K in case of a bank collapse would be cumbersome. I also learned that the bank didn't have its act together, service-wise. Also that there were problems with the capitalisation and leverage of Icelandic banks - though I didn't pay much attention to the details there. So I went with ASN instead. Slightly less interest, but still more than competitive and safer - and also a bank that focuses on sustainable investments.

Readers in the Netherlands will already know that I really dodged a bullet there. This week, Iceland nationalised all its banks, IceSave suffered a bank run, shut its website down, and now there's even doubt whether the Icelandic central bank is even able to meet its obligation to guarantee the account holders' savings. Iceland, a tiny country with fewer inhabitants than the US state of Wyoming, is in a deep financial crisis and its government is now borrowing from Russia - which many speculate will want favours in return. Savers have organized to seize IceSave's assets but whether they'll be succesful is anyone's guess. The UK central bank has decided to step in and guarantee British account holders' funds for them. The Dutch government has decided to pass on that one, for now; it's already bought out a large bank and doesn't particularly want to hold the bag for another.

I'm sure that IceSave savers will get their money back... eventually. But it just goes to show that a little homework can save you a lot of trouble. And it doesn't have to be a lot - the above is pretty much all I know about the IceSave situation, and some of it may be misremembered from the many blogs I read. Just spending an hour or two asking around will be enough.

And listen to people who know these things already. My friend Kim, who knows a lot about Icelandic society, has been warning her friends off IceSave, and she reports that among the people now scrambling for their savings are some friends of hers who didn't listen.

A bunch of quick current affairs links

November 9th, 2005 by Reinder

I had no understanding of the French riots until today. What was going on and especially why, I had no idea. Just about all blogospheric writing on the matter that I've seen, if it offered any analysis at all, was of the "the riots prove my politics are right" variety and pretty useless even as that. But today, Daniel Davies posted this comment to a post by himself at Crooked Timber:

I love the French and I think that smashing things up and setting fire to them is an excellent way to pursue your grievances against the French state. If these young chaps stick to it for long enough, maybe they will be as pampered and looked after as French farmers.

Game, set and match, folks. The riots are now Explained. Daniel's post on his own blog has a good quote as well:

These young men have got a political grievance, and they're expressing it by setting fire to things and smashing them up. What could be more stereotypically, characteristically French than that? Presumably they're setting fire to cars because they don't have any sheep and the nearest McDonalds is miles away. "French society is threatened by anarchy and lawlessness". I mean really. Everyone would do well to remember that this is France we're talking about, not Sweden or perhaps Canada.

In forthcoming weeks, I shall be applying similar analytical techniques to topics like "root and branch corruption is threatening the essence of Italian democracy" and "Muslim immigrants cannot fit into British society because they are insular, bigoted and sexually repressed".

Meanwhile, Andrew Rilstone dissects a "Political correctness gone mad" story from the Daily Express:

"NOW CHRIST IS BANNED"

[...]

Four words.

NOW

"In addition." "On top of everything else" "We knew things were bad, but this is really the last straw." The word drags us into the conspiracy.... we all know, it's so obvious it goes without saying, that many things have been banned recently, we can't think of any actual examples, but we're sure they have, and now this!

CHRIST

The person? The religion? Or just the word? I think there is a little wordplay going on here. We have just had the annual "local council abolishes Christmas" stormover. [...]We are supposed to infer: "Yesterday, they banned Christmas, and now, Christ is banned."

IS

The journalistic present. We are not reporting an event which has happened. We are informing you of a state which now exists. You have woken up in a bad new world where a new thing has been prohibited.

BANNED

A key tabloid word. It's meaning is ambiguous – it doesn't been prohibited by law, necessarily, or censored, or abolished – but it implies that Someone is telling us what to do, and we don't like it.

NOW. CHRIST. IS. BANNED.

Who is the evil authority figure doing the banning? The Curator of Cheddar Gorge geological museum. What has he done? Removed the letters "B.C" from the dates on some of his exhibits.

So in fact CHRIST IS NOT BANNED AT ALL
[...]
THE FIRST LETTER OF THE WORD "CHRIST" IS REMOVED FROM THE LABELS IN ONE MUSEUM.

That's it. That's the whole story. Main headline, front page, inside page and leading article in a tabloid on sale in every shop in the land, predicated on "Small Museum Re-Labels Its Exhibits."

Read the whole thing; it's a good analysis of the "political correctness gone mad meme". I'll add that I'm not looking forward to Christmas this year. On top of the normal suckitude of Christmas, I expect another crop of transparently made-up stories in which shopkeepers are prevented from wishing customers a merry Christmas with some bullshit "what's this country coming to?" moral tacked on to the end. I'm looking at you, Lileks.

The Stupidity of The Sun

September 11th, 2005 by Adam Cuerden

The Sun is a British tabloid written in an annoying, chatty style and only using easy words. It is, as you might imagine, not my preferred reading, but, finding myself with a long wait for my liver and onions in a cafe, I glanced through it.

And found something so offensive that it beggers belief. I quote.

The Sun, Saturday September 10, 2005 Page 21, "Clarkson"

In the last couple of weeks everyone has been asking how on earth the greatest and most powerful nation on earth could be o crippled by a bit of wind and rain

The rest of the world has disasters without the whole of society falling to pieces. So what is it different in America?

Well, if you stop and think about it, the answer is obvious

America may have given the world the space shuttle and, er, condensed milk, but behind the veneer of civilisation most Americans barely have the brains to walk on their back legs.

It's scientifically accepted that the stupidest creature on God's earth is alobster because it only knows to eat when presented with food and lash out when threatened.

Remind you of anything?

Even the President manages to get completely lost in his own sentences. "I love to bring people into the Oval Office and say, "This is where I office," he once said. Proving that, in fact, we never misunderestimated him at all.

More recently we got this little nugget. "Rarely is the question asked: 'Is our children learning?'"

Well, since most of them can't place their own country on a map, leave alone anyone else's, the answer is: No, not really. A few years ago I was told by a cheerily daft Forida policeman that you don't need common sense when you've got rules. And he absolutely could not see he got it the wrong way round.

Later on the same trip I was told on a plane in Dallas to uncross my legs during take-off. "It's a federal requirement," said the stewardess, who had plainly never thought what possible difference the position of a passenger's legs could make if the jet crossed into something solid at 520mph.

Then there was the time when, in a Reno shopping mall, I was told to put my shoes back on. "It's a state law," said the guard.

I see, so someone raised this at a meeting. It was discussed. There was a vote. And now it's on a statute book. That people must wear shes while shopping in Nevada. Sounds a bit far-fetched to me.

[He gives further examples. By the end there's... maybe one, two that are genuinely stupid acts and about six that make it clear he's an arsehole and an idiot.]

This is the problem. These people are told rules exist and they should not use common sense to question them.

So, when the rules and everything else were washed out of New Orleans, everyone went to the default setting of the terminally stupid: Violence.

I'm not talking about the armed gangs now. I'm talking about the authorities who, rather than try and feed the poor and needy, summoned the Marines and started acting like they were in a Hollywood film.

"They've got M16s which are locked and loaded," said one official. And I bet she hadn't the first idea what "locked and loaded" meant. She'd just heard Bruce Willis said at at some point and thought it sounded good.2

Hollywood has taught America that the military can solve anything. It's full of chisel-jawed heroes who never leave a man on the field and never fail to get the job done. So they'd have New Orleans sorted out in a jiffy.

Unfortunately, on the streets you've got some poor, starving soul helping themselves to a packet of food from a ruined, deserted supermarket. And as a result, finding themselves being blown to pieces by a helicopter gunship. With the none-too-bright soldiers urged on by their illiterate political masters, the poor and needy never stood a chance. It's easier and much more fun to abhor someone than make them a cup of tea.

[He then concludes by describing all Americans as racist bigots. But that's quite enough, no?]

...I have no idea what should be done about this idiot, but something should. Anyone know any American newssources?

Well, this does bring it closer to home

September 6th, 2005 by Reinder

Just heard on the radio: a group of Dutch tourists were shot at by the police or the military (this wasn't clear from the fragment) in New Orleans, in what they claim was an attempt to stop them from leaving. They're out now, alive and well, but not happy with how they've been treated. I missed this in the papers, and, as often with Dutch news, can't find references online, but it fits a pattern in which British visitors were discriminated against in the evacuation (Via). Why are Americans shooting at Dutch tourists? Is it true that foreigners in the US have no rights?

I said I'd shut up, but there's so much to be angry about.

New Orleans: A Dutch view (and an American one)

September 2nd, 2005 by Reinder

Not my view... I don't have the expertise, don't live in the area referred to, and am not actually sure the 1995 Rhine/Meuse floods are even comparible to the effects of a Cat.3 hurricane (in my memory, the 1995 floods were merely a very local nuisance), but for what it's worth, Laura Rozen quotes a message from Dutch broadcaster and human rights activist Frank Tiggelaar:

Then, in just under two days authorities staged a forced evacuation of almost half a million people (total Dutch pop. is 16 million) and 2 million heads of cattle, pigs etc. It was the most orderly mass-operation I have ever seen.

I...witnessed how hundreds of ambulances, army trucks and dozens of medicopters (including German and Belgian air-borne operating theatres) brought in hospital patients, people from care homes and the disabled from the disaster areas. Roads were closed to all other traffic, in hospitals across the country an overwhelming – and fortunatly unnecessary – number of staff and volunteers were on stand-by.

The material damage was incredible, but there were no casualties, there were three meals every day for every temporarily displaced man, woman and child, all cows were fed and milked, there was no looting. National public TV within days set up a disaster charity show which raised over 60M guilders (EUR 30M) to pay for damages not covered by insurance.

What I'm seeing on TV now is a third-world country with a government unwilling or incompetent to fulfill its tasks. I feel very, very sorry for the residents of the area.

(Rosen:)What did it take? A plan and political will, both shockingly absent in this administration.

I'll keep an eye out for more views from the Netherlands.

Update, commenting on my own post: "not actually sure the 1995 Rhine/Meuse floods are even comparible to the effects of a Cat.3 hurricane". But that's the point, isn't it? We will never know if the 1995 flood was comparable in effects to what the hurricane did, because by the time the floodwater hit, we'd got half a million people out of there with enough time to spare to go back and fetch the cows. That's how good we were at the time, and that's how good the American government ought to have been but wasn't.

This should have consequences. Like the guys at Something Awful wrote on the emergency version of their homepage:

I am ashamed of my country's government in a universal way right now. Republicans, democrats, opportunists, it doesn't matter; they're all guilty in this situation. In a magical world where justice is actually served most of these people would not have jobs in a month or two. Instead the people without jobs will be the millions who have lost everything and found their government with its back turned. Remember that people are still dying because of this incompetence. Remember that when each and every one of these fools appears on TV for a photo op or complains about "placing blame later," because placing blame now is the only hope America has to change the situation.

Van Gogh’s killer gets life

July 26th, 2005 by Reinder

So it's life in the slammer for Mohammad Bouyeri. Good, although considering what came to light about the man's obsessions during the trial, it would have been a good idea to send him back to the Pieter Baan Centrum for further evaluation (Bouyeri was sent there before his trial to determine if he might be insane, but refused to cooperate). In all likelihood, having been declared insane would not have got him out any earlier, but it would have had the beneficial effect of invalidating his motive for the murder of Theo van Gogh.
All crimes Bouyeri was charged of have been found proven, although in the case of two out of six charges, a terroristic motive was ruled out. Bouyeri does not get stripped of his voting rights, which the judge reckons he won't want to use anyway, but he has been ordered to pay damage to Theo van Gogh's family and other injured parties.
I'll link to the full text of the verdict and sentencing if and when I find it on the net.

(more…)

London explosions

July 7th, 2005 by Reinder

Rumour is flying about the Tube/bus explosions in London this morning. Nosemonkey at Europhobia is following it and has stated his belief that it's a terrorist attack. I'll wait for the dust to settle before making the call, but I can't see the original explanation of a power surge on the Tube working right now.

Update (12.57, CET): The media are now calling it an attack or a series of attack (the difference between the two being merely one of point of view), and considering the M.O. to be that of Al-Qaeda.

Addendum (19.30, CET): I'm not going to repeat the same list of blogs covering the attack that other blogs are showing, but if you're worried about someone in London who might be injured, dead or simply caught up in the confusion, go to the new Livejournal community dedicated to the attacks, and start your research there. Remember, though, that London is a city of several million and the casualties are likely to be fewer than a hundred dead and several hundred injured, so if your acquaintance is not listed anywhere as definitely alive, don't panic. It's terrible, but it's not 9/11, not even proportionally.

Quixotic is his enterprise and hopeless his adventure is / Who seeks for jocularites that haven’t yet been said / The world has joked incessantly for over fifty centuries / And every joke that’s possible has long ago been made.

May 12th, 2005 by Adam Cuerden

...You know, now that Neal Horsley has admitted on the Alan Colmes Radio Show that he committed bestiality and tried to get his girlfriends to have abortions before he became an anti-abortionist campaigner, satire is dead. The real world has gone beyond it.

(via Digby's Blog)