Friday, January 05, 2007

Um....Are they serious?

I can't tell if they are serious.

But I think so.

The Humpty-Dumpty Institute.

(Nod to Anonyman)

A Campaign FInance Reform Plan

From KL, who apparently has access to much better drugs than I do:

(1) Electoral success depends on extensive fundraising.
(2) Many people want to influence policy.
(3) Some people have a lot more money than others.

(1) Any entity may grant any benefit to any member of Congress.
(2) All benefits granted to, or time granted by, a member of Congress must
be matched by a grant (at some multiple of the original grant...1x, 2x,
etc.) to the FEC.
(3) FEC then randomly assigns each grant (perhaps sub-divided) to someone
who voted in the most recent federal election.
(4) Assignee may then exercise that grant by meeting with the member (in the
case of a time grant) or by conferring the benefit on any member of Congress
(in the case of a material grant), or Assignee may donate the grant to
another entity.

(1) Congressman Jefferson spends two hours at a nice restaurant, three hours
on a corporate jet, and receives $90,000 in cash from Mr. Moneybags.
(2) Mr. Moneybags must then deposit another $90,000 with the FEC plus the
cost of three hours on a corporate jet and two hours at a nice restaurant;
Congressman Jefferson must set aside five hours of his schedule.
(3) FEC grants nine voters the right to confer $10,000+ on any member of
Congress, and the FEC grants five voters the right to spend an hour each
with Congressman Jefferson; some of the grants are donated to the American
Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Center for American Progress,
Michael Moore, and Sean Hannity.

Living in Dutch, Part Twee: Less Gloomy, But NOT Ecstatic

On the other hand, there is also this, in part of a year end report on Dutch....well, culture. This from a country a little bigger than New Jersey.

2 January 2006
Dutch less gloomy, but not ecstatic about 2006

The New Year starts with pessimissm as four out of 10 Dutch people expect a deterioration of their financial situation, according to research bureau Trendbox. "But this is 15 percent less gloominess than the expectations regarding 2004 and 2005," Trendbox said. The bureau questioned 500 people in December about their expectations for the coming year.

9 January 2006
Mother arrested after bodies of four babies are found

A woman and her partner were arrested in December after DNA testing confirmed they were the parents of four dead babies. The body of a newborn baby was discovered in the home of the woman's mother in Haarlem on 21 December. It has now emerged that the bodies of three other "tiny" babies were found following searches in the garden of the suspects' home in Beverwijk, north-west of Amsterdam.

3 March 2006
Suitcase loss costs KLM EUR 200,000

Airline KLM is fined EUR 200,000 for losing a passenger's suitcase and damaging his credibility more than seven years ago. Dr José Tiongco was travelling with KLM as an envoy of the Philippine authorities in November 1998. He was scheduled to give a lecture at a conference held by the World Health Organisation in Kazakhstan. He flew from Amsterdam to Frankfurt with KLM but his suitcase did not follow him. This meant he had give his lecture in jeans, t-shirt and sneakers — something that damaged his credibility, the judge agrees.

23 March 2006
Dutch navy hit by more rape, drugs claims

The clamour for a wide-ranging investigation grows amid allegations at least two female sailors were raped on a frigate where drug use was rife. It also emerges that four sailors serving on the naval supply ship 'Amsterdam' were sent home by the commanding officer for organising an initiation ritual mimicking the photographs of naked Iraqi detainees being abused by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The incident took place last summer while the supply ship was operating in the Arabian Sea as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

26 April 2006
Dutch report cites lack of entrepreneurship

The business climate in the Netherlands scores average to good when compared with the situation in the 19 other industrialised countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a new report has found. But the report published by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) identifies a lack of entrepreneurship as a "sticking point" in the Netherlands. The Netherlands scores well in terms of secondary indicators such as the functioning of government and infrastructure. The country does less well when it comes to driving economic growth. The report cites a lack of innovation and entrepreneurship as the main restraints in this regard.

11 May 2006
Thousands 'unfairly' ticketed under ID law

Police have issued 80,000 fines since the start of 2005 to people for failing to carry proper ID. But an investigation published by newspaper 'De Volkskrant' indicates police often acted wrongly. The public prosecution office (OM) thinks police officers are often too quick to hand out a ticket to a person without ID, but whose identity is known. Often the cases relate to 'acquaintances' of the police, such as homeless people or beggars. Others involve people who later come to the police station with a valid ID. The ID law, which came into force in January 2005, states a fine is not necessary in such cases.

24 May 2006
Jail time cut in rape, animal porn case

An appeals court in Arnhem imposed sentences of seven years on the two main defendants in the Kraggenburger rape and animal porn case. Belgian P.M. and E van C., a resident of the Dutch town of Almere, were jailed for 14 and 10 years by the trial court in Lelystad for kidnapping three African refugees in Brussels. The women were subjected to rape and sexual assault in a shed in the Dutch town of Kraggenburger in April 2004. The women were beaten and forced to have sex with Rottweiler dogs for the purposes of a pornographic video.

30 May 2006
Dutch paedophiles set up political party

Pro-paedophile activists have established a new political party in the Netherlands to campaign for the legalisation of sex between adults and children. "Ten years ago we were 'on speaking terms' with society. But since [Belgian paedophile killer] Marc Dutroux there is no more discussion. All paedophiles are being put in the same box. We are being hushed up," Ad van den Berg, the co-founder of the new party said. The NVD will lobby for a reduction in the age of consent in the Netherlands from 16 to 12 and then phased out completely over time. "Forbidding makes children all the more curious," Van den Berg said.

6 June 2006
Ambassador leaving 'homophobic' Estonia

Dutch Ambassador Hans Glaubitz is leaving Estonia because his male partner, a black Cuban, has been the victim of homophobia and racism, the Foreign Ministry confirms. The ambassador's partner was subjected to verbal harassment and threats in the street and threats. These began after a local magazine wrote that the appointment of a gay ambassador with a black partner had to be seen as a Dutch provocation. The Foreign Ministry had hoped that Estonia, like its neighbour Finland, would be able to accept a relationship between two men.


Living in Dutch, Part Een

From my American-in-Holland expat pal MM, a link to living as a ...well, as an American-in-Holland. Culture is interesting, and I found this article interesting enough to reproduce most of it.

Here is the link, tho.

Getting along with the Dutch
Decoding Dutch behaviour and appreciating the underlying values can be a fun and revealing experience — you might even find the notoriously bad service is not so shocking after all, writes Tatjana van de Kamp...

...[An] effective way to experience positive learning and to start appreciating Dutch values and behaviour is going out and meeting Dutch people, staying curious and asking questions.

When you feel surprised, disappointed or confused by Dutch behaviour or a certain situation, try the following three questions to explore the situation.

Question 1: Could this have happened in my home country as well?

This is a question for yourself: are you experiencing a cultural difference or just a cultural bias?

If I am, for example, complaining about traffic jams and the incompetence of Dutch drivers, I must remember that as soon as I cross the border into Germany, I will also find slow and fast drivers or aggressive and over-cautious drivers and sooner or later I will end up in a traffic jam.

But expats tend to attribute everything that they find disturbing or not working well to the nature of the Dutch. Dutch traffic jams are bad whereas the German traffic jams are normal. This is a cultural bias.

However, if you answer this first question with 'no', it is time for the second question.

Question 2: Could there be a reason for the Dutch behaviour? Did I do anything to provoke it?

This is a question you can easily address to your Dutch counterpart, because you can discuss almost everything with the Dutch.

For example, if you just drop into your new Dutch friend’s house because you happen to be in the neighbourhood, you may be surprised not to feel welcome.

Your Dutch friend may be surprised at your 'disrespect' of his privacy and family life. You have not been invited and have no appointment. You are disturbing the order. Respect for privacy and being in control of one’s life are core Dutch values.

Intercultural encounters are bi-directional, which means that both parties can experience culture shock.

If you still feel you are right in what you did, dig a little deeper and ask the third question before you come to the conclusion that the Dutch have absolutely no manners.

Question 3: What were my feelings? Did I show them?

Imagine you go into a shop and are not served. Maybe you are used to a service focused environment and become annoyed.

If you start asking for service while showing your irritation by unconsciously raising your voice (for example), don’t expect the shop assistant to rush and help you with pleasure.

From the shop assistant’s perspective, she did everything right. She respected your privacy and independence. She performed that role the way she had learned it: not being obtrusive, waiting for you to come and ask for help if you needed it.

But instead of asking her, you are showing your indignation. It is okay to be direct and discuss almost everything with the Dutch, as long as you don’t show emotions and you don’t get personal about it.

Showing anger is interpreted as a lack of interest in a common solution.

And it is certainly regarded as bad manners to treat service personnel or subordinates as 'staff' instead of meeting them as 'equals', paying them the same respect that you would pay to your boss.

Your behaviour may have been based on the assumption that this is just another example of a lack of service orientation in the Netherlands.

The assistant’s reaction comes like a self-fulfilling prophecy: She is irritated at your irritation and you feel confirmed in your assumption. What seems to be bad manners is an intercultural misunderstanding.

Dutch values

Being conscious about these questions can help you become more aware that strange behaviour which looks like poor service or a lack of hospitality could actually be subject to some underlying Dutch values that may differ significantly from yours:

Dutch respect personal freedom and autonomy. Dutch people are very direct, but in a non-emotional and non-personal way. The tone of voice makes the difference.

The egalitarian perspective requires that everyone be treated with equal respect and have equal opportunities.

Which after all, are not bad values, are they?

Staying curious about underlying Dutch values instead of jumping to assumptions does not take away the challenge, but it can open doors to a more pleasant and fulfilling communication and allow you to discover some hidden charms of Dutch culture.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Mini v Mini-er

I weep with pleasure, at the chance to share this.

What a video. Maybe I just missed this, and you have all seen it.

But I was pleased. I was particularly pleased when she made fun of the size of his...well, his car. But it was not terribly subtle. "....and he doesnt' even have a girlfriend." Well, no guy with a car THAT small could have a girlfriend, at least not after the first date.

(nod to Lance)

Sunday, December 31, 2006

The squish-crunch of fresh mouse carcasses underfoot...

Anxious Angus writes with New Year's greetings, mentioning that
the Tragic Kingdom, near my home town, has some unwelcome neighbors.

Dee Sincavage, owner of one of the many ornamental plant nurseries for which Apopka is known, is hard pressed to pick her worst mouse experience since the infestation began last summer by chasing kids out of Camp Wewa.

Was it the morning she walked into her nursery and felt the squish-crunch of fresh mouse carcasses underfoot? The night mice chewed through plumbing, flooding her office and soaking her business records? Or just the daily ordeal of drowning and disposing of dozens of live mice caught in traps overnight?

"Gosh, they are all over the place," Sincavage said. "The stench is bad and the gnats around here are terrible from all the dead carcasses. It's just disgusting."

Counter-measures by health authorities, who have established a special rodent command center, so far have been only partly successful. Besides dispensing traps and bait, authorities launched an air assault by releasing 17 barn and screech owls expected to feast on dozens of mice a day. News of the buffet apparently traveled far, luring many more birds of prey to the area.

"We have more raptors than we've ever seen before," Overfield said. "They just line up along the telephone wires and dive down and pick stuff off."

So far, Overfield said, the infestation has not sickened anyone, although the smell of all the rotting carcasses trapped in the walls of many homes and businesses is certainly nauseating.

Oh, my. That's a lot of mice.