On the EU Elections

by bicyclemark 2 Comments

I wrote a piece for the Guardian on the Dutch vote during last week’s European Parliamentary elections. Here’s an excerpt:

The headlines on Friday morning in Amsterdam looked not unlike those in the international press around the world: “Far right wins big in Holland”. This was followed by a few paragraphs of analysis, or at least background as to why a leader who says he won’t even show up for work if he is elected could progress in a party in a country that some people still consider as a beacon of open-mindedness.

Yet no matter how big the font or how many exclamation points they use, the power of the far-right voters in the Netherlands is not the only development in 2009. What failed to get much more than a two-line afterthought in all these reports over the weekend is that the Freedom party (PVV) was not the only party to have made gains for the Dutch. Among them, the D66, a progressive-liberal party that has historically championed issues like gay marriage, euthanasia, legalised prostitution and the decriminalisation of drugs, also gained seats. While the PVV

Labor Shortage Dutch Style

by bicyclemark 2 Comments

On line at the grocery store, I read the big sign in the window: Seeking new colleagues to join our team.? Around the block at the caf? there’s a small paper in the window that reads: seeking wait staff.? The restaurant next door is full to the brim with customers everyday and employs only 2 servers and 1 cook, the entire staff looks overwhelmed.

No matter where I look in the service industry, the Netherlands seems to be lacking workers. Yet at the same time, I can think of many university students who would never take such jobs.? I’m also reminded of my fellow university graduates who are seeking work in the field of their studies and would not take up work in a restaurant or a grocery store.

All this to make the un-scientific observation that there could be some type of labor shortage in this part of Europe. And it is getting worse.

Meanwhile I read about the situation of detained refugees in Belgium, who are currently on hunger strike.? Belgium’s politics and economic reality is certainly not identical to the Netherlands, but I still think it says something about where this entire region is within the discussion of the right to work and immigration policy. For the neverending obsession with keeping people out, I’m wondering who they’re going to turn to when no one in the country will take essential jobs.

Some Nations Plan

by bicyclemark 3 Comments

While my specialty is critical thinking, especially when it comes to global issues; sometimes nations do things that I both agree with and am impressed by.

The Netherlands is working on something I believe is very logical and necessary — planning how to manage rising sea levels and global warming in the coming 100 years. They’ve planned in the past (1950’s) to manage the sea and their bodies of water in such a way that people are safe and can also enjoy the fruits of their water.? But as has become very apparent, the plans made 50 years ago are insufficient when you consider what we know now about the increasing speed that these changes take place. So instead of waiting for a major disaster, they’re devising a plan and dedicating big money to preparing NOW.

For the real details I recommend mr. Amsterdamize himself, who does a good job of laying out, in understandable terms, what the government is doing so far and what the ultimate outcome will be. Like myself, I think Marc finds it a strange contrast, going from watching the news about the gulf coast of the US scrambling to get out of the way of storms to reading about the Dutch government, planning for any storms or water disasters in the next 100 years.