85% Voter Turnout

Greetings from an almost secret location in Belgium where I’ll be stationed for a few days. Coincidentally, just close enough to France so that everyone is this area is clinging to the French election results, and for the most part, pulling their hairs out in disappointment and frustration.

While it is hardly under-reported news, it is interesting, watching these elections in the global context. An old friend of mine in France once said, as much as his fellow citizens would never admit it, the French are very similar to Americans in many things. Every now and then, like in these elections, I think she was right.

He plays on fear. He threatens to be tough on immigrants and to cut taxes and benefits and whatever else he can cut. He goes on and on about national pride and what a great country it is. He could basically be a president candidate in the USA, but in fact, he is the new president of France, Nicholas Sarkozy. (or as I heard him referred to today, mini-bush)

As people learn the result of today’s election, you’ll hear lots of disgusted responses. “So embarrassing” people will say. Sounds familiar.

But unlike the US, where even if you bus people to the polls you can’t get a 50 percent turnout, reports from today say that turnout was at 85%! 85%! Now at first glance, that’s impressive. People can say, and they are, that it is a healthy sign for democracy because people are participating.

Then again, 85% voting for, with more than 50% of them choosing a pretty hardline conservative candidate also makes it hard for a country to deny who they are. At least in the US you can say “hey.. thats only half of the 40+% that vote who chose that bum, we’re not really like that”. In France, you can’t say that anymore. So if Sarko ends up rounding up all the immigrants and putting them in labor camps. Or joining the US military in its latest adventure to invade and bring democracy somewhere. It won’t be just a small percentage of crazies that took over the government. Nope… it’s a majority of the country that actually shares (at least some of) these values.

Once again, I don’t have a better idea yet, but western democracy is still overrated.

Dinner and WW1 Mines

You know its a good dinner conversation when we break into European History thru revolutions and wars. Shouldn’t be much of a surprise since in our spare time we also look up who the last King of the Austro-Hungarian empire was.

But this evening Krizu alerted me to something I actually had no clue about and am quite shocked to learn: They are de-mining Belgium from World War 1! I repeat.. WWI (1914 to 1918), there are still mines scattered about certain parts of Belgium that were put there around 90 years ago!?

This isn’t just a matter of fascinating tidbits of knowledge, this about a terrible war, so long ago, still able to claim victims. Apparently the Belgian army has a whole specific unit dedicated to finding these last land-mines. Obviously I now want to meet these guys, they must have amazing stories.

Beyond this I didn’t realize, and she pointed out, that only a few hours south, down there in Belgium, there are still plenty of old trenches and craters in the earth leftover from WWI. Why am I surprised? I guess I expected everything, beyond the occasional memorial or museum, to be cleaned up, renovated, built upon… in effect.. erased.

This gets me to thinking of other wars, including the current occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. What about the landmines? (several nations, including the US, refuse to stop using them) Or even the craters. How many generations later will still see these scars and live with the risk of potentially blowing up because of a landmine left behind, for another war that allegedly will end all war (or terror).

3 Videos Since Milan is Coming Up

Since I know yee good people have things to catch up on and I can’t keep writing mountains, today I’ll simply recommend three videos and be gone. Friday is the journey to Milan for vlogeurope, so video is the name of the game for the immediate future.

First: A New vlogger on the scene. You may recall I had a group of students I was tending to from Minnesota… well wouldn’t you know it.. one particular Rachel has started a vlog that has this great energy.. a certain je don’t know quoi.

Second: I’ve recently been writing for Richard’s news vlog, the Eclectic Newsbrief… news you won’t find in the mainstream and presented in a unique way. (see if you spot the societal critique)

And Lastly: A wonderful artist, my friend Hollye Davidson has a great understanding of how people relate to art. She even helps me to see my own art, which I often forget. Watch her latest vlog on dogs and art… i learned alot.

How High’s The Water

As I got on the international train from Brussels to Amsterdam, I knew it would be packed and bursting at the seams with people returning home from their weekend in Belgium. And this day was no different, with people huddling in the space between train cars, struggling to find a spot just to stand and read their magazines in peace.

I’m an international train veteran, so I used my secret methods for getting myself a seat. And as luck would have it, the person sitting next to me was a gentleman heading to the Hague on business. Not just any business… urban planning to deal with rising water levels! Who did he work for, as I surely asked, the government of London!

Amazingly before I knew any of this, we started chatting casually in between his soduku and my final chapters of 4th of July, Asbury Park. He was asking about the train, and what time it actually arrives in the Hague. It eventually evolved in how the city is layed out, and more generally, the ol’ “how the dutch have built the country in unorthodox ways.” We spoke of the taking land from the sea and building below sea level. And it was right around there where he smiled and said “Enjoy while you can, because things will certainly change.” And right there we got into the rising sea levels and the struggle to keep water out; he then explaining what he was doing for the city government of London.

Among the interesting things he pointed out to me, were the cases of London as well as New York City, both of whom are in need of plans to deal with sea levels that are definitely rising. Apparently his work was to address the problem for his city’s context. And I wondered aloud about what New York City could possibly do to protect against water rising up and swallowing its streets.

He wasn’t big in offering me solutions. It was, as he said, the purpose of his meetings in places like the Hague. I asked if he would be heading to New Orleans, he said he very much wanted to:

“That’s really what the future is about… mass movement of people, away from situations where they must leave in order to survive. Cities must all get into planning for it… how and where to move mass amounts of their populations.”

Eventually we got to the Hague and he wished me goodluck with my journalism endeavors.

When I got home I went right to my boat and started taking the water out of it.

bm165 High Demands of the Western World

This being a family weekend in Brussels, I sat down to better explain what it is that is so troubling about the way we measure success in elections. With help from Monty Python, Ralph Nader, and a comment left by Tim Pritlove and others.


Democracy Now from Wednesday Nov. 8th, 2006
Chaos Radio
Mikeypod reporting on grassroots activism
Yeast Radio, of course.
The Gay Expat, audio and videos
And on and on

come to Vlog Europe next weekend in Milano

What About Tasini

Today I’m coming to you from the suburbs of Brussels, Belgium, where I’m staying this weekend in celebration of my godson’s 12th birthday. But now onto more serious matters:

I tend not to talk about US senate races and republicans versus democrats and crap like that. Mostly because there are a zillion blogs working for either party fulltime, so why bother further beating one very dead horse.

Yet for all the bla bla bla about this guy named Lieberman who is a disgrace of a human being even though all the haters voted for him oh-so-often, and how he was beaten thanks to the internets, you don’t hear much about one Jonathan Tasini. Even though he puts the small d back in democrat.

Honestly, I could care less if the democrats take back the senate or the house, as they are as guilty of being the architects of all the death, destruction, and decieving as their republican counterparts. But when it comes to upsurping the comfy two faced democrats who think they’re going to cruise to victory just for having the big D next to their names, I’m all for that.

But what I really wish is that more people took Jonathan Tasini seriously. Who you ask? Jonathan Tasini.. former leader of the National Writers Union, who is running against Hillary Clinton for the democratic nomination in the state of New York. It should be a “slam dunk” for Tasini, since he’s running against a senator who supported the war in Iraq, and has generally betrayed the principals of civil liberties, human rights, and international law, since the day she got into office. Hillary Clinton hasn’t respected democracy or the values of a real “Democratic” party since her early days as the first lady. She is fake as fake can be, and lets be honest, her speeches have that terrible tone like listening to someone scrape their nails against a blackboard.

Yet the bloggers aren’t talking much about Tasini’s challenge. They’re too scared to attack their most well known senator… everyone knows the name Hillary Clinton. So much for independence and the freedom to be critical on the blogosphere.

Therefore I’m delving into the senate races from now on, to give much deserved attention to senators who need to be sent packing. And I’ll be very busy, since an overwhelming majority need to be replaced.