What a strange 5 years it has been.
This afternoon I was shocked to hear on the radio that the 'Inquisition for fighting equal opportunity' (not their real name, but it should be) had managed to get an article removed from 'The Brussels Journal'. The entry was titled 'Geef ons Wapens' (give us weapons) and appeared on may 21st 2006.
Today the article is no longer on-line. Instead we read following text (translated from Dutch):
'This text was removed at the demand of the Center for Equality of Opportunity and Combatting Racism which let us know through certified mail on may 10th that our "statements form an incitement to violence against a group based on their national or ethnic provenance (art 1 par3, 3° of the law of 30/07/1981). Hence we request you to remove the contested text or have it removed. In the opposite case the Center for Equality of Opportunity and Combatting Racism will reserve the right to press charges about this fact with the judicial authorities"'
Pure censorship, in other words: remove your article or you will be prosecuted. Freedom of Speech is one of the most important rights to me. 'Bad' ideas should be fought by shining a spotlight on them and by debating them, in my opinion. Not by censoring them: that only makes them more attractive
I'll leave it up to the reader to decide if Paul Beliën has 'bad' ideas. But this form of direct censorship crosses a line for me. I doubted at first to maybe republish the text on my weblogs. But in the second paragraph there is an explicit call not to do this:
'Even though I deny the charges, I hereby comply with the demand. As author of the text in question I ask all websites and/or other publications that have copied the text outside my knowledge and without my permission, or who have quoted passages from it, to remeove these as well. If they don't do this, it is not only a violation on my copyright but they are guilty of "incitement of violence against a group because of national or ethnical provenance", according to the laws cited by the Centre.
Let them start by prosecuting Google!
Heh, this is too funny. A blogger in Egypt has revealed that the Egyptian Newspaper Al Fagr reprinted the infamous Danish Mohammed cartoons, and this already back in October 2005! He has scans too, to prove it.
He also has a quite interesting theory as to why several Arab governments have been fueling the frenzy about the cartoons in their own population. Hint: it has to do with distracting attention away from domestic problems.
Go see this: Rantings of a Sandmonkey: Boycott Egypt.
An interesting side-effect of the Danish cartoon affair might be the invasion of Syria by U.S. forces. As you can read in this CNN article, the Norwegian and Danish embassies in Damascus were burned down by angry mobs on Sunday.
Now, depending on the level of (passive) involvement by the Syrian regime, one could make the case this is an act of war. And since Norway and Denmark are both NATO members, Bush can invoke article V of the NATO charter that says an attack on one member state is an attack against all of them...
Presto! Legal casus belli... and no need to find further justifications in hidden WMD's, terror sponsoring or the need for 'regime change'. Just point the tanks in Baghdad to Damascus and start driving...
Far fetched? You bet. Unlikely? Probably. But would it hold up under 'international law'? Not so sure about that. But then again, that's the fun of blogging: you just make stuff up as you go and count on the commenters to flesh it out...
It's true! Just read in De Standaard, a leading paper, that the justice department will no longer prosecute for gasoline theft at service stations! Just fill up your tank and drive off without paying...
Even if the owner gets your license plate and calls the cops, prosecution is unlikely to follow. Laurette Onkelinx, Minister of Justice, said that it is just no use prosecuting in this kind of case. The maximum jail time is too low, so even if a conviction is obtained the perpetrator walks away because there is not enough room in Belgian jails.
And even getting a conviction involves too much effort in court, with long, drawn out procedures and people claiming they didn't intend to steal but just 'forgot' to pay. So the reasoning goes: why bother? Onkelinx claimed the department of justice is not an incasso-agency for pumpstation owners.
So, if you need gas, head to Belgium!
Source: Benzinedieven niet meer gestraft.
Values stuff. Praises both Democrats and Republicans for this. Drugs, abortion, crime etc. all falling.
No reason for pessimism. Praises new members of Supreme Court. Thanks the senate for confirming them. They will uphold the law, not legislate from the bench.
Asks for legislation against cloning, human-animal hybrids etc.
Says he's agains corruptoin. Duh!
The obligatory shout-out to his wife.
85 billions spent on Katrina aid already.
More domestic stuff. Not so interesting for me. Healthcare, tort refom. Bla bla...
Alternative energy sources. The Advanced Energy Initiative. Hydrogen, nucular, ethanol...
Ethanol practical within six years...
Replace oil imports from Middle East by 2025.
American Competitiveness Initiative. Education reform. Give children firm grounding in math and science. More research funding and tax breaks.
More teachers etc. for math and sciences.
Describes economic achievements. More jobs created than EU and Japan combined. Growth is great.
Immigrants are good for the economy.
Make the tax relief permanent.
Reforms to cut spending. Cut deficit in half by 2009.
Earmark reform. Asks for line-item veto (again, hehe).
"Congress did not act on my proposal to save social security": The democrats actually applaud this!
Castigates them for this: the rising costs will not go away...
Calls to solve this problem in a bipartisan way.
Calls for more open markets. Buy American! With level playing field, no-one can out-compete the American worker.
Secure borders, stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. Also rational and humane guest worker program (without amnesty!)
Talks about compassion and foreign aid.
Praises government departments fighting terrorism (DOHS, military...). Standing ovation for them. Asks for reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Applause on one aisle (guess which).
Defends wiretapping, citing example of 911. Calls it international surveilance. Cites previous presidents and legal precedents for doing this. "If people in the U.S. are talking to Al Qaeda, we want to know about it, because we will not sit and wait to be hit again."
Hillary Clinton smiling beatifically at this.