Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

A Nomad's Life (A Farewell)

by Nomad Fri May 10th, 2013 at 04:55:37 AM EST

Nothing ever becomes real 'till it is experienced. - John Keats

After eleven kilometres of walking into wilderness and not a stitch of dry clothing left, I decided I needed to see Daisy one last time.

That decision cheered me up a notch, three hours after hoisting up my pack and starting my tramp through unencumbered rain. One can start to feel quite miserable by walking through rain for hours, particularly when it's the vigorously unstoppable rain on the West Coast of New Zealand. My shoes, although advertised with Gore-Tex, had given up already and were squelching industriously. My jacket had begun sucking up water and was feeling like lead. What friends had described as 'a pleasant hike uphill' had become an arduous test of will. There were at least three more hours of wilderness, scrambles across boulders and frighteningly flimsy swing bridges ahead of me before I'd reach the hut.

Daisy had been on my mind those first three hours, flicking in and out of thoughts like a merry spectre. Not just her, of course; family, friends, loved ones, they all come to greet my thoughts during long, solitary hikes. Which is why I was doing this in the first place. Or partly why, anyway. Yet Daisy had been the surprise guest. Already I knew there'd be no other person this journey who'd more upset me, affect my thinking and emotionally unravel me. Such was clear from the day I left her, when I drove alone for hours with rain on the windshield, sad music on the radio, a heart left wrenching, all the way wondering what on earth had happened. I needed to see her again to make sure.

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Death by Train

by Nomad Fri Jan 11th, 2013 at 10:39:08 AM EST

Always the sounds, haunting.

The thud made me pause in midsentence. Not because the sound was loud or sharp, but because it was so unknown - there was a softness to it, almost cushioned. I'd never heard it before; the cabin of the train lightly swayed.

We were discussing nonsense, the design of cookies, and the fast train to The Hague had accelerated to top speed since leaving Leiden. Outside the window I could see the concrete platforms of a local train station rushing by. The sight condensed fear already jumping my mind.

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Dutch Elections: Rather Rutte Than Red

by Nomad Thu Sep 13th, 2012 at 03:35:40 AM EST

Dutch national elections 2012 - the fifth elections in ten years - in full swing and counting the votes is nearly done.

The elections this year are as much a clincher as they were in 2010 (which I blissfully didn't cover). And again, the clincher is between the very two parties that smacked it out last time: Labour (PvdA) and the Freemarketistas of former prime-minister Mark Rutte (VVD).

Samsom (left) and Rutte hugging the cameras

Both parties have massively won - but during the course of the night it became clear that Rutte has bested the left yet again and with a historic victory. Never before the VVD party won so many seats.

But with a similarly large gain by the left, the two biggest parties are wedded to each other to attempt bridging their many, many differences. Further national lockdown looks not unreasonable.

I'll have a longer analysis below the fold.

Final version - Updated 13 September, 10:15 CET.

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Dutch Austerity 2.0

by Nomad Thu Apr 26th, 2012 at 07:32:26 PM EST

A rather unique political tour de force is coming to a (first) conclusion in the Netherlands the past Thursday evening.

Was the country quickly heading to become the laughing stock of the Eurozone at the start of this week, a breathtaking manoeuvre by the political parties in The Hague has now saved the face of the caretaker cabinet of Mark Rutte and co. Dutch austerity is on its way, Merkel and Brussels can release a tiny sigh of relief, the budget deficit will be cut towards the three percent limit.

Sore losers and ebullient winners have emerged in just a few days. A quick overview.

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Libyan War - Third Mothership

by Nomad Wed Mar 23rd, 2011 at 08:18:51 PM EST

Overview 23-24 March:
We're entering the sixth day of western-led military intervention since the decision to create a no-fly zone over Libya. The no-fly zone seems to be well established by now, and the main focus of the military actions have shifted to air strikes on ground targets:

British Air Vice Marshal Greg Bagwell said Col Gaddafi's air force "no longer exists as a fighting force".

Latest reports from Libya speak of an explosion at a military base in the Tajura region east of Tripoli.

There were also reports that government tanks had shelled the hospital in the rebel-held western city of Misrata.

Witnesses had earlier said the tanks encircling the city had pulled back from their positions under air assault from international forces.

Whether these attacks on Gadaffi's forces are still legitimate under resolution 1973 is likely debatable.

The Dutch Parliament agreed this evening with throwing in six F-16s and added a minehunter(!) to the warship flotilla patrolling the Mediterranean shorelines. Is this the payback for the Lynx helicopter Libya captured during a botched rescue mission?

Yet leadership at an international level continues to be in a bind now Turkey has blocked attempts to have NATO seize control of the operations. Turkey wants air strikes on ground targets stopped, while Gadaffi has not stopped attacking rebel-held cities.

This is the third thread for Libyan updates. Previous threads:
Libya - by ATinNM
Libyan War - Second Mothership - Nomad

Please add reports when they come in.

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Catastrophe Cacophony

by Nomad Fri Nov 19th, 2010 at 05:24:01 AM EST

In a diary a few weeks ago I indicated that the exaggeration of hurricane science, in the wake of the active 2005-2006 hurricane seasons and hurricane Katrina, didn't do harm to risk assessment and (re)insurance companies. I also indicated that science behind the 5-year projections of risk assessment companies have been shown to be flawed (and that, unsurprisingly, 5-year projections are horribly failing).

While commenting in said diary, I hit upon a feature that drew my interest: how much the world's largest reinsurance company just doesn't care about science, and continues to propagate nonsense, despite knowing better. You know, claims like these:

Munich Re - Two months to Cancún climate summit / Large number of weather extremes as strong indication of climate change

Munich Re's natural catastrophe database, the most comprehensive of its kind in the world, shows a marked increase in the number of weather-related events. For instance, globally there has been a more than threefold increase in loss-related floods since 1980 and more than double the number of windstorm natural catastrophes, with particularly heavy losses as a result of Atlantic hurricanes.

The rise in natural catastrophe losses is primarily due to socio-economic factors. In many countries, populations are rising, and more and more people moving into exposed areas. At the same time, greater prosperity is leading to higher property values. Nevertheless, it would seem that the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.

Except that increasing flood, windstorm and hurricane losses have not been attributed to global warming / climate change so far.

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No government, no Energy Transition

by Nomad Tue Nov 9th, 2010 at 08:01:22 AM EST

Current Dutch energy policies are failing to sustain consistency towards energy transition - not particularly news, but underlined by a new report, released last week, available here. It is the parting message of the Advisory council for research on spatial planning, nature and the environment (RMNO) - an advisory body that got dismantled by the minister last year. Perhaps the dismantlement spurred the council into an increased critical tone, but it's telling nonetheless of the sad state of affairs in the Netherlands.

Rather hopelessly, though, the report reads as a to-do list for the government. Specifically, the council encourages the continuation of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and enforce CCS developments even when the CO2 price makes it an unprofitable business; harmonisation in off-shore wind with neighbouring countries; create policies for heat production and conservation, and development of an electric "smart grid" at the European level. Particularly the German Feed-In Tariff framework is hailed as an overwhelming success.

Thus in short: a success in energy transition, relies on a national government with a proven track-record of dismal interest. Yeah us.

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Hot air & Hurricanes

by Nomad Thu Oct 28th, 2010 at 06:22:51 PM EST

Often the influence of big industry on climate science has been associated with attempts to tone down the effects of anthropogenic climate change. However, the reverse may be equally true: when unsettled science is exaggerated, it can easily become a perverse tool for larger industry profit. An example is coming into view with (re)insurance companies and the science on hurricane activity. Hat tip to Roger Pielke Jr. whose blog provided most of the pieces to stitch the story together.

Two part series on Bermuda's control over insurance rates | Ocala.com

Reinsurance operates on a global scale, regulated to some extent in Europe and hardly at all elsewhere, especially in Bermuda, a tax haven.

The tiny volcanic rock 600 miles east of North Carolina is home to nearly half the reinsurance sold to Florida, a $470 billion powerhouse crammed in a few blocks between the rum bars and T-shirt shops.

There are more than 1,200 foreign insurers incorporated in this oceanic frontier town, including 59 reinsurers that provide billions of dollars of hurricane protection for nearly every home in Florida, from swamp trailer to coastal high-rise.

Bermuda's regulations are famously light, exposing consumers to business practices designed to reduce competition and encourage price-fixing.

And then, in 2005, hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans.

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Constitution Hill

by Nomad Sat Oct 2nd, 2010 at 04:56:52 AM EST

There is nothing to see, they say. "Such an awful city," say the South Africans we met abroad. "We are only driving through," the other travellers announced.

Of course everyone likes Cape Town, ribboned around Table Mountain, green and brilliant. I won't disagree. It is the hub of laid-back, the nexus where continents and oceans meet. The Mother City. A place for surf and sea, a place for relaxation, exquisite food, wines, in all: a mesmerising sense of what can be when the best of Africa and Europe come together and embrace. It is no wonder it draws people, and keeps people returning time and again. I'm content to be one of those people.

More than two weeks in Cape Town. But the poignancy of South Africa's soul, its racist history and divided present, was best embodied by just one visit in Johannesburg, that shunned and avoided city, when we climbed up to Constitution Hill.

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Give Me Money

by Nomad Tue Sep 7th, 2010 at 11:50:44 AM EST

In Mozambique, the children would shout "Sweeeeeeeets" at us, the vowels stretching in the wake of our car as we passed by. In Malawi, they became demands of, "Give me money." And in Zambia, this was now and then varied with "Give me dollar".

We were approached foremost by children, running to the car, trailing us as we went for some shopping, cupping their dusty hands and trying their utmost best to look forlorn - the patented UNICEF look. By the time we reached Malawi, I was seriously wondering, "Where is this coming from? Who is teaching these children to say these particular words?" Because it was so prevalent, everywhere we went, from all ages: a girl of three in a pink dress, boys of twelve with a necklace of dead mice around their neck. All of them plying the same pleas: hungry, for school, for "project".

The answer is, of course, all too predictable, as I witnessed a group of these damned overland trucks doling out sweets to a group of shrieking kids. The problem is white people being charitable.

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The Other Africa

by Nomad Tue Aug 31st, 2010 at 06:07:03 AM EST

The Africa we travel through is riddled with stereotypes. It starts with the children in hand-me-down rags shouting "Mzungu!" at us at every turn. The slender African women striding along the roads, tall bunches of firewood poised flawlessly on their heads. The African men on the doorsteps of their mud huts, sitting idle. It continues with the humpbacked cows, trailing dust and blocking the roads. The endless charities, orphanages and the philanthropist volunteers still burning with the ideological flame to do-good.

And stereotypes are positively overwhelming for travellers through Africa. That includes me, probably. The self-catering: locked up inside an air-conditioned Toyota Hilux with rooftop tents, wearing blouses with 47 pockets and impenetrable sun-glasses. The posh kids inside the towering overland busses, criss-crossing across the continent from Kenya to Cape Town like locusts. The "Adventure Tours": for the exceedingly affluent, being driven from luxurious lodge to luxurious lodge with pools, whiskeys and ice.

There were so many stereotypes, so much superficiality, I developed the creeping sensation I was missing out on the real Africa, the other Africa.

front-paged by afew

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by Nomad Mon Aug 2nd, 2010 at 05:21:59 AM EST

For the next entry, I had intended to write a short piece on the development aid witnessed in Malawi and Zambia so far. It wouldn't be a remarkably noticeable piece, or one with significant impact, but it would pointedly apprise the corroding qualities of developmental aid on the social web in Africa. Succinct and depressing, it would sketch out the witnessed dimensions, small and large, of aid's detrimental effects, gradually undermining and eroding the finer qualities of Africans. I knew I would not be the first to tackle the subject; dozens have gone before to provide far better, more detailed, footnoted documentation, whereas I could only rely on the impressions of one journey and accounts of fellow travelers.

But an elephant stepped on it. Almost literally.

Travel-blogging - afew

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Mt. Mulanje Porter's Run

by Nomad Wed Jul 14th, 2010 at 11:38:57 AM EST

The mountainous terrain that straddles the eastern border of Malawi with Mozambique, is the area where the Chewa people believe all plants and animals were created during one massive thunderstorm. And as we came through, the chains of green mountains that rise up out of the land did resemble to us vast husks, littering the landscape.

After eight hours of bumping across an atrociously potholed dirt road, passing endless rural settlements and nothing remotely close to civilization, the lush mountains, and the tarmac in Malawi were a burst of fresh air. But what really took our breath was the awe-inspiring expanse of rock rearing up against the horizon after customs: Mt. Mulanje, a vast massif of plutonic rocks withstanding the erosion that levels the rest of the country where the African Rift is pronouncing itself without compunction.

At Mt. Mulanje, on July 10, we experienced the Porter's Run, a heroic (or foolish) run, worthy of a little more detail.

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by Nomad Wed Jun 30th, 2010 at 10:26:08 AM EST

The first three weeks in South Africa contained, for most days, the best the country can offer, and for a few days, the worst it can offer. Concerning the latter, I've grown accustomed with this, as it is bound to happen when one dares to trifle with South African bureacracy. Therefore this is just a brief post on a happy occasion - the reunion of old friends.

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Out of Africa: World Cup Kick Off

by Nomad Tue Jun 15th, 2010 at 08:11:23 AM EST

Only when we confirmed our tickets, half a year ago, it actually dawned: our return to South Africa this year June, would put us in the midst of the World Cup opening. The event South Africa has been anticipating already since 2007, the first year I came to live in South Africa. In those two years I lived in Johannesburg, South Africans were continually counting down to June 11, 16:00, the moment the World Cup is officially opened.

And now it's there. Jozi is abuzz like never before. A few brief impressions.

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Africa 2010

by Nomad Sun May 16th, 2010 at 11:39:39 AM EST

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Getting Messy

by Nomad Thu May 13th, 2010 at 10:35:47 AM EST

This is how two major cities in the Netherlands currently look like:



And it ain't over yet.

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Wilders' Ideology

by Nomad Mon Mar 22nd, 2010 at 06:04:58 AM EST

In an article highlighted in Sunday's Salon, the upcoming far-right populism is charted in several European nations. As usual, the party of Dutch MP Geert Wilders is juxtaposed with far-right xenophobes of the Lega Nord and the pro-Fascist movements in Hungary and Slovakia. Lumping Wilders in that sordid mix is a mistake, for reasons I will go into below. In any case, the article is altogether shallow on information to get all wound up about it. The article briefly touches, and that is all it does, on the concept of Alpine populism:

Mr Camus elaborated a theory of "Alpine populism" back in the late 1990s. That was when Jörg Haider's Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) teamed up with the country's conservatives, Christoph Blocher's Democratic Union of the Centre (UDC) took off in Switzerland, and the Lega Nord joined Silvio Berlusconi's government in Italy. "In their discourse," explains Camus, "the three parties converge: on the fringes of Central Europe, this Alpine core conveys memories of the Ottoman threat, a fantasy Islam and the spectre of the War in Yugoslavia, the source of waves of immigration."

Alpine populism is the prototype of the new populist right in Western Europe. A readily exploitable event has since been added: the 9/11 attacks and the Islamophobia they have now and then engendered.

Contextualising notable terms like "alpine populism", "Ottoman threat" or "fantasy Islam" seem to be lacking, but it reads the closest to what Wilders is propagating. Yet lumping Wilders into the movement of "alpine populism" without being able to compare the ideological frameworks would be equally shallow. Lucky for us (?), Wilder's ideological framework is out in the open, and it is well worth a look.

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Sudan and the beginning of the end

by Nomad Sun Jan 17th, 2010 at 07:58:41 AM EST

nrc.nl - International - Features - Tribal violence undermines South Sudan's future

Crows picked at the last grains near some collapsed silos. A twisted bike lay in the remnants of a burnt-down house. Crops had been torched. Under a fig tree, empty grenade shells bear silent witness to a battle in which women and children were killed, and tens of thousands of civilians sent on the run.

This is not the Darfur region in West Sudan, which has been in a state of war since 2003, but South Sudan, which has officially been at peace since 2005. In the past year hundreds of villages have been burnt-down here, 2,500 people have been killed and 400,000 displaced because of tribal conflicts.

"Everyone in the villages is armed these days. It's frightening," said an aid worker who wished to remain anonymous. "The presence of arms has changed the existing tribal and political conflicts. In South Sudan small children carry arms now; you would never see that in Darfur."

That was December last year.

That is not all.

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Copenhagen Bust - A Retrospective

by Nomad Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 05:24:09 AM EST

A PDF of the Copenhagen accord is to be found here. There is also a wikipedia page with the agreed text.

Exactly two months ago, I posted excerpts of a draft text from this pdf that was the result of the 2009 June meeting in Bonn. Comparing the present accord with the draft from less than six months ago, underlines the sheer magnitude of the Copenhagen bust.

I'll do a quick comparison.

Front-paged by afew

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