Since February 2009 , this blog and Huib's 3 other Euroblogs are together at:

AT HOME IN EUROPE [EU] (at EURACTIV)
- In Europa Zu Hause [DE]
- L'Europe Chez Soi [FR]
- At Home in Europe [EN]
- In Europa Thuis [NL]

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

2005.12.07-12: Rice in Europe - on "Legal Alien"


Yesterday, I published on my sister blog A Legal Alien in New York the following opinion on American arrogance and European hypocrisy around the treatment of “unlawful enemy combatants”. You are invited to read it there.

Here is, how it begins:

A Week of Torture

Let me say it outright and at the beginning of this post: In my opinion, coercive techniques are allowed, if not necessary, when dealing with active criminal terrorists. People who are engaged in crimes against civilian populations, who are in the business of concretely preparing and executing them, should be forced to tell all information they dispose of, in order to save lives of innocent people. This exception to a general worldwide treaty on banning torture and inhuman treatment of detainees, should be accepted, put on paper, and surrounded by all possible guarantees, so that it will not be misused and abused. In Europe, this is not a popular point of view. In Europe, we, civilians, are used to dress barriers, legal barriers, against all possible abuse by authorities. That is because we do not trust them. Historically, there is plenty of good reasons for that mistrust. For us, legal limitations on official intrusion into the corporal and psychic integrity, even of offenders, are a landmark of civilisation. […]

And so on….

This is, how it ends:

But, in the end, nothing has changed, after this torturing week. On December 11, The Washington Post commented sadly:

Europeans and Americans who interpreted Ms. Rice's statements last week as an assurance that the CIA will no longer use waterboarding, prolonged shackling or induced hypothermia in its secret prisons were misled. Administration officials tell us there has been no decision to abandon those practices. Similarly, those who have hoped that the McCain amendment would end CIA abuses, as we have, must lower their expectations. The creation of a legal standard, while essential, probably will have to be followed by an effort to compel the administration to respect it, through further legislation or court action.

In short: American services should shut up with their contra productive and offending practices, and the Europeans should abandon their illusion that they could stay out of it, and act.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

And another set of pictures from the REGENERA meeting in The Hague (1-3 December)











Edelweisse Thornley, from Glasgow













Alistair McDonald, a fine expert from Glasgow












Miodrag Nicolic, Kazakh dance expert from The Hague city...











...and two of the dancers, in front of the restaurant library.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Some other pictures from the REGENERA Workgroup in The hague (1-3 December)









Ivan Tosics from Budapest, not a dancer, with, in the background, Rémy Nouveau, principal expert

A Network Working Group (REGENERA in The Hague) 1-3 December 2005

REGENERA Working Group (URBACT): Some pictures taken in The Hague











Stéphane Bienvenue, St. Étienne, network expert












Conxita Vila, Sant Adria de Besós, Cataluña














Surendra Santokhi, efficient organiser of the conference, The Hague City












Our meetings President, hired by the City of The Hague, from Croatia

















Alexander Wagner, from Cologne, but very Lyonnese, assistant project manager













Susanna Canestri, Turin.

EUKN Dutch Launch The Hague 2 Dec.

EUKN Dutch Launch, The Hague 2/12/05

[AHIE, 5c02] The European Urban Knowledge Network (EUKN) had its European inauguration in Paris, 27th October 2005. Today, the energetic EUKN team, hosted by the national KCGS (Kennis Centrum Grote Steden, Knowledge Centre Greater Cities) in The Hague, organised a consulting conference with participants and potential clients. Researchers (urban and university), local authorities and Dutch urban experts were invited to share their remarks, suggestions and knowledge, with the EUKN team.
Some very interesting suggestions were proffered, like facilitating direct contact between urban practitioners via the internet, collectioning more systematically international comparative studies, and adding “culture/professional artistic interventions” to the categories to be distinguished in the databases.
Maastricht alderman Han Hoogma underlined the benefits cities gain from a direct relation with the European authorities and –funders. A knowledge network as EUKN will help these cities to find independently their way in designing city-wide and region-wide (networked) solutions. Without Europe, the economic recovery of the transborder area Aix-la Chapelle – Maastricht – Hasselt – Liège would not have happened. Room to make their own rules, for instance on security and drugs, is essential for this kind of close intercity cooperation to succeed.
It was interesting to meet a representative of the Dutch consultancy firm RADAR, a specialist in social policies, who announced the launch of their Brussels bureau. The best discovery for me, was a meeting with two young representatives of the young city of Almere (created from scratch on the bottom of the former big lake in Holland’s centre). The 180.000 strong city has inherited much of Amsterdam’s poverty problems. It participates in an European INTERREG network as leading city for the “governance” theme. We hope to continue this contact on different themes and levels.

Huib on Urban Travel: REGENERA in The Hague 2 Dec.

REGENERA in The Hague 2

Today, we visited four projects of life quality (health-related) in some deprived neighbourhoods of the city of The Hague.
  1. Medical Centre Rubenshoek (STIOM) and Pharmacy Transvaal

  2. Kesslerstichting: Project for the Homeless and Parnassia Mental Care/Diversity Policy

  3. Medical Centre Haaglanden (Hospital with diabetes project) (Caribbeans suffer oftener than others from this kind of diseases)

  4. Youth Centre “De Mussen » at “The Mall”, a Christian-inspired home and coaching centre for Antillean youngsters in difficulty

  5. I spent the morning visiting the Schilderswijk “Volksmuseum”, a centre of popular memory of the earliest history of the quarter, when it was settled by people who came to the city from southern and north-east provinces at the end of the 19th century. It was created when the overall renovation of this huge neighbourhood started at the beginning of the eighties. My difference of opinion with the mostly voluntary group who started it, was, and is, that you should not limit neighbourhood immigration history to Dutch immigrants. Southern Europeans who immigrated during the fifties and sixties, as well as the North Africans, Turks and Latin Americans who came after them, share an immigration history with the first inhabitants of the area. This is a strong common ground for local integration and common activities, as has been proven, for instance, in the Paris banlieue city of Châtenay-Malabry. As an urban regeneration expert, I was not too disappointed when I was told, that the centre will have to close its doors shortly because of lack of funds. As a social historian, however, I regret very much, that a fine chunk of popular history is at a grave risk now. In the afternoon, I participated in the EUKN Dutch launch, a conference of Dutch experts that took place in another part of the city. See following post.

It was also disappointing to see, that, since the years that I monitored the city’s regeneration policies as a civil servant, apparently, not much progress has been made in transforming the city services in order to facilitate an integrated approach of territorially accumulating problems. The The Hague diversity- and integration-policies are very sensible and rich, but there is no way, that they could by themselves steer efficiently the necessary emancipation processes in the city’s hot spots.

We will discuss these matters tomorrow in a general evaluation session at the City Library, located at the top of the huge white City hall, designed by Richard Meier.

No time for cable replacement today: photos and final impressions will follow in the coming days.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Huib on Urban Travel, 1 Dec. 05: REGENERA in the Hague

REGENERA in The Hague (Netherlands)
I was invited to the The Hague workshop (1-3 December) of the REGENERA Network under the URBACT programme, in order to facilitate the transmission of experiences, knowledge and failures to the other participants in this workshop from Europe. The Hague is a Dutch city of 450.000 inhabitants and it is known for its practical and efficient approach to problems arising from immigration and interethnic tensions. Problems of poverty and exclusion are concentrated in a limited number of neighbourhoods, such as the ‘Schilderswijk’, that are historically housing the poor and newly arrived. The City Council, under Christian Democrat Wim Deetman as the state-appointed burgomaster (Mayor), is open to creative and unorthodox initiatives to promote emancipatorial processes.
Like every greater Dutch city, The Hague struggles to make meet strict national law with the constraints of daily care. Mr. Surendra and his team of workers from different city services, try to put into practice an integrated approach to local clusters of problems.
Today, and for two other days, researchers, practicians and political people from the other cities that are in the REGENERA network, study the work that is in progress in this Dutch city.
We are here with representatives from Greater Lyon (the leading city of this network, France), from Milan, Turin and Pescara (Italy), St-Etienne (France), Prague (Czechia), Budapest (Hungary), Warsaw (Poland), San Adria de Besos and Santa Coloma de Gramenet (both from Cataluña, Spain), Birmingham, Glasgow and Belfast from the UK.
The experts responsible for a final report of this network are Rémy Nouveau and Alexander Wagner from Greater Lyon and Claude Jacquier, Stéphane Bienvenue, Hans Schlappaa and Elena Maggi, thematic experts. And, on this occasion, your blogger.
Today, we listened to policy explanations by our Dutch hosts. Oral reports were provided by foreign workgroup members on the subjects treated by inter-network URBACT conferences like the one that took place in October in Palermo (immigration), the URBACT annual meeting in Liverpool (14-15 November) and the Birmingham meeting a week later on city problems.
Tonight, we had a social evening in a Chinese-Indian restaurant, managed by people from the former Dutch colony of Surinam (Latin America). Food and dance provided a distracted ambiance, where otherwise very serious men and women from all parts of this old Continent went out of their heads and socialised in a way that provides hope for the future of this awkward collection of national entities.
(As I forgot to take my special cable, photos of these events will be published tomorrow;-).

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Neocon Hawks are coming to the UK and Holland

Ros Taylor writes about politics for Guardian Unlimited and edits the Wrap, a digest of the daily papers. She is my favoured British journalist. Her daily “wrap” of UK-press was my first email-based news source. Objective, funny, independent and straightforward.
Look at her portrait, more Brit, you die. The Wrap, downloaded daily on my fragile ISDN connection, often made my (lonely) day at the dying away of the nineties and the grey start of the 3rd millennium…

Here is what she writes today on her “Guardian UK politics” blog about the latest instance of US neocons-penetration into “Old” Europe. (I wrote about an “American Enterprise Institute” (an important frontshop of the neocons in Washington) excursion to Holland, here , July 6, 2005):
Inside the hawks' nest

By Ros Taylor / UK politics 12:52pm
Old neocons never die. They rebrand and carry on. So the London launch of the Henry Jackson Society and its Project for Democratic Geopolitics at Westminster tonight - by invitation only, natch*) - is an event worth watching, not least because it has the backing of two men very close to David Cameron**), the MPs Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey.
Much of the HJS's statement of principles could have been written by Tony Blair - who, as I write, is making very similar points to the Commons liaison committee as they question him about Britain's policy in the wider Middle East. The Society "supports a 'forward strategy' to assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so. This would involve the full spectrum of our 'carrot' capacities, be they diplomatic, economic, cultural or political, but also, when necessary, those 'sticks' of the military domain."
The society has made its home in Peterhouse, one of Cambridge's more old-fashioned colleges, and takes inspiration from the eponymous Democratic US senator who died in 1983. Initially an isolationist, Jackson became an advocate of a tougher stance against the Soviet Union and of American intervention in Vietnam - sticking by the latter view even when most of his party turned against it. He was also a civil rights supporter and campaigned for environmental protection.
Richard Perle[to the right on the photo,with former Bush speechwriter David Frum HR], one of the Pentagon advisers credited with persuading George Bush of the case for invading Iraq, worked for Jackson and is one of the Society's patrons. The list of patrons reads like a roll call of hawks: William Kristol ***) of the rightwing Weekly Standard, the former Nato commander General Jack Sheehan and the ex-CIA director James Woolsey, among others.
The supporters include a smattering of spooks, diplomats, Times journalists and grandees whom recent events have treated badly: David Trimble, Colonel Tim Collins, Irwin Stelzer (another Cameron fan) and the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove.
So far, so neoconservative. Still, it would be wrong to gloss the HJS as simply an apologist for the Bush administration. It is certainly anti-UN (believing that "only modern liberal democratic states are truly legitimate, and that any international organisation which admits undemocratic states on an equal basis is fundamentally flawed") and it is certainly pro-Nato, but it calls for the EU to maintain a "strong military" of its own - albeit under British leadership. Significantly, the pro-EU former minister for Europe, Denis MacShane, has signed up. So far, the society has concentrated on Middle Eastern democracy (and, yesterday, the Guardian's "shame" in "pandering" to Noam Chomsky). Human rights abuses in China, touched upon by George Bush during his visit, get less attention. But although it looks and feels Blairite, the HJS is preparing to move on. For those curious about just how neoconservative a Cameron-led opposition would be, the society will be worth watching.
*) “natch” (slang) means: “naturally” (HR)
**) David Cameron is one of the candidates for Tory leadership in the ongoing elections for that position in the UK (HR)
***) Bill Kristol is son and heir of Irving Kristol, (god)father of the neocons (see: Irwin Steltzer “Neoconservatism”, HR)

In Holland, we have the Hague-based “Edmund Burke Stichting” [Edmund Burke Foundation] chaired by Professor Kinneging (Leiden) and led by dynamic Bart-Jan Kruyt. A series of two articles in the September issues of the Amsterdam weekly ‘De Groene Amsterdammer’ revealed the ways of financing this enterprise through American sponsors (notably the medics giant Pfizer).

Poor Burke: upset by the French Revolution of 1789-1792, he struggled for a more controlled democratic process. Never ever he could have imagined that his name would be abused by those wooden-shoe philosophers, in order to position themselves for a….. (you’ll never guess) ….Revolution. A conservative and authoritarian revolution, prepared by Spruyt, hoping that the wild post-Fortuynist debate in the Netherlands would destabilise the existing order of “monarchy, politics and patronising” so far, that his neocon young rebels would be able to take over.
This went too far for the Dutch Patrons of the Burke Stichting (among them former prime Minister Dries van Agt), so they collectively resigned, leaving behind aforementioned Kinneging as sole patron. Pfizer also, transferred its Spruyt-subventions to an European Free-Market Foundation based in Brussels. So far, only a dissident member of the Dutch conservative liberal party VVD, MP Geert Wilders, associated himself with Kruyt and his Burke Stichting. This crackpot “Liberal Jihad” protagonist had himself shown around in the USA last year (by the Burke Stichting), where the real neocons loathed his xenophobic views on Muslims. (Real neocons like you find them in the Weekly Standard, do like fundamentalists and are convinced that believers, even Muslim believers, are the backbone of a disciplined society.)
Under Kruyt however, the Dutch Burke Stichting has no alternative but to associate itself with the xenophobic fringe in Dutch politics, so we may expect that the real neocons will soon establish themselves in Holland by means of another foundation, bearing another historic name, (why not John Harris?), and spread the Word along the lines of London Times' colomnist Irwin Steltzer’s prescriptions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Huib on Urban Travel: Liverpool URBACT 3:15/11

Huib on Urban Travel: Liverpool, Tuesday evening 15/11/05

URBACT: European City Networks Energised!

Once upon a time…, 15 years ago, we started bringing together countries and cities, their governments and their authorities, their officials, their neighbourhood regeneration professionals (project team leaders and –members) and representatives of the local voluntary sectors. And scientifics: spatial planners, sociologists, architects, community social psychologists, economists etq. Few people from the private business sector, but even they were present. But what happened all the time at big international meetings like the one I participated in yesterday and today? Discussions were badly structured, information was inefficiently shared, practitioners were not heard. And that, in spite of extensive preparations in the shape of exchange visits, mainly by local professionals and inhabitants’ representatives, monitored by scientific staff. Those mini-scale meetings, trainings and exchanges were a greater success than we could hope for: people who felt isolated, and were marginalised, suddenly discovered colleagues and fellow-believers in emancipation-by-doing. A learning process started there. Big official European meetings created more frustration than inspiration.

















Great 19th century Liverpoolers looking down on the URBACT meeting in the megalomaniac St.-George Hall on the acropolis of that city…


The dominating structure (or the lack thereof) of this cooperation was: the Network. A network can be anything. Anything between a mafia and an information exchanging ring of university researchers. Now, under impulse of the French City policy people, Eurocities and other pre-existing networks, the City networks have been energised into real-life laboratories of collecting, refining and codification of urban knowledges. This was done by URBACT: a Paris secretariat linked to the Délégation Interministérielle à la Ville (DIV, located in Saint-Denis) that coordinates systematic, but polymorphic, knowledge-generation through monitored trajectories of exchanges between cities from all EU countries. Many of this pre-existed: Quarties En Crise, Eurocities thematic networks, comprehensive scientific researches. But is was too dispersed, too ad-hoc, too soon forgotten.

Today, I participated in a working group, where different thematic networks reported midway about their findings on the subject of citizen participation in local public management. For one network (the Rome-led PARTICIPANDO), this is a main theme, for the others (immigrants, IT-communication, young people, security, business, etc.) it is an essential part of their thematics. This exercise in “cross-network” exchange turned out to be extremely fruitful and to-the-point. I will report about this participation subject, especially in its relation to policy and management decisions, in a larger document, to be published on my website .
Our Dutch pride: the EUKN web-based urban knowledge treasure was well represented. (Fleur Boulogne of the Dutch Home Office explains EUKN to a visitor).
Urban research veteran Claude Jacquier (CNRS, Grenoble) is a fine internationally-oriented researcher and teacher.

Mr. Bob Ledsome, outgoing president of the international URBACT Monitoring Committee and leading official at the British Office of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott contributed about a too-little known aspect of UK urban market-driven policy: its care for sustainable communities. (No photo).
I discovered quite a few fellow-Dutchmen and –women, like Cleo Pouw and Benji de Levie from Rotterdam, who contributed expertly to this European forum, not to speak of Maarten van Bemmelen, a really internationilised Rotterdammer, living in Spain, who is an expert of the URBACT Secretariat. Without their contributions, the European Union as a caring governmental body about cities, would be different and surely not be better off than now.

By mid-2006 the different thematic trajectories will result in documents, training courses, information exchange systems and many other tools for the urban regeneration workers. It is a shame, that, just now, the European Union (DG Regional Development) is more and more taking leave of its policy of support to urban interventions. Urban policy is turned into a subtheme, without much enforcement, of regional massive investment, as far as the planning for 2007-2013 by the actual European Commission is concerned. The managing and steering role is relocated to one or more national governments. In the budgetary proposals, no funding is earmarked for cities. And, given the budgetary deadlock between governments, all financing is stalled anyhow.

Cities are the only imaginable locations for a web-based competitive knowledge society as was projected in the 2000 Lisbon objectives. If cities are left alone, in favour of monster subsidies to international agro-industries and big farmers, datafarming will emigrate to China and India and the big European urban agglomerations will turn into 21st century Bombays, Calcuttas and Rio de Janeiros. URBACT proves, now already, that a relatively small investment into cities, may produce an enormous added value, provided, the money is spent on emancipation, on people.

Goodbye to Liverpool. Plane early tomorrow.
Your urban traveller goes to Amsterdam, next Thursday.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Huib on Urban Travel: Liverpool 2 13/11

Huib on Urban Travel – Liverpool 2 13/11/05 17h41

No wonder, that the Liverpool waterfront resembles bombed German cities! It was heavily bombed itself by the Germans during the ‘Blitz’ 1940-41.
Queen Victoria’s monument in the City centre was, at a given moment, the only construction that still stood on the Liverpuldian hill.


Only now, 65 years later, some parts on the slope of the hill that is turned to the Merseyside are being renovated or rebuilt with (horrible) new developments.

The seaports along the river Mersey, with their proud and opulent nineteenth century warehouses, the Port-Of-Liverpool-Building like a Babylonian palace and its two Sisters (Cunard Line and Liver Assurance) and the Albert Dock with rosy pillars all around – they escaped destruction, apparently.

I went around on foot, this afternoon, saw a Blitz Museum, a Beatles Museum and a Museum of the Liverpool People. In bookshops, I learnt of the tribal origins of the city (‘Scouse’), and saw, how Irish it has become. Chinese live in a Chinatown ghetto.
Along the river walk is a monument for the many seamen who perished during the convoying to and from the United States in the First and Second World Wars. To the left of it, is a Belgian monument, commemorating the same for Belgians, to the right a Dutch one, but –of course- for the Second War, alone.

Huib on Urban Travel: Liverpool Sunday 13/11

Huib on Urban Travel. IBIS Hotel Liverpool, 10h44 GMT
A whole, long, dull English Sunday to spend in a poultry cage of French inspiration.

Liverpool. Liverpool!

Beatles and Soccer. Such interesting people at the University and so close to Manchester (but never mention that here! It is like mentioning Amsterdam in Rotterdam, Hamburg in Bremen, Nancy in Metz).
Loony Left in Toxteth neighbourhood. As close as London comes to the Atlantic. Former Slave traders at the shores of the Irish Sea. Welsh to the left, Scots to the right, Irish in front and London in the back.

Yesterday night arrival at John Lennon Airport. Taxi to hotel (photo).
I do not complain about the hotel. It is the best you can get on my budget, if you want to stay close to the Convention Centre where the URBACT conference starts tomorrow. It has decent, but minimal, accommodation for both its target groups: families and commercial representatives.

I guess, I am of the latter category. Somewhat lost among the weekend enjoying families. The families, couples, wedding guests and I – we are located in the City Centre, near the old sea-port. At some distance, I see some roofs and towers of intact commercial, financial and cultural palaces, dating from about a century ago.

On the foreground: this typical post-modern waterfront redevelopment landscape that came into being during the eighties and the nineties of last century. Characteristics:
  • Most of small constructions (houses, small workplaces, shops) razed, only the narrowness of roads and their winding remembering them;

  • Bigger constructions, like nineteenth century warehouses, with their brownstone facades renovated and transformed into flats, small enterprise-breeding centres, or, like the location of tomorrow’s URBACT Conference, hotels or convention centres;

  • Relation with the harbours and de waterfront is often tiny or non-existent;

  • New constructions are in concrete and metal and do not relate to the remnants of the original urbanisation (car parking – see photo).
This kind of urbanisation recalls so many German City centres, where all, or much of, the less resistant buildings have been destroyed by bombing during WWII.

To the individual pedestrian visitor (me), this always feels uneasy. Every moment fearing to get lost.


At the same time, I feel relieved, when I recall the utter depravity of these locations, when I visited them 20 or 30 years ago. Rats had taken over the valley of port installations in Glasgow, the London Docklands resembled a third world country and everywhere in Europe, abandoned waterfront warehouses had become places of marginal, an very often illicit activities, surrounded by dangerous wastelands. Amsterdam, Genoa, Lisbon, Dublin, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Bremen, Cadiz – to mention a few. It is –undoubtedly- much better now. Governments and local authorities have found ways to engage private initiative to bring about this transformation. Sometimes by means of heavy state- and semi-state investments (Bordeaux, Amsterdam, Bremen), sometimes by selling out the best parts to big international property investors (London Docklands).

What I regret, and what I see as a failure of us, social medics of deprived urban areas, is, that we have not been able to save, integrate and make sustainable, most of the creative, young and innovative economic and housing projects, founded by squatters of those abandoned buildings, mostly because of their scale, that did not correspond to the globalisation scales. But also, because of their low capital intensity (as they were in their beginnings) and their lacking, too often, of an integrative insertion into the social and economic life of the inhabitants of surrounding neighbourhoods.

We could have federated the self-managing waterfront initiatives on a European scale, exchange experiences, learn from each other and, maybe, get a specific EU funding. We could have integrated them as a principal participant into the local Development Societies (Enterprises) that came into being as ppp’s at the end of the eighties. It was to be expected, that within a market of quick-profit seeking capital, they would not survive. In the best cases they have been bought and have lost their innovative capacities. In the worst, they went under in the it-bubble, or were forcibly relocated. In the artificially created local development part of the market, where sustainability was (or was intended to be) a leading criterion, many more of them could have survived and grown.

Europe’s Waterfront areas like this one in Liverpool would have looked different, now. And we would be more advanced on the road to meeting the Lisbon objectives…

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Do not gloat at France's suburbs - tomorrow it will be your problem...

Today, I posted a comment to Matthew Turner's posting on the A Fistful of Euros Blog on the French suburban events of the last 14 days.

AFOE has been desperately looking for independent, non-mainstream, opinions on the suburban rage in France. There is perhaps a need for people who are connected to the southern half of the EU at afoe. Turner takes a denigrating commentary in the London Daily Telegraph as an occasion to ask attention for another way of looking into those events, i.e. considering them primarily as an outrage coming from people who feel that they have been betrayed by authorities who promised them integration into French citizenship and the respect that goes with it.
Here is my comment, leaning on Olivier Roy's opinion article in today's New York Times:

Dieu merci! Finally, AFOE lives up to its usually balanced views on what happens in Europe and in the World. Of course, what happens in France since 13 days, is no islamic, nor even ethnic, conspiracy to destabilise the French state or the European Union.

Olivier Roy, writer of an authorative book on the Western roots of islamist radicalism("Globalized Islam" in its English translation), analyses as follows what is happening, today in the OpEd contributors section of the New York Times (09 Oct 2005):

” …the reality is that there is nothing particularly Muslim, or even French, about the violence. Rather, we are witnessing the temporary rising up of one small part of a Western underclass culture that reaches from Paris to London to Los Angeles and beyond.”

And Roy continues:
“They express simmering anger fueled by unemployment and racism. The lesson, then, is that while these riots originate in areas largely populated by immigrants of Islamic heritage, they have little to do with the wrath of a Muslim community.”

Solutions, i.e. emancipatory trajectories, exist and have proven their viability, in France and in other parts of Europe, but they are not market-driven (although they drive the market, create new ones) and they take usually more than 5 years of intervention into the areas by independent task-forces. This kind of destructive and hopeless rebellions will continue to occur, in Europe and elsewhere, as long as generations of people are being socially marginalised, because of their temporary uselessness in the actual industrial conditions. Roy:

“Just look at the newspaper photographs: the young men wear the same hooded sweatshirts, listen to similar music and use slang in the same way as their counterparts in Los Angeles or Washington. (It is no accident that in French-dubbed versions of Hollywood films, African-American characters usually speak with the accent heard in the Paris banlieues).”

They are, what was called in the 19th century the “Lumpen Proletariat”, i.e. those who destroyed from time to time new machines that needed less human labour, in their own workplaces. Nothing new under the sun. Roy describes this as follows:

“Nobody should be surprised that efforts by the government to find “community leaders” have had little success. There are no leaders in these areas for a very simple reason: there is no community in the neighborhoods. Traditional parental control has disappeared and many Muslim families are headed by a single parent. Elders, imams and social workers have lost control. Paradoxically, the youths themselves are often the providers of local social rules, based on aggressive manhood, control of the streets, defense of a territory. Americans (and critics of America in Europe) may see in these riots echoes of the black separatism that fueled the violence in Harlem and Watts in the 1960’s. But the French youths are not fighting to be recognized as a minority group, either ethnic or religious; they want to be accepted as full citizens. They have believed in the French model (individual integration through citizenship) but feel cheated because of their social and economic exclusion. Hence they destroy what they see as the tools of failed social promotion: schools, social welfare offices, gymnasiums. Disappointment leads to nihilism. For many, fighting the police is some sort of a game, and a rite of passage.”

In France, at least theoretically, exists (like in the U.S.A.) an egality of citizens by law. Elsewhere, this notion is less clear. In Holland, for instance, full citizenship has been made dependent on “integration”. But, those who fulfill the conditions and actually f e e l integrated, are, like in France, not accepted as such, in spite of their efforts. This capture within a no-win situation, causes rage and nihilism. From an economic view on sustainability, a relatively small investment into coordinated support of social emancipation, should be considered as an extremely sure and beneficial expense.

But, every time these kind of rebellions happen, authorities launch expensive window dressing programmes of huge investments into local hardware and/or into security measures of a repressive kind, that irritate the inhabitants, destroy local small economic initiatives and are abandoned midway for other priorities. Leaving behind people who feel all the more frustrated and destroying any social networks and local knowledge and know-how that may have been accumulated.

These problems of modern economy are too sensible to be left in the hands of people who are motivated primarily by their short term political ambitions, like Sarkozy in France. Nor to his rightwing opponents, who are only motivated by a desire to get rid of this populist, and not to seek a sustainable solution to this “fracture sociale”, although (as an editorial in “Le Monde” pointed out two days ago) this fracture sociale was a top priority of presidential candidate Chirac in 1995.

More sensible policies are being proposed by local mayors, left- and right-wing confounded, and one can only hope, that they will be heard, this time.

Posted by: Huib, Brussels at November 9, 2005 10:31 PM

Monday, October 31, 2005


Huib, Brussels, July 2005 Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 08, 2005

LONDON ATTACKS: Mayor Ken Livingstone speaks


From some people you meet in your life, I do not know why, you expect that they will live up to the occasion. I met Ken Livingstone in 1985 or 1986 in Amsterdam, in a rather shabby Russian restaurant, because Conny Braam, his girlfriend at that time, was a friend of my girlfriend. Conny was a deeply involved anti-apartheid activist and became soon afterwards a well-known writer and journalist in Holland.
Mr. Livingstone's Majorship of the Greater London Council (GLC, the forerunner of the actual GLA) was nearing it's sad ending at that moment, as the Thatcher Government was being busy liquidating it. He did not appear very much destabilised by those circumstances. We ate borscht and other Russian delicacies with our ex-Communist female companions, for whom the location had a nostalgic flavour. Alcohol galore.
We talked about city governance and the incomprehensible phenomenon of the split personality of the citizen: he or she may be staunchly conservative when voting for Parliament, reactionary when voting for Europe, and progressive as a citizen of a city, while he may be at the same time an anarchist when it comes to neighbourhood matters...
I did not like the "loony left" issues Ken's government was apparently completely occupied with in those last days of the "red" GLC. Coming from the Dutch city government tradition, where local authorities wield generally much more power than in Britain or France, it was difficult for me to understand, that there was no other way left for the GLC to exploit the Thatcherite repression politically.
But in spite of that, the man struck me as an imperturbable and integer people's representative. His imperturbability came in anew, when Blair tried to keep him away from a second Majorship when the elections for the Labour-reinstated GLA were to be held. Machinations and spin deprived him of the Labour candidacy, but he won as an independent against both Labour and Conservative candidates. His finest hour came, when Blair had to give in, when the next elections were looming and Livingstone was invited to rejoin Labour.
Meanwhile, his successful public transport policy, avoiding most privatisation misery that elsewhere happens, and the toll system on car traffic became signposts for other big European agglomerations.
Sometimes, incidents like when Ken became part of an afterparty brawl or when he accused a journalist of using nazi methods, I started to doubt, if this man lived really up to my expectations.
But now, in the aftermath of the Tube bombings, he says exactly what had to be said. Uniting and not dividing, proudly defending the openness of his city to all who are seeking its liberty, its freedom and its civilised way of living together. What a difference with most comments of Dutch politicians after the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in November 2004!
Here are Ken Livingstone's words on returning in London, yesterday, from Singapore:

Mayor condemns terrorist attack as cowardly - statement
7-7-2005 326

This was a cowardly attack, which has resulted in injury and loss of life. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been injured, or lost loved ones. I want to thank the emergency services for the way they have responded.

Following the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11th in America we conducted a series of exercises in London in order to be prepared for just such an attack. One of the exercises undertaken by the government, my office and the emergency and security services was based on the possibility of multiple explosions on the transport system during the Friday rush hour. The plan that came out of that exercise is being executed today, with remarkable efficiency and courage, and I praise those staff who are involved.

I'd like to thank Londoners for the calm way in which they have responded to this cowardly attack and echo the advice of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair – do everything possible to assist the police and take the advice of the police about getting home today.

I have no doubt whatsoever that this is a terrorist attack. We did hope in the first few minutes after hearing about the events on the Underground that it might simply be a maintenance tragedy. That was not the case. I have been able to stay in touch through the very excellent communications that were established for the eventuality that I might be out of the city at the time of a terrorist attack and they have worked with remarkable effectiveness. I will be in continual contact until I am back in London.

I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith – it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.

Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life.

I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others – that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don’t want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Poverty of History

"Make Poverty History!" - For me, a historian, history means poverty: bad wages for teachers, worse pay for researchers, not to mention librarians and archivists ...

But that is not what I meant to say. It is about poor treatment of history here.

Handling history is telling a story that creates a useful myth. A common myth. A myth to share between religious believers, members of a tribe, citizens of a city or a country.

Nationalist myths, in so far as they are secular (the religious nationalist ones are not always disguised as history), have been the main products of history-writing during the last two centuries. Even though we should not forget the dialectic-materialist historical myths that nurtured Stalinism and Maoism. We may consider them a specific variant of nationalist myth-producing. In a slightly indirect way, they produced also blinding nationalist myths, supporting feelings of racial and/or national superiority, viz. compensation of inferiority complexes.

On another location (nl), I will try to handle an extraordinary outburst of nostalgic national history bunk in a specific country, post-Fortuynist Holland.
Exploiting a historical myth (clash of civilisations): Members of a delegation of the American Enterprise Institute, visiting a Rotterdam Mosque as guests of the Dutch Conservative "Burke Stichting" (June 2005, Photos NRC Handelsblad)

Here will follow a critical review of French MP De Villepin's rewriting of Napoleonic history and of post-9/11 American hysteric history.

Rich countries - poor myths.


Friday, April 29, 2005

IRAQ: Time for Apologies to the U.N. now!

February 2003 at the UN Security Council: Colin Powell makes his statement about Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). His allegations, all proven false since then, were based upon reports from the C.I.A., the Pentagon and his own State Department services. Vice-president Cheney's staff intervened during the three days of preparations for his speech.

Near the end of the year 2003, Powell says publicly for the first time, that he felt having been misled. A honest man and a loyal servant to his President. His suicidal loyalty was not rewarded by President Bush and his camarilla, as we know now.

Today, Powell is supported by a remarkable statement from another loyal servant to the President, former C.I.A. Director Charles Tenet (CNN News, 29 April 2005):

Former CIA Director George Tenet said he regretted assuring President Bush in 2002 that he had "slam dunk" evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

"Those were the two dumbest words I ever said," Tenet told about 1,300 people at a Kutztown University forum Wednesday.

The theory was a leading justification for the war in Iraq.

Such weapons were never found.
The scandalous and disgraceful U.S. intervention before the Security Council, before the eyes of the whole world, was never followed up by an update, in spite of the U.S. reports on the non-existence of WMD in Iraq, published since then. On the contrary: Everybody who dared to oppose the U.S. Government's views on Iraq, has become "free game" for the ultraconservatives. Kofi Annan is smeared by means of the inquiry into the "Oil for Food" program, completely designed by the U.S. and the main profiteers and Saddam-stooges are US-related, too. If the international community remains silent, Annan's fate in 2006 will be that of Colin Powell in November 2004.

It is time for a counter-attack. The US owes an apology to the members of the Security Council and to the international public. It has to be given in public, in the same Security Council. And who could be a better person to convey it, than John Bolton, if confirmed as UN Ambassador. Who could imagine a more convincing proof of the existence of a "new" Bolton, if he would start his work at "strengthening" the UN with such an honorable act? No more misleading, no more lies, no more demagogy in the world's most important security gremium! The U.S. sets the Standard. Something to be proud of, as an American, and it costs nothing to the American taxpayer!!


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Topping off the skyscrapers

John Bolton has been inspired by Mohammed Atta, no doubt.

"Mr Bolton (...) once said that if 10 of the 38 storeys of the UN building in New York were lost it would not make any difference." (BBC News, April 11 2005)  Posted by Hello

Monday, April 04, 2005

Bush's candidate for Pope

It is not easy, these times, to be an international pontiff. Look at Kofi Annan. Look at Mohammed Baradei. Or Hans Blix. What do they have in common? They are able, competent, mild people. And what more do they have in common? They are US Administration scapegoats. Blix left already. Baradei's and Annan's upcoming renominations are contested by the US. After the Bolton and Wolfowitz nominations to the UN and to the World Bank, we must expect a similar Bush strike for the Papacy. Regrettably, US RC Bishops are out of the question, because of the paedophile scandals. So, who shall it be? I bet on a Latino woman. If possible, braindead. We must all stand for the equality of all human beings, especially for the weakest. This is a golden opportunity for Compassionate Conservatism! A novelty in Roman Catholicism: a female Pope. And on top of that: one who does not speak up! Women can be chatterboxes, you know.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

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