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July 27, 2014

How to find a lost rocket launcher

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 9:55 pm

find-missing-buk-crop-koreandefenseKoreanDefense writes: “The rebels in eastern Ukraine seemed to have lost the anti-aircraft system they’re using to shoot down planes, so, let’s help them locate it.”

The author uses Twitter, Google Maps and Google Translate to help Russian terrorists, the ones that allegedly shot down civilian flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, locate their missing Buk rocket launcher. A more serious investigation appeared in The Guardian a week ago.

Dutch weblog Nine to Five has been doing its own research into Buk rocket launchers. It appears that Rostec, the company that manufactures these missile systems, is officially headquartered in Amsterdam in a building owned by Renault-Nissan. Rostec and Renault-Nissan work tobether in the car manufacturing business. The reason such a large Russian company has its office in the Netherlands is likely because we are a tax haven.

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On Saturday I biked to the Rostec office expecting to find I don’t know what, anything really. A lone protester perhaps or a sign that this is where evil lives. I guess the most dramatic thing about the arms trade is its entirely uninteresting face of respectability. On one end of the planet you have hundreds of innocent people being torn apart in a ball of fire while back home you have marble slabs, sleek halls and a parking lot for visitors that is always empty.

(Link: Martin Wisse, top illustration: KoreanDefense)

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July 23, 2014

The Hague’s new logo already falling apart

Filed under: Design,General by Orangemaster @ 7:49 pm

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In February Amsterdam’s new
‘hit the return key’ logo upset quite a few taxpayers, and now it’s The Hague’s turn to weather the outrage about their new logo as it is already dangling in failure.

The new logo was unveiled last month, cost 250,000 euro and pissed off taxpayers. The city says it will repair the logo soon enough. In the meantime maybe we should take bets on the ‘e’ falling off.

(Linsk: www.omroepwest.nl, www.rtlnieuws.nl, Image: Twitter @ShakeAtOrion)

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July 22, 2014

Dutch constitution will finally include e-mail

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 8:33 pm

grondwet-grondwetfestival_nlArticle 13 of the Dutch constitution declares a secrecy of correspondence, meaning the government and others are not allowed to snoop on your mail.

However, there is an unfortunate loophole: the law specifically talks about paper mail. E-mail was never included and therefore exists in a legal limbo.

According to Internet lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet, the council of ministers of the Netherlands has now proposed a change in the constitution that will not actually name e-mail, but which will make the phrasing of Article 13 more generic. A change in the constitution requires two consecutive parliaments to vote for that change, the idea being that the change can be made an issue in the elections.

Not that it matters much, as the Dutch constitution, which is now 200 years old, is more of a guideline than law. Judges are not allowed to ignore laws based on their constitutionality. The constitution may be said to have a normative function, for example, it could show courts how to interpret a vague law, but a 2009 study by the national government claims that this normative function is eroding (PDF). Instead a societal function is emerging, as the constitution aims to hold up a mirror to the citizens of the kingdom and to show us what our shared values are.

See also: an English translation of Article 13.

(Photo of the constitution of 1814 by Grondwetfestival.nl, used with permission)

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July 13, 2014

Rich are getting poorer in the Netherlands

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 2:56 pm

swimming-pool-meraj-chhayaAn OESO study has discovered that the Netherlands bucks the trend of the rich getting richer at the expense of those paying for the crisis.

Good news, then? Not really. Z24 points out that the Dutch poor are also getting poorer. The group of people that live below the poverty line has increased from 6.7% in 2007 to 7.8% in 2011. In this study ‘rich’ is defined as belonging to the top 10% in disposable income and poor as the bottom 10%.

The financial news site points out that the poor have lost less income than the rich, which is an interesting mathematical factoid, but otherwise devoid of meaning in my opinion. If the poor lose 1.5% of their income it means they go without food for another five days in a year, while for the rich it means they have to wait five days longer before they can purchase their next luxury car. Not quite the same difference.

A group of people that has done relatively well for themselves during the crisis is the elderly whose income has stayed the same. The group of 18 to 25-year-olds has seen their income drop since 2007 by well over 2%, although those differences are minimal compared to those of the same age groups in other countries such as New Zealand and Israel where the elderly are getting rich at the cost of everybody else.

(Photo by Meraj Chhaya, some rights reserved)

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July 9, 2014

Child made to pay for homophobic swearing

Filed under: General,Weird by Orangemaster @ 12:26 pm
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Parents of a nine-year-old boy heard their son use the word ‘homo’, which is a Dutch swear word equivalent to ‘faggot’ in weight and meaning, and made him pay for it. He had to pay 0,10 euro to COC Netherlands, the Dutch LGBT organisation.

The payment had an explanation from the parents: “Sorry for the odd amount, but this is a ‘fine’ for using the word ‘faggot’ as a swear word (9 years old). He understands what he did wrong now.”

A COC employee said that ‘faggot’ is the most popular swear word at Dutch schools. A gay friend of mine who teaches at a secondary school in Amsterdam recently disciplined a boy for calling another boy ‘faggot’ and had to explain why that was wrong. The issue was that the boy didn’t see the connection between an actual homosexual like his teacher and calling someone a ‘faggot’, but I’m sure he gets it now, too.

The swear word ‘homo’ in films by the New Kids (view the trailer at 0:28 and let it roll for 10-15 sec even if you don’t speak Dutch) is used more like ‘pussy’, which doesn’t really offend people somehow because the films’ characters are total white trash douches themselves.

(Link: www.lindanieuws.nl)

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July 8, 2014

Shoot first, ask questions later or wait and see?

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 2:17 pm

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Here’s a lovely, fuzzy article about cultural differences in The Guardian, prompted by an organisational theory thought up by Dutchman Fons Trompenaar, which divides the world into peaches and coconuts. Peaches are what I call the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ people who are friendly to strangers and will withdraw if they have to over time, while coconuts are the ‘wait-and-see’ types who will seem distant at first and may eventually warm up to you over time.

The important point is that both sides are valid and have the power to offend the other, deliberately or not. Recently a Dutch acquaintance said if someone was offended by something he said, it was always the other person’s fault for being offended and that people get offended too quickly. Much like the clumsy KLM tweet about Mexico, where KLM tried to say they were sorry but actually suggested that other people just don’t get Dutch humour, this would mean that the entire Twittersphere would have to bow to a culture they probably don’t even know and that the person at KLM is not responsible for their mistake.

If Trompenaar’s theory of both sides having equal value is true, then someone who causes offense cannot always blame it on other people. Conversely, someone who decides to be offended by everything they hear is of course equally at fault for blaming others. When I was learning Russian at university in Québec, I found out by reading Russian people’s reactions socially that calling myself ‘Natasha’ (my real name) was considered too friendly too fast because ‘Natasha’ is a friendly diminutive of ‘Natalia’ and you don’t let people call you that unless they know you. I then started introducing myself as ‘Natalia’. I could have said, ‘sod this, it’s my culture and my country and my name is Natasha’, but instead I told them they could call me ‘Natasha’ because that was my real name. Some stuck to Natalia, some switched to Natasha, but either way there was some cultural balance without outright blaming the other for not knowing any better.

A Dutch friend of mine visited my house once, which has carpeting that I can’t change for wooden floors, and I told him to please take off his shoes. He said, ‘what’s this, a mosque?’, and I told him that I didn’t want dirt from his shoes on my carpet. I explained that where I come from, a good part of the year it’s full of snow and mud outside, and walking into people’s homes with shoes on — unless you bring a pair of indoor shoes — is a no-no. Although it was my house, it was his cultural rules and I ended up vacuuming for 20 minutes after he visited me. He refused to accept that he had to change the way he did things for me because it wasn’t the Dutch way. All my friends take off their shoes at my place, but they do it because it’s my house and see compromise as a good thing rather than claim that their way is the only right way.

(Link: www.theguardian.com, Photo of Coconut by SingChan, some rights reserved)

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June 22, 2014

Pension fund for self-employed people finds provider

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:27 pm

coins-branko-collinAbout a month ago we told you about a pension plan for the self-employed.

A new fund called ZZP Pensioen was almost ready for launch except that it had trouble finding a provider. According to financial news site Z24 the largest pension provider of the Netherlands, APG, has now agreed to manage the fund. APG currently manages the pension funds for the government, construction workers and cleaners. Ten percent of all Dutch workers are self-employed.

If you have an irregular income—read, if you are self-employed—paying fixed premiums can be difficult. That is why so many of the growing group of the Dutch self-employed don’t save up for pensions. The premium payments for the new fund are variable, as you just put in what you can afford. The fund is also personal, meaning your contributions don’t pay for other people’s pensions. As a result you will only get paid for as long as there is money in your account.

The advantage of having a pension instead of saving money in a bank account is that the payments count as income, but the amount saved does not count as property. You will only be taxed once you get the money. That is the theory at least, in the past the government has forced ex-entrepreneurs to dip into their pension funds before they could receive state welfare.

ZZP Pensioen starts accepting members in 2015. The fund can also be accessed in case of invalidity, so it doubles as an insurance.

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June 20, 2014

Boisterous café blames limiter for loud music

Filed under: General,Sports by Orangemaster @ 12:51 pm

Café Goos in the South of Amsterdam decided to party on with some music after the Netherlands won 5-1 against Spain in the World Cup on 12 June. However, the music was too loud for the neighbours who complained and the café owner was given a warning: pipe down or else it will cost you 5,000 euro next time.

Dutch cafés are required to have limiters on their music installations, often dedicated mp3 players or computers, in order not to exceed legally allowed sound levels. However, the authorities claim that Café Goos’ setup using an iPad was just not working properly. The owner blames the limiter for not working properly, as if he had no control over it, which is lame and will still cost him 5,000 euro if he can’t sort it out.

A football win is not an excuse to make more noise than usual although I am sure many people in Amsterdam would tolerate it if it were a semi-final or a final. Cafés are very often at odds with neighbours over noise in major Dutch cities and is a top complaint around the country. Amusingly enough, the Amsterdam district with the least noise problems as of March 2014 is the South.

(Link: www.parool.nl)

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June 10, 2014

HEMA to hit London high street this week

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 10:20 am

If Amsterdam can embrace major British retailer Marks & Spencer, then it seems only fair that London gets its very own HEMA. HEMA already conquered Paris in 2009 and has been a staple in Belgium for years, although France has more stores than Belgium. HEMA also exists in Germany, Luxembourg and even Spain.

HEMA’s unique Dutch designs are surely their best selling point, not just their low, rounded off prices — none of that ‘£1,99′ business. And despite the odd controversies HEMA gets itself into here, like plagiarising wine labels and encouraging children to cheat at school, HEMA was considered by 81% of the population as an essential brand in 2008.

I like their tea towels, socks and travel make-up, and sometimes even their food.

(Link: www.independent.co.uk, Photo by Hans Vandenbogaerde, some rights reserved)

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June 7, 2014

The Hague court wants less female judges

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 5:30 pm

In 2009 for the first time ever women made up the majority of judges in the Netherlands. This year even 64% of the judges of the court of Utrecht are female.

In response, according to Algemeen Dagblad, the court of The Hague (56% female judges) wants to give preferential treatment to male candidates. The court fears having too many women could influence the way the public views the courts’ impartiality.

The court’s plan received support from celebrity lawyer Theo Hiddema in Trouw who warned that you wouldn’t want to create a situation where a male rapist would have face three female judges and a female prosecutor. “Imagine,” Hiddema told Trouw, “that the suspects come from a different culture. Imagine the shame and humiliation when an all-female court tells them their behaviour is not of this time!”

Institutional mansplaining, who would have thought? Only job market news site Werf& appears to have noticed that what the court of The Hague wants is very much against the law. The site points out that affirmative action is only legal when used to help disadvantaged groups.

Although women form the majority of judges in lower courts, as late as 2006 they were still in the minority in appeals courts where a majority of two-thirds of the judges were men, as Trouw wrote back then. Judges that were ‘foreigners’ (allochtonen, Dutch code for people of colour) were in an extreme minority, the paper reported.

According to a Metro article of 2011, sociologist Bregje Dijksterhuis explains the preference of women for judicial robes because an appointment as judge is for life and because it is a job that combines well with having a family. Men on the other hand prefer higher paying jobs as lawyers.

The Dutch Council of Women quotes De Groene from 1947 after the appointment of Johanna Hudig as the first female judge in the Netherlands: “Courts have the reputation of being bastions of conservatism. The greater is our satisfaction at seeing how the court of Rotterdam has stood as one man behind the candidacy of this woman, giving a shining example of a broad and modern vision towards the judicial office.”

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