Thursday, July 13, 2006


As anyone who came accross this blog would notice, it stopped. It has been a nice idea to create a platform to share idea's and views but I haven't seen a single reaction of interest.

Blogging was a hype... I'm over it.

For those who want to read more:
I've created a site to combine all my journalistic efforts, in Dutch, about Ghana football, find link here:

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Lesson from Sports

For quite some times I have believed that the social impact from sports are underestimated. Often, sport results are merely reviewed as efforts from athletes to the amusement of the people. Unarguably, it is much more than that.

Recent unexpected performances of the Ghana National football team have created a unifying atmosphere in the country. Especially African countries such as Ghana are in need of unifying elements since most of them are a more or less random collection of tribes, forced in one political, economical and legal state. Reports that I got from Ghana indicate that the qualification for the World Cup is welcomed by everyone from North to South. This cannot be said for most other national occasions.

But there is more to it. The attention that media have for sports can put developments into perspective and create an understanding of our society.

Yesterday, Dutch public TV broadcaster NPS presented a documentary about football-players with double nationalities. This TV program gave a good insight on the extend to which the Moroccans have intergrated in the Dutch society. Two Moroccans (born in Holland) have chosen to play for the National Team of Morocco while other players with similar backgrounds have chosen differently. For example the players showed very little understanding for efforts by Ayaan Hirsi Ali to start a debate about the position of the Islam. Instead of taking up the invitation and give their opionion they only distanced themselves from the Dutch society, as a whole. A funny moment occured when one of them complained about the tax-levels in Holland, whilst the other explained it was needed for the unemployment benefits of fellow Moroccans. The first reacted infuriated, saying that also Dutch people take these benefits, completely missing the sarcasm of the second.

Somebody who has brought the subject of this posting to live is George Oppong Weah. The former football player of the year is now running for president in his native country Liberia. His suporters argue
that, He played professional soccer and received millions in pay. Therefore, he will not personally be corrupt like many past presidents.

Allthough I am not quite sure whether the popularity gained in a field of sports should be carried over to the field of politics, I do believe that the platform that sports provide could be given a closer look.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Lost in the web

Like any new technology, the internet is being used in many ways - for the good and the bad. The real triumph is the possibility to communicate with people all over the world, and having access to news and views from other countries. This is threatening "closed" societies like communism in China, which holds the sad record of having the most journalists in jail of all countries (perhaps not so surprising with over one billion of Chinese people around). Here's the interesting site of Radio Free Asia which is based in the US.

Optimists see the world getting smaller and flatter (see here for some criticism - in Dutch - of Thomas Friedman's book). We might wonder if that is not just another western prejudice, say something like the opinion that democracy is the universal political system. The internet is also the place where animal rights activists, radical islamists and extreme right neonazi's share very different kind of views among each other. To me it seems that the world is getting more and more chaotic, though I would deny nobody the right to live in an open society based on the rule of law.

A different question is whether the "blogosphere" on the world wide web will replace traditional journalism. The problem remains the accountability of the growing armada of bloggers. Most people still trust their familiar media, because these cannot afford to lose their reputation and credibility. So while there are millions of blogs, most people just visit a dozen favorite sites on a daily basis. Someone who has become disappointed with the new media, is Vincent Maher, a former enthousiast. Another critic, Dante Chinni, rightfully remarks that the truth is somewhere in the middle:

For all the fretting, blogging ultimately is bound to be less a replacement for the traditional media than a complement. The fact is, journalism's most critical responsibilities in a democratic society - seeking, reporting, and analyzing news and holding people accountable - aren't easy to fulfill.

Friday, August 19, 2005

On European Media

In this blog we have been looking at what is needed to make Europe a more coherent and safer place. One of the main reasons to start the blog is the lack of a European newspaper. I realise that noting imperfectness from traditional media on a weblog has grown to be a new pasttime. However, today's posting is an exception to that rule because I would like to mention a few positive developments by traditional newspapers. In the process of today's posting I also came accross a tool that has been developed in favour of blogs. This website tracks the headers where blogs write about.

Since I have been doing research, I have come accross interesting initiatives, unfortunately only focussed on sectors such as Digital Media. Interesting case this website brought up was that Dutch politicians seemed to ridicule themselves by naming Google Earth, a program that combines all available satellite pictures to a virtual world, a potential tool for terrorist. In that case, I have been using, with great pleasure, a terrorist tool myself. The story has already made a bit of rumour internationally

Back to the lack of European focus of the traditional media. I get the feeling that at least the traditional Dutch newspapers are anticipating quite well, recently.
The Dutch national newspaper NRC announced this week that it will soon start to bring a morning edition to inform people that now hardly read newspapers. The paper is said to focus on Europe as well as new media. Students are charged 90 Euro a year for over 250 editions, only on weekdays.

Another good example can be found here. Newspaper Trouw brings a so-called European self-portrait that includes from each member state a prominent painting, photograph, person, thing, text, song, poem, dish, place and an event. Even though the site is not particularly well-designed and not all the songs and poems are stated in their original language (most of them are), it is a valuable initiative.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The sharp eye of Salman Rushdie

Let's talk again about what Europe can do in the fight against terror. Of course, the 15 million euro that Brussels put aside to better protect our public transport systems against assaults, is just an example. The total budget for these kind of research projects will increase to around 270 million euro in the next years. The question is not whether this is more or less than the member states themselves spend on the subject, but whether this is a task for the European Union at all.

I do think so, because "we" share a common interest, as Europeans are all running the same risks. To fund this kind of research together and thus increase the budget, is a more efficient way than inventing the wheel in every individual member state. Indeed much still needs to be done. Lately the European Parliament complained about the European efforts against internationally organized crime. But Europol shows in its annual report that it was not completely without success last year. For instance, it supported investigations into islamic terrorism in fourteen countries. The added value lies in the accumulation and analysis of information from all over the European Union.

Furthermore, to give priority to "a further search for underlying reasons for terrorism" is like telling firemen to look for the cause before extinguishing the fire. This does not mean that such a search is useless, on the contrary, but both should be done at the same time. And the answer for the underlying cause is only partly to be found in foreign politics. Iran is a perfect example. Though Europe has tried by way of dialogue to keep this country from manifacturing an atomic bomb, Iran is shamelessly continuing the process. Not to mention the facts of publicly hanging young homosexuals and refusing medical care to journalist Akbar Ganji, who is in jail for his fierce criticism of the regime. I feel we should condemn these practices more loudly. The US at least clearly stated that Ganji should be released immediately.

Therefore, I am not as optimistic as Thomas Friedman. Yes, the world is getting flatter, but on the other hand cultural gaps seem to be widening instead of closing. Internet is a place where very different kind of communities live. In the Netherlands, Mohammed Beyouri used the web to spread his sick, fundamentalistic writings, and he is no exception. So the real battle is between the values of traditional society, especially of the muslim fundamentalists, and those of the modern world. This is the view of Dutch writer Leon de Winter, who expresses them in his weblog (in Dutch). But Salman Rushdie, whose latest book (about the same theme) yesterday enjoyed its world debute in the Netherlands, also sharply points this out:

The deeper alienations that lead to terrorism may have their roots in these young men's objections to events in Iraq or elsewhere, but the closed communities of some traditional Western Muslims are places in which young men's alienations can asily deepen. What is needed is a move beyond tradition -- nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadist ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows to let in much-needed fresh air.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Europe needs to be flatter

The recent announcement of EU Vice President Verheugen to spend 15 million euro on a
"research project to design and demonstrate an anti-terrorist security system architecture to better detect these terrorist threats and hence better protect railway passengers"
seems like a valuable contribution to the fight against terror. Two remarks need to be made, however. First, to me 15 million sounds a lot, but these kind of projects need to be put in perspective in order to be understood. I'm sure that it is only a fraction of the budget that individual member states spend on counter terrorism. Secondly, I cant help but feeling that priority should be given to a further search for underlying reasons for terrorism. More precise, the foreign policy in general and currently the policy on Iran more specifically.
"The European Union - through Britain, Germany and France - has been trying to find a compromise solution over Iran's nuclear plans for two years".
The earlier signalled lack of civil society however is not lost forever. Thomas Friedman foresees on short notice
"a flat world: a global, web-enabled platform for multiple forms of sharing knowledge and work, irrespective of time, distance, geography and increasingly, language".
It has to be noted that Friedman's work is far from unchallenged. John Gray, Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics sharply critises the views of Friedman. But even Gray admits that
Globalization is (...) leveling the playing field, and to that extent it is a force for human advance.

Credits for the pointer of this interesting debate should go to Dutch-Indian journalist Anil Ramdas who wrote about this. Interestingly, the same newspaper showed actual proof of Friedman's theory on August 2, when it described local community web-based initiatives such as these, these and these. Even though it is difficult to argue that sites like these replace the old-fashioned water pump at the town square but it does seem like first signs of virtual civil society.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Europol, Eurojust and the Olympics

Earlier this week, this blog reported about Europol and Eurojust as an answer to need for cooperation in the fight against crime. A closer look at their websites reveals that hard work remains to be done in order to have some impact.

First: Eurojust, based in The Hague, has listed its press releases. It was hard to find information that is NOT about the legal structure of Eurojust itself. The most eye-catching piece is that of the 2003 (!) annual report where Eurojust acknowlegdes to have dealt with more than 300 cases. In the release Eurojust pleas for more authority because
"we need, where necessary, to have the Eurojust decision implemented into national legislations".
The president of Eurojust admits that until that day, it is
"like sending an athlete to the Olympics without running shoes".
Secondly: Europol, also based in The Hague, has got a bit more informative press releases. But there seems to be more achievement in the field of cannabis and biking clubs (here also)than terrorism.

Perhaps the coppers have changed their Olympic aspirations from running into sailing, because they are boasting about their well sponsored sailing regattas.