Entries in Belgium (169)
- Funneling money to the most absurdly rich people in Belgium to be slightly reduced -
Big news this week for republicans in Belgium. The main political parties agreed on a budget-saving measure that will force the Royal Family of Belgium to pay tax. Not only does the Royal family have massive wealth locked away (mostly gained by this mass murderer), but taxpayers pay for palaces, cars and servants. On top of this, all the members of the Royal Family get given a stipend from the government, which is up to €11.5 million for the King (his children earn get given ~€100,000 to €1 million each, while more distant family members get less). Then, on top of that, the stipend is tax-free!
Thanks to the new law, the stipends of most family members get cut back and they will have to pay taxes on their earnings income. The King will still get his €11.5 million tax-free. In the next generation of Royals, the King will have to pay tax, and only the heir will get an income. The rest of the Royal Family will have to survive on their massive generation-spanning investments while living in their taxpayer-funded palaces.
But of course, austerity means cutting social services to the poor.
Hayden loved everything about Mini-Europe - the Hayden-sized buildings, the things to climb, the buttons to push and the national anthems. Best of all, though must have been the earthquakes Hayden could cause by pushing a button at Mount Vesuvius:
The bluebells are in flower, so we went out to Hallerbos forest to see them. Bluebells grow best in ancient forests, where a dense summer canopy and thick leaf-litter prevents most other plants from surviving in the undergrowth. Hallerbos is one of the few surviving fragments of the primordial European forest, part of the mighty Silva Carbonaria that once making up the frontier of the Roman Empire, and even though most of the largest trees where felled during WWI, the mature forest is still one of the best places to see bluebells in flower.
More photos are here.
In a long-delayed advance for women's equality, women in Paris now have the right to wear pants. The law from 1800 had previously been updated in 1909 to allow women to wear pantaloons when riding a bike or horse, but now it has finally been repealed.
Meanwhile, in Antwerp, the mayor has decided that civil servants are not allowed to dress in a manner that identified them as openly gay. The example used was a rainbow shirt, but the concept was explained such that a civil servant cannot dress in a way that "makes clear that he or she adheres to this obedience". By all means, Mr Mayor, please give us the official homosexual dress code so that styles that are too obviously gay can be banned. Also, to achieve your desired neutrality, please ban all dress styles that are too openly heterosexual.
Overnight our building was decorated with 6-story Bonom painting of a naked goblin / Ghandi caricature. Some people in our building are outraged at the vandalism, but I don't mind it too much.
To me, the greater act of vandalism was performed by the architect in designing a big ugly brick wall in an urban landscape and by the city planner who approved this monstrosity of a building. Every time I walk past I think that we should commission a mural on the wall, so while this isn't what I would have chosen I'm happy to see a bit more character than ugly brick.
The other thing that this building makes me consider is who should really own the rights to our urban landscape? Living inside our ugly building we have views over a park and a beautiful castle, yet our neighbours are dominanted by our eyesore. We would all like to live in a beautiful city, but there is little incentive to make our own building a feature as we only see those of our neighbours.
At Brussels Midi train station at the moment is the "World's Longest Chocolate Structure" according to the Guinness Book of Records. The chocolate train is 33.6 metres long, took 784 hours to construct and is made from 1285kg of chocolate in 6,432 pieces.
It is actually very well done, with spectacular attention to detail, but seriously, what isn't a Guinness World Record nowdays? This was a new category just invented, so they got he record automatically - but surely anyone willing to lie a thousand chocolate bars end-to-end will beat it. Knowing Guinness, they will then create sub-records for "World's Longest Chocolate Train" or "World's Longest Dark Chocolate Structure".
On the weekend we had local elections in Belgium. For our local region, the outcome was very nice: a mix of socialists and greens in power, with a focus on improving bilingual schools and growing the car-free areas of the neighbourhood.
But the big story of the elections was the growth of N-VA, mirroring the Federal election results a few years ago. I don't hide the fact that I detest N-VA and their leader, Bart De Wever, for their general nasty bigotry. De Wever has a long history of seedy partial associations with far right neo-Nazi characters, but it is enough at arms length that he doesn't carry with him their taint. However, whatever you want to say about De Wever, he is the political story of the decade in Belgium, changing the electoral map, coming from nowhere to being the largest party in Flanders.
So who exactly is voting for N-VA and De Wever? The changes from the Provincial election results since 2006 are a good indication of who makes up N-VA:
* A block of voters come from their 2006 coalition with the Christian conservatives (CD&V)
* The Socialist Party (SP.a) lost 40% of its vote, but largely this was to Green/Socialist alliance and similar parties. Overall, the Green/Socalist block was reduced by 2.8%, which presumbly went over to N-VA.
* The economic liberals (Open VLD) lost 20% of its vote, presumbly to N-VA (no one else increased their vote)
* The neo-Nazi Vlaams Belang party lost a whopping 60% of its vote to N-VA
Based on these figures, N-VA voters are:
* 45% former neo-Nazi voters (VB)
* 30% former Christian conversatives (CD&V, formally in alliance with N-VA in 2006)
* 15% former economic liberals (Open VLB)
* 10% former socialists (SP.a), largely from small towns where their vote died
So any time someone in Flemish politics wants to wave a magic wand and cleanse De Wever from all the hatred he spreads, it is worth remembering that he is drawing around half his vote from a hard-core neo-Nazi party. It is just that his bigotry has a thin veneer of respect, allowing him to pull in extra votes from the other conservative parties.