30 November 2006

The Fourth Protocol

Dear readers,

This story is getting murkier every day. When I began mentionning it, I thought it was just another spicy piece of news. But I had no idea of the political involvments. And then, as anglo-saxons say, "shit has hit the fan"...

First, there was the death of an ex-spy, believed to be poisonned with thallium. It was already "nice" enough, but in a way relatively trivial. The two prime suspects being the head of the Russian state and its exiled and rich rival, there was not much left to our imagination, except the sordid details. But all this changed this week-end with a couple of revelations. First, the poison was not thallium but radioactive 210Polonium, a component usually found inside nuclear bombs and with very little civilian use. Worse, traces of this metal were also found on people who had visited the spy, as well as in the places they had been. This is not very surprising, but it is certainly frightening. Even better, I had mention Scaramella, an Italian involved in this strange case. Apparently, and according to La Reppublica, Scaramella had been asked two years ago by a friend of then Prime Minister Berlusconi to contact Livtinenko to try and prove that Romano Prodi, his left wing rival, had KGB contacts. And this is where things get even nicer. According to UKIP uncovered blog, Scaramella was also a friend of London UKIP member, Gerrard Batten. This looks more and more like a huge political manipulation, at European scale.

All this is now reminding me of a pretty good book (which was also made a movie, as well as an antique video game): The Fourth Protocol. In this novel, it was the detection of polonium by a British agent which was leading to the uncovering of a plot by rogue KGB agents to blow a nuclear bomb on Western territory, by smuggling its components in from the East. We are getting all the elements of such a story here, and I wouldn't be surprised if someone else wouldn't mention the legendary Fourth Protocol. For the reader's info, such a treaty (preventing any nuclear power to smuggle a bomb on any other power's territory) is in fact a legend, inspired from the 1968 UN treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons... At least, none of the four countries supposed to have signed this protocol ever admitted it.

But let's face it, it is unlikely that anyone without extremely solid connections in a major nuclear power government has get its hands on any significant quantity of this polonium isotope... And if it is the case, it is a serious casus belli. As simple as this.

24 November 2006

It's a dead spy

Dear readers,

As was unfortunately likely, Alexander Livtinenko has died. Medical experts are now questionning if it was thallium at all that killed him. Other experts (but of the intelligence world) are also questionning the involvement of the FSB or any other Kremlin controlled agency. A possibility could be that some agents belonging to the Berezovsky clan, exiled himself from Russia, could have tried to mark points against Poutine. It seems complicated, at best, but very possible. And it is true that Berezovsky was very quick to point fingers at the FSB...

Let's hope Scotland Yard will do its job and find who did what. Though I believe it unlikely.

23 November 2006

BBC - Dutch elections won by SP

Dear readers,

Just a word about the Dutch elections. It was a bit strange yesterday night, when the first results were displayed on the Dutch 1st TV channel. The BBC and Le Monde reported rightly that, if the CDA has, as expected, won the parliamentary elections, there is an obvious shift of the electorate towards left wing parties and a more "social" society. This is going to make the negotitations for a coalition government extremely tense indeed.

On one side, you will have a CDA, nearly ensured of getting the Minister President position, while its ideas and policy are at least pertly rejected by the Dutch voters. Which should lead the party to ally with the Christen Unie and the PvdA (Labour Party). But ironically, the victory slogan of CDA was: "wij hebben goud". Which is as much "we won the gold (medal)" as "we got gold". Which is just what the voters reproached them. The CDA outrageously favoured its relatively rich, christian couple with children voters, while other less advantaged citizens felt left behind...

22 November 2006

Marelles now on Technorati

Dear readers,

I finally thought it might be useful to be also on Technorati:
Technorati Profile

Let's see if it helps improving the numbers of you... ;-)

Bad weather for spies

Dear readers,

These days news are decidedly turning around Russian spies, ex-Russian spies or potential Russian spies. It looks like if we had gone back in time to Cold War 50's...

According to the BBC, a man was arrested in Canada, at Trudeau Airport, with forged IDs. The man has been convicted of being a Russiam spy, from the SVR this time. Contrarily to the FSB, similar to the US FBI or the French DST, the SVR is dedicated to external intelligence. The man, known under the alias of Paul William Hampel, would have spied for Russia for about 10 years, stealing especially economic secrets.

The funniest in this story is that "Hampel" will most probably be condemned to being expelled from the Canadian territory, towards Russia. Which is what he was just attempting to do by his own (illegitimate) means when he was arrested...

And another good guy goes down...

Dear readers,

They are falling like flies. Today it was Pierre Gemayel's turn.

Pierre Gemayel was the youngest Minister in the Lebanese cabinet and a member of the Phalangist Party (Maronite Christian, also called Kataeb). He was driving his car in a Christian area of Beyrut when another car rammed his. The murderer jumped out of it and fired a burst of bullets in Gemayel's vehicle. Pierre Gemayel died a bit later... He was the son of Amine Gemayel (who once was Lebanese President) and the nephew of Bashir Gemayel (assassinated in September 1982, a couple of weeks after having been elected President too). He was also and mostly, like all the previous Lebanese politicians and journalists assassinated in the last months, a vocal opponent to the Syrian domination in Lebanon. Last but not least, he was a relatively junior (translate by expendable...) in a government fighting for survival. The Lebanese constitution obliges a government to resign if at least a third of the Ministers resign. Six of them, all linked to the Hezbollah (a pawn in the Syrian game), resigned last week, hoping to force the government out to provoque new elections. The pro-Syrian parties had in mind to take advantage of the recent popularity of Hezbollah and Amal after the last war against Israel. To reach a third of the total Minister count, they made a cynical calculation: they need to kill three, or, by killing one, to freighten the others into resigning... The whole question will be wether this will give more popularity to the anti-Syrian parties.

After this small reminder about the horrors of Middle-East politics, I would like to come back to my last post. I mentionned the character of Mario Scaramella. First, I would feel extremely nervous in his situation. Most of the people who seem to have information about the murder of Anna Politkovskaya or at least the involvment of the Russian services in it are disappearing. Violently... Who is next on the list? But it is also interesting to know who is "il professore Scaramella". I had the curiosity to search around. Mario Scaramella was until recently the head of the ECPP. The Environmental Crime Prevention Program is presented by Scaramella as a UN agency, but it is in fact an intergovernmental program. It regroups about 25 countries, the most active ones being Italy, Angola and the Samoa. Though its seat is in Washington, most of its activities take place in Naples. Scaramella presents also himself as a professor of the University of San Jose California, as well as an (unidentified) Colombian university. Unfortunately, there is no mention of his name on any website belonging to the famous American university. So who is Mister Scaramella?

He appears a couple of times in the Italian press (Il Corriere della Serra, as well as the weekly newspaper Espresso). He was a consultant in the Mitrokhin Parliamentary Commission, intended to study the consequences of the publication of the Mitrokhin Archives in Italy. In this position, he claimed that he could locate the nuclear mines that a "November" class submarine would have dropped in 1970 in the Naples gulf. The sub in question, the K8, was actually lost in the Bay of Biscaye the same year, and 20 of its torpedoes were indeed never found. For this, he said that he had the help of Russian officers who were responsible for the 1970 operation. Nobody knows really why and in which quality he was a consultant for Sismi in this Commission. As far as I know, his public references are limited to the use of satellite imagery for the monitoring of environmental crimes.

It's in this other quality that Scaramella was involved in another curious affair. He led an investigation on the illegal dumping of waste by a camorra clan in a lake of the Herculanum area. After this succesfull investigation, he went with two police agents to a suspected villa. There, the trio was actually shot at by camorrists. After returning fire, they managed to arrest one and to discover an important weapon cache in the villa. This episode led itself to many questions about what a simple consultant was doing there, in the company of armed agents in civilian cloths...

I have no other information on Mario Scaramella, but I think it is a somewhat colorful character. And a strange contact for Alexander Litvinenko in his research for the murderers of Anna Politkovskaya...

20 November 2006

Russians again...!

Dear readers,

Russia is in the news again today, and unfortunately again for the wrong reasons. According to the EU-Observer, a man nearly killed Alexander Litvinenko around the 1st November, by poisoning him with thallium. Litvinenko was an ex-FSB colonel defector, living in London, where he had political activities related to Russia. He had recently tried to investigate the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Aparently, after having met an Italian businessman, supposed to be KGB acquaintance Mario Scaramella, he fell ill and was admitted into intensive care. The same week-end, two other persons related to the Politkovskaya investigation enquiry were assassinated. Oleg Gordievsky, who knew Litvinenko pretty well, claimed the assassination attempt had all the marks of the ex-KGB agents. The fact is indeed that the use of thallium is pretty much a signature for the FSB. Both Gordievsky and Litvinenko were considered under death threats from their former colleagues, after their defection. And while both were living relatively public lives (both wrote books about their former agencies activities in the UK and Russia as well as abroad), they were taking some understandable precautions... Interestingly enough, according to Gordievsky, Scaramella is most probably not the killer, but another (unknown) businesman is believed to have taken a tea with Litvinenko that same day. A businessman related to ex-oligarch and another of Poutine's ennemies, Boris Berezovsky...

This gets murkier, but the cleaning up around the murder of Anna Politkovskaya is looking more and more political every day. And it is a double edged sword. It is probably very convenient for Vladimir Poutine to see his sworn ennemies falling like flies around him, but it is also making his whole work stink more and more at a time where he is attempting to do good business with the West. Especially the EU, but not only. According to Eastern European sources, the Russian Presidency and its allies (Gazprom people mainly) are trying to create a massive gas cartel around Europe, similar to the OPEC, to be able to impose semi-monopolistic prices. Algeria would be another member of the cartel, as both countries own most of the world reserves. Needless to say that some countries, depending on Russian gas, are not amused. Poland is leading the counter-attack by vetoing a planned EU-Russia agreement on energy. But other countries (more depending on Algerian gas, such as France) are closely following. This gets even more complicated, with "intermediary countries" crossed by gasoducs and trying to get the better of the situation. Moscow sees these countries (mainly Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia) as vassals who should be maintained in a salutary dependance... Ukraine and Georgia don't seem to appreciate this perceived involvement in their internal politics and are rearming as fast as possible.

Speak about a powder barrel...

17 November 2006

Ségolène, Milton and the others...

Dear readers,

I have difficulties today to chose a topic. For this reason, you'll be treated with two in one... Isn't that great? The two main topics being related, that won't be this difficult. The first is the fact that Ségolène Royal was elected as Presidential candidate of the French Socialist Party for the 2007 elections. The second is the death yesterday of Economics Nobel Prize-winner Milton Friedman.

Ségolène Royale got an unexpected whopping 60.62% first round victory in the first ever primary elections ever organized in France. The significance of this is disputed, maybe as much as the candidate herself. The socialist new candidate is highly popular amongst French electors, and far beyond her own political party. However, it was suspected that she wasn't so highly regarded within the left leaning electorate. Indeed, what is known about her ideas (and that is admittedly not much) is much more social-democrat and centrist, some say "Blairist", than the official program of the "Parti Socialiste". So how did she manage. Some say (especially her supporters, including her spouse, the party's General Secretary) that she had simply more support than the left media would admit. My take in this is that it is not as simple as it may look. It is certainly true that a part of the media overestimated the influence of Laurent Fabius, the most leftist of the candidates in the Socialist Party. It is also very clear that some socialists wanted to punish him for having tried to exploit for his own interests the outcome of the negative answer to the European Constitution referendum. He presented himself as the most prominent "noniste" (as they were dubbed), but proposed an interpretation of this no which could only hurt the feelings of mainly pro-European socialist militants.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn proved a better contender for Royal, fighting her "on her own turf", which is the social-democrat field. But I suspect in the end that socialist militants put a very opportunistic vote in the ballot. They knew that the only chance for them to have a condidate present at the second round of the French presidential election was to send Ségolène Royal to the contest. She is the only left wing candidate to have any chance to beat the right wing UMP party rising star, Nicolas Sarkozy, current Interior Minister.

But what has all this to do with Milton Friedman? Well, the famous neo-liberal economist is publicly denounced by all socialists in France as the founder of a school of Chicago that they see as not only wrong but even morally evil... Friedman was the proud defender of less state intervention in the economy to provide growth as well very strict monetary policies to fight inflation. This is all what very Keynesian French socialists have ever opposed. Represented in France by economists such as Bernard Soulage, they believe in more regulation, more state and more redistribution of wealth. The fact that this has been proven wrong in 50 years of History is not enough for them to renounce this... at least publicly. Their electorate, totally ignorant in terms of economic policies, much as the French general public and media, would immediately vote them down if they would admit any change of line. This said, things are not that simple anymore. Surprisingly enough the assumed Blairism of Ségolène Royal, now freed of the socialist primary hurdle, could change the way French people understand economics, or at the very least blur the situation a bit. All for the better, one might hope...

16 November 2006

BBC - Image recognition software

Dear readers,

Everyone knows about OCR (optical character recognition), which allows a computer scanner to "read" a text on a physical document, interprete it and restitute it as a formatted text file. Recent versions include image restitution within a given text, but if the text is indeed gramatically interpreted depending on the language, the image are not. They are restituted as they are, bits of color information on a two dimension surface. Which is what they are, as far as optics are concerned.

But this is all about to change, and sooner than we thought. The BBC announced today that a research team has created a prototype software able to actually interprete an image or movie. In other words, an optical recognition of objects on a multimedia document, coupled with a robust artificial intelligence system. The prototype is limited to certain types of scenes, but only raw power prevents the technology to be applied to anything, from your holiday pics to movie rush analysis...

This is going to revolution multimedia software. Imagine for instance a software like Picasa, but with the option of automatically adding relevant caption to each image, sorting them in a database in a couple of minutes, based on the actual content and topic of these images, without any human intervention... And think also, this is not only going to revolution your holiday pics, it is going to revolution intelligence work. Big time!

15 November 2006

BBC - Al Jazeera English Channel launched

Dear readers,

Today is a good day in the History of free media and press in general. Al Jazeera, the famous Qatari TV station has launched an English speaking channel. The news is making the front page of many newspapers, as well as the BBC. Al Jazeera is famous for being the first (arguably independant) TV station to bring daily news and programs to the Arab world, investigate, report images and produce content in Arabic and for Arabs. The only taboo Al Jazeera ever accepted was about its "home country", Qatar, whose government is funding the station. But its audience in the Arab population (and more generally in the Arab understanding Muslim world) has made of Al Jazeera the CNN of the South.

Of course, the main question about the Qatari TV is: "Is it fair and balanced?" Or is it simply a pro-Arab biased, islamist station? Slate magazine online tried to answer this question by comparing with American famous 24hours channels, CNN and Fox News. According to Slate's journalist, Al Jazeera is actually a rather balanced channel. The TV station airs of course radical islam views, but also moderate Arab ideas as well as Western analysis and opinions. Of course, the Arab-Muslim way of thinking is privileged, which makes a lot of sense for a TV whose public is 95% Arab and Muslim. But, Slate argues, so are Fox News and CNN too. They broadcast news for an overwhelmingly Western public (or Western educated). So their views "pay lips service" to the Arab view and images, while reflecting their more or less democratic or republican agenda respectively. As an exemple of Al Jazeera moderate and balanced approach, I would point at today's coverage they made of the legalization of gay marriage in South Africa. The article presents both pros and against and leave any judgement to its public. It's fair to say such a public will most likely be horrified, but that will come from its own cultural bias, not because of Al Jazeera. And one can compare with the treatment of such a topic by, say, a Rush Limbaugh...

The question which remains though is wether (as the BBC puts it) Al Jazeera will keep the same editorial line in its English and Arabic version. If it does not, the English version will sadly lose most of its interest, which is obviously to give the Western world an accurate view of the Arabic and/or Muslim mind. Al Jazeera, nonetheless, has provided us with a fantastic first step towards intercultural understanding. More than any military might, this kind of initiative has more chance to bring peace to the Middle-East than any military force. Who said the pen was stronger than the sword?

14 November 2006

Law and Order

Dear readers,

As promised last month, I would like to begin my discussion (with myself...) about politics. Again, please remember this is a personal description of an ideal system, voluntarily disconnected from any geographical or national reference.

Most political systems, especially written constitutions, begin with a reminder (one which has usually the highest legal binding effect) of the main rights and sometimes duties of citizens. It is called here "Bill of Rights", there "Human Rights Declaration", but it is a constant in constitutionnal law.

First, I'd like to criticize the idea a bit. It is great to have fundamentals, but how can we be sure they are not culturally tainted? Actually all of them are tainted. Even the UN Human Right declaration is clearly tainted with the Western civilization ideological bias. Not that I find this wrong, but it is an inconvenient when you try to find a common ground with someone with, say, a less individualistic background. Which means already that focusing on citizens only might be a mistake. It could be just as effective to have at least organisations mentionned (moral persons and not only physical persons, to use a legal term).

This said, I think we have to go back to basics. What is the goal of a government, of a political power? It is to protect its citizens and their families. To protect against what? Well, against other states, if need be, against other citizens, and eventually against nature's harshest inconvenients. Why did I say their families? Because, as Maslow showed, there are several steps in human developments. The first one is physiological (food, shelter, sex, health). The second is safety, but the third is love and belonging, which includes family. I believe any type of government shouldbe dedicated to allow all citizens to achieve not only the three first levels the Maslow pyramid, but also the two last ones which are (self-) esteem and self-actualisation. Most governments tend to provide for the first three levels only and either forget about the two last ones, or force them upon their citizens. Another common mistake by political powers is to forget that moral persons have different rights from physical persons, as well as different needs and to confuse them.

This leads me to say there should be a Declaration of Rights and Duties for the citizens, as well as an annexe or an appart declaration (subject to the first) for moral persons. Why Rights and Duties? It is because if citizens or moral persons only have rights, they will have the tendency to forget that the state is also there to protect other citizens against abuse of their rights. And worse, courts will have the tendancy to actually enforce their rights over the rights of other citizens rather than remind them of their duties.

Well, I think it is enough thinking for tonight, I need beer! ;-)

13 November 2006

Sea & Navy - French Navy threatened in Lebanon?

Dear readers,

I'd like to react today on one of the week-end news. The French Defense Minister (Michelle Alliot-Marie, dubbed MAM), announced that Israeli F15 fighters, violating Lebanon air space, proceeded to fake attacks on French units, both Army and Navy. The fighter pairs went in mock dive bombing passes over a French fort in Southern Lebanon. Even worse, according to Sea & Navy, they did the same on a French frigate, the Courbet, as well as several German units patrolling the Lebanese coast. Why is it worse? Well, as for the Army units, serving Mistral anti-aircraft missiles, they had the choice not to take the threat seriously and avoid pulling the trigger (which would have certainly ended in a disastrous "border incident"). Which they did, receiving the order to abort launch a couple of seconds before firing.

The Navy units are a much more dangerous stuff. Indeed, to protect multi-million euros ships such as a patrol frigate, engineers have relied on their crews, of course, highly trained and motivated, but also on automatic response systems. These systems are set up to engage any target entering a certain dangerous "envelope" and destroy it, even if the humans on board haven't realized it. Which means, unless the crew has marked the aircrafts as "friendly", the onboard missile systems (Crotale anti-aircraft, similar to the US Hawks) will take them out. As it seems, the French crew had detected the Israeli aircrafts and made sure they were not shot by the frigate defense system. But one might wonder what would have happened if the F15 had actually surprised the Courbet! Unlikely as it may be, that is always possible, as the Argentinian Air Force proved during the Falkland War.

This is a huge political risk. It is absolutely unacceptable, of course, that Israel violates the Lebanese air space, but it is even worse that its Air Force targets allied units whose presence is actually intended to protect its own border. What is worse is that Israel is doing something which it wouldn't allow any of the said allies to do to its own units. This kind of arrogance is not only dangerous for the individuals involved, it is extremely damaging for the Israel position in the public opinion in France in particular and in Europe in general. Tsahal would do good to keep its men in controle...

10 November 2006

EUobserver - European Democracy

Dear readers,

As usual, Peter Sain ley Berry (the editor of Europa World) has come out with a brilliant article on what he calls "A gaping lacuna at the heart of European Democracy". He refers to Jacques Delors' definition of European democracy, and underlines the lack of critical media focus in this definition (politic, socio-economic and civil society). He also goes on to explain that most European member state politicians are following (consciously or not) Delors definition. And, according to him, it is another reason for the current crisis of confidence the EU is finding itself in. If you prefer, he thinks that citizens don't trust the Union because there is no European Press to criticize it, analyse it, talk about it and serve as a way of expression about it for them.

I would certainly agree to such a statement. However, I think Berry is missing a most important point. Before there can be a power that can be criticized by an independant but truly European Press, there need to be actually a power. Any power. But that's the prerequisite now lacking in Europe. Delors in his definition brushes it slightly (but without daring to go any further) when he mentions the political criteria. Democracy means conflicts are solved in a political way. But most importantly, it is legitimacy which is at stakes. A democracy is a system of government where legitimacy comes from the people. This is exactly what Europe is missing. Before a European press to criticize it, we need a legitimate European power.

And what do we have? Traditionally, in a democracy, power is divided in three. Legislative, executive and judicial powers are separated and the three must have legitimacy. In the European Union, the legislative power is shared between the European Parliament and the European Commission. But only the European Parliament has legitimacy, as it is elected by the people. The executive power is shared between the European Commission and the European Council. But none of them has people's legitimacy. And the simple fact the EU Commission shares power with both also means that there is no true separation of powers. So the EU is actually adding up two of the main "sins" any democracy should avoid: no separation of powers and absolutely no legitimacy for the executive power. This is a recipee for disaster, as the last Constitutional debate has proven.

09 November 2006

BBC World - Markus Wolf died at the age of 83

Dear readers,

This is the first time this blog has an obituary entry. I wanted to report the fact that Markus Wolf, the former and last East German master spy died yesterday in his bed, aged 83. Contrarily to what the BBC mentions in this article, Western services did have a couple of photos of this man when he was in activity. I have seen them and I have to admit it didn't make any difference, as the pictures in question were unexploitable long distance blurry shots. I have always been fascinated by this man. He actually knew personally guys like Philby or Mc Lean. He was also an ideologist, believing (at least in the beginning) in Marxism-Leninism and its application in both local and international politics. Especially after Second World War, he became a fervent admirer of the Soviet Union. He was so brilliant, he managed to infiltrate the West German government to the absolutely top level, placing a Stasi spy as adviser to the German Chancelor.

This said, when East Germany reached its end, he had the intelligence (some said the opportunism) to recognize that his ideology had failed and he opposed personally East German Party members like Mielke who wanted to crush the rebellion. He made then his first public appearance in a political meeting, supporting the democratic pro-Western demonstrators. After the German reunification, he was put twice on trial but only condemned once, for abductions, to two years jail with parole.

And just for the legend, he was the initiator of the program consisting in sending female (or male) spies to have sexual relations with "high targets" in order to get their secrets "on the pillow"...

Edited on 14/11/2006: There has been an article by Anne Applebaum (Washington Post) on Slate on the same topic. Contrarily to me, Applebaum feels no sympathy of any kind for Wolf, and I can certainly understand why. If I am somewhat biased towards intelligence agencies people, she is a journalist and a scholar and is obviously biased against. This said, I thought fair to present an alternative view, if opposing mine.

08 November 2006

Slate - on the US elections

Dear readers,

I found this pearl on Slate today:
"I am God fearing second amendment supporting and as I said before I like girls and I like football…You don't have to worry about me emailing little boy pages on the Senate floor… Politics is way to puny for the Jesus I serve and Love… The real guiding force in this race is my Lord and Savior. I serve a big God. I serve an enormously big God." TN Senate candidate Harold Ford on various MSNBC Interviews.

Holy shit...! Either this guy has an enormously big sense of humour or he has absolutely no sense of ridicule. And in any case, it reinforces the idea I had about Republicans in the USA...

Edited on 10/11/2006: Well, I should have read this MSNBC thing a bit more carefully. Most people (as they say) would have corrected by themselves, but Harold is in fact a Democrat. This said, that makes only this piece of news more ridiculous... Secularism is really dead in the USA.

04 November 2006

Look alikes

Dear readers,

I have to confess it, I am fond of silly Internet games, tricks and gadgets... I found this on my friend's Contrarybear's blog. The Heritage website proposes to compare a picture of your face to celebrities photos. I did it, and here is the result. Strangely enough, I would have common traits with both Nigel Mansell, Bob Marley and Ronaldo... A curious mix... But, hey, I even look like Val Kilmer! Isn't that cool? Posted by Picasa

03 November 2006

EUobserver - Britons are the most spied on in Europe

Dear readers,

Privacy International has recently published its yearly evaluation of societies where civil liberties are more or less defended and respected. As usual, the EU-Observer wrote an excellent article, commenting the poor score of the United Kingdom, but also, maybe surprisingly, of the Netherlands. As for the UK, it is hardly surprising. Tony Blair has until now blindly followed Georges W. Bush, against all logics and even against his own Labour Party, for whom he has become somewhat of a liability. But the Netherlands, if they have always followed the USA in terms of Foreign Policy, have nonetheless remained until recently a paradise for public liberties.

Helas, this is now changing. "Systemic failure to uphold safeguards" is the expression used by the NGO to describe current Dutch policies. Actually, if any of us is surprised, he/she must have been blind, or lived far from good old Batavia for a number of years. Since the beginning of the right wing government rule, and through its three successive changes, one thing has remained the same. The CDA and even more the VVD have been hammering at public liberties, against their own usual credo, to please their American ally, as much as to please big corporate interests. The policies regarding telecommunications, internet, transports, foreigner treatment, immigration, etc. have been systematically twisted towards more control over our minds and not only our safety.

It is still time to put an end to it though. Of course, foreigners like me have barely any say in this, but Dutch voters can very soon express themselves about it. Enough is enough !