Monthly Archives: March 2017

On Geert Wilders and the Complex Issue of Immigrants in Europe

At electoral-vote.com March 15th is a short item about European elections.  It reads and Dutch presidential candidate Geert Wilders in particular:

Elections in The Netherlands, France, and Germany this year will test whether right-wing, anti-immigrant parties can upset the established order worldwide. The first test is today in the Netherlands, where 28 parties will be vying for seats in the 150-seat lower chamber of the parliament. Seats are allocated to parties in proportion to the popular vote, with no geographic restrictions. According to some polls, the leading parties are the VVD (Party for Freedom and Democracy) led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the PVV (Party for Freedom), led by anti-Islam zealot Geert Wilders.

Wilders is even more fanatically anti-Islam than Trump. His platform includes securing the borders, closing mosques, closing centers for refugees, banning the Koran, and forbidding women from wearing headscarves. He also wants the Netherlands to follow the U.K. out of the European Union.

He has some things in common in Trump besides his dislike of immigrants. In particular, he communicates with people by tweeting, in order to avoid the media filter. His hair is also somewhat unconventional. His economic policies are generally left wing, though, and so he will attract some votes on that basis alone. What is extremely unusual is that his official platform (in Dutch) fits on a single page and has only 11 items, as follows:

  • De-Islamitize the Netherlands (with 8 bullets about specific items such a banning mosques and the Koran)

  • Leave the European Union

  • Introduce binding referendums on policy issues

  • Eliminate all deductibles in health insurance

  • Lower the rents on apartments

  • Bring the age for Social Security back to 65 (it is creeping up to 67)

  • No government financing for foreign aid, windmills, art, innovation, public radio or TV, etc.

  • Eliminate previously imposed austerity measures in home care and care for the elderly

  • Expand funding for defense and the police

  • Lower income taxes

  • Reduce the vehicle registration tax by half

I’ve sort of kept up with events in Holland and other northern European countries for some years, due to the seemingly very real problems that they’ve experienced with Muslim immigrants being sometimes aggressive in pushing religious dictates on some rather small countries.

Frankly, it appears that that has been a clash of cultures, one that came mostly from their membership in the European Union.  With the EU, anyone who can get into the EU is free to travel and work anywhere else in the EU.  So, people who get into, say, Greece, can then travel up to Holland and get a job and stay. Continue reading

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What Is Infrastructure?

When talking about infrastructure it is fine to talk about specific physical infrastructures like roads and public transport, about walkable cities and such – about underground pipes and cable and sewers and electrical and potable water supply.   Walkable cities are nice.  I know.  I live in one.  But there are many walkable places in the world.  The VAST majority of them are small towns, places with few services and bad infrastructure.

I will say that having been over a good bit of southern Peru, I have seen what a handicap it is to a country when such things are missing or inadequate. It was like driving over speed bumps/humps spaced at 5″ intervals.  As a mechanical engineer who has worked many years on well-designed systems, seeing an entire country hamstring by terrifically horrible roads was a shock of the first order.  Third world country?  Try perhaps fourth world.  So I appreciate all those items of infrastructure, very viscerally.  I’ve seen and helped build good and even great ones, and I have seen what happens when they are not even close to being good.  And I am thankful for the many billions of hours of design and construction of any properly functioning physical infrastructure.

I am not saying anything that most of us don’t already know, but pointing out that certain things are part of our infrastructure may be a useful reminder… and perhaps instructional to others. . . Continue reading