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Saturday, 31 March 2018

When your business case is under fire and your stakeholders don’t listen to you the way they used to do, you can always turn to some old-fashioned fearmongering… thinks the Dutch aviation industry

It has been the talk of the town during the last year.
Lelystad Airport, the new to develop airport in the polder of the “self-built” Dutch province Flevoland was designed to function as an overflow valve for Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, in order to relieve this mainport from its “dreaded”, low-budget charter passengers that bring in too little money and sales.

Due to government regulation based upon the maximum allowed hindrance for the Dutch citizens caused by noise pollution and polluted air coming from the national airport, Schiphol has a flight cap of roughly 500,000 slots (i.e. flights)  per year.  And this maximum number of flights per year has been approaching with a bedazzling speed.

By employing Lelystad Airport as the designated charter flight airport, Schiphol would be able to keep the more lucrative transit and business passengers in Amsterdam and still remain within the maximum number of slots per year. The charter passengers would then be banished to the polder where on a “pasture” in the middle-of-nowhere their flight would leave to their sunny destinations.

This was the plan!

Even though the maximally planned 45,000 flights per annum for Lelystad Airport would only be a drop in the ocean for the ever growing, ever slot-hungry airport Schiphol, it was a beginning.

The employment of Lelystad Airport had to be done in combination with the execution of Schiphol’s further plans to bend and massage the maximum number of 500,000 slots per year to a slightly higher number of say 520,000 – 530,000 slots per year.

Schiphol tried to do this via a broad and cunning lobby with direct access to ‘The Hague’, in combination with new arithmetical ways of measuring the noise pollution from the national airport.

As a matter of fact, Schiphol’s measurements of noise pollution were (virtually) never based upon real life checks with microphones and other sensitive measuring equipment on all kinds of locations close to the airport.

No, with the help of computer models and algorithms, the amount of noise pollution was calculated for the different living areas close to Schiphol, based upon weather data, physical data for sound transfer and known physical noise data from existing airplanes.

These calculations were made by research institutes that had traditionally strong ties with Schiphol, such as the National Aviation and Spacetravel centre (i.e. NLR) in The Netherlands. And the results were laid down in a so-called Environmental Effects Report (i.e. MER in Dutch).

Last year, a new MER was produced by Schiphol that “disclosed” that growth of almost 5% in the number of 500,000 slots would be feasible, due to a new way of measuring the noise pollution and due to the fact that the future airplanes would become more silent, fuel efficient and modern in the coming years.

Silent and fuel efficient engines were the panacea that would enable the further necessary growth for Schiphol on both Schiphol itself, as well as on Lelystad Airport.

Everybody happy, right?! Wrong!

Unfortunately for Schiphol, a few people – among which the now “infamous”  ICT engineer Leon Adegeest – ran the gauntlett and started to thoroughly check Schiphol’s Environmental Effect Report for Lelystad Airport. They found it to be laden with calculation errors, deliberate(?) false measurements and perhaps a lot of wishful thinking.

The following snippets are from, from an article of October, 2017:

When an airplane flies on low altitude, this causes more noise pollution than when an airplane flies on high altitude. There is nothing strange about that. Nevertheless, in research from the National Aviation and Spacetravel centre NLR into the environmental effects and the accompanying noise pollution coming from Lelystad Airport, it was quoted totally differently.

In the data that had been used in the research, it was stated that an airplane on 900 meters altitude does not cause noise pollution. Leon Adegeest of the action group HoogOverijssel (i.e. High Overijssel) became very suspicious and started an investigation himself.

Two weeks ago the error in the calculation of the ministry was discovered. “The ministry used airplane characteristics for landing and take off, that were totally unrealistic and produced extremely low noise statistics as a consequence of this lack of realism”, according to Adegeest. “In our investigation we used more realistical profiles and therefore we found soon where the differences came from”.  

These discoveries by Adegeest, as well the never desisting lobby on the social media of Adegeest and his sympathizers (including yours truly) put the floodgates open with respect to Lelystad Airport. An old Minister for the Environment even invented the verb “Schiphollen” for not telling the truth and rigging the results of scientific investigations.

Suddenly all Environmental Effects Reports and other information regarding possible passenger growth coming from the likes of Schiphol, were distrusted by the Dutch people: not only for Lelystad Airport, but also with regards to Schiphol itself. The people felt for the umpteenth time betrayed by their government with unreal data and much too optimistical stories about the positive effects of aviation in The Netherlands, while totally ignoring the negative effects of this passenger growth for safety and national health.

The Dutch people living in the mid-country provinces felt sacrificed for the interests of Schiphol and Lelystad Airport, especially when it became clear that airplanes coming from Lelystad Airport would remain on a very low altitude (approximately 2 kilometers) for hundreds of kilometers, in order not to interfere with the airplanes taking off from Schiphol itself.

After this situation had festered for a few months, the new Minister for Infrastructure and Waterworks, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, could hardly do anything else than postponing the opening of Lelystad Airport from early 2019 to 2020 or even later.

And now the mess for Schiphol was complete: their cherished Lelystad Airport would remain closed for at least one more year, with an increasing risk that it would never open at all. This as a consequence of mounting public pressure upon the political leaders and the increasing odds of losing the business case, due to environmental hazards.

On top of that, also Schiphol’s own MER was put under intensified scrutiny as a consequence of the errors in the MER for Lelystad Airport and the assumption that Schiphol’s MER could be error-prone itself due to flawed calculations based upon wrong assumptions. This put the desired expansion of the number of slots under serious jeopardy.

As a matter of fact the whole business model of Schiphol and the airlines it services is based on unhampered, steady growth until “eternity”. Every year Schiphol wants more globally operating airlines, more slots, more passengers, more freight, more destinations and more sales in their countless shops, restaurants and bars and real estate buildings. In their world standing still means trailing behind the global competition.

This was the reason that Schiphol, and especially the whole aviation industry connected to the national airport, wrote a pressing letter to the press, thus ringing the alarm bell ‘for the future of the airport’.  

Here are the pertinent snippets from an AD-article:

When the cabinet decides to lock up Schiphol up to and including 2020, this will come at the expense of employment, the establishment climate for new businesses and the attainableness [of The Netherlands – EL] as a whole. This warning was administered by various stakeholders of Schiphol, among which KLM, Easyjet, Corendon, travel organization ANVR, labour unions CNV and VNV and the logistical industry organizations TLN and Evofendex.

The number of flights that comes and goes to and from Schiphol has almost reached its peak level of 500,000 flights per year. Recently the cabinet decided not to water down the agreements with respect to this number of flights up to and including 2020. By doing this, the government does not wait for the results of a new report with respect to the reduction of hindrance for the people living around Schiphol, according to the parties involved.

In a joint statement, these companies speak of an unresponsable blockade of the airport and they want to quickly deliberate with minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of Infrastructure, in order to come to “appropriate agreements”. 

The parties point towards a paragraph in the government agreement, regarding more silent and clean airplanes, that leaves room for further growth.

Of course I understand these people. When your whole business case is based upon the notion that you have to grow over and over again in order to stay in the business, this letter makes very much sense.

And of course, even when Schiphol plays a “neutral role” in this letter (see the unprinted remainder of this article in the AD newspaper), in order to not offend the Dutch national government, it is logical that the airport also wants to grow to at least 600,000 slots per year.

Nevertheless, as the situation around Lelystad Airport already showed out, it is extremely complicated to accommodate more than half a million flights per year in a very small country like The Netherlands; especially when these flights have to take off and land on no less than 5 main airports (Schiphol Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Lelystad and Maastricht Aachen Airport) within a very limited amount of air space. And all these airports need to have their own slice of the air space pie in order to service their passengers quickly and safely.

The fact that flights from Lelystad have to remain at two kilometers of altitude for dozens or hundreds of kilometers of their flight path shows how darn difficult it is to offer safe airspace for all these travellers. And this will only become worse when Schiphol Airport wants to grow to say 600,000 slots.

Of course, what all these airliners and other stakeholders of Schiphol want to point out with their letter is not only fearmongering. Things might indeed become a little harder for these stakeholders when Schiphol can’t grow anymore… But it is not as if their sheer future and existence is on the line when further growth is not possible!

A situation of unhampered growth for aviation in The Netherlands is utopian, due to the limited air space, the very dense population and the consequential safety precautions that must be above average to keep the Dutch people safe.

It is just not so that the whole current air fleet visiting The Netherlands will turn into green, electrical airplanes alone tomorrow and that all the noisy kerosine guzzlers avoid Schiphol all of a sudden. Noise pollution and particulates from kerosine burning will still have their influence on the mental and physical health of the Dutch population and safety of airplanes will remain an issue for the future in such a densely populated country.

Instead of trying to avoid the inevitable by ringing the alarm bells and sending pressing letters to the news media, the aviation industry could better think of a future with stable or even slightly declining numbers of slots. Just because they can’t keep on growing forever!

Friday, 30 March 2018

Will Cambridge Analytica-gate eventually force Facebook to traverse The Road to Golgotha, in order to be sacrificed for its criminally negligent and brutal behaviour?! I won’t shed a tear about it!

The success of social media platform Facebook is bedazzling. Over two billion users, of which at least one billion users logs in on a nearly daily basis. And in 2017 alone the company presented sales figures to the tune of €40 billion.

Facebook is the glue that binds numerous families and friend networks together and on top of it, it is the main (if not only) supplier of internet at remote spots of the world. And with the ownership of instant messaging app Whatsapp, the company is also the undisputed champion of the free message services.

And so, in less than 15 years, Facebook became one of the most important brands in the world of internet and social media; only surpassed in size by Google and far removed from the other social networks, like Twitter and Instagram.

But Facebook is also a controversial company, that is constantly hovering on the fine line between legal and illegal behaviour in its massive hunger for more advert sales, more tradeable user data and more addictive influence on its end-users.

In a way, Facebook acts like a drugs dealer who offers a very addictive and free product in order to make people addicted to its service. And then the people will pay…!

Some years ago I had become a part of the Facebook network, lured to it by the pictures and stories of some highschool friends from a long time ago. As opposed to Twitter, which immediately attracted me and reeled me in with its endless flow of (sometimes very) interesting short messages, fun and news flashes, I always had a love/hate relationship with Facebook. That never changed over the years.

In the beginning I used it as a tool to distribute my articles and occasionally I deliberatly posted something about myself, but for the rest I kept a very low profile there.

I was not particularly interested in knowing everything that my old and new friends and acquaintances did in their work or leisure time, unless I heard it from them in person. And I never felt the urge to share “everything” about myself or my family with the people on Facebook, only to see it go ‘viral’… which it of course never does.  

That, in combination with the sometimes utterly boring content of “shiny, happy people having a ball every day of the week in restaurants, bars and holiday resorts” and the increasingly shameless begging of companies and people to like them on Facebook for their own purposes, made that my sympathy for the social network dropped quickly below zero.

On top of that, through the years the stories kept on coming about Facebook further and further bending the rules regarding privacy and fair use of content put there by Facebook users. And especially regarding ownership of pictures, videos and whatever. The Golden Rule seemed: If you put it on Facebook, it belongs to Facebook!

As really nobody bothered to read the King Size-length Terms of Service of Facebook, the company used this knowledge to ‘bury’ all kinds of quite intrusive permissions and privileges on behalf of itself in the bottom of the conditions: You clicked on the tickbox that you accepted our conditions and thus you are supposed to have read those conditions. So hey hey… fooled you all, you bloody muppets!

And one day a few years ago, I discovered that Facebook automatically posted all my tweets on Facebook too. Even though I had certainly permitted this service earlier (probably without realizing this thoroughly), it was shocking to discover that I was not the “boss” with regards to what I wanted to post on the internet and where I wanted to post it. Facebook seemed to get an uncontrolled life of its own by scraping every utterance I did on every social platform together and putting it on their own platform.

I found a way to unregister myself from Facebook – with the help of other giant Google of course – and fought against the urge to have a peek at Facebook anyway in the two week cool down period. After two weeks it was finally over and done with! At least, that is what I hope.

I kept on using Whatsapp, even though I know this is a Facebook company, but that is all! I never went back again and I don’t miss it at all, even though the pictures and stories of old friends and interesting people keep sometimes luring me after all.

And then, a few weeks ago, I was pointed over and over again to the undeniable truth twice that it was a wise decision to abolish this social network in September, 2015.

One reason was the infamous Cambridge Analytic scandal that exposed the shameless hubris of two companies that think they can get away with litterally everything and that don’t scare away of blatantly manipulating 50 million people into chosing arguably the worst American president ever.

And of those 50 million people, at least 49 million were absolutely not aware that their profiles had been unwillingly surrendered as a consequence of an online survey that some friends or vague acquaintances of them did. They were simple guinea pigs for the Masters of the Universe that manipulated them. A simple means for making loads of money. Nuff said!

The second reason was in a way even more shocking for its boldness and ruthlessness. It was casually mentioned in a radio program of BNR News Radio in The Netherlands.

Facebook, they said, collected all the caller, call and SMS data from telephones that Facebook members used and posted those extremely private data to the network. Just, because they could do so!

Why. The. Hell. Would. A. Company. Do. That?!

What is the purpose? What is the point?

Unless you want to collect litterally everything from people, in order to be able to treat them as utter puppets on a string or to milk them as cows from their data?!

Which person in his right mind would take such brutally intrusive measures with only half a permission, coming from people he knows they didn’t read their rights and duties regarding the social network.

But now, finally now… it seems that Facebook went too far for their patient and perhaps even ignorant users to get away with these facts!

The outbreak of public outrage on Twitter cannot be simply overlooked and the chance that this ‘simply blows over’ is quite dim, as far as I’m concerned. A substantial number of high profile private and corporate users “has called it a day” with respect to the social network and has ended their subscription or their advertizing on it. Good for them!  

On top of that, both the administrations of the United States and the European Union, as well as the British government, have demanded a good explanation from Facebook highest ranked official (i.e. Mark Zuckerberg himself) about ‘what the hell’ went on there with Cambridge Analytica. And many more governments might follow in their footsteps.

As far as I’m concerned two things might happen here, after these events.

Either Mark Zuckerberg might be forced to step down as commander-in-chief of Facebook, only to be followed up by someone with less ‘virtual grease’ on his archetypical grey shirt. Or Facebook itself is split up for being too dangerously influential and too powerful a tool to be continued ‘as is’.

Whatever will happen in the coming period, I think it will become the end of the utterly powerful and dangerous monstrosity that Facebook had become. Either by itself or forced ‘at gunpoint’ by the international administrations and govenments around the globe.

Therefore I advise the executive management of Google, LinkedIn, Vkontakte (Russian social network) and many other social networks and information crunching companies all over the world to watch closely how the events unfold in the coming weeks and months.

It might save them from having to traverse the Road to Golgotha themselves…

For Facebook it is probably too late! And I won’t shed a tear about this, even though I fully understand that Facebook is the only access to internet in various countries. But such a shameless company does not deserve to exist anymore!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Pamflet: Waarom ik hoop dat u niet op de VVD gaat stemmen bij de Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen van 2018!

Binnenkort zijn er gemeenteraadsverkiezingen in Nederland.

Wat deze verkiezingen in mijn ogen extra bijzonder maakt, is de sterk gepolariseerde situatie waarin Nederland zich nu bevindt. Hoewel de Nederlandse samenleving op straat over het algemeen nog een heel vriendelijke indruk maakt, is het debat – vooral op de sociale media en zelfs in de dagbladen – erg verhard, waarbij wederzijds begrip en tolerantie vrijwel zijn verdwenen. Er is de opkomst geweest van zeer rechtse partijen, zoals de PVV en het iets ‘salonfähiger’ FvD en daarnaast het relatief grote succes voor zeer linkse partijen, als de SP en de PvdD.

Wat beide groepen aan de verre weerskanten van het midden onderscheidt is de gedeelde afkeer van "de elites", van het verenigde Europa en (vooral) van de EU als ondemocratisch en allesbeslissend monster, dat onophoudelijk tegen de belangen van ‘de Nederlanders’ ingaat.

En ook delen beide groepen een nostalgisch verlangen naar het Nederland ‘van vroeger’! Een Nederland dat etnisch en religieus homogener is en meer gericht is op ‘de Nederlanders’ zelf, door het bieden van vrijwel onbeperkte solidariteit aan ‘echte’ Nederlanders. Een Nederland met het primaat voor de Joods-Christelijke traditie, die er feitelijk nooit echt is geweest, maar er door diverse politici met de haren is bijgesleept uit electoraal gewin.

Waar dit bij de linkse Nederlanders niet zozeer tot virulent racisme en afkeer van (islamitische) Nederlanders leidde, is dit bij de ultrarechtse partijen helaas wel het geval geweest. Net als het soms opzichtige gedweep met Vladimir Putin in Rusland en Viktor Orbán in Hongarije als een ideaal soort sterke mannen om een land door de huidige, roerige tijden te leiden.

Maar ja, de zeer rechtse en linkse partijen zijn en blijven voorlopig gelukkig splinterpartijen… Hoeveel zetels de PVV ook heeft veroverd en hoe succesvol Thierry Baudet van het Forum voor Democratie zich ook in de dagbladen weet te profileren, de kans blijft erg klein dat deze partijen het alleen of gezamenlijk voor het zeggen krijgen in het redelijk gematigd stemmende Nederland.

Wat echter wel een verontrustende ontwikkeling was in mijn ogen, was de enorme invloed die deze randgroepen op het gedrag van de middenpartijen hebben gehad.

De CDA is onder Sybrand van Haersma Buma met een enorme ruk naar rechts opgeschoven, op een wijze die oud-premiers en –politici als Dries van Agt, Ruud Lubbers en Jan Terlouw een doorn in het oog was.

Buma’s Nederland is het land van krachtig riekende spruitjes, kleingeestigheid en naijver geworden: een benepen land waarin nog weinig grootsheid terug te vinden is en waarin de publieke moraal van de intolerantie voor anderszijnden en andersdenkenden regeert. Een partij die de Bijbel gebruikt zolang dit haar goed uitkomt, maar waarvan het dagelijks handelen weinig meer uitstraalt van de Bijbelse waarden en de vergevingsgezindheid van het Nieuwe Testament.

De PvdA is in de afgelopen decennia verworden tot een partij van bestuurders, baantjesjagers en nationale apparatchiks. Een partij waaruit het laatste druppeltje sociaal-democratie allang lijkt te zijn weggesijpeld, tot alleen de holle frasen achterbleven en er af en toe voor de bühne nog sociaal-democratisch werd gedaan... in verkiezingstijd.

De partij ook van Diederik Samson’s Onedin Line tussen Griekenland en Turkije: een veerdienst opgetuigd om asielzoekers en immigranten die Griekenland bereikten, terug te verschepen tot buiten het zicht van de EU en de Europese Raad. 

[14 maart 2018: Op deze opmerking kreeg ik commentaar van Diederik Samsom zelf. Deze opmerking wil ik graag afdrukken uit het oogpunt van noodzakelijke openheid en eerlijkheid. Hij zei mij het volgende: 

"Beste Ernst, er is geen ‘veerdienst’ voor vluchtelingen tussen Griekenland en Turkije. de enige migranten die teruggaan zij degenen die géén asiel aanvragen. Er is wel een einde gekomen aan de chaos op de Balkan en er zijn miljarden extra voor opvang van vluchtelingen in EU en Turkije. Wat was jouw oplossing geweest?"]

Opgericht met als enige doel om Europa geen echte keuzes voor een humaan asiel- en immigratiebeleid te hoeven laten maken, zodat de Europese Commissie de herverdeling van immigranten als een hete aardappel kan doorschuiven naar de toekomst. Sindsdien zijn de immigratieproblemen als het ware verborgen onder Harry Potter’s Onzichtbaarheidsmantel: ze zijn er wél, maar toch ook weer niet!

En de PvdA is ook de partij van Lodewijk Asscher als Mark Rutte’s schaamlap/excuus-Truus voor het hardvochtige bezuinigingsbeleid waarmee Nederland de crisis tot diep in de Nederlandse huiskamers heeft gebracht. Een strategie die de PvdA bijna ten onder deed gaan.

En D66? Tja, daar ligt de bezieling, die destijds tot de oprichting van de partij leidde, al grotendeels onder de groene zoden of heeft daar al een zeer gevorderde leeftijd bereikt. Zelden is een partij harder afgebladderd dan D66 de laatste maanden, als consequentie van het opgeven van het (overigens halfbakken) raadgevende referendum.

De duidelijke, integere en veranderingsgezinde standpunten van vroegere fractievoorzitters als Els Borst, Boris Dittrich en Thom de Graaf zijn vervangen door de gladde, inhoudsloze praatjes van een voormalige veilingmeester en zijn assistenten, die bereid zijn alles op te geven om bij de VVD in het gevlij te blijven.

Alexander Pechthold’s verbale vermogens zijn nog steeds ongeëvenaard, maar het zijn de ongeïnspireerde woorden van een autoverkoper die allang niet meer in zijn eigen auto’s gelooft, maar er “alleen voor het geld” nog in zit.

Toch vind ik het CDA, D66 en de PvdA nog niet zulke verontrustende partijen geworden als de grootste partij van Nederland, qua zetels: de VVD. Vooral na de metamorfose die deze partij vanaf de 21ste eeuw en tenslotte onder het leiderschap van premier Mark Rutte heeft doorgemaakt.

Hoewel de VVD nooit mijn partij is geweest (ik was altijd al sociaal-democraat in hart en nieren), kon ik deze partij in de laatste decennia van de 20ste eeuw nog wel respecteren en appreciëren. En dat om de simpele reden, dat fractievoorzitters en speciale vertegenwoordigers als Pieter Winsemius, Joris Voorhoeve, Jozias van Aartsen, Frans Weisglas, Neelie Kroes en Hans Dijkstal fatsoenlijke mensen leken te zijn die – op hun eigen manier – het beste met Nederland voorhadden en ogenschijnlijk niet alleen voor hun eigen belangetjes in de Kamer of de regering zaten.

En hoewel Frits Bolkestein in zeker opzicht de aartsvader van de verrechtsing van de VVD is geweest, was hij een eloquente redenaar en opinieschrijver naar wie het altijd goed luisteren was en wiens thema’s in ieder geval de veranderende tijdgeest goed aanvoelden en hierop ingingen.

Sinds de start van de 21ste eeuw, en vooral na de verrassende en ook overrompelende opkomst van het Fortuynisme, is de VVD echter een broeinest geworden van in mijn ogen kwalijke ontwikkelingen.

Enerzijds bestaat de partij uit een steeds schaamtelozer optredend neoliberaal smaldeel met een ‘Alles is voor Bassie’-mentaliteit en anderszijds was deze de kraamkamer voor bijna alle rechtse splintergroeperingen die Nederland nu rijk is. Van de LPF en de PVV tot Trots op Nederland van Rita Verdonk en het Forum voor Democratie; alles lijkt terug te voeren op afvalligen van de VVD.

Toch is dit niet het enige dat mij zo irriteert aan de VVD... Ook voor het rechtse geluid moet ruimte zijn en je hoeft het niet met mensen eens te zijn om hun meningen te kunnen respecteren.

Op dit moment zijn er echter twee zaken die ik zelf heel slecht kan verteren:
  • het schreeuwerige en zeer populistische posterliberalisme van de VVD en
  • het karakterloze meewaaien met alle winden van met name premier Rutte, zolang andere partijen hem maar in staat stellen premier te blijven.
Een ieder die geregeld een blik op de posters van de VVD van het laatste decennium heeft geworpen, begrijpt wat ik bedoel met het schreeuwerige posterliberalisme.

Deze VVD posters staan over het algemeen vol van:
  • Inhoudsloze en valse beloftes, alsmede overduidelijke onwaarheden, die inmiddels ook allang als zodanig zijn geïdentificeerd, zonder dat hierop ooit een rectificatie volgde;
  • Misplaatste stoerheid tegenover en het bewust uitvergroten van de misstanden met de uitkeringen en subsidies voor de zwakkeren en hulpbehoevenden in de samenleving. En dat, terwijl de partij zelf gebukt ging onder een “schier eindeloze” stoet van volkomen afgebrande en soms zelfs ronduit corrupte of misdadige bestuurders door het gehele land.

    Hoewel bijna alle grote partijen hun eigen portie schandalen hebben gehad in de afgelopen jaren, was geen enkele partij zo prominent aanwezig in de nieuwsmedia als juist de VVD. Daarbij was er geen schaamte en geen enkele vorm van zelfreflectie te bekennen, maar juist een extra hard afzetten van de partij tegen bijstands- en uitkeringsfraude en onterecht genoten subsidies om de aandacht van het eigen falen af te leiden;

  • Het zogenaamd als enige aanpakken van problemen in de samenleving, de binnenstad of op de Nederlandse woningmarkt, waarvoor de partij in sommige gevallen als voornaamste of als enige verantwoordelijk was.

Een potpourri van veelal populistische en soms ronduit onware VVD-posters
die de laatste tien jaar tijdens verkiezingen zijn gebruikt door de partij
Copyright: VVD
Click to enlarge
Maar mijn voornaamste grief tegen de VVD is dat de partij het heeft bestaan met de PVV als gedoogpartner te regeren, zonder dat dit direct na afloop in klare taal tot eenmalig en achteraf onwenselijk incident is verklaard. 

Sterker nog, diverse prominente vertegenwoordigers en bewindslieden zouden er waarschijnlijk niet voor terugschrikken nogmaals een verstandshuwelijk met uiterst rechts aan te gaan, als dit een verlenging van het mandaat van de VVD als bestuurderspartij zou betekenen.

En ook een belangrijke grief is dat deze partij niet voor een consistente visie lijkt te staan en hier zelfs bewust voor wegduikt in gremia als de Eerste en Tweede Kamer, maar ook binnen de Europese bestuurs- en debatcentra.

Waardoor de partij in de afgelopen zeven jaar moeiteloos van samenwerking met CDA en PVV naar regeren met de PvdA kon switchen en niet al te lang daarna weer terug kon gaan naar CDA, D66 en ChristenUnie. Sommigen noemen dit flexibel en pragmatisch in het landsbelang, maar ik noem het zelf ruggengraatloos en zelfs schaamteloos.

Daarom vind ik het jammer voor alle integere VVD-bestuurders die er ook in groten getale zijn door het gehele land, maar moet ik U – als Nederlands staatsburger en kiezer – toch vragen niet op de VVD te stemmen tijdens de Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen van 2018:

- De VVD moet duidelijk gemaakt worden dat de diepte van de crisis in Nederland en de grote moeilijkheden van de lagere en middenklasse – en met name de detailhandel – geen voldongen feit waren, maar vooral ook een gevolg van de politieke keuzes die de VVD en haar regeringspartners hebben gemaakt. 

Zij waren een direct gevolg van de doorgevoerde belastingverhogingen en het snijden in arbeidsplaatsen, uitkeringen en subsidies, waardoor de koopkracht van velen als sneeuw voor de zon verdween. En mede het gevolg van het voortdurende hameren op het verkleinen van het begrotingstekort in Nederland en Europa, in plaats van te investeren in de Nederlandse economie op het moment dat dat het hardste nodig was. 

Procyclisch regeringsbeleid, in plaats van anticyclisch beleid...

Het feit dat de Nederlandse economie nu zo hard groeit, is mijns inziens grotendeels gebaseerd op inhaalgroei en het wederom oppompen van de Nederlandse huizenmarkt... Niet op autonome groei, als gevolg van meer algemene welvaart en verbeterde consumptie!

- De VVD moet ook duidelijk worden gemaakt dat een groot deel van de Nederlanders genoeg heeft van alle schandalen die deze partij al jarenlang achtervolgen. En van het brallerige geschreeuw van hun posters vol halve waarheden en onwaarheden of hun posters vol populistische slogans.

En ook van het doorlopende wijzen naar de zwakkeren en hulpbehoevenden in de samenleving als parasieten en profiteurs, die alleen “hun hand willen ophouden” en niet zelfredzaam willen zijn, in tegenstelling tot de ‘doeners’ van de VVD.

- Ook moet de VVD en met name premier Mark Rutte duidelijk worden gemaakt dat je niet in Nederland anti-Europa kunt zijn en in Brussel pro-Europa. En dat het Verenigd Koninkrijk niet uit de EU vertrekt om Nederland in hun plaats de kans te geven voortdurend aan de noodrem te trekken. Waarbij het pijnlijke, maar noodzakelijke maatregelen van de Europese Commissie en de As Parijs – Berlijn tegenwerkt die grote problemen rond immigratie, bevolkingsopbouw en werkvoorziening voor de toekomst oplossen, alsmede de instabiliteit van de Euro zullen verminderen.
- Tenslotte moet de VVD duidelijk gemaakt worden dat een visie geen vies woord is, maar noodzakelijk om de uitdagingen het hoofd te bieden die Nederland vanuit de rest van de wereld bereiken. 

Uitdagingen waarvoor we de EU heel hard nodig hebben, omdat wij alleen geen partij zijn voor de economische en politieke belangen van China, Rusland en de Verenigde Staten, maar gezamenlijk als Europese Unie wel. Een toespraak vol platitudes en geëtaleerde koudwatervrees in Berlijn is geen grootse visie op de uitdagingen van de Nederlandse en Europese toekomst, maar het simpelweg ontkennen ervan.

Doet u daarom met mij mee en stemt u ook niet op de VVD?!

Ik wens ik u hoe dan ook prettige en spannende gemeenteraadsverkiezingen toe en vooral de wijsheid om de voor u juiste partij te kiezen. Omdat ik weet dat u dat aankunt en over voldoende wijsheid beschikt!

Met vriendelijke groet,


[14 maart 2018: Ook na het eerste contact tussen Diederik Samson en mij is er nog een aantal DM's uitgewisseld, die ik hier omwille van de duidelijkheid zal printen:

Ernst: Ik zie dat je opmerking een belangrijke nuance is die niet in mijn artikel was weergegeven. Ik zal dat daarom ook in mijn artikel aanpassen. Wat mij echter stoort dat Griekenland en Turkije nog steeds een soort 'end of the line' zijn geworden voor de vluchtelingen/asielzoekers en dat het niemand nog een lor lijkt te interesseren waar deze mensen nu uiteindelijk terecht kunnen.

Ernst: Door het instellen van de mogelijkheid van het terugsturen van mensen naar Turkije, tegelijk met het afsluiten van de routes naar de Balkan zijn de vluchtelingen het probleem van Griekenland, Spanje en Italië geworden, om dit te blijven. Ik vond dat echt Europa op zijn smalst, hoewel ik natuurlijk ook de massale reacties in Oost-Europa volgde.

Diederik: Eens. Ik heb me tot de laatste dag van mijn politieke loopbaan ingezet om EU bij de les te houden. Zie nu met leedwezen dat de aandacht lijkt te verdwijnen.  Griekenland heeft meer nodig om de vluchtelingen goed op te vangen en hun aanvraag te beoordelen. 


Monday, 5 March 2018

Amsterdam taxi drivers are planning an attack on Uber’s headoffice in The Netherlands. Are these taxi drivers the “Dutch Sons of Anarchy”? Or is this in fact a shocking testimony for the moral bankruptcy of a company like Uber?!

It was perhaps quite shocking, but in fact not really surprising news from the Amsterdam area this morning.

According to  Dutch newspaper AD, the Amsterdam taxi-drivers are allegedly planning an attack upon the head office of Uber in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The AD discovered a private newsgroup on Telegram with 300 anonymous members, in which the plan was plotted to execute a coordinated attack on the Uber HQ, with bricks, fireworks and molotov cocktails, as they wrote in this article:

The attack upon the headoffice of Uber in Amsterdam is planned on March 20th, at 16.00 hour CET, according to a recent call in messenger service Telegram. “Everything and everybody is welcome. Bring bricks, fireworks and molotov cocktails with you!”

The AD discovered this call in the Telegram group “WegMetUber” (i.e. UberGoAway), that was founded mid February and has roughly 300 anonymous members as of now. 

Behind the call is a group of infuriated Amsterdam taxi drivers, according to insiders in the industry. They think that internet service Uber competes unfairly with the regular taxi industry, for the reason of having a non-level playing field.

Among the members are Uber drivers, who strongly disagree with Uber’s 25% commission claim on the fare of the trip. “The customer is king and the chauffeurs are f*cking dogs and slaves. Uber is more and more pushing me to the edge!”, it sounds.

By causing as much unrest as possible, the initiators hope that Uber will become prohibited in The Netherlands, as happened in London recently.

Let me start by stating the obvious that this call to action is totally outrageous, irresponsible and straightforwardly dangerous! This action could cause people being seriously hurt or even killed, when it is indeed executed with the means mentioned in the Telegram message.

I also have to mention that the Amsterdam taxi market is one of the most competitive in The Netherlands and has quite a history of aggressive and violent actions between (groups of) drivers, fought out in broad daylight. This, together with multiple cases of passenger embezzlement (i.e. mostly tourists - EL) and (in a few cases) even extortion over the last few decades, makes that the alarm bells should ring fiercely after this news.

With that out of the way, I want to say the following: taxi drivers in Amsterdam always had to buy priceless licenses for their taxis – to the tune of tens of thousands of euros – in order to be allowed to drive passengers around in Amsterdam.

Together with a comfortable luxury car of > €60,000, their initial investment to start their taxi business was often well over €120,000. That is a helluva investment for a new small business and one that needs to be earned back in a limited amount of time, as the license prolongation costs and the amortisation on their car are annual expenses.

Then suddenly a foreign company – Uber – comes around, seemingly out of nowhere, that delivers the same service without licenses at a fraction of the price (and the expenses). And this company is clotting up the city with numerous anonymous taxis that snatch thousands of passengers per week, away from the official taxis that have to meet all kinds of conditions and obligations to do their job.

Is it a wonder that those taxi drivers feel infuriated?!

I fully understand that and sympathize therefore with the Amsterdam taxi drivers, who have to deal with this ordeal on a daily basis. Therefore this is not a simple case of market disruption, what Uber does here. Just as certain as the usage of doping in sports is not a simple disruption of the situation in a sports match.

It is foul play to these eyes... and it is done to a vulnerable group of small, individual entrepreneurs with an uncertain, risky business and very high annual expenses.

These small entrepreneurs are threatened to be crushed by a worldwide American multinational with billions of dollars on its bank accounts and nearly unlimited lobby power. A multinational moreover, that did not scare away from bending or even breaking the rules all over Europe, when they thought that to be in their interests.

Perhaps the most disturbing paragraph in the article is the red and bold paragraph. This one concerned the Uber taxi drivers themselves and their outcry should be taken to heart by the people in charge in The Netherlands:
  • There is no level playing field at all between Uber and their taxi drivers. The drivers have nothing to say or negotiate with Uber. They can just take what they get or forget it...;
  • The drivers actually have to pay 25% fare commission to Uber, which is really an awful lot of money, in comparison for what they get back for it;
  • They have nothing to say about the fare price and the type of customers, as everything is decided and calculated in advance by Uber and accepted by the customers;
  • When the taxi drivers suffer from traffic jams, redirections and closed streets, their extra kilometers are neither paid for by the customer nor by Uber. They run the risks, but hardly get the revenues of their efforts;
  • On top of that Uber has a horrible reputation for a.o. spying on taxi drivers, irrespective of it are their own drivers or those of the competition.
This is not the free market at work, but a bad caricature of it.

Therefore I hope that the taxi drivers are so sensible to forget this outrageous and idiotic action against the Uber headquarters, now that they have attracted national attention with it. They are not the Dutch Sons of Anarchy and should not behave like that; especially as some taxi drivers have already a problem with their own image.

In exchange, however, the politicians in charge on local and national levels should finally take the complaints of the taxi drivers serious and see to it that both licensed taxi drivers and Uber drivers get a level playing field with equal chances and regulation for everyone.

On top of that the Uber drivers should be protected from bad practices like “fare sharking” and being spied upon by Uber itself, as these practices seem testimonies for the moral bankruptcy of this company.

Instead the Uber drivers should have legal protection, as well as a mandatory drivers’ council with legally demarcated influence on the national decision making processes of Uber. And especially upon issues like trip pricing, charging unavoidable extra kilometers to the customers and the height of commission payments to Uber.

As far as I’m concerned, it is either this for Uber or a total prohibition for this company in The Netherlands. Before really serious accidents happen...

Saturday, 3 March 2018

What the world needs now… is not a trade war!

It was something that seemed inevitable from the beginning of the Donald Trump presidency in the United States: a trade war between the United States and the rest of the world.

Even though this trade war has not yet started fortunately, the odds for it to happen are quite high. This is because of the respectively 10% and 25% penalty tariff on the imports of foreign aluminium and steel, imposed by the American administration of President Donald Trump.

These sweeping tariffs on aluminium and steel should be a penalty for “all countries dumping aluminium and steel on the American market” to such a degree that the domestic steel mills in the United States could hardly sell their own products anymore, leading to massive loss of jobs in the US.

According to the Washington Post, it is quite obvious that Donald Trump is looking at China as the biggest suspect of dumping steel and aluminium on the American markets. China is also the usual suspect that European steel mills look at when it comes to dumping of steel and aluminium products.

However, the WaPo argues that other countries are much larger suppliers of steel and aluminium to the US markets, inclusing close allies like Canada. And they will not be pleased about these tariffs, just as China itself:

China, Russia and even Canada are likely to strike back. Trump likes to talk about how China is dumping a lot of cheap steel and aluminium into the United States, killing America’s domestic metal industry. But the reality is that Canada — a close ally — sends by far the biggest volume of these metals to the United States.

The top four countries that send steel to the United States are Canada, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico. The top four countries that send aluminium to the United States are Canada, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and China.

These are powerful nations that are likely to fight back. The traditional response is to make a formal complaint at the World Trade Organization, but that can take years to get a ruling. China, Canada and others could decide to retaliate right away by putting tariffs on some U.S. goods coming into their countries.

The most likely target is U.S. agriculture products and airplanes. These are top U.S. exports to other countries and would likely hurt Trump’s base in the Midwest. China is already discussing retaliatory measures. In short, a global trade war could easily unfold.

In The Netherlands the news about the imminent sweeping tariffs on aluminium and steel sent shockwaves through the Dutch subsidiary of Tata Steel in IJmuiden. The managing director of Tata Steel The Netherlands, Theo Henrar, was shocked and angry about these tariffs. In a reaction to Het Financieele Dagblad, he adamantly denied that Tata Steel has ever dumped steel or aluminium on the American markets:

“This all is done under the flag of national security, but these are just vulgar, protectionist trade measures”, according to Henrar who is very displeased about the American plans.

Contrary to China The Netherlands has never dumped steel, according to Henrar. “We don’t sell steel below the cost price. That is against the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). I understand that the US wants to fight against dumping practices, but they should do so with surgical precision and not in the form of ‘carpet bombing’ on everything that moves. I hope that The Netherlands, together with Germany and the European Commission, can forward this message to the US and prevent a trade war from breaking out.

It is an undeniable fact that large-scale dumping practices are extremely hard to prove: how does one calculate a fair cost price for steel products and aluminium, when it is fabricated in another country with other techniques and other costs of labour than your own?!

On top of that, every (large) country or area (hence: the EU) that is accused of dumping practices and punished for it, is reacting like being bitten by a viper. This means that China, Russia and perhaps even Canada, Brazil and Europe are already thinking about counter measures against the USA, to be imposed upon the products where it hits the USA the hardest.

But there is more. Trade wars are often rather based upon the PERCEPTION of being mistreated, than that countries are mistreated in reality. At least, that is my conviction. It is always much easier to look at another country for treating you bad than to look at your own flaws, when it comes to your competitiveness. 

Such flaws could be the obsolete state of your own industrial apparatus, your own derailing legal system or your own exploding costs of labour as a cause for higher cost prices and sales prices, less sophisticated production process or inferior quality of your end products.

Even when China dumps indeed steel in Europe and the United States, it is better practice to aim at better (i.e. more sophisticated) and more tailor-made quality steel and aluminium and a swifter production process than to start a trade war with China, Europe and the rest of the world. You win some, you lose some… 

And in the end there is nothing so good for innovation as having the hot breath of the competition in once’s neck.

Tata Steel IJmuiden, the aforementioned steel mill in The Netherlands, states for instance with authority that none of the American steel mills is capable of delivering the kinds and sizes of steel that they are delivering to their American customers. So the only effect that these sweeping tariffs will have on Tata Steel is - except for losing some valuable sales revenues - that their American customers will have to pay top dollar for the same products and will have to increase the prices of their endproducts, without any positive side effects for the American steel mills. Of course Tata could be preaching for their own parish here, but I am convinced that they have a point in their arguments.

The point is, however, that President Donald Trump has been elected on a wave of resentment, populism and nationalism coming from religious, ultra conservative voters in the South and the Mid-West (who hate the Democratic Party and everything that it stands for), but also from disappointed (relative) left-wing voters and blue collar workers from the rust belt states. People, who were sick and tired of the close connectedness of the Democratic Party with the big lobbyists and the industrial powers that be.  

In order to stay credible for these voters, the populist agenda of Donald Trump needs to be followed to a T, at any price and expense. This is probably the reason that Trump says that a trade war is a logical thing for thim and can be won easily, even though history proves him wrong over and over again.

Unfortunately these circumstances make that I’m quite certain that this emerging trade war could break out indeed and that it could become more nasty than already today, irrespective of who wins it eventually 

As stated by me in earlier articles, Donald Trump is a political amateur and on top of that one who believes he is the Kobe Bryant of politics. This is the reason that he is already trying to apply for a second term as president. And now he has thrown a massive rock in the pond and sees the waves it is causing all over the world.

What makes the current situation extra explosive, however, is that Trump’s opponents (or adversaries) in countries like China, Russia, Turkey and Brazil are either convinced they should remain president for life (hence: Xi Jinping, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin) or they are involved in a battle for sheer political survival (i.e. Brazil, but also the EU). 

On top of this, the nationalist tsunami has hit the whole globe in an ubiquitous emergence of “our own country first” feelings and the notion that people all over the globe want to have a strong leader as president or head of state, in order to protect them against the rest of the world. These are not times for faceless apparatchiks, but for aggressive leaders.

This is not the situation in which a trade war is easily avoided, as the grassroots in all countries are screaming for revenge, when other countries impose trade tariffs upon them.

Deep in their hearts, everybody knows that such a trade war only has losers in the end and – to make things worse – could easily end up in a real hot war. But once you have pulled the lever, it is not easy to stop the whole process and make things right again. 

This means that we all have to buckle up and see how this situation plays out in the coming weeks or months. But it could become nasty indeed! And that is the last thing the world needs now!