On-page link, opens in this window 06/05/21 Hirsi Ali
On-page link, opens in this window 06/05/05 Spelling reform considered harmful


In case you don't know what this is about, you'll find the beginning of the story here.
Off-site link, opens in new window BBC News: Dutch MP lashed by asylum storm
Off-site link, opens in new window BBC News: Dutch MP to quit amid asylum row

On Tuesday, Parliament held an emergency meeting that lasted for eleven hours. The condemnation of minister of immigration Rita Verdonk's 'rash' pronouncement that Hirsi Ali, as a consequence of the lies, had never legally been a Dutch citizen was shared across the political spectrum, and eventually Verdonk was made to reconsider.

The whole thing is ready to be made into a West Wing script, really.

We'll have general elections in 2007, and Rita Verdonk is a candidate to lead the campaign for the liberal-conservative VVD (the same party that Hirsi Ali was an MP for). The elections are currently in progress (they're being conducted over the Internet and by mail) and they'll end in two weeks. (The position of the person leading the campaign for a political party is somewhat comparable to that of a candidate for the presidency - they're not elected for a specific office but the campaign leader for the party that wins the elections is likely to become prime minister.)
Verdonk and Hirsi Ali are friends. (Quotes from the past couple of days: "I'm very fond of Ayaan" and "I still love Rita."). At the same time, Verdonk's main selling point as a politician is being a straight talker ("I tell you what I do and I do what I tell you") tough on immigration fraud.

This whole mess started by 'revelations' in a TV program last week that Hirsi Ali had lied about her name (her actual name is Hirsi Magan, though it seems Somalian law allows her to use the name Hirsi Ali), her date of birth and her arranged marriage. Hirsi Ali has always been very open about the fact that she had lied about her name and date of birth, it was mentioned in one of her books and she also discussed it with the VVD leadership before she became an MP. The TV program did have new information regarding the arranged marriage, though I read that some people shown on the program have later retracted their statements.
The fact that most of this 'new' information had been known for years was one reason for the wide-spread criticism of Verdonk's decision, and raised suspicion that Verdonk's reasons were political rather than judicial.

Ironically, Hirsi Ali was planning to resign as an MP and leave for the US anyway. She has been evicted from her home in the Hague after complaints from the neighbours about the impact of her heavy security on their living environment. It's not clear whether it was this that prompted her decision, but then again it probably didn't give here a warm, fuzzy feeling about living here either.

Columnist Afshin Elian raised an interesting legal issue in the Volkskrant newspaper last week. If it turns out that Hirsi Ali didn't become a Dutch citizen in 1997 she never met the requirements for membership of Parliament and may never legally have been an MP, which means that for the past four years we've had 149 MP's rather than the 150 that the Constitution requires. Taken to the extreme, this line of reasoning causes any decision made by the government over the past four years to go up in a puff of legalistic logic.

More Dutch politics and current events:
On-site link, opens in this window Dutch politics in 2006


Today: why the August 2006 spelling reform is a bad thing. And yes, it's been a while. I've been working on a contribution to a non-fiction book about IT and public governance, and also spent a considerable amount of time procrastinating.

Spelling reform considered harmful

From August 2006, another spelling reform will be in force. The last Dutch spelling reform was in 1995, and the last before that in 1954.

Reasons why I don't consider the August 2006 spelling reform a good thing:

I'm not against spelling reforms. Language changes, and it's not such a bad idea to have the rules reflect that. I do think that once every ten years is too often (once every twenty-five would be better). I also think that the Taalunie, being an interested party, shouldn't have the final say. Rather, spelling reforms should be proposed by the Taalunie, and approved by Parliament.

Relevant links:
Off-site link, opens in new window Taalunie
Off-site link, opens in new window Spellingwijzer
Off-site link, opens in new window Witte spelling

More Dutch politics and current events:
On-site link, opens in this window Dutch politics in 2006

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