Wednesday, June 09, 2004

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Ann and I greatly enjoyed the Netherlands. In the museums, we viewed Van Gogh and Vermeer pictures and learned all about the Dutch Resistance. We also cycled all around the Hoge Veluwe park.

We also met two old friends of mine, Gijs Hillenius and Dorothy Hill. He used to run the Burma Center Netherlands while she was active in the Canadian Friends of Burma in Toronto. When they both came to a Free Burma conference I organized in Berkeley in August 1996, I suggested that Dorothy confer with Gijs about organizing boycotts of beer companies. I thought Gijs would help Dorothy apply the lessons of the successful Heineken boycott to Interbrew. Things went further than I expected when Dorothy moved to Holland in 1997 and they ended up marrying.

The Dutch government does what a government can do well: run an efficient national transportation system. Bus tickets in the Hague will work in Amsterdam. Trains are on time and the counter clerks hand you an accurate schedule with your tickets. The Dutch wisely stays out of what a government does badly. As a result marijuana and prostitution are legal within certain reasonable limits.

And Amsterdam is a unique city of short houses built around a semi-circle grid of streets and canals. I'm glad I'm returning there next month.

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