Lame Ducks and Stranger Things

Photo of Obama, cameron, Hollande, Merkel etc. Macron seen at the far left in this photo is not without political experience , but how much can he do when he gets a chair next to the other state leaders? Photo by Pete Souza
Macron seen at the far left in this photo is not without political experience, but how much can he do when he gets to sit at the table? Photo by Pete Souza

Politics has always been a really bizarre and underhanded business, and I truly believe that no one can stay long term in office without turning into the worst kind of people you can imagine. I used to have my share of illusions, but I have lost most of them, and I can’t see anyone being real sincere about doing what is best for the majority of the people. The solution isn’t that hard.

There has been some especially bizarre elections in different countries in recent months, and more will follow. First the USA went through an election without candidates because there is no reason to believe that Hillary Clinton would have been a better choice. Her solution was after all to bomb both Syria and Iran, which would have meant a full scale war with two of Russia’s most important allies in Western Asia.

Then we had the election in the Netherlands, where the EU and MSM claimed that the political right wing lost. What really happened was that the Dutch election confirmed the progress the populists have made in recent years. Gert Wilders’ Party for Freedom won more seats in parliament that they had before. The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy has had the Prime Minister the last seven years, but they lost 8 seats in parliament, and the Labour Party lost an incredible 29 seats, leaving them with only 9. How is that a disaster for the right wing parties?

The French election is even stranger. There were eleven candidates trying to win the presidential election, and as the president needs more than 50 percent, the two top candidates will compete in a second round The next president will be Marine le Pen or Emmanuel Macron, and all the other candidates have teamed up against Le Pen. That sounds like a risky strategy because voters are very emotional and quite a few tend to feel sympathy. It would be shortsighted to vote for Le Pen just because you had sympathy for her, but it wouldn’t be the first time.

The question is what Macron could accomplish. He sounds a lot like Donald Trump. According to an article in The Guardian he wants to be everybody’s president, and he has introduced himself as “a liberal progressive outsider who would revolutionize politics.” Just like Trump, Macron was mocked by the establishment when he launched his political movement En Marche!  in April 2016. Incredibly, that’s what this is. The next French president could represent a one man movement that had the people believe in change. He needs to build a party, a responsible politics, and alliances with other parties, but he doesn’t have much time. The French parliamentary election will be held on on June 11th and 18th.

I wonder how much he can really focus on the enormous challenges inside France, as well as in EU, NATO and the many conflicts around the world when his first term could be more about surviving. Most commentators see Le Pen as a really bad choice, but I wonder how much better Macron is. Incidentally, President Hollande is the first in modern times that haven’t even tried to get re-elected. That tells you how unpopular he has been, and that probably explains why Macron and Le Pen has a chance of becoming the next president. This is another election with no candidates and it doesn’t seem fair to leave it up to a novice to straighten things out.

I don’t think anything just happens in politics. There is something behind everything. Why do you think the USA suddenly changed their politics towards North Korea right now? The President in South Korea, Park Geun-hye, was impeached a few weeks ago.and there will have to be a quick election. Read about it on CNN. This has of course  made people question the political stability of the country, which is important to the USA as they have 25 000 soldiers in South Korea and a lot of important equipment. Tension with North Korea could help both the US and South Korean government. As for North Korea being a nuclear threat, that doesn’t seem likely.

Considering the times we are living in, and the fact that we need someone sensible in power, I am not sure how much sense occupy the major political offices in NATO at the moment. It doesn’t make it better that the voters don’t really have any candidates. We have parliamentary election in Norway in September. A professor tried to get four people brought to justice for their role in the Norwegian war crimes in Libya a few years ago. One is presently Secretary general of NATO and one of the others is the leader of Labour, and most likely our next Prime Minister.

The short term memory of most people makes me sick.

 

On the Verge of War

I initially thought that perhaps the Trump experiment wasn’t doomed to fail. Many said it would be a bad idea to let him be in charge, especially as the previous couple of presidents had created some rather unfortunate presedence (acting without Congress). I agreed with them that it was a very dark potential there, but maybe not less than it would have been with Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, I felt that if he was sincere about being what the establishment has not been, he could become the president most people needeed.

If he hadn’t proven the critics right before he certainly did last week, because his latest blunder wasn’t just embarrassing or amusing. It was dangerous. President Trump told Fox Business on April 12:

We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. We have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this: He is doing the wrong thing.

He was talking about North Korea, and in an interview a few days earlier he had stated that the USA would deal with North Korea with or without China’s help. This was supported by Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who warned that military action was on the table, and Vice President Pence said that the era of strategic patience was over. It was starting to look like war was very much a possibility. It probably wasn’t the most likely scenario, but if the leadership in North-Korea believed it was, they could have felt provoked to attack first. After all, they do seem to have a diplomatic language that is anything but diplomatic.

Maybe we’ll never know just how close we came to a devastating war in Asia, but this is the danger with cold war and so-called balance of terror. There is always a risk of someone making a hasty decision. There have been some close calls in the past. The early 1960’s must have been a scary time with the Cuban missile crisis as the climax. While that took place the pilot of a U-2 spy plane also violated Soviet airspace, but John F. Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev solved the crisis. The next big one happened in 1979 when a computer glitch at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) had the Americans believing that the Soviet Union had launched a missile attack. Something similar happened on the other end in 1983 when a Soviet satellite misinterpreted a glint of sunlight as a missile launch.

The Able Archer was an annual American exercise in Europe, but 1983 was different. There were several new elements that year and to the Russians it didn’t look like a drill. Read more about on Wikipedia. The last incident I know about was the Norwegian rocket incident in 1995. There is a research station on the island of Andøya where Norwegian and American scientists study the aurora borealis. In this case they launched a rocket that would carry equipment to study the phenomenon over Svalbard. To the Russians it looked like a Trident missile being launched from a submarine. I vaguely remember this from the news, and if I am not mistaken President Boris Yeltsin later told reporters that he was carrying “the nuclear briefcase”. It’s really not good when we allow old men with a failing health to make these kinds of decisions alone.

Misunderstandings sometimes happens, which is why no one should welcome a new cold war, but I have one question after Trump’s bizarre game: Why? We know that neither Iraq or Libya was a threat. We know enough to be suspicious of the claims regarding Syria, China, Russia and possibly North Korea. So what is the urgency? Are there some questions we are not supposed to ask?

The biggest one could be the economy. Some say that the economy never recovered and in a way they are correct. According to Emmanuel Sanchez from University of California, Berkeley, the top 1 percent captured 93 percent of the income gains the first year of the recovery (2010). Read his Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States. The problem is that rich people don’t put much money back, while people with low to moderate income are more likely to spend money locally. Trump prides himself in being a business man that can negotiate any deal, and get a better deal than anyone else. I am not sure that his latest actions have strengthened his position.

War has been good for business in the past. That’s the theory at least. WW II probably didn’t hurt America as it was other countries and other people that were destroyed, but that theory may not be very convincing today. After all, considering how many resources NATO have spent in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen we shouldn’t have had a recession in the first place. Some people clearly made a lot of money, but it didn’t help most people. So how healthy is the economy really? Is it possible for the economy to recover without a middle class?

War is also seen as positive because it distracts the rest of the population. It doesn’t matter much to many people that they are being cheated because as long as the military kicks butt, they feel good. To some people that’s the only reason they need to go to war. That’s the dark side of patriotism, but maybe it should move us to simply ask why? Why are we doing this to other countries if it’s not helping them?

Aggression in the South China Sea

To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night. Yoda

After Truth vs propaganda, where I wrote about Russia, it seems natural to move to China. The narration is that China is an aggressor in the South China Sea, but do we know that?

I started my research in The Diplomat. According to an article by Greg Austin, Professor at the Australian Centre for Cyber Security at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, China is not the problem. He makes a convincing argument that Vietnam is actually more eager to acquire outposts than China. He quoted Assistant Secretary of Defense, David Shear, addressing the Senate Foreign relations Committee in 2015: Vietnam has 48 outposts, the Philippines 8, China 8, Malaysia 5, and Taiwan 1.

I refer to Austin’s article for more information.

Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia regional specialist, responded to this article and claimed that what China has done could support Chinese expansion in the area. I guess it’s a matter of who and what you choose to believe, and this is where things start to get interesting. The US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, stated in 2012 that they were planning to move 60 percent of the the navy fleet to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. He said this during a regional security meeting in Singapore, according to BBC..

So now we have a situation where the USA are building up their military in the Pacific, but claiming it has nothing to do with China. Three years later the same administration maintain that China is not a problem. The United States now have 400 bases in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, some former Soviet countries, as well as on some atolls. This happened before the latest development in Syria, which is also in Asia, and North Korea. I have frequently referred to both news and politics as a narration, and I don’t think anything in politics just happens.

The United States and China have one important thing in common, they share the Pacific Ocean, but are they willing to share? The narration tells us that China is an aggressor, which just means they don’t support US politics. What if there is another story, one where China builds bases because they have to defend themselves? As with Russia, I have no illusions of China being a better society than the one I’m living in, but that’s not what we are talking about. I imagine that all former empires dream of restoring what they once had, but I can’t see that China is particularly bad in that respect. Imagine if Russia/China decided to build bases in Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas and Mexico. Would it be fair to expect the United States to do nothing?

The United States have been very successful if their goal is to make people fear them. They have some friends left, and old enemies are terrified of the enormous fire power the USA and NATO have. It’s not unlike the Galactic Empire and its Death Star in Star Wars. Building more and more nuclear weapons doesn’t make the world safer and it doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence knowing that countries like Pakistan, India and Israel have the ability to nuke their enemies, which tend to be their neighbours. I wonder if there is a way out of this for Trump. After the statements President Trump, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Tillerson have made concerning Syria (which includes Russia) and North Korea (which borders China and Russia), it would be strange if nothing happened. Would they be satisfied with that?

Norway and Norwegians have had a long love affair with America. I live in an area of Norway that some find a little disturbing because it’s almost like the America Trump wants to make great again. There are areas in this region, outside the towns, that are very Midwestern, and if you want to look for people loyal to the USA this would be a good place to start. This is not surprising as nearly a million people from this small country became Americans during a hundred year period.

I don’t know where it comes from, but I suspect that our expression going west (meaning doom) comes from the time when many fishermen died at sea. From mid 19th century west, as in America, was also hope and life. It was freedom. I have to say, it saddens me to see that America implants fear in people. To some people that is a good thing, and I agree if it helps stop evil, but what if it also stops a development that wouldn’t be that bad? What if we are getting used to the idea that the country that used to be a safe haven is now the opposite? What if we have become the Galactic Empire? I know that weapons and a balance between the powers is necessary, but I am not sure that what we are seeing today is necessary. Incidentally, you are not being honest if you think that Donald Trump is the problem. This started a long time ago.

USA with a perfect noose around China

Truth vs propaganda

Photo of Vladimir Putin. Many see Vladimir Putin as a threat, while others think he is a good leader. What is truth and what is propaganda? Photo: Kremlin.ru
Many see Vladimir Putin as a threat, while others think he is a good leader. What is truth and what is propaganda? Photo: Kremlin.ru

It’s hard for us in a small country like Norway to fully appreciate how hard it is to govern really big countries or federations like the USA, Russia and China. It requires a strong central leadership that may need to do things that seems alien or even undemocratic to us. Authorities sometimes cross multiple lines, but I don’t know that Russia is particularly bad about that. We regard everything the USA do as a positive thing. It doesn’t matter what it is. If it came from America it’s automatically a good thing. It’s the opposite about Russia. Everything they say and do is bad. I always aim to be objective, but that kind of thinking is more than a little thickheaded. Do you really think the truth is that simple?

Who is Vladimir Putin really and what does he want? No one knows the answer because we only know him through his enemies, but I am quite convinced that we cannot rely on the image we have been presented with in the West. Most people may not see that narration as counterproductive as it is exactly what media and authorities seem to want, but I don’t see how this helps the citizens they are supposed to help. Norwegian media trusts American media, and Norwegian journalists frequently translate stories from US newspapers without bothering to question whether or not the article is biased. An article from Business Insider five years ago revealed that only 6 companies own 90 percent of US media. How much diversity and independence do you think that will produce?

It is impossible to know whether or not Putin is a Christian, and it’s not necessary to speculate on it as this is a matter between him and God. What we do know is that he has made a number of statements about how important Christianity is for Russia. He acknowledges that Russia is a Christian country and has spoken candidly about being baptized as a baby. His mother had to keep it a secret from her husband, who was a loyal member of the Communist Party, and we know how they felt about religion. It doesn’t matter whether he really is a believer or just uses religion as propaganda or a glue to keep the country united, but the fact that he finds it natural to speak about his own experiences at the very least suggest that he isn’t like any other Russian leader. He sees the value in a pre-communist Russian culture and Christianity is an important part of that. It is a tradition that has the power to unite Russians. Just to illustrate how vast and diverse Russia is, Norway and North Korea both border Russia.

I have watched some excerpts of speeches by Putin on You Tube and he seems to be doing a good job publicly. It’s an open question whether he is the greatest leader we have today or whether he is a tyrant, but we must realize that we are surrounded by propaganda. No one is interested in just reporting the truth or giving us the correct image of Vladimir Putin. I have no illusions about Russia being a utopian society, but I have a hard time believing that the world has become a more dangerous place because of what Russia, and Russia alone has done. It’s interesting that the Putin I watch on TV is calm, knowledgeable and has intelligent analyses of the USA and NATO. He doesn’t appear to be the madman he is often described as. Some would argue that this is just an act, but I am not convinced.

There is something deeply unsettling about this uncompromising, absolute attitude we see from NATO. Russian presidents have only evil intentions and US presidents have only the best intentions. There  is a lot of fundamentalist ideology behind this kind of propaganda, but the truth is probably that there are evil and good people on both sides. These are the nuances we don’t read and hear about in MSM. I wish I could say I had the answer, but when future historians debate the leaders of the 21st century Putin may not be seen as the only source of the problems we are seeing today. We may be just as much the source.

There are certainly a lot we can criticize Putin for, and many believe his mistakes are so obvious that proof is unnecessary. Nothing has changed really. It has been an established truth at least since WW II that America is good and Russia is evil, and as the leader of the free world America is always right. Don’t get me wrong, I support the USA, but I get a little skeptical when there is so much effort to discourage any debate on the matter. I have no doubt that Putin is guilty of some of the charges against him, but the truth is never as simple as some want us to believe.

Ask yourself where the information about Putin and Russia comes from. Is it from people and agencies that are inclined to be fair, or that don’t really care whether we like or dislike Russia? In other words, is the source independent? We are being told that Russia is behind almost everything that has gone wrong in the world today. There has, according to this view, been no development between Stalin and Putin. They are just as bad to the world. It is suspicious in itself when we have such a great need to believe that Putin is evil, while we are innocent. If something goes wrong we are nothing more than victims.

It’s interesting that someone is willing to entertain the idea that NATO isn’t always correct. It is naive to believe that journalism, history and politics don’t contain a certain amount of propaganda. I believe they do on both sides, but it’s not certain that Russia is more guilty than we are. I have expressed these views before, but this particular post was inspired by the Norwegian pundit Hanne Nabintu Herland. Check out her blog, The Herland Report (a mixture of English and Norwegian articles).

The question doesn’t just apply to Putin. What do we really know about Assad, what did we really know about Gadaffi, and where did this information come from?

While I am touching the subject of our righteous indignation, the UN Refugee Agency reported on April 11 that there is already a growing displacement, but now 20 million people risk starvation in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia,and Yemen. They reported on the conflict in South Sudan the next day, and there are now 380 000 South Sudanese refugees in Sudan. I assume we can’t blame Russia for creating this situation or for preventing us from helping.

The Kick Butt(owski) President

Dropping bombs on someone to prove that you’re willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force.
President Obama from an interview in The Atlantic.

Have you ever had a feeling that news and politics were fake, that they were one of of many narrations available? I hope you have because it is probably true.

There were a lot of things about the US attack on a Syrian military base about a  week ago that didn’t make any sense. First of all it didn’t make any sense that the Syrian regime supported by Russia would do it when they were about to win. They were winning the war against ISIS/the rebels, and they were winning NATO over as well. The Trump administration had just announced that they saw President Assad as a part of the solution, which is the opposite of what Obama has said during the whole war. I don’t think the Russian or Syrian leaders are stupid. They knew the significance of Trump’s statement and they probably knew there would be people on Trump’s team that wanted an excuse.

I don’t know who provided the evidence of chemical weapons this time, but the Al Qaida afiliated White Helmets have done it in the past, and it’s not evidence any of us would accept. This is a video from Swedish Doctors for Human Rights. Warning! There are some disturbing images here:

If the child on the video was alive this was murder, and the cause of death wasn’t chemical weapons. This happened before the latest chemical attack, and I think it goes back to 2015, but it still raises some valid questions. If the USA have evidence they should present them. The Norwegian pundit Hanne Nabintu Herland has written about this, and I refer to her acrticle for more information.

There are certain obvious signs that will show you that chemical weapons have been used. I googled it and looked at photos. That was seriously bad, and I understand why media don’t want to show them, but that is also problematic. It’s not MSM job to make us feel good. They have to tell us the truth so that we can do our jobs in our local democracy. The news reports I have seen from the latest attack claim that they can’t show those kinds of images because they are too disturbing, and so we are left with deciding whether or not to believe the NATO-supported rebels (around 1000 groups with very different agendas) and MSM.

I have to say, after seeing democracy being promoted in Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and on its 7th year in Syria (and not in Saudi Arabia) for some reason I am not entirely convinced. Not that Assad and Putin are innocent angels bringing good tidings to all men. I have a few things to say about them as well, but I have this thing about truth. We should be telling the truth. The way democracy works is roughly this. Politicians make decisions on our behalf, while MSM inform us what the politicians have done on our behalf and what they are planning to do. Then we can give our political leaders some feed back. It may be a simplistic and naive way of looking at it, but I think this covers the basic intention. So when someone says something like this: Trust me, I know what I’m doing or it’s urgent and I don’t have time to inform you (MSM), parliament or the UN, I wonder what just happened.

It’s interesting to note that when Trump ordered the attack Russia received several hours warning, giving them time to move equipment. You may remember that a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian bomber in November 2015. Russia stationed a very advanced defense system called S-400 Growler, which can track 300 targets and intercept as high as 90 000 feet. It wasn’t that it didn’t work. It wasn’t used. It will be interesting to see how this develops, and if the truth ever gets out, it might have some surprises. Like I said, politics is a narration, and this story looks staged.

That doesn’t mean there are no dangers. Only a truly crazy man like Hitler would start a war. Most of the time war happens accidentally, and a misunderstanding or human error could trigger something. It almost happened several times during the cold war (1960’s and 1970’s). Not really a good time to have a US president many say is unpredictable. But faking it works. The stories of ties to Russia are gone and suddenly many see the Donald as presidential because kicking butt feels good. Donald is a daredevil, at least for a while.

I encourage people to try alternative media, but remember that there are no people without an agenda. Some have the best intentions, but they sometimes take short cuts in their effort to get the truth out. That could do more harm because it’s hard to trust them. Politicians in Congress like to label RT as a Russian propaganda machine, and I have no doubt that this network want Russia to look good, but when I compare it to other networks it doesn’t look bad.

Swedish Doctors for Human Rights is probably not without an agenda either, but the informatin they have presented is interesting. It makes me wonder why no one else wants to even debate this. It could be that White Helmets, although having ties to Al Qaida, is someone NATO have chosen as an ally in Syria. It’s not about getting the truth out. It’s about being on the winning team.

Let’s nuke’em

The cover of a Norwegian newspaper the day of the election. Showing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
The cover of a Norwegian newspaper the day of the election. It was the election without a candidate.

There are many troubling aspects about the war in Syria. Who or what is running the USA for example? If Trump is in charge does he even know what he wants? Now he wants to help Syrian children, something he could have done by inviting more of them to the USA, and by supporting countries like Lebanon and Jordan, where there are more refugees than they can handle. Incidentally, there also many Iraqi refugees in Syria, quite of few of them are Christians.

President Trump just made the sharpest u-turn I have seen in politics. In just a couple of days he went from saying that Assad had to be a part of the solution, which is the opposite of what the USA has said during the whole war, to launching the first ever direct attack on the regime. He supposedly did this because he had seen some children suffering and dying. That has been going on for six years at least, so I can only assume it’s acceptable with children being killed by bullets and bombs, but not by chemicals.

I wonder why it was so urgent. There have been allegations after every chemical attack in Syria, and fours years ago the UN accused rebels of using the nerve gas sarin. I don’t suspect the leaders in Syria, Iran or Russia of having an intelligence deficit. They play the propaganda game just as well as the NATO countries and they know how to use information that favours them. The USA is in charge. NATO takes action when the USA decides and if the Americans wait for their allies to show some initiative, they are going to wait a long time. Trump’s original decision to accept the regime could therefore be seen as a major victory for Assad and his two allies. So why would Assad do something he knew would get everybody against him? It doesn’t make any sense. I wasn’t surprised when allegations of the so-called evidence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction resurfaced yesterday. Shouldn’t we have some evidence before we attack a legitimate government?

In her first interview since the election Hillary Clinton called for the USA to take out Assad’s air fields, in other words the entire air force. Some people still think she was electable, but the dramatic election of November last year really gave the people an impossible choice. So what are Trump’s options from now? If the regime really was behind the chemical attack, bombing this airport may seem like a good idea. The problem is that you can’t win by arming Al Qaida and Taliban, while the Syrian regime supported by Russia and Iran have troops on the ground. That’s where NATO need to be if they want to win the war, but I can’t see anyone being willing to sacrifice what will probably be tens of thousands of lives, because it won’t be anything like the invasion of Iraq.

What happens when Assad is gone? The so-called moderate Muslims are hundreds of groups with different agendas, and many are affiliated with Al Qaida. They are fighting for Syria to become an Islamic state. There are also so many alliances and groups working together without formal ties, it is impossible to know who or what you support if you help moderate Muslims.

It’s the same dilemma as with North Korea. What happens after the regime is gone? What I think many fail to consider with Muslim countries is that the violence goes back to the 7th century when the prophet and founder of Islam died. There’s  been a struggle for political and financial power ever since. Religion is almost irrelevant. There is no tradition for Sunnis and Shiites to work together. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni and gave the Sunni minority privileges, and there hasn’t excactly been a spirit of cooperation in the “liberated” Iraq. Besides, there are different branches and ethnic groups. Syria has for example Kurds (the majoity of them are Sunnis), Alawites, Druzes, Ismailis, Twelver Shias, Sunni Muslims, Alevi Turkmens, Sunni Circassians, Sunni Muslim Greeks, black people of Yarmouk Basin. There are also Christian groups ( Greek-Orthodox, Greek- Catholics, Maronites, Assyrians and Armenians) and Jews. Source:Wikipedia.

Nuke’em is an answer to a problem that doesn’t have a solution. It’s not a good one, and what are you going to do if it doesn’t work? It’s sort of like trying to teach children to behave. If you warn about consequences, but don’t follow up, you have lost. It’s not much better if you start with a too strong reaction. Then we could get a war that nobody started and nobody wants to end, because it’s not about doing the right thing. It’s about being right. I am not optimistic about Syria. I remember hearing headlines from Lebanon and the Iran-Iraq war when I was  growing up in the 80’s, and this was followed by the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq. We still assume the Arabs want democracy, our democracy. We don’t even want our democracy!

Live Indie

There are lots of things I don’t understand. I especially don’t understand anything that involves numbers, so when my daughter brought home sudoku as a part of her homework a few weeks ago, I was trying my best tell her that of course I could help her, but she didn’t look like I sounded very convincing.

I don’t understand economics, but I also understand it very well. I haven’t had a regular cable subscription for several years. I didn’t have anything for a long time, and didn’t miss it as the cable company only offered a whole lot of crap. I have Netflix now, which is also a sizable collection of crap, but there is also enough quality that I am enjoying TV again. I really like Noam Chomsky and I highly recommend the documentary Requiem for the American Dream. I also like Inequality for All where former U.S. Labour Secretary Robert Reich talks about how America could be great again. It’s a very simple recipe, but no one in power listens to him.

There are also documentaries I really don’t agree with. Cowspiracy talks about how environmentalists are ignoring the fact, as this film claims it is, that farming is killing the planet. This has to do with how much water agriculture use. Eating fish is bad too. There is no sustainable farming or fishing according to this very slanted documentary, and in my opinion it’s not a documentary if it’s one-sided. Several of the people interviewed in the film suggested that the only way we can save our planet was by stop eating animals, even fish. It was pretty clear that this wasn’t an objective film. It was almost fundamentalist and authoritarian in its anti-meat message.

 

Traditional farming has zero carbon footprint. The problem is the
The problem isn’t traditional farming; it’s the industrial production. Photo: Anand S via Wikimedia Commons

I don’t agree with everything in Zeitgeist: Moving Forward and Zeitgeist Addendum either, but these two films have some good points concerning the corrupt society we live in, and what we need to change. The solutions they offer have a certain la la land-quality, but I like some of them. I agree that we don’t need to support the biggest, greediest banks and we don’t need to watch or read mainstream media (they refer to this as pre-filtered news).

I could sum up their actions for social transformation with one word, independence, or as I said on my Norwegian blog yesterday, I want an indie life.

Forbidden words and thoughts

Noam Chomsky is sometimes asked why he is anti-American. The implication is that anyone who criticizes the government is a traitor. He makes the point that the term anti is not used in a democratic country. In fact, it was used in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Dissidents were labeled anti-Soviet or anti-German, which just meant that they wanted democracy. So when someone in a seemingly democratic country accuse a nonconformist of being anti-American or anti-any other country, aren’t they really saying that they are living in an authoritarian state?

I have criticized my own government for its policies on immigration, low income families, housing, the Middle East, environment, education and the child protective services just to mention a few issues. Does that make me anti-Norwegian? I think it makes me democratic because my agenda isn’t a regime change, but to change the regime in my own country to become more democratic.

I have a tendency to obsess about the same topic for a while, and it’s been the USA/Trump lately. Someone wrote a comment on Facebook a few days ago asking why I was so occupied with Trump when Putin must be a much bigger concern. I think it’s worthwhile discussing international issues that can and will impact life in Norway as well. There is no doubt that the USA has been the biggest power during my lifetime if you look at politics, economics and culture. No one has had the same ability to influence the rest of the world. I think it’s worth considering what is happening in the world right now.

One of many Russian battleships that sail close to the Norwegian coast reminding us of their presence. Photo: The Norwegian Armed Forces
One of many Russian battleships that sail close to the Norwegian coast reminding us of their presence. Photo: The Norwegian Armed Forces

We are constantly being told that both Russia and China are a threat. They may very well be. I think they could be if we leave them unchecked, and that’s not what I am suggesting, but I am not convinced that these two countries are planning world domination. I have no doubt that Putin’s biggest goal is to bring back the old Soviet Union, but he is not stupid. He knows what will happen if he tries to invade a country. I believe the Chinese leadership feel the same way about their region, but what some call aggression and a buildup of military power could just as well be a defensive response to the United States.

There is no doubt that USA and NATO have increased the tension by moving troops and hardware close to Russia and China. The US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in 2012 that they would move 60 percent of the navy fleet to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. This might be a natural shift after they have focused on the Middle East and Western Asia for a long time, but I think it’s ridiculous, like some do to talk about China as the big aggressor.

Talking about this is democracy. The preface to George Orwell’s Animal Farm is just as interesting as the book. The author addressed the people of free England and said that they shouldn’t feel self-satisfied about their democracy. It’s frankly shocking reading this more than 70 years later:

The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long enough in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news-things which of their own merit would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the British press, not because the government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that “it wouldn’t do” to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics.

He goes on to say that the same censorship applies to books, periodicals, plays, films and radio. Today we can add MSM and TV. I believe in education, but not in any education. One without free and critical thinking is pointless, and I think George Orwell had a point when he claimed that an education was one way of oppressing unpopular ideas without the use of force. Schools can be used to teach us that there are things we don’t say or think. The first step if you break this unwritten law is that you become anti-whatever country you live in.

This sounds like the same debate we have today. Clearly democracy wasn’t won once and for all when Orwell published the book in 1945.

Hollywood honours terrorists

It’s time for the annual freak show aka Academy Awards and this year a propaganda film supporting NATO’s violation of international law is one of the favourites to win with the short documentary about the White Helmets (WH).

I have written extensively about the ongoing information war. It may sound like a conspiracy theory, but you don’t have to do much research before you realize that most of mainstream media (MSM) rely on the same draft, at least when it comes to the major issues. That makes it look like MSM just spread propaganda from the power elite, whether it’s true or not. There is also a campaign to have bloggers and independent journalists labeled as fanatics and liars, while people pretending to be alternative media are being hailed as heroes because they say what many want to hear. The result is that critical minds and voices disappear, and every time we allow this to happen a small part of democracy dies. This applies particularly to Syria.

The documentary The White Helmets shows how corrupt journalism can be. Documentary films are generally meant to document and prove. They are the modern version of the photograph, and there used to be a time when it was probably true that photographs didn’t lie. They do today, as do documentary films. There is nothing objective about this film.

The White Helmets is available on Netflix and I have watched it with critical eyes. The first 16 minutes of this 40 minute long film is partly interviews with so-called WH-volunteers and partly live footage showing WH-employees working in Aleppo. Khaleb Khateb, press officer for the White Helmets, filmed in Aleppo, while the people making this documentary filmed in Turkey. The actual film makers didn’t go to Syria. I guess they didn’t have to as this was never about investigating real events. The White Helmets is a very controversial organization with ties to NATO and suspected ties to Al Qaida. You would think that a journalist had some critical questions.

There is every reason to be wary of Khaleb Khateb, and his first video for WH could give us some clues. He posted this to Twitter. It shows a girl being pulled out from a hole in the ground. This could be a genuine rescue operation, but I think she looks remarkably clean and unharmed. There is a similar situation in the Netflix film where two men run into the remains of a house, carrying a strectcher, and come out with a girl that looks very calm and focused. Again this could be real, but there is something about past behaviour and the future. This organization has admitted to manipulating situations and photos in the past, so when I see something from the same man that looks simulated, I am naturally skeptical.

The footage from Aleppo showed a lot of running and movement, and most of the shots were closeups of people. It was hard to make anything out of it because the video didn’t show what happened outside this small circle. Maybe this is inevitable when you film in a war-zone, but the technique reminded me of The Blair Witch Project or films trying to prove that UFO’s and Bigfoot are real. That means a lot of movement, shouting and nothing stays in focus for very long. This creates an impression of drama or urgency. Throughout this films we were given the same message NATO has been trying to feed us since the beginning of this invasion, which is that the rebels are very moderate Muslims that are fighting for the same cause. That is a misunderstanding at best, but I suspect that NATO is well aware of the situation. There are other sources available saying that the regime has a fair amount of support in the population, which is not at all what MSM is reporting. Syrian White Helmets is supposed to be an independent organization, but it has received funding from big NATO countries like the USA, UK and Germany, so it’s suspicious when they appear to be very friendly with Al Qaida and hold the same opinion as the governments that fund them. I am not sure where journalism comes into this picture. It doesn’t exactly look like it has.

After the first 16 minutes the rest of the film is from Turkey, where the White Helmets have a training camp for their “volunteers.” The sequence contains a little glimpse into the training, some interviews where they more or less talk about how honourable it will be to suffer and even die with the helmet on, and it also shows these “volunteers” talking on their mobile phones to their families in Syria. The message throughout the film is that the regime is the enemy, which makes me sceptical. It’s very unusual for people to agree on anything, so why would they agree on everything? It’s the lack of consensus that has caused so much violence in this region. I am not going to focus on the criticism of Syrian White Helmets, but there is a lot of it. This video explains some of the issues. This video is very alternative, but the informations seems accurate enough.

It’s interesting that WH has a website with the same address as the Nobel Committee in Oslo, with their own name as an addition between the domain name and the top level domain. They had a campaign last year too, and with this petition they are trying to manipulate politicians into nominating them. This page at the real nobelprize.org explains who has the right to nominate a candidate. I guess the idea is that at least one of the members on that list will suggest them as a candidate after public pressure.

If only a fraction of what independent journalists have reported is true, we are probably talking about serious violations of international law by NATO. There is at the very least reason to question the official version, but this film has failed miserably. I allow myself to ask whether this is a documentary or advertisement. It certainly isn’t journalism. Joanna Natasegara, founder of Violet Films/Ultra Violet Consultancy, has produced the film. According to borderlinemedia.com her company has specialised in “bespoke outreach and campaigns maximizing the social change potential for film and media projects, at any stage or size.” That’s what this film looks like. It’s a strategy and  everyone involved appear to be sticking to a script, but then the Oscars has never been about quality.

Autistic cyborgs

Elon Musk is known for so many things it’s hard to say exactly what he is, but he is most known for being the founder and CEO of SpaceX and co-founder, CEO and product architect of Tesla. In addition to that he is almost an entertainment system. I find his speculations about the future fascinating, especially when he talks about AI and space exploration. We already have enough indications to suggest that AI really is the future, and not a very distant one, or an opinion a few pessimistic people have.

McKensey & Company has analyzed 2000 + work operations for more than 800 occupations and they concluded that the present technology can automate 45 percent of the activities that people are currently being paid to perform, and 60 percent of all professions may find that at least 30 percent of their constituent activities can be automated using the technology that already exists. This doesn’t sound completely dystopian because we won’t see a labour market without people, but considering the fact that machines will only become more and more advanced, this certainly has the potential to change everything.

Elon Musk spoke at the World Government Summit in Dubai a few weeks ago. I have liked many of his previous ideas, but I am not sure I care much for his latest. He thinks we have to become cyborgs to make sure that we are relevant in a future that will be dominated by AI, but of course he represents an industry that would love to have workers that could work harder and longer than humans. There are already researchers working on changing our brains. I read about scientists at MIT a couple of years that had succeeded in planting a false memory in a mouse’s mind. Scientists see the positive side of course, but everything has a dark side. We are probably going to see advanced cyborg-like prostheses long before we see people with upgraded brains, but Elon Musk is probably correct in his supposition that boredom will be the first major challenge.

I have written about basic income several times. I initially supported the idea, bus it can also make us more dependant. I am not sure I want to depend on help from a government that is more interested in helping big corporations than people. Consider this statement from the 1975 report The Crisis of Democracy:

The effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and non-involvement on the part of some individuals and groups.

Elon Musk suggested basic income as a defense against boredom, but it could also be a tool to pacify the opposition. Bill Gates said in an interview recently that the robots that steal your job should pay taxes. It sounds unlikely, unless the law give machines human status, but it could finance basic income. I think it would work for a while, but sooner or later we would have a rat in a cage-scenario, or something like the world Isaac Asimov described in The Caves of Steel. It doesn’t look like Bill Gates really believe it will happen either:

A report from the Obama administration suggested three strategies. It’s about preparing for an AI future, so it’s not a question about whether or not we want it. The suggestions seems very vague to me, and as I understand the report they suggest more monotonous work in cooperation with machines, while there will be less need for education. It’s impossible to say what and when it will happen, but I think we can expect a new type of labour market in the future. Democracy is a threat to any government and they all aim to reduce it to different degrees. What worries me the most is that big, international corporations will get more political influence than they already have. That has always been the case in a country like the USA, but it is relatively new in Scandinavia.

This was a part of a post I published on my Norwegian blog, but I decided to publish the more personal part of it as a separate post. That explains the headline and why I didn’t mention autism in the text, but you can imagine what I think about a future with harder competition. During times like that there is a chance many won’t embrace neurodiversity the way they do today.

Where machines could replace humans – and where they can’t (yet)

Artificial Intelligence, Automation and the Economy