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

Political narrations

I remember watching a news broadcast on TV while I was living in Little Rock (2001-2002), and they were talking about an imminent visit by the Saudi Arabian king. The headline was Friend or Foe?

It should be clear to everyone that Saudi Arabia is not a friend, and I don’t know why someone would see them as a one, but they are still an ally as long as they serve a purpose. This reminds me of another pair of opposing words, useful and expendable. In all fairness, this is not about the USA. It involves the USA of course, but NATO, EU and especially Britain have a lot to answer for as well. They are all responsible for a lot of the fear and turmoil around the world in modern times..

Another way of expressing this would be either you are with us or you are against us, or if you are not a part of the solution, you must be a part of the problem. Countries like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Somalia wouldn’t exactly be paradise if they had been left alone, but there is a good chance they’d be better off without our help. The problem is that all governments see democracy as a threat, and they aim to reduce it to various degree. A population that talks and thinks independently is bad news for the oligarchy. News is a narration and one of the oldest narrations is back, China as an aggressor.

I follow Popular Science and they’ve had many headlines the last couple of years about China upgrading their military. They are building new airstrips as well very modern ships, planes and other high tech hardware, and this supports the idea that China is acting aggressively. That’s what we are meant to believe. In other words, they are our main enemy at the moment. Why?

The most obvious answer is that China and the USA are on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, but an article in The Washington Post gives more details. A deal between the USA and the Philippines, named Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, will allow Pentagon to use parts of five existing military bases. There are also US bases in South Kora, Japan and then there is Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Sea that Britain stole from Mauritius in the 1960’s. There is a claim that China is militarizing the South China Sea, but why shouldn’t they be allowed to defend themselves? I have no doubt that the Chinese leadership wish they could invade most of Asia, but they haven’t. In fact, it looks to me that their main interest is to protect what they have, and not expand.

B-1 used the base on Diego Garcia during Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo: Defenselink via Wikimedia Commons
B-1 used the base on Diego Garcia during Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo: Defenselink via Wikimedia Commons

We were told during the cold war that our governments had to spend a lot of money on weapons because the Soviet Union was about to annihilate us any moment. The truth was that the population on both sides had to pay a high price for the costly arms race. It’s pretty obvious that a country that spends a lot of money on the military has less to spend on its own citizens, so when there is a domestic crisis that needs to be dealt with, the money may not be available. There will also be less money to help other countries, such as the crisis NATO has created in Libya, Syria and Iraq. An arms race makes arms manufacturers wealthy, but it also increases insecurity, and few people feel that they are back to a pre-9/11 world. I have said this before and I’ll say it again. I don’t care how many times the two sides can wipe mankind out. One time is quite enough. The Boston Globe published an article a year ago where they warned against Obama’s proposal to modernise the nuclear arsenal, and it’s going to cost $ 1 trillion over the next 30 years.

There also seems to be a willingness to provoke Russia with a build up of NATO troops on the eastern flank. According to the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security Between NATO and the Russian Federation the two parties would “seek to strengthen stability by further developing measures to prevent any potentially threatening build-up of conventional forces in agreed regions of Europe, to include central and Eastern Europe.” There is also a small force of 285 US marines in Northern Norway. I assume they are there  because we have a border to Russia. I am not entirely sure that we are benefiting from this. It seems to be a childish game where grown men and women argue about who started it.

I didn’t catch it myself, but someone told me recently about a comment on Facebook. I assume it was about one of my political posts, which is the topic I have focused on so far this year. Whoever this was couldn’t understand why I bothered as there are more important things to worry about. This is democracy, which is not entirely irrelevant to me. Democracy means discussing the choices our leaders make, and I am not sure that spending insane amounts of money to defend ourselves against a country that doesn’t appear to be a threat is a good idea..

This is politics. Something interesting happened in March 1952. Josef Stalin delivered the so-called Stalin Note to the representatives of the Western allied powers (UK, France and USA). Stalin proposed to reunite Germany with guarantees of basic freedoms. It wasn’t taken seriously, and it is possible that the allied powers were right in suspecting Stalin of bluffing, but it’s an intriguing thought. This is one decision that could have changed everything. I sometimes wonder whether the real threat and the perceived threat, the one we are told to feel, is the same. In that case, history is literally being written.

Stalin Note

The second divorce

I wrote the shortest post on my Norwegian blog about a month before Christmas. I always have problems with the headline and the one I usually choose aren’t exactly getting people’s attention. I succeeded doing just that in December last year with a very misleading headline. I announced that I was getting a divorce.

It was rather amusing to me, but it would have been more correct to say that my blog was getting a divorce. I had decided to keep the posts on autism and nonverbal learning disorder on the original blog, and move the rest to a new one. It was interesting to read the statistics that day. I usually get less than ten hits on a new post the first day, but some posts are read regularly for several years, so it can take a while before I know what people think about the text. This particular post had unusually many hits the first day, and I suspect it was the headline people were curious about.

I am still not getting a divorce, but my English blog is. Autism and nonverbal learning disorder have decided to move out. I created a new home for them at More than NLD. I will continue writing about anything that interests me on this blog, while the focus on my new blog will be independence  and AS/NLD.

Mainstream terrorism

Many people see American politics as a circus at the moment, which I think is the intention, but this is far more serious. This is war! The weapons are not missiles and bombs, but information. It’s lies disguised as truth. The winner gets to decide what is true.

I have been skeptical to Norwegian media for a long time, but their shortcomings became especially evident with the war in Libya. It continued with the Syrian refugees and there were many embarrassing stories where some journalists seemed more intent on using refugees to expose she Syrian regime as evil, and criticising the Norwegian policy on immigration, than asking themselves whether the story made sense. There is one story that comes to mind. A young man, I think he was barely 18 years old, originally from Afghanistan, had lived with his family in Syria for several years. He had spent part of that time as a soldier in Assad’s army, and that’s what he was supposedly running from. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but the journalist could have tried to verify the information. I haven’t heard anyone accusing Syria of using child soldiers or even forcing foreigners to serve in the military, so this was extraordinary information that left me puzzled.

I noticed how one-sided the coverage of the US election was. Norwegian media would probably argue that they gave Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump the same amount of exposure. That doesn’t prove anything because the angle means more. Everything on Hillary Clinton was positive and everything on Donald Trump was negative.They also failed to report on the fact that Hillary Clinton wasn’t exactly the America’s sweetheart media portrayed her to be, which added to the shock when she lost. I don’t think we are getting a realistic coverage when absolutely everything goes against one person and his family.

The latest I heard about was Trump’s youngest daughter, Tiffany. She was at a fashion show and the people sitting next to her had to change seat to make room for Philipp Rein’s family, which was one of the designers. These seats were empty for a short period while they sorted this out. This was enough time for the fashion columnist Christina Brinkley to take a photo and share it on Twitter saying that nobody wanted to sit next to Tiffany Trump. The story was elaborated on and shared by New York Daily News, which according to an article on Wikipedia is the fourth-most widely circulated daily newspaper in the USA. Does that sound like mainstream media sharing genuine news?

The Norwegian Minister of Education and Research, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen commented fake news on the government web site a month ago. He had noticed a disturbing trend, and even though the story about him was harmless and amusing, it illustrates the point. A story about him was widely shared on Facebook before Christmas. It said that he would send marzipan badgers to all schools to replace the traditional marzipan pig that Norwegians can’t get enough of for Christmas. This was to avoid offending members of other religions, specifically Muslims. It was nonsense of course, but the minister noticed that a few of the people commenting the story believed it.

He encouraged, and I assume he was referring to teachers and parents, to help children get the knowledge and judgment needed to separate lies and facts online. I support that idea because critical thinking has been a theme on this blog, but we should also realise that fake news is most effective when the source is reliable. The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) have a press conference every year where they inform about threats against Norway. They talked about 2017 a couple of weeks ago and not surprisingly the focus was on Russia. They are probably correct when they claim that Russia use fake news, propaganda and cyberattacks, but again I notice the sudden one-way traffic.

Torbjørn Røe Isaksen is correct, the world is confusing, and governments are not making it less so. When everyone is working so hard to get my attention away from real news I start thinking, what is it they don’t want me to see or think about? Donald Trump had his first solo press conference a few days ago an one of the most famous political commentators compared it to a Monthy Python sketch. The truth is that Trump is sticking to his game plan. He promised the people that voted for him that he would fight mainstream media and the elite/establishment, and that’s what he’s doing. I wish he could win that fight, but it’ll be hard if he has to fight alone.

A newsstand in Lisboa suggest that they sellto tourists from Britain and Germany.The problem is that they most likely use the same draft when they write. So they are all wrong.
A newsstand in Lisboa suggests that they sell to tourists from Britain and Germany.The problem is that they most likely use the same draft when they write. So they are all wrong. Photo: Harshil Shah via Wikimedia Commons

It’s interesting that the latest update from the world’s favourite whistle-blowers showed that the USA had spied on France in connexion with the French election in 2012. They were also caught spying on the German government in 2014. Most governments do this, as well as against its own population, so it’s pretty clear that we are all a bunch of paranoid lunatics with nukes. That makes me feel so much better!

It is evident to everyone that Russia has made a big comeback in the Middle East, which is probably why Pentagon wants to send more troops to Syria. There are more people than before thinking that perhaps the political leaders in Russia, Syria and Iran are not out to annihilate us after all. Perhaps there’s more to this story? After all, I am not sure it sounds convincing when leaders within NATO and EU insist that the world is much safer and much more stable now as a direct result of their leadership in Western Asia and Northern Africa.

It’s sometimes hard to understand what’s going on. I don’t know whether Donald Trump is a part of the distraction or not, which means he’s just playing a part, or whether media is aiding people with an anti-democracy agenda. It certainly looks like media is going far beyond just reporting. There seems to be a strong desire to influence, create enough disturbance that nothing will be accomplished, and finally get the president impeached. In that case I would suggest that parts of media are within the definition of terrorism.  That may seem like a ridiculous thing to say, but maybe not if the result is enough momentum to bring down a democratically elected government. That’s why media needs to report the relevant truth and nothing more.

President Obama was on the opposite side of a different fight. There were seven whistle-blowers that were prosecuted during his presidency. They were not recognized as whistle-blowers, because if they had, they would have been within the freedom of a democracy. They have been referred to as leakers or traitors, but if someone can offer information that will harm Donald Trump, leaking has suddenly become patriotic and honourable. The sad thing is that if secrecy wins, we don’t have the democracy we thought we had and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that we don’t.

The documentary film Silenced follows three National Security whistle-blowers. I believe they are all good Americans that wanted to make America a better place, but that’s not how media and the authorities portrayed them. The film is available on Netflix.One of the whistle-blowers summed it up nicely: I’m fighting to have my September 10th country back.

I wonder sometimes if we need to look at the bigger picture. Donald Trump makes me uneasy, but on the other hand he is trying to do things that no one else has before, and it’s not all bad. I feel uneasy about the Labour Party in Norway as well. They are as establishment as you can get in Norway, and we seem to be moving towards a Labour government after the election in September. That means some seriously creepy people in office, and they are not going to bring democracy back.

Let’s put it this way. Many intelligence agencies lied about weapons of mass destruction, Libya, torture and secret prisons. It’s their job to lie. Now we trust them because we don’t like the truth.

#iamwhiteandiamdumb

Satire: trenchant wit, irony or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly. Merriam Webster.

Satire is very useful as social commentary (except that if mainstream media loves you, you are probably not anti-establishment), but it’s also tricky because people tend to misunderstand. The Borowitz Report in The New Yorker is one of the most famous examples at the moment. There are some in Norway too and I have noticed that the newspapers have to add the word satire to the column. Some people would take it seriously if they didn’t.

Nothing has the ability to make us go collectively crazy like racism, or the fear of racism. Netflix recently released a 35 second trailer for the new series Dear White People. The trailer shows an African American woman that works as the host of a campus radio show, and she is giving her listeners a list of acceptable Halloween costumes: Pirates, slutty nurse, any of our first 43 presidents. Top of the list of unacceptable costumes: Me.

This is the trailer:

The series is based on the film by the same name, and the film is about five black students at an Ivy League college. There is a popular black-face party at the school where white students paint their faces black. Watch a trailer from the film on IMDb. Films like The Secret Lives of Bees, Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave were shown in theaters here in Norway, but I don’t think Dear White People was. That is a shame because those other films show a part of US history, which is also important, but they don’t show the present situation. I think a film or TV series like Dear White People is more relevant to college students in Norway today. I hope the series is well made because this is something we need to be exposed to.

After watching the trailer Netflix-viewers made hashtags like #cancelnetflix and #notnetflix. How about #itssatirestupid or #iamwhiteandiamdumb or #michaelmoorewasright:stupidwhitemen. Get a grip! This is not that serous.

Imagine if children dressed up as George Washington on Halloween, and had a slave doll attached to the costume. There is nothing wrong with dressing your child as a political figure. I think George Washington with a slave would be historically correct, but you don’t have to provoke people on purpose. By all means, teach your children that the founding fathers owned slaves. That’s teaching true history, but provoking is unnecessary. It would be the same with Nat Turner. You don’t have to paint your face and attach dolls with a knife in the chest.

Cultural sensitivity and a criticism of stereotypes seems to be the message in both the film and TV-series. It may seem like a good idea to have a coded party, but I wouldn’t advice anyone to participate. If you do you could still show some common sense. The director of the film, Justin Simien, said in an interview with npr that during his time in college he saw “pimps and hoes”-parties, Cinco de Mayo parties, and white trash parties. The costumes and behaviour in these parties revealed a lot of stereotypes. If you didn’t complain about racism the first time it happened you don’t have no right to complain about reversed racism.

Lighten up, people! There is a need to be cultural sensitive, but now you are being too sensitive.

Fading democracy

Why wouldn’t everyone love America and Americans? I happen to be one that do, but it’s not hard to see why some struggle. It could be because there is sometimes the expectation that loving what many see as the epicenter of freedom and democracy is the only logical response. The City Upon a Hill-attitude works very well if you are an American, but sometimes it seems like the rest of the world doesn’t have a choice. America is the parent that has the right to make decisions the children neither understands or likes. President-elect Kennedy used the phrase in 1961, Ronald Reagan opened and ended his time in the White House with this reference to John Winthrop, and George Bush said this in 2004:

Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom. This is the everlasting dream of America.

Many seem to think that democracy died the day Donald Trump won the election, as if the previous administrations have been perfect. American entertainment has conquered the world, but this isn’t just entertainment. A lot of it supports the idea that America is the beacon of hope, our last best hope for peace. It’s the one place on this planet where we are guaranteed complete personal freedom. This is the American dream, but is that really an option today? Democracy is about more than celebrities’ right to rant louder and uglier than the president, the freedom to redefine your gender multiple times, or the right to have Christian symbols like a cross or a nativity scene removed from public land. Some people would argue that our own societies are major renovation objects too, and that this is where we need to start.

One of the most controversial policies has been the determination to spread democracy. An article by Sean Lynn-Jones from Harvard Kennedy School, written in 1998, supports this idea and he concludes that the USA ought to spread a liberal democracy. Liberalism aims to guarantee individuals rights such as the right to choose religion, gender, sexual orientation as well as equal opportunities in health care, education and employment. It may sound like a good idea, but this quote from from the article is problematic:

Policies to promote democracy should attempt to increase the number of regimes that respect the individual liberties that lie in the heart of liberalism and elect their leaders. The United States therefore should attempt to build support for liberal principles-many of which are enshrined in international human rights treatises-as well as encouraging states to hold free and fair elections.

First of all, where do we stand ourselves? Most people in my country think they live in a democracy. That is the official story, and we may deserve the number one spot in a report The Economist Intelligence Unit published in 2010. The report listed 167 countries from the most to the least democratic, with Norway as number one with 9,8 out of 10 points and North Korea at the other end with 1,08 points. The USA and Britain were 17 and 19, which was mainly because civil liberties had been sacrificed in the war against terror. The same countries occupied 1st and 167th place six years later, while the USA shared the 21st position together with Italy, which put them in the flawed democracy category. Shouldn’t the city upon a hill be a little higher? Incidentally, our friends in Saudi Arabia are tied for 159 together with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Are we trying to encourage liberalism in our allied countries? Read about it on Wikpedia.

The main issues in Norway is that we have a political elite that no longer needs the people, and that many decisions are taken in the EU, where we are not even a member. The UN has pointed out on several occasions that Norway is breaking human rights. We also have a press that has given up its independence.

Map showing the democracy index.
Dark blue is good and brown is as bad as it gets on the democracy index. Photo: Kamalthebest via Wikimedia Commons

.

It’s interesting that the report points to reduced freedom for the press and the eagerness to spread democracy, while we support authoritarian regimes like Egypt (under Mubarak) and Saudi Arabia. Countries like Ukraine and Turkey, and the EU are not exactly moving in the right direction either. This is the hypocrisy that makes it hard for foreigners to love America.

The author of the article assumes that it’s democracy if you force it on people. Sovereignty, the right to govern yourself without interference from outside bodies, is an important part of international law. It’s irrelevant what you thought about Gadaffi in Libya, and what you think about Assad in Syria. The fact is that both leaders had support in their own country, and although it was obvious that there were serious problems, they also enacted much needed reforms. I wonder how much more we can expect. No matter what religion we are talking about it’s a bad idea to mix it with politics. It’s not because they are Muslims, but because this has been a deeply religious region since long before Islam was invented. You can’t change that over night and we shouldn’t expect them to give people rights we can’t even agree on in our own societies. I think we should do more to encourage change in countries we see as allies, but we should start with ourselves.

Why the United States Should Spread Democracy

The would-be strongman

A Norwegian newspaper with photo from Trump's inauguration.:
If he succeeds with his goals many are probably goingto feel that he was their president.

# He will not divide us. # Not my president. If I have to explain who I’m talking about you haven’t been on planet Earth for a while, but on the other hand the people using these tags seem to be living in a different reality.

Many want to impeach President Trump. Let’s consider what the Vice President would have to deal with.

US presidents usually inherit a problem. It was the Vietnam War for Kennedy, Nixon and Ford, while Reagan had to deal with inflation and Obama a major financial crisis. Trump inherited a debt of almost $ 20 trillion. The number is so high I don’t know what it is, but check for yourself at US National Debt Clock.org. I don’t know whether Trump really means what he says, but he talks like he wants to be the people’s president. He seems to want to be a new deal-president and take power from the elite and give it to the majority. The problem is that with the enormous debt I don’t think he will succeed.

Imagine if the states were asked to pay the federal debt. States like North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Maine, Wyoming, Wisconsin have a debt to GDP ratio of 5-15 percent while it’s 105 percent for the whole union. Do you think the people in these states are going to feel it’s fair that they have to pay? There has been some talk of secession in states like California, Texas and Florida.The majority of the mentioned states have a border to Canada. I doubt very much whether states will be allowed to leave the union, but if they have to find new allies Canada isn’t a bad choice.

Trump has also inherited a very dangerous world. NATO’s actions in Libya, the richest country in Africa at the time, can only be referred to as a coup. The situation is still very dramatic in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Reuters quoted Dawlat Waziri, spokesperson for the Afghan Defense Ministry yesterday saying that they would welcome more international troops. As for  Syria it’s hard to see why it was necessary to replace the regime. What we have seen since 9/11 is a very aggressive stance against Arab countries. George Bush had preemptive strike and the Obama administration followed up with a tendency to support Sunni Muslim terrorists and a drone program that seems to be unchecked.

It remains to be seen what kind of legacy Obama leaves behind, but I have a feeling it looks better now than it really is. Obama urged people to drink more water, but what are they going to do when they can’t afford water (as happened in Detroit in 2014 when the city turned off the water if you didn’t pay the bill) or when there is too much lead in it? The water in Flint, Michigan had a high content of lead, but Obama said they’d be fine in the long run. The problem is bigger than Flint because according to CNN 5 300 water systems in the USA are in violation of lead rules.

I have said this before and I’ll say it again, I am worried about some of the people on Trump’s team, but he has a chance of doing some good. A Norwegian pundit, Hanne Nabintu Herland, has some interesting suggestions about Libya. Read Could Muammar Gadaffi’s son Saif al-Islam Solve the Libya Crisis?  He doesn’t sound like a demon at all. In fact, he sounds like the kind of Muslims we should be working with.

Many have accused Trump of being a strongman and implied that he is a dictator. That probably wouldn’t be a bad thing if he was strong in the right places. The question is whether he will be allowed to.