Jeremy hangs on

The Palace of Westminster is probably the most iconic building in Europe. Personally I hope they succeed outside the EU. Photo: Diliff via Wikimedia Commons
The Palace of Westminster is probably the most iconic building in Europe. Personally I hope they succeed outside the EU. Photo: Diliff via Wikimedia Commons

I freely admit that I don’t understand politics, but after the many unpredictable results in recent elections internationally I don’t know if anyone does. In the days following the British election I have mostly seen headlines saying that Labour won, but did they really?

Labour have some reason to celebrate because they gained 30 seats compared to the last election, and the Conservatives lost 13. That gave them respectively 262 and 318 seats out of 650. None of them have majority and consequently none can govern without support from another party, but Labour is farther from achieving that than the Tories. So I ask myself, if Theresa May had resgined, as the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded, what would happen?

Jeremy Corbyn argued that if Theresa May left office “the country would get a government that would be truly representative of the people of this country”. I come from a country where it’s hard to get a majority government, and the solution Theresa May is going for is what we have had in Norway the last four years. She aims to govern with the support of ten seats from the Democratic Unionist Party, but as I understand it the party from Northern Ireland won’t be a part of the government. They are just going to vote together in parliament without having a coalition.

This reminds me of the situation in 2010. David Cameron and Gordon Brown did worse than Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, but the Conservatives  and the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition in the interest of stablity. Labour under Jeremy Corbyn won only four more seat than Gordon Brown seven years ago, and Theresa May won 12 more seats than David Cameron, so I don’t see how Corbyn can claim to represent a much vaster segment of the population than Theresa May.

Jeremy Corbyn has had a rather turbulent time as the leader of Labour. His leadership has been questioned by segments of his own party. There are many in his own party that feel he has taken the party too much to the left. In other words, the party has become Labour again. Many of his critics feel that he is unelectable, and maybe they are correct. After all, this election has been hailed as a huge success for Labour, but after a very good campaign against a candidate that didn’t really campaign at all, he was only four seats up from Gordon Brown’s result seven years ago. A leftwing politician may very well be unelectable. I wonder what he would do with his critics if he moved into Downing Street. Would there be a constant struggle with unpredictable votes in parliament?

I think the only alternative to the Conservatives would be a new election and I am not sure that Jerermy Corbyn, with actual socialist politics, would be more electable in the second round. No matter what happens this time, Corbyn probably had enough success to get another attempt at number 10.

I don’t know if the Labour Party in Norway is representative, but the experiences we have in Norway make me skeptical. They claim to be on the side of poor people, but in reality they make it just as hard to be poor as the Conservatives. I don’t need another blue party.

Advertisements

Volatile minds

I am fascinated by shapes and symmetry in nature, which is sort of what this post is about. I believe there is a creator or a programmer behind everything.

I have written several posts about British celebrity atheists the last couple of years, and they are frequently represented by Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins. They may very well be what they claim to be, but I get the impression that far too many atheists sail with a flag of convenience. If you don’t want any questions or don’t wan’t to defend what you believe, proclaiming to be an atheist is an easy solution. No one is going to ask how you came to that conclusion.

I mentioned Stephen Fry in the other posts, especially an interview he did with an Irish TV channel. Many atheists praised his remarkably inconsiderate bluster, but although these couple of minutes told me quite a lot about Stephen Fry (I knew he was an atheist, but before this I mostly knew him as an actor), they left me with more questions than answers. This story re-surfaced this week because a man had reported Fry to the police for what he saw as blasphemous comments in this interview. The police were forced to investigate, but only got around to it now, two years later. They dropped the case of course because having an opinion, no matter how thoughtless it is, shouldn’t be illegal.

Watch Stephen Fry’s answer on You Tube.

I don’t like the tendency there is these days to attack people you disagree with. I think both Stephen Fry and whoever reported him to the police did so in this case. Media reports constantly about cases where there is a false accusation of rape or molestation. There are cases involving the Child Welfare Service where they accuse a parent, usually ther mother, of being mentally ill. This happens without a psychologist/psychiatrist or even a GP talking to the parent. There are many master suppression techniques used to stop people or simply to get revenge. I also take an interest foreign politics and international relations, and as soon as you voice an opinion some people are quick to label you a conspiracy theorist. In other words, no matter how dogmatically Stephen Fry speaks, he shouldn’t be silenced.

As for the content of his speech…. Well, that is confusing and predictable at the same time. I am sorry to say I am not the great mind and thinker I’d like to be. I tried reading a translation of Thomas Aquinas once and I’ve never been so utterly disheartened. I couldn’t understand any of it, although I was reading my own language. I can only use my limited understanding of the universe, but I believe that is enough for me.

Tbe problem most people have, and this is a very general principle you can apply to everything from religion to science to racism, is that they don’t accept conclusions that contradict what they already believe. Even scientists tend to look for evidence that supports their hypothesis, but they find it harder to accept findings that will force them to lose some of their most fundamental convictions.

Stephen Fry seems to have reached a deeper understanding of the big questions. Christians have always struggled with explaining God and the presence of evil, and there’s been many suggestions the last 2000 years. I don’t personally know that God controls everything that goes on in the universe, or that he is responsible for all the injustice and pain in the world. I don’t know that God demands us to get down on our knees to thank him either. I am mostly hopeful. To be honest, I am trying to make the best out of this life, but it would be nice with a second round without all the bs from this world.

Are you looking for proof? Aren’t we all, but what is proof? Experience is an obsolete term for the word proof, and in that sense the proof of God’s existence makes sense to me. You are not going to find anything if you expect mathematics that leaves no doubt whatsoever. The way I experience or observe and encounter the universe, and read about how scientists have encountered it, I find it very likely that the universe and our unique world was created. I don’t think it just happened.

I personally don’t think it would be a bad idea with a more Christian lifestyle. and by that I don’t mean the corrupt version that governments and political leaders have imposed on the population for a couple of thousand years. Proof is experience and what most Christians preach is nonsense to me because it’s not my experience.

The Hitler Trick

The result of three car bombs in Aleppo that the Al Qaida-connected al-Nusra Front took responsibility for Photo: Zyzzzzzy via Wikimedia Commons
The result of three car bombs in Aleppo that the Al Qaida-connected al-Nusra Front took responsibility for
Photo: Zyzzzzzy via Wikimedia Commons

I recently read an interesting comment by the Danish sociologist Lars Jørgensen in the Danish newspaper Arbejderen (the worker). It was about media’s responsibility for the war in Syria, and I agree that they have caused many of the problems. It has to do with Hitler’s trick, as Jørgensen called it. Hitler knew, according to the comment in Arbejderen, that ordinary people couldn’t make themselves believe that their own leaders would shamelessly lie to them to justify war. That makes people inclined to contribute to their own oppression.

The argument is convincing at the same time as it’s hard to understand why people would do this. There were undoubtedly people in the 1930’s and 40’s that didn’t want to see the truth, and there are people today that don’t want to see their political heroes as liars. At the same time we have a resonsibility to reflect on what governmets and journalists tell us. We can accept everything we read and hear as truth, but having that level of naivity is a choice we make. I have read many accounts of Germans that actively opposed Hitler, during the war and they were not all Jews. The situation might be different today because we are not talking about our closest neighbours and fellow citizens, but a population in a country most people had barely heard about before the war started.

I believe people know when their political leaders are lying. They knew Hitler was wrong from the start and they knew the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria were not about helping the people or making our own countries safer. Incidentally, two British Parlamentary reports into the wars in Iraq and Libya concluded that they were based on lies. Politicians and media failed us, but those few journalists, activsts and scholars that have tried to follow the evidence of for example gas attacks in Syria, point towards the rebels, the so-called moderate islamists. It’s not that it’s not being reported at all, but articles like UN has testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas:investigator from Reuters are usually ignored. We don’t want to know. I believe the Hitler trick still very much sums up how the democracy we want to share with the rest of the world works.

I believe you have a pretty good idea that news and statements from the government are narrations, but we like it when it makes us look strong and when it doesn’t have any consequences for us. We are being told a version of the truth, and in that sense I don’t think there is a country without a conspiracy. There are no known cases of a conspiracy in Norway. Nothing has ever been exposed, although there are some suspicious cases, but when I read the news and compare it to independent news from Syria, I know there is a Hitler trick in operation. Anything else would be a child’s naive fantasy.

Retrace Syria’s steps

The remains of Serjilla, a settlement i Syria bult in 473 when Syrians were Chriatians. These seetlements are called dead cities because they were abandoned when Muslims invaded the country. Syria is one of the oldest members of the global church with a 10 percent Christian population today. Why have we forgotten them? Photo: James Gordon via Wikimedia Commons
The remains of Serjilla, a Syrian settlement from 473 when the country was Christian. These seetlements are called dead cities because they were abandoned when Muslims invaded the country. 10 percent of Syrians are still Christians. Why have we forgotten them? Photo: James Gordon via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes it’s useful to take s few steps back and try to retrace the steps to where we are today. I believe that could explain what has happened in West Asia, and what is going to happen. When the Arab League debated Iraq in 2003 Syria and Libya spoke out against intervention. Iran was in a tricky situation because after fighting off an invasion attempt from Iraq during most of the 1980’s, the regime in Tehran was not exactly thrilled about supporting Saddam Hussein, but not interested in inviting American troops next door either. But I think it’s safe to say that they didn’t support the US invasion of Iraq. Assad of Syria was especially adament that it would destabilize Iraq, and consequently Syria, as they share a long border. It turned out he was right.

When NATO-countries really want us to see the Iranian and Syrian regimes as the two biggest threats to world peace my couriosity is being aroused. Why are they dangerous to us? I’m asking because Iran has a relatively low military budget compared to other countries in the region. Saudi Arabia was the biggest spender ( $ 63.7 billion) in 2016 behind the three big ones, USA, China and Russia, which makes them the biggest military threat in the region. Iran is number 19 on the list and spent $ 12.3 billion on the military last year, which is 5.5 less than Israel. So why do Israel and the USA maintain that Iran is preparing a nuclear attack on Israel? There is no evidence for this claim, but you could probably argue that Iran, whether they have nukes or not, want to deter their enemies. Apart from the ordinary and expected verbal threats against Israel, they seem more interested in self-preservation.

“We” have been decent enough to stabilize Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now we are working on Syria. Most people can’t remember how or why the war in Syria started, so it might be useful to go back. Iran, Syria and Libya didn’t want American involvement in Iraq. Does it appear to you that we have been terribly succesful? The truth is that defense and deterrence is a threat if you have other plans. If your plan is to violate international law by replacing the regime with one that will follow your orders, then of course defense is a threat.

I think we can expect to see an attack on Iran if Syria falls. What does this tell us about the war on terror? At the very least it’s very confusing. NATO like to say that they work with moderate Muslims in Syria. These are around 1000 groups that have formed different alliances and affiliations with Al Qaida, Taliban and similar organizations. There is also evidence to suggest that NATO have been supporting ISIL because that is a way to attack the regime indirectly. I am sure there are moderate Muslims among these, but there are not enough to go around. In any case, the war on terror is crap, and I believe all the touching words about helping the children in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and other Syrian cities are equally false.

I don’t think Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadaffi were good men according to our standards. I am not convinced that Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad are any better, but I believe they love their countries. It’s not a governance the way we want it, but can we really offer them something better? Besides, what happened to our own democracies? It’s not exactly something I’d gladly give away as a gift to a friend.

As for Russia, I think Putin has multiple reasons for supporting the Syrian regime. He wants to keep the Russian base and an ally in West Asia, but as a leader of an old Christian culture I suspect that Putin also considers the 10 percent Christian population in Syria. I suspect he also thinks about Russia’s responsibility to maintain the balance between the powers, or to stop Western imperialism. That’s how occupied countries tend to see our interference, and I think it’s a correct perception. So if you ask what alliance is the biggest threat to world peace I am not sure the answer should be Russia, Syria and Iran.

Arab leaders declare opposition to war in Iraw (CNN)
List of countries by military expenditures (Wikipedia)

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?

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.

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.

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