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

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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.

Unplugged: Entertainment off the grid

When I started blogging in 2012 lists were popular. Most of these were about as interesting as the average hamster running the social media wheel with their photos of food, cats, babies or desperate requests to share something you don’t agree with. I’m sure it felt like they had something fascinating to share, and I suppose that is a flaw many of us have. We assume that our interests are so fascinating that people feel bereft if we don’t help them spread the information. It is true that I continue writing even though I don’t have any measurable progress. I write because I like it, but I wouldn’t be honest if I claimed that I didn’t care whether people read my texts or not. I would still argue that I don’t choose topics based on what I think will be popular.

Blogging preceded social media and the pioneers posted every day, sometimes several times a day. That meant they had to produce something fast, preferably without thinking. Writing without thinking sounds like a winner in today’s world. I published some lists too, but I tried to make them relevant. I wanted to transmit some ideas and values, or to tell people about life in this corner of the world.

A list of my favourite songs probably wouldn’t mean anything to other people if I didn’t include some background information. Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel would be on the list because it was the first album I owned myself, and music was my escape from a reality I didn’t much care for. This particular song has a lot of fascinating background information and it’s worth a post of its own. The song is about an inability, or perhaps an unwillingness to communicate, which makes it just as relevant today as in the 1960’s.

My list would also include Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen because I think they, together with Paul Simon, are the best poets in music. Michael Jackson was a part of my childhood and I liked some of his later songs as well, such as Earth Song and Man in the Mirror. These seem to show a maturity that came with age, compared to his earlier songs that were more about being cool.

Cover of the book Elvenbane. This very well written book was a lifeline when I had no distractions.
This very well written book was a lifeline when I had no distractions.

I was thinking of the lists again a few days ago because I had been without internet for a while. When you don’t have internet or a TV subscription, and radio is crap, you will soon find yourself climbing the walls if you literally can’t imagine life without. I can manage without,  but because I depend on it there is a transition where I am bored. It doesn’t happen often, but I have had some experience. I moved with my family from Nordland to Rogaland county three years ago. We had to leave almost everything behind because even the cheapest alternative, renting a truck and driving the 2 000 km myself, cost more money than I had. When we came to Haugesund we had to spend all the money on a deposit and first month’s rent, and TV and internet would have to wait. I have lived in nine apartments since 2003, so there’s been a few transitions.

What do you do when you are sitting on the floor in your new apartment, because you had to leave all the furniture behind, and you know it’ll take a couple of weeks before that situation is likely to change? You read. I am in a similar situation now, which leads me to this question: What is your favourite low tech (or no tech) entertainment?

I have been exploring an independent, out of the box lifestyle in my recent posts. I wouldn’t go completely off the grid or prepper style, but a more sustainable life would be a good idea for most of us. This post is in that spirit because if something happened it would be important to find ways to entertain yourself. In case of a black out no one is going to offer something to help you keep sane. It’s all up to you. I like collecting books, but if I had to manage with just a handful of books I have a pretty good idea about which authors I’d prefer:

Arthur Conan Doyle
Jack London
Charles Dickens
Jane Austen
Agatha Christie
Douglas Adams
John Tolkien

There are of course lots of other books I would miss, but if I had this core I could manage very well. There is so much excellent science fiction, and it would be hard to choose, but there are a few authors I  really like. The best thing you could possibly give someone is a book, and one of last year’s Christmas gifts made me very content when I lost the connection to the world. Elvenbane is the first of four books in The Halfblood Chronicles and I thoroughly enjoyed all the 560 pages in the first one. You know the expression absolute power corrupts absolutely. The elves in the book came to a human world through a portal, and they used their magic to enslave people. They can only be described as pure evil, which is not at all how we are used to thinking of elves.

Playing board games is a very social activity, and I am out of practice. Monopoly, chess, backgammon, cards, Chinese checkers and diamond hunt were some of the popular games when I was growing up, but they were not a part of my childhood. I have recently been introduced to games like Munchkin, Ender Game, Arkham Horror and Betrayal at House on the Hill. These are fascinating and it would have been totally my thing when I was a teenager, but it still requires social skills. I play them with my family, but it’s more challenging with outsiders. These science fiction/fantasy boardgames would still be on my preppers gaming list.

When I am alone there is nothing like a jigsaw puzzle. Surviving in a black out kind of scenario isn’t just about food and safety. A life without entertainment would be a very hard one, and it’s not something anyone would choose.

The evolution of communication

cup of coffee. I may be nonverbal a lot of the time, but as long words like coffee, java, mocca, joe or brew are understood I'll be alright.
I may be nonverbal a lot of the time, but as long as words like coffee, java, mocca, joe or brew are understood I’ll be alright.

Merriam Webster is one of the most entertaining websites. It is to me, but perhaps it would be more correct to call it fascinating and educational? I enjoy reading both the articles and the definitions. In fact, I especially like old dictionaries, and when I get more space than I have at the moment I want to collect them. The English language is incredibly simple and incredibly complicated at the same time. I know enough to have almost all types of conversations, but you can study this language systematically your entire life without being able to master it.

I read somewhere that there are one million words in the English language, while you could manage well with a third of that in most other languages. We are all influenced by what we hear and read, but if the vocabulary on TV is limited we are not likely to learn as much as we did when we read classic literature. I find the many synonyms especially fascinating, but they aren’t just different words for the same thing. There are differences. People that don’t know anything about Inuits like to say that they have a hundred words for snow. I don’t know if the number is that high, but it is probably high because snow can have different qualities.

I used to live in Western Telemark, a really cold place with snow from October to April, and I could see that snow was a lot of things. It was for example frequently too dry to make a snow man, and I am sure there is a word for that. It didn’t snow often in Telemark, but we had what Merriam Webster refers to as ondings.That’s a heavy snowfall that doesn’t meet the criteria for a blizzard. We had two meters of snow during most of the winter, but it had a tendency to come all at once. The rest of the time I was mostly freezing my butt off, and I am sure there are at least a dozen words for how my buttocks felt. Incidentally, the first snowfall in early October is always a skift, just barely enough to cover the ground.

I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or not, but the English language also has multiple words for being drunk: bombed, smashed, stiff, stewed, wasted, wiped out, blasted, hammered, stoned, impaired. That doesn’t sound like a condition I’d like to be in multiple days every week. I thought the whole idea was to have a good time.

Vocabulary is relevant this week because Merriam Webster has added more than a thousand new words to their dictionary. Any language that doesn’t evolve will be the next Latin, and very dead. I’m surprised it took this long, but now you can use the word seussian without running into trouble with the grammar police. It could refer to Doctor Seuss or someone with a playful, imaginative language. Geeks didn’t used to be very popular, but people want to take advantage of the trend, so they can geek out, which means that they get excited about a particular subject. I wish this meant that being different or outside the box suddenly was accepted, but it’s not that simple. I think people just want to geek out while it’s trendy. Speaking of people desperately seeking attention and approval, photobomb is also a new word in the dictionary.

We just added more than 1000 new words to the dictionary

There is a reason I don’t like clowns

picture from Auschwitz
In the real world there is a short distance from not taking a politician seriously to accepting Auschwitz. Photo: Pixabay

I have written a lot about Trump lately, and specifically about the criticism of him by people with seemingly low IQ. That doesn’t mean I think he’s the best thing that has happened to democracy. The point has been that democracy hasn’t exactly been thriving under Bush/Cheney/Haliburton and Obama/the banks either.

Criticism of wrongdoing and opposotion to the governmrnt is a part of democracy, and we shouldn’t stop doing it. Just cut the crap about how life would have been better under the queen of establishment. The best thing about Trump is that he isn’t trying to hide his intentions.

We need to pay attention of course, but there seems to be a strong apathy at the moment. CNN reported last summer that 5 300 water systems in the USA are in violation of lead rules. This didn’t happen under the much debated anti-science and regulation-Trump administration. I think it is ridiculous, as many have done, to compare Trump to Hitler or Mussolini if we also say that all previous presidents have been everything Trump isn’t. The comparison with Hitler may still have some merit, though. Paul von Hindenburg was elected the second president of Germany in 1925, and he was more than ready to retire in 1932 at the age of 84. He was still persuaded to run again because he was thought to be the only candidate that had a chance against Adolf Hitler. He won easily, but his health failed and he died in office, which made it easy for Hitler.

The book Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power (link to Amazon) tells the story as it was seen and interpreted by American diplomats, journalists, soldiers, expats, visiting authors and Olympic athletes. The Germans didn’t take Hitler seriously at first and few American journalists saw him as anything but a clown either. He seems to have been more admired later and Time Magazine named him person of the year in 1938. This is a warning that once someone is in office we can’t see them as ridiculous. Many were amused by George W. Bush and media is even more intent on making fun of the new president. Maybe their reasoning is that this will make him weak, but I don’t think this makes state leaders less dangerous.

I close with a quote by Ursula Le Guin from her novel The Dispossessed. This seems relevant right now:

You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.

As for a comedian, anyone can be that. France’s Marie Le Pen could be next if we don’t show more responsibility. I wonder how much we would accept if Donald Trump made America great again. Would we still remember the people in the rest of the world?

Trump brings out the worst in us

I have used the odd one out for autism. It may be a strange choice for Trump, but maybe the odd one out is needed is politics as well.
I have used the odd one out for autism. It may be a strange choice for Trump, but maybe the odd one out is needed in politics as well.

President Trump continues to dominate the news for all the wrong reasons, and both newspapers and scholars are debating the likelihood of impeachment at the moment. His political enemies want that as well. It’s not likely to happen if the charges have something to do with his business empire or his alleged ties to other governments, but denying people from specific countries entry to the USA sounds illegal.

Donald Trump could be the first president to be impeached, and it’s interesting that the first one would have been Richard Nixon, if he had not resigned. Watergate wasn’t the worst he did because he also expanded the Vietnam War to Cambodia and sabotaged peace talks in 1968. The tragedy is that he was the last New Deal-president. It is entirely possible that Trump is nothing but words, but during his campaign he promised to spend $ 1 trillion on infrastructure like roads and bridges. He may even mean it, but after very expensive bailouts and wars it probably doesn’t matter how much he wants it. I fear it’s much too late for a new “new deal.” One wonders if an impeachment is much too late as well because if the sitting president has more power to act without Congress it is because it has been allowed under the last four presidents. I am especially saddened by Trump’s failures because he could have done some good, and we need it right now.

Emmanuel Saez, professor of economics at Berkeley pointed out in Striking it richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States that the 1 percent richest in the USA captured 95 percent of the income gains the first three years of the recovery, which was Obama’s first term. It’s not that obvious to me that the problems started with Trump.

I’ll be the first to admit that Donald Trump is a bizarre and ridiculous character, and that he keeps supplying his enemies with ammunition. He has insulted and abused people left and right, and apparently it’s pay back time now. It must be hard to resist the temptation and by the look of it no one wants to try. Some have stated that Trump is a sociopath and that he has narcissistic personality disorder. Media even targeted Trump’s 10 year old son claiming he had autism, and after the inauguration quite a few people had decided that Melania Trump needed to be liberated. Everyone from talk show hosts to politicians join in on the new slam Trump sport.

Donald Trump is emotional, impulsive, a bully and an abuser. It’s hard to detect any positive qualities, and it may be surprising that I find the anti-Trump sentiments disturbing, but this looks like bullying to me. I know he has to accept a lot of this kind of attention as a public figure and as a state leader, especially as he is the same sort himself, but this seems to be more than a little exaggerated. Most of the people slamming Trump claim to be better than that, but I don’t see that they are. This started long before he won the election and it hasn’t been about honesty for a long time. I think this situation can teach us something on a personal level as well. I have a feeling no one would accept being treated the way we seem to think it’s right to treat the president. Yes, by all means, criticize and oppose wrongdoing, but sometimes conformity is not a bad idea, and the good old decency shouldn’t go out of fashion.