Saturday, December 28, 2002

The storm clouds of war are gathering, the hounds of hell are howling, and harbingers are harbingering. It's late December, and time for visions of imminent doom from the apocalyptic mind of Johan Galtung, Professor of Peace, part-time prophet, and proud anti-American.

- If I were Osama bin Laden, I would withdraw to a well hidden cave and watch while the US destroys itself. Galtung has no doubt that the American empire will meet its end, as the Roman empire and the Soviet Union did before it. - I estimate the end of American world domination within 20 years. President George W. Bush is accellerating this development with his foreign policy. .. - [An attack on Iraq] will speed up the American fall as a super power. I think the acts of vengeance will go on for 500 years. Countries that are allied to the US will also be targets of terror. Norway is brave, or perhaps more correctly stupid, to expose its people to this. .. - Every time I predict an important event, I am told what a loonie I am, smiles Galtung. As when he predicted the fall of the Berlin wall, and most recently the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11. Two and a half week before September 11, 2001, he told NRK, while filming a documentary, that the United States would experience a major terrorist attack. .. - The situation now is worse than before World War One and Two. The US has opened for a new, barbaric world order. The Americans claim the right to go to war because they dislike another country's government. That's like going back to the 17th century. .. - There will be a significant increase in recruitment to terrorist organizations and movements. A war will trigger increasing global anti-semitism. The price of oil will rise, and the American economy will collapse because of boycotts against American goods and products. - The US is in its self image so close to God that there is no need for even a declaration of human rights to stand between them. What surprises me most is that [September 11] did not happen before. Ever since the Americans shot down an Iranian passenger plane over the Gulf, 13 years ago, I've been waiting for this.

I can do better than that. I predict that in 2003 a shot will be fired, a Frenchman will frown, an Imam will say nasty things about Jews, some stocks will go down, and temporary regional warming will strike Scandinavia. By 2503, upto several people will have died from war, famine, pestilence and death. I predict growth and decline in various sectors, shortage and surplus, the rising and falling of eras. New things will be invented, and proven dangerous. Bad pop music will be written, and in the end we're all going to die. They tell me I'm a loonie, but I haven't always been wrong in the past.

Friday, December 20, 2002

I'm signing off for Christmas. Be nice to people!

Monday, December 16, 2002

The level of anti-US sentiment in Norway is now comparable to that during the Vietnam war, writes Aftenposten. 64% of those asked in a poll have become more negative to the US during the last year, and that's up from 48% just three months ago. Only 3% say they have become more positive.

Ole Moen, a professor at the University of Oslo who closely follows US politics, attributed the rise in skepticism towards the US to a feeling that the US has become more arrogant in recent months. There's a perception, he and others note, that the US wants to put itself above the United Nations and is determined to launch a new war against Iraq. "You have to go all the way back to the opposition to the USA's war in Vietnam to find such widespread and strong anti-American attitudes as we see now," Moen told Aftenposten.

Better call of that war-thingie then. I'm serious. I don't like the thought of fascist dictators and a return to nuclear deterrence any more than you people, but based on what I've seen of footage from the early 70's - earnest, bearded peaceniks singing folk songs in the streets - I'd rather face ten more years of Saddam than the revival of the Norwegian peace movement.

I don't envy the US ambassador to Norway, John Doyle Ong, a Bush supporter who in a statement to Aftenposten wonders if the Second World War, the Marshall Plan and the Cold War has already been forgotten. Not only does many of the natives hate his country, (then again, where wouldn't they?), but to top it off, he works in the most ominous looking building in Oslo, a sleek, triangular black fortress overlooking the Royal castle. About half of Oslo drives past it regularly, and I suspect that the effect this causes on the public impression of American arrogance can be measured to be the equivalent of 2 Middle East wars, 1 South American coup, and 4 Castro assasination attempts.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

The leader of the Christian People's Party, Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, says that she finds the growing support for EU membership "interesting", and has called for an internal discussion about it in the party. She also denies that the EU issue has the potential to tear apart their coalition with the Conservatives. That's a bummer, and not what I expected. It's propably meant as a reply to the Conservative deputy leader's statement that they consider EU membership more important than the survival of the coalition. Haugland is telling the Euro-federalists in both the major coalition parties to go ahead and bring up membership again.

Not good at all. EU membership is no longer taboo, and I worry that every single one of the ten referendums in 2003 will serve as a trigger for a Norwegian EU debate, leading up to the biggest trigger of them all: May 2004. That leaves plenty of time to make membership a central theme of the 2005 election, and if we're unlucky we may end up with a referendum of our own in 2006 or 2007.

(In 2008, those SETI screensavers will finally strike aliens. In 2009 the aliens respond to our peaceful communiques with a devastating attack which by 2010 has left the Earth a barren rock of radioactive cockroaches. I have .. foreseen it.)
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The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithauen, Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia will be accepted into the EU in May 2004. If they want to join. There will be a series of interesting referendums in 2003: Hungary in April, the Czech Republic in June, Estonia in September. The other countries will probably announce their referendums soon.

"We have closed one of the bloodiest and darkest chapters in the history of Europe," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark's prime minister and the summit's chair, sharing a stage with dozens of heads of state. "Our new Europe is born."

And you can have it. These countries just recently escaped from their last union. Now they're reluctantly entering another. Without drawing too many parallells, history speaks against great European unification projects. It warns us against centralization and the power of political elites. None of those warnings are being listened to in Copenhagen.

To say something nice about the EU for a change, I don't think it's the Beast in Revelations, (not the one that introduces barcodes, the other beast.) The number of horns isn't right - the EU passed ten members long ago -- that is, hm, unless you count the heads and the crowns. That adds up to 27. The potential number of members after 2004 is 25. In other words, Armageddon is waiting for Norway and one more country to join the EU!
back40 2002-12-15 One should consider how a world class European union would change Europe. Should Europe make the changes necessary to become strong enough to balance the US the very nature of their union would change [more>>>]
Markku Nordstrom 2002-12-16 Bjorn: Though I would agree with you that there is no need for Norway to join the EU (Europe needs an iconoclast outside the Union, to tell what's wrong with it), since it can always rely on its oi [more>>>]

Thursday, December 12, 2002

The Euro-federalists are ahead of the Independents in a new poll, by 44% to 37%. We don't call them that, of course. The two sides of the Norwegian EU debate are referred to here as "for the EU" and "against the EU", "yes" vs "no". That's a deceptively dull way to describe the most important decision we're likely to make for a while, so I've made these labels, in hope that they'll catch on. (Memo to self: Need Norwegian readers for plan to work.)

We're not due for a full confrontation just yet, but there are signs that the Euro-federalists look forward to a rematch:

Conservative Party (Hyre) deputy leader Erna Solberg was pleased by the change and hoped it would last. "Membership in the EU is more important for Hyre than maintaining the coalition government. If we can make this an issue before 2005, we will," Solberg said. Labour Party leader Jens Stoltenberg also welcomed the news, and believes that the change may be linked to the Union's expansion.

The EU trumps everything else in Norwegian politics, including the left-right axis. It's the only issue we have that is truly partisan. The last referendum, in 1994, made true the words of Luke 12:They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against cousin third removed on one's fathers side, etc. To this we might add, (unless we're very afraid of plagues): Party against party, minister against minister, and leader vs deputy leader. This hasn't changed. No politician is safe, no coalition secure, once another referendum date is set.

I had hoped that fear would keep the local systems in line -- er, discourage debate on the issue for a while, but Solberg's comments worry me. Do the Conservatives really intend to bring up EU membership before the next election? This would destroy any cooperation with the Christian People's Party. A coalition with the Conservatives as the larger party and the Progress Party their neutral sidekick might survive another '94. But that too is risky, and the Progress Party is very reluctant to enter a new EU debate. They have many new voters to lose. Hagen has never been closer to government. Why reshuffle the cards? And the emerging friendship between the bureaucratic and the anti-globalization left is even more vulnerable.

I can only continue to hope that fear and common sense can work together to keep this debate from reemerging. There will be another, but the longer we wait, the better our chances are of retaining independence.

(Update: Prime Minister Bondevik, who supports independence, expects another EU referendum before 2010.)

(Another update: Here's the Norwegian version of the Red vs Blue map.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

A small group of Iranian immigrants saved our national honor today by staging a protest during the Peace Prize ceremony. Unlike the native peaceniks, these people know what war and oppression means, and they place much of the blame for Iran's misfortunes on Carter's response to the 1979 hostage crisis. I can't judge that, but I'm glad there weren't all cheery crowds of children in Oslo today.

I'm basically a nice guy, a real humanitarian. If I weren't, I would link to Carter's acceptance speech and call it a hilarious fisking of Chomsky's latest, omg click here now! But that would be mean. I have a high opinion of the mental stability of the people who read this blog, but if just one of you dies of fluffy bunny overdose after reading Carter's speech, I will never forgive myself.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Qsi points to the Aging Vulnerability Index, which ranks twelve developed countries according to their ability to handle a rapidly aging population. Australia, the UK and the US are low vulnerability countries; Canada, Sweden, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium face a medium vulnerability; and France, Italy and Spain are in for the worst ride of them all. Norway is not included in the index, and I don't know enough to compare it to the other countries on the list. I wouldn't expect to find it in the top or bottom range, though.
qsi 2002-12-08 Norway's demographics are similar to those of the rest of Europe, i.e. not very good. In fact, the current problem in Norway seems to be that you already have a labor shortage due to the extremely gen [more>>>]
moi 2002-12-09 qsi: There's no general labor shortage in Norway. There's a _predicted_ shortage in the "hard sciences" segment of the labor market (engineers, mathematicans, etc.), which we share with the rest of [more>>>]

The Carter family has arrived in Norway for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on Tuesday. The locals are drooling. Here is an American ex-president, which still stands for something, who thinks just like us.

- Jimmy Carter is an under-appreciated idealist, scorned by his country-men as the president who gave them higher oil prices, but respected by the rest of the world as the architecht behind the Camp David agreement.

- Jimmy Carter reintroduced the ideals of pursuit of happiness and national introspection into American politics. He was a proud but failed idealist, who suffered accusations of anti-Americanism for his beliefs.

- Jimmy Carter was an unconventional idealist, whose mighty pointed finger against the human rights abuses of the Soviet Union contributed to its fall. He initiated the important nuclear freeze agreement with North Korea, which possibly prevented a second Korean War.

- Jimmy Carter was a long-haired, sandal-wearing idealist who could walk on water while turning it into wine. He played an important part in the God-Satan agreement of 33AD, which saved humankind from eternal damnation.

Okay, I made one of these up. Can you guess which one?
Markku Nordstrom 2002-12-09 Brezhnev was so unimpressed by Jimmy Carter after their first meeting, that he predicted the US would do nothing if the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. So, in essence, Carter started a war that would la [more>>>]
Peter 2002-12-09 Funny, I was under the impression that *Brezhnev* was the one who started the Afghan war. And what exactly should Carter have done? Supplied arms and know-how to the mujahideen, as Reagan eventuall [more>>>]

Thursday, December 05, 2002

The hard numbers on immigrants in Norway are in, from Statistics Norway and the Department of Immigration. Immigrants make up 5.7% of the population, of which half have Asian, African or Latin American background. Immigrant unemployment was 7.3% in 2001 (vs 2.1% for the whole population, currently 3.9%), with Asians and Africans standing out at 10.6% and 14.6%. The employment rate was 60.8% for the total population, 51.3% for immigrants, (with Asians at 46.2% and Africans at 40.9%.)

The report blames the level of unemployment on racism and skepticism to foreigners, and lists several initiatives the government have proposed to fight racism and discrimination: Government agencies will be required to encourage immigrants to apply; schools and universities will be expected to "focus on multicultural understanding" and be given money if they "give special emphasis to measures for" immigrants; the police "will increase their awareness and knowledge of minorities"; and racist speech will be fought harder - possibly with stricter censorship laws.

Reread the two previous paragraphs. Can you hear the swooshing sound as the hard facts go out and the buzzwords go in? Unemployment is the one thing that worries me most about immigration. It seems to me that other problems like crime and ghettoization would solve themselves soon enough if more immigrants had jobs, and I have three concrete proposals to fight immigrant unemployment. 1) Increase language skills. Give immigrants a very strong incentive to learn Norwegian well enough to read the newspapers. This can be done by tying it to their asylum. If you haven't passed an exam (or gotten a job) within a period of time, you lose it. As an absolute minimum, knowledge of Norwegian should be a requirement for citizenship. 2) Loosen up labor regulations. Make it easier to fire people. It is propably true that employers are skeptical about hiring immigrants. That doesn't mean they don't want to, only that they see the risk as too high to justify the cost. The government proposal amounts to pretending that there's no risk. I would prefer lowering the costs. 3) Reduce unemployment/welfare benefits for non-citizens. To an African immigrant, being unemployed in Norway is a large step up the economic ladder, so there's much less incentive to get a job. It's barely low enough for a Norwegian.

Counter-evidence against the theory that immigrant unemployment is caused by racism can be found in this recent survey by Statistics Norway (SSB). According to SSB, 85% believe that immigrants should have the same opportunities for work as Norwegians, and two thirds believe immigrants are a positive cultural influence, (against 50% in the EU). On the other hand, 45% believe that immigrants are a cause of insecurity, and 53% want stricter immigrant policies. In other words, Norwegians are generally very positive to people from other cultures, but they're (rightly) worried about the level of crime among immigrants, and they don't agree with the current immigration policy. That's largely how I feel too. To some people this will seem like a contradiction. It's not. It's incompatible with the multiculturalist worldview, that's all.

One reason why immigration - if done right - is important, is the expected dramatic increase in the number of elderly people. According to recent calculations from SSB, the rise will begin in 2010, and continue unabated for at least 40 more years, at which point people over 67 will make up 19 to 22% of the population, against 14% today. You don't need to know Norwegian to understand these graphs over the projected population in total vs those over 67, from 1950 to 2050. See also these illustrations of the expected age distribution in 2002, 2020 and 2050.

These images tell me three things. 1) We need immigrants, and we need them to work. 2) We need to start prioritizing wealth over equality - now. 3) There's no way in hell I trust the Norwegian government to be able to care for me when I'm old. In fact, considering the expected rise in life expectancy, (I apparently have an appointment with Blogot in the 2060's), I expect - or hope for - the average retirement age to have increased to well above 70 by then. Today, the average retirement age in Norway is between 59 and 65, depending on whether you count young disability pensioners, but in any case too low. Early retirement for perfectly healthy people is a nonsensical privilege I hope the post-war generation will be the last to benefit from. As for myself, I'm a programmer. As long as I can control a computer I can work.
BarCodeKing 2002-12-06 Those are indeed worrisome demographic charts. I understand that the varicolored areas are for the low, medium and high population cases, but I wonder how much of the variance is due to possible chan [more>>>]
Bjrn Strk 2002-12-06 Yeah, the estimates are based on scenarios with high birth rates and high immigration vs low birth rates and low immigration. The low birth rate estimates go down from 1.78 today to 1.40 in 2050, and [more>>>]

Monday, December 02, 2002

James Reuben Haney writes that the Danes are discussing female genital mutilation, a common practice among Somali immigrants there and in Norway. It is of course illegal, but parents often bring their daughters back to the home country to get it done. The practice is often secretly encouraged by their imams.

Everyone agrees that something must be done about it, but as always there are two views on how to do it: Confrontation or cooperation. The Danish People's Party believes circumcision of girls should be considered child abuse, and grounds for removal of the children, regardless of where it has been done. Opponents fears that this will push Somalis further away from Danish society. That seems to me a wrong priority, though. This is a truly barbaric custom. There's no middle ground here, no grounds for dialogue. We can't let these things go unpunished.
ellie 2002-12-03 The question is really very simple: Does Denmark support the common values of western civilization as they pertain to individuals? If circumcision is OK, why not polygamy, sale of children, honor kil [more>>>]

The blogs are gloomy on my behalf as a European today. Steven den Beste and Eric S. Raymond both offer good comments on this article by Karl Zinsmeister about Europe's political and economic future. Read also this batch of comments from Andrew Sullivan, Jonah Goldberg, etc. To sum up: social democracy is sucking up our wealth, our welfare systems won't sustain the aging population, immigrants aren't being integrated into the economy, and anti-Americanism is a symptom of our sense of failure. We're the backseat drivers of history.

Ouch, that hurts. Too bad much of it is true.

Now let's do something about it.
Markku Nordstrom 2002-12-04 It is unfortunate that Europeans don't really know how their anti-Americanism reverberates here in the U.S. Time and time again (even last night) I come across young Americans here in New York who've [more>>>]

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