Friday, January 31, 2003

No radio this weekend, I'm out of town.
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Thursday, January 30, 2003

Where can I sign this petition?

We in Europe have a relationship with the U.S. which has stood the test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and farsightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and communism. Thanks, too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the U.S. we have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The trans-Atlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime's persistent attempts to threaten world security.


The U.N. Charter charges the Security Council with the task of preserving international peace and security. To do so, the Security Council must maintain its credibility by ensuring full compliance with its resolutions. We cannot allow a dictator to systematically violate those resolutions. If they are not complied with, the Security Council will lose its credibility and world peace will suffer as a result. We are confident that the Security Council will face up to its responsibilities.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

It's long, and posted in small parts on a web forum [*], but Gill Doyle's essay about his experiences as a long-haired Californian in clean-cut early 70's Norway is definitely worth reading. It's full of fascinating cultural snapshots, touching anecdotes, and reflections on Norwegian anti-Americanism.

Opposition to U.S. policy was not new to me. I myself opposed certain American foreign and domestic policies the war in Vietnam, in particular. In Norway, however, I would encounter a different kind of oppositional attitude to America. While complaints at home were motivated by a desire to reform and improve our institutions, Norwegian opponents of America, I would come to realize, hoped optimistically for Americas dissolution. As it turned out, it was not just American policy that enraged them. Hostility to America generously applied to practically all facets of the American enterprise. America was thoroughly hated, from stem to stern. Especially by Norways educated youth the very group whose ranks I had thought to join. Ridiculed and reviled were Americas culture, people, government institutions and policies, commerce, science (which I had always supposed to be an objective good), history and ideals. Exception was made only for those individuals and phenomena in America that appeared to have revolutionary cachet blacks, folk/rock/blues/jazz music, and the various accouterments of American youth culture. Pax forlag editions of Chomskys incendiary attacks on American credibility were already available. I had no idea what I was walking into.


Norwegians were too sure of themselves, I thought. Too many of them there at Blindern were convinced that they knew the answers when in my own country we were struggling to find the questions. In America, we asked ourselves why we were in Vietnam. In Norway, the answer was obvious because America is an insatiable and avaricious imperialist power. In America, we wondered why poverty and racism persisted, despite efforts to overcome them. In Norway, there was really no doubt it was because American capitalism required an underclass divided and weak. How could it be, I wondered, that these Norwegians had all the answers, when America even failed at times to understand the questions? Gradually, it dawned on me these kids had cheat sheets. They had somehow got the answers before the questions had been distributed. Marx, Lenin, and others had given them the answers. While America, as usual, was flying by the seat of its pants finding ad hoc solutions to all its problems or failing to find any solutions at all these Norwegian kids were on autopilot. Someone else had done their thinking for them already.

([*] Update: No longer. I offered Gill to host it, and he agreed.)

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Norwegian F-16's took part in a battle in Afghanistan yesterday, dropping bombs on people for the first time since World War 2.

Two F-16s from NATO-member Norway were among several planes called in for an air strike during the biggest battle in the Central Asian nation in 10 months.

One of the Norwegian F-16s dropped a pair of laser-guided bombs on a bunker in southeastern Afghanistan Monday afternoon as coalition forces battled nearly 80 rebels allied with renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Norwegian Supreme Defense spokesman Maj. Dag Aamoth said it was probably the first time Norwegian aircraft had fired at hostile forces in combat in nearly 60 years.

Way to go! Militarily of little value, perhaps, but historically and symbolically significant.

Naturally, this has made news in Norway. The leader of the Socialist Left, Kristin Halvorsen, demands to know why these bombs were dropped, and why people died in the attack. Let me jump out on a half sawed-off plank here and suggest that the bombs were dropped to kill people, and that people died because that's what happens when you stand on the wrong end of a bomb. I could be wrong - I'm not much of a military expert. This isn't likely to become a big issue, though.

Our role in Afghanistan has been relatively uncontroversial, but surrounded with a sense of unease. Our government is now going about killing people, and though we can't think of a reason why this is morally wrong, we are anxious to ensure that they're being killed as politely as possible. Some noise have been raised over supposedly immoral weapons. The Minister of Defense got in trouble last fall when cluster bombs were dropped during a NATO excersise in Norway. And this week, it emerged that we export to the United States a form of fragmentation and incendiary bullets that are banned under an international convention. These scandals may be fueled by a desire to raise ourselves above the Americans. We kill people like they do, but at least we do it in accordance with international law.

All in all, I'm satisfied with the role we've played in Afghanistan. It's not, though, a sign of our devotion to NATO or the US as much as it is a sign of our devotion to the UN. If the UN approves the war in Iraq, don't be surprised to hear a Norwegian offer to help. If it doesn't, we will do nothing.

In a comment to my post about European blogs, Hans points to a good one by Tobias Schwarz in Germany. Tobias has several interesting posts where he criticizes the idea of widespread anti-Americanism in Europe. I agree with much of what has been written about European anti-Americanism - I see it around me every day, ranging from mildly condescending to hateful, and it is often based on ignorance. But the idea is so widely accepted and so often repeated in the blogosphere that it has become hard to tell the signal from the feedback loop. It's an idea in desperate need of criticism from a sensible European point of view. And there it is.

More blogs: Markku Nordstrom writes that Merde in France, Emmanuelle and The Dissident Frogman solve the language problem by being bilingual. Tomas Nephew (who often writes about Germany) points to Papa Scott, an expat in Germany. There's also this European map by Bruce Bawer, showing some European blogs and news media by location. It's a small map, with large fonts. Let's hope that changes. (And then there's Daghator in Denmark, but he seems to have gone quiet.)

I'd also like to quote here one of my comments from the post below. It explains fairly well why I believe Europeans should write about politics on the web, and why it's important they do it in English, and not, say, German:

A blog in German or Norwegian stays locked behind borders. A blog in English transcends them. I'm sure there are a lot of Germans below the political and media radars, who have interesting views on what is happening these days. But as long as they write on the web in German only, few outsiders will ever know they exist. All we ever see of Germany is Schrder & Co. I don't know your political views, but if I were you I wouldn't be very content with that.

I very deliberately chose to write English on the web. It's partly to increase the number of readers, but also my own small way of going against the flow of cultural imperialism. Language isn't culture, and linguistic protectionism only protects foreigners against your culture, not your culture against foreigners. As long as Norwegians write their books, music, movies - and do their political thinking - only in Norwegian, we will be a sattelite to Western (ie our own) culture. To use Norwegian is a defensive measure. To use English is to go on the offensive. Many Europeans disagree with this, and German is of course more read than Norwegian, but I believe that is a sure way to shut yourself out of Western culture. Unless you are equally able to shut Western culture out of Germany, you too risk becoming a sattelite to your own culture. Perhaps you have succeeded better in shutting Western culture out than Norway has, but I doubt that's a good bargain.

I don't mean to say that Germany isn't a part of Western culture. It's a major part. But almost all its contributions were made in the past. Most of the _new_ contributions to Western culture are being made by the US and Great Britain. And they're all made in English. We can't expect to change that, but we can drop our linguistic pride, get out of the audience and onto the stage.

I've believed for years and still believe that nothing beautiful or sensible should ever be written in Norwegian, if it could be written in English. Why write for four million when you can write for houndreds of millions? We should at least stop discouraging the use of English in Norway and continental Europe. Many believe that to accept the gradual, but voluntary, phasing in of English in our countries would be a cultural retreat. That might be true, but not to accept it at all is worse. To practice linguistic protectionism in this age is cultural suicide.
Michael Jennings 2003-01-29 It is interesting to observe that in the days of apartheid, South Africa was officially bilingual: Afrikaans and English. Television and radio time was rationed between the two languages, and there we [more>>>]
Michael Farris 2003-02-03 "I've believed for years and still believe that nothing beautiful or sensible should ever be written in Norwegian, if it could be written in English." Why stop there? Why speak Norwegian at all for [more>>>]
Markku Nordstrom 2003-02-04 There are so many interesting, erudite posts here about language differences in Europe, I might as well offer some observations about Finland. Finland has two official languages: Finnish and Swedi [more>>>]

Saturday, January 25, 2003

All the news not fit for print: The current Week in Review is playing in Radio Free Bearstrong.

Naturally, the heavy state interference in Norwegian broadcasting sends bad signals to foreign investors:

In a letter to Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, Norway's minister of culture, Simon Fraser, Fidelity International's chief investment officer, expressed his surprise that P4, the country's only nationwide commercial radio station, did not have its broadcasting licence renewed. Fidelity manages funds that hold a stake of about 10 per cent in P4.

The letter also raises concerns about the investment climate in Norway, where Fidelity has holdings in many big companies. It will stoke debate about the political risks of investing in Norway, which has been criticised for a negative attitude to foreign investment.

"We are significant investors in a number of Norwegian companies and we believe that this decision has wider implications," Mr Fraser wrote. "In particular, it increases the perceived investment risk of investing in companies requiring government licences."
Markku Nordstrom 2003-01-25 Hooray! Good news that foreign capital makes its voice heard. I actually at one time considered investing some of my IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) in the Fidelity Nordic Fund (they had an [more>>>]

Friday, January 24, 2003

Michael Moynihan has a couple of stories from Norway, about Petter Nome and a strange acquittal for sexual assault. No relation, though! Ritter Nome ain't.

One correction: Nome haven't actually been sacked from NRK for his views, as he's a freelance journalist. But he has lost a specific appointment as head of a popular summer-time talkshow. He'll continue his involvment with NRK, but perhaps not in capacities that require a sense of perspective.

The minor but inevitable censorship debate has sprung up following this decision, with NRK journalists rushing to the defense of their oppressed colleague etc. etc. I'm not going to bore you with the details, as you've heard it all before. (I'll just bore you with the conclusion instead: No, it's not censorship, it's an editorial decision, and no, peace activists are definitely not being silenced in Norway. Nome is about as controversial as a hallelujah in church.)
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With all respect for American political bloggers, there's no shortage of them. Europe's another matter. Why aren't there more European political blogs? There's the language barrier, of course, and the countries that have practiced linguistic protectionism most faithfully - France, Germany - will probably be underrepresented in the blogosphere for a long time. The smaller countries are less disadvantaged, but they've still been slow to catch on. I know there is a lot of fresh and unconventional political thinking in Europe these days, and there probably always were. But it hasn't really made itself visible on the web yet, except as lone islands of static homepages.

There are a few European political blogs, though. I've linked to some of them, and here's another: The Swedish Screed, a conservative group blog, which has the delightful story of a tax-cheating left-wing politician. May there be many, many more. (European blogs, I mean. Not tax-cheaters or left-wing politicians, except in combination.)
Dean Esmay 2003-01-25 Something few people seem to notice, though, is that most European countries also have a much higher number of political parties. I would expect this to cut down on political weblogs. American's ar [more>>>]
Bjrn Strk 2003-01-25 Dean: I don't think that's a factor. In my experience, politically interested citizens are as cranky here as in the US. I don't know many opinionated people who would easily identify with a politica [more>>>]

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Norwegian EU partisanship can be turned on and off like a switch. Somebody went and turned it on. It will take a while for everyone to get back into shape, but pundits are warming up, and politicians have begun to position themselves. It won't be long before marriages fall apart, friends cross streets to avoid each other, and doom is predicted in every other conversation.

Some of the trenches are positioned differently this time, though. Labor and the Conservatives are still the most firm supporters of EU membership, but the Christian People's Party seem much less uncompromisably against than in 1994. The Progress Party was neutral but pro-leaning in 94, when joining the EU was seen as a move to the right. Now the EU appears to many more a centralized social democracy itself than a liberation from it, and I expect the Progress Party to end up formally neutral, but unenthusiastic and critical. The Socialist Left now have a pro-wing for exactly the same reason. As good socialists, they were against joining what in 94 was sometimes thought of as a neo-libertarian organization. Now we're part of the European Free Trade Agreement anyway, and that argument has lost some of its power. In addition, the EU is seen as an important political counterweight to the US. The leading powers of the EU are also among the worlds leading critics of the United States. The Norwegian left has noticed this. The leader of the European Movement, the leading Euro-federalist organization, Wenche Fossen, comes from the Socialist Left, and has even been active in Attac. Now that should be cause for concern among EU supporters on the right.

In a way I look forward to this debate - it will be chaotic and fun. But the stakes are uncomfortably high. I wish we could postpone it, but that doesn't seem to be an option. We're probably looking at another referendum after the 2005 election. I'm not at all sure the Independents will win.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Sure, Mullah Krekar is a nice guy. As leader in absentia of Ansar al-Islam, he believes in rule of law:

First you convert away from Islam.

Then we put you on a trial.

And then we have you shot.

The Norwegian Health Department is awfully proud of its latest anti-smoking campaign. Graphic images of arteries and lungs cut open, oozing with fat and tar. Bleeding brains, rotten lungs, tumors. Devils goring smokers in hell. Well, not that, but Hieronymus Bosch would be proud. The message is the same: Repent, ye sinners!

Like so many evil things, this campaign comes from Australia. Unable to beat Norway in open warfare, they now seek to turn us into puritan self-loathers. Robbed of our ability to enjoy life, invasion will be a walkover, allowing the ex-convicts to escape their dreadful little island at last.

Norwegians have been largely positive to this onslaught of tax-funded horror. In a poll, 59% respond positively to the campaign, only 17% negatively. 27% of smokers say they now are more likely to try quitting. No word yet on how many life enjoyers have been turned into health nuts.
A;ena 2003-01-21 I looked at their ads from your link to their website. They are educating people about what smoking does to their bodies. For example, my mother was a lifetime smoker and did not know that smoking ca [more>>>]

Saturday, January 18, 2003

The first ever experimental edition of Week in Review with Radio Free Bearstrong is out! Not much, but it's a start. It'll be running for a couple of days or so.

There's something for everyone here: News about growing Norwegian support of EU and socialism, music, - and incidentally I did try to say Noam's Norwegian Mini-Gnome many times very fast. It's all there.

I'm very interested in comments and suggestions, as well as contributions of material. I've got a live radio station to fill here, and if you have anything you'd like to say on it, drop me a mail.

So you're against this war in Iraq. You are scheduled for an interview with a major newspaper, and you're trying to find a metaphor that illustrates the folly of George W. Bush. You dig into your vast recollection of historical events, of wars and leaders, of nations and empires gone by. Which leader is the one that most accurately resembles George W. Bush? Your task is difficult. This is a national newspaper, read by people without your extensive historical expertise. You will be forced to compromise between accuracy and recognizability. You meditate for hours upon hours. The answer arrives. Aha! The perfect metaphor, at last.

George W. Bush is perhaps the closest thing we have to a Hitler in modern times.

Such finesse, such a stinging indictment. You utter the words, and as if by magic, drummer boys of war stumble and falter all around you. The earth shakes, the sky opens, and angels descend, blowing horns. Right-wing reactionaries become Enlightened by the thousands, and abandon their evil ways for a solitary life in the forest. Statues cry. An entire American bomb factory is turned into a park. A new age has dawned, one of reason, enlightenment and compassion. You are its deliverer.

Your name? Petter Nome, Noam's Norwegian mini-Gnome, (try to say that fast 10 times).

Friday, January 17, 2003

One of the better posts from the overgrown debate below, by Werner from Germany:

I am absolutely serious. The Swedish World Conspiracy is a serious threat.

Of course, you do not know this, because the Norwegian government and media are just puppets of the Wallenberg dynasty. Their job is to guarantee the flow of north sea oil so that Swedes can drive their Volvos. But if you want proof, here it is:

1. Already in the 17th century, Sweden invaded Europe, causing war and genocide everywhere. Afterwards they settled on a strategy of "divide and conquer". In the 20th century they used eugenics to breed a nordic master race and sold the dreaded bofors guns and iron ores to both sides from 1939- 1945. This cynical attempt at empire building didnt work. But as a direct consequence, millions died and half of Europe fell under the rule of Stalin. Therefore, while Sweden is lording it over the Baltic, they should ask: why does the rest of Europe hate us?

2. All over Europe, innocent children have their minds manipulated by Astrid Lindgren books. As a rule, Swedish culture celebrates violence and sexual perversions. If you want an objective analysis, read: Pippi Longstockings and the Will to Dominate, by Heinz Schwedenhasser.

3. Why does a small peaceful country like Sweden need such a huge arms industry, with their Saab fighters and advanced submarines? Swedes may delude themselves they are free and wealthy, but they pay for the military-industrial complex every time they have a beer. All this, just to ensure that ABB can build more nuclear power stations all over the world!

I have only this to say to the Swedish imperialists: go home and take your IKEA-lifestyle and your brain-cell killing saunas with you! And to you, Lennox, I have this advice: You gotta ask the right questions, man.

I've been blind for so long.

Update: I have to quote this too, by Steve Teeter from New Orleans:

Screeds like his often remind me of an incident described by Tom Wolfe back in the 1960s, and I think it was in his essay "Radical Chic." Paul Krassner is a writer, far left activist, and self defined raving, unconfined nut. As publisher of "The Realist" he was described by People magazine as the "father of the underground press." (He immediately demanded a paternity test.)

Around 1967, at the height of the protest against President Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam war, Krassner published a short story which depicted Johnson as being so ecstatic at succeeding to the presidency that he, shall we say, had carnal relations with a wound in the neck of President Kennedy's body while flying back on Air Force One after the assassination in Dallas. It's hard to imagine a worse insult.

Shortly afterwards, Krassner was chair of a very public panel discussion, announced in advance, held in a large auditorium on the campus of Princeton University, in New Jersey. Krassner and other panelists took their turns railing about what a fascist police state America was, what a brutal dictator LBJ was.

But then they passed the microphone to the distinguished German writer Gnter Grass, who had experienced the real thing. He said, "As I have been listening to this, I have been watching the doors at the back of the auditorium. In Germany in the late 1930s, when I was a young man, the police would have come through those doors a long time ago. Here they must be very slow."

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Krekar - the battle-Mullah from Kurdistan - has returned to Norway. He was released by Dutch authorities earlier this weak on the assumption that he would be arrested on arrival in Oslo. This didn't happen. In a letter to the Norwegian security police which may have prevented the arrest, (although the police denies this), Chief prosecutor Lasse Qvigstad points out that it's not a crime under Norwegian law to lead a military resistance in ones home country. So what, then, can they arrest him for?

There are a good many opinions here on what to do with Krekar, and few of them friendly. Some want him out simply because he's a scumbag and a fanatic who has violated the terms of his residency permit. I fall in that camp. Others want him out because they believe he's a terrorist or a war criminal. Yet more others want to keep him here in Norway and put him on trial for the very same reason. The local community of Kurdish immigrants are understandably worried that he may return to Northern Iraq. He is, after all, fighting a civil war with their relatives and friends. The Jordanians still want him for drug-smuggling, and the Americans are still suspected of being behind this.

The only person who has anything nice at all to say about Krekar is one of his lawyers, Brynjar Meling, who has gone well beyond his duty to defend him in the press. He has, perhaps, realized that public opinion is as important as law in this case, and is doing his best to get the media and public on his side.

Krekar himself was interviewed on TV2 yesterday, presenting himself as a political leader blemished by his Kurdish enemies. He repeatedly denied that he was a military leader. Ansar al-Islam, he claimed, is a political party. It's an armed political party, true enough, but then all Kurdish parties are. "Weapons are like oxygen to the Kurd". There is a word, of course, for "armed political parties": Guerillas. That makes Krekar a military leader in my eyes. On the program, Krekar was confronted first with video clips of him inspecting his troops, then with audio clips from one of his speeches. It was surreal: The harsh shouting of Krekar the fanatic speaking to his flock, (the US is a leech on the back of the world! Whoever hit the WTC knew how to damage the American economy! etc.) contrasted with Krekar the gentle, smiling victim of post-9/11 hysteria. Asked how he felt about terrorism, about bin Laden and the Taliban, Krekar evaded the questions with considerable skill. He admitted to having admired Osama bin Laden before September 11, (when he had only killed a few houndred Africans), but did not say what he thought about him now. It is, he explained, bad form for a Muslim to judge the quality of fellow Muslim's faith. For that reason he could not judge the Taliban or Osama bin Laden. This must be a recent revelation on Krekar's part, received perhaps in a vision on the prison floor in Holland. Back when he lived in Iraq, Mullah Krekar introduced Sharia in its most judgmental form in every village he conquered. His followers still do.

It may not be correct to call Krekar a terrorist as such, or Ansar al-Islam a terrorist organization. They sympathize with the global jihad, that much is obvious, but their own ambitions are probably local: Conquest of Kurdish Iraq, and the implementation of Sharia. Their ideology and geographic location, however, (like that of the Taliban), make them perfect al-Qaeda hosts. There are strong indications that al-Qaeda terrorists on the run from Afghanistan have found homes in the Ansar-controlled mountains. That doesn't make Krekar a terrorist, but it does make him a scumbag and a leader of scumbags.

Considering the evidence of an al-Qaeda presence with Ansar al-Islam, I think it is fair to assume that they will be attacked by the US after Saddam has fallen. If Krekar had stayed in Iraq, he would have died in this attack, or been captured, or drifted away along with his beaten crackpot buddies. Krekar the battle-Mullah was lucky. He escaped to Norway, the butterfly of Europe, one of the safest places in the world for a man in his position. I don't expect to see him leave for a good while yet. I can only hope that he doesn't do too much damage while he's here. (Last time, you will remember, he used government funding to found a radical mosque.)
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Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Norwegian media quote of the day: "The people at this factory don't much care how the bombs they make are used" - TV2 news anchor, followed by interview with three workers at American bomb factory, (introduced as having received their patriotism with their mother's milk), all citing "defending our country" as important reason for working there.

Some updates: Norwegians, Estonians and Americans turn my comment section into a cross-atlantic battleground. My counter-Nome e-mail draws sarcasm at Indymedia, (LGF to the rescue.) And for Norwegian readers, Petter Nome replies in NRK's webforum for media criticism.

Monday, January 13, 2003

All this radio nonsense here in Norway got me thinking of something I've been wanting to do for years: Start a webradio - if for no other reason than to justify my compulsive collector habits. I have to look into the legal aspects, and I might want to upgrade my connection so I can broadcast at multiple bitrates, but for now I've set up a beta version of .. Radio Free Bearstrong. (Free as in .., well you get the idea.) It runs on a Shoutcast/mp3 server at 80kbps mono, 10 listeners maximum. The music is currently 14 hour of mostly soundtracks and early 80's pop. I'm very interested in feedback on the quality of the stream. (Less so on the quality of the music. The former can be fixed, my taste in music can not.) This is all very experimental, but it has to start somewhere.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

The Andrew Motion mockers have it all wrong. Tom Veal (scroll to January 11) reveals that what pretends to be an anti-war poem is in reality a clever, subversive attack on the anti-war left.

To begin with the title: The Guardian hacks doubtless thought that "causa belli" was the same as "casus belli" ("pretext for war"), but it is not. "Causa" (ablative case) with the genitive is a commonplace Latin construction, meaning "for the sake of", "on account of", "in the cause of". In his first two words, the poet declares that his purpose is to demonstrate why "the war", which from the exterior context we can safely take to be the prospective war against the Iraqi dictatorship, is a cause to be promoted. The title could be ironic, of course, but we shall see that it accurately describes the matter of the poem.
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Friday, January 10, 2003

Jim Sellers is onto something in this not-likely-to-be-printed letter to The Guardian:

Dear Editor,

Many Europeans express favor with the establishment of an International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC, in the spirit of internationalism, would hold jurisdiction over the many different cultures, peoples, and nations of the world. Since this is the case, it is quite odd that the legal framework of the ICC is based upon European legal traditions. Surely an international body like the ICC would reflect and mirror the diverse legal traditions, values, morals, and mores found globally. In essence, the ICC, as currently established, is a New Colonialism whereby Europe would continue to exert its influence on the peoples of the world.

Considering the fact that there are more Muslims on the planet than Europeans, the "internationalism" of the ICC would be more clearly reflected if, for example, its framework was based upon the tenets of Sharia law rather than European law. The ICC could employ a council of ruling clerics to apply Sharia punishments for crimes found committed - punishments such as stoning, amputation, and beheading. Europeans, if they are truly interested in diversity and internationalism would have to allow the ICC to reflect non-European legal traditions - Sharia law being one of them.

As of now, the framework of the ICC reflects none of the diversity and "internationalism" that Europeans appear to cherish. Instead, the ICC reflects a jingoistic, colonial mindset which may in reality be more in tune with what Europeans want. Indeed, the ICC would only prove to the world that Europeans are not interested in the values and practices of other world cultures, but are instead solely interested in extending European culture throughout the world - in many places that do not want it. Indeed, the peoples of the world will be better off the sooner this nefariousness on the part of Europe is exposed and thwarted.

Jim Sellers
Markku Nordstrom 2003-01-10 This is a point which I've often made in Europe. I'm glad to see others thinking along the same line. There is absolutely nothing in the ICC that is "International". Not only does it not accommodat [more>>>]

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Bruce Bawer forwarded me an e-mail where a number of Norwegian academics, media professionals and politicians led by Petter Nome at NRK deliver a message of peace and goodwill to the peace-loving peace-minded American people by offering to help them to "get rid of George W. Bush".

The people who signed it didn't list their e-mail addresses, but I managed to dig up most of them using a fantastic new invention of mine. I call it the Universal E-mail Address Locator. (Okay, so I used Google. Stop bugging me.)

Here's the reply I sent them, and yes, I'm being deliberately polite and non-inflammatory:

To the signatories of the Hello America e-mail campaign,

I want to raise my concern over your contribution to the American image of Norway as a modern home of ritualistic anti-war mongering. I'm a Norwegian who run a weblog with many American readers. It's my impression from running it for over a year that more and more Americans have come to think of Western Europe as politically naive and intellectually dead. This is no doubt an exaggeration, but your e-mail campaign serves only to strengthen that image. Your letter is ignorant, simplistic, - even offensive.

Please take the time to read through my comments:

At 13:17 07.01.2003 +0100, you wrote:

Dear fellow citizen of the planet,

The "Hello America!" campaign was launched in Oslo, Norway, at 12.30 PM CET, January 6th 2003.
It is now being spread all over the world.
We want to carpet bomb the world with a message of support for all peace loving Americans.

That would include all of them. Everyone loves peace. But not everyone loves peace more than anything else. I, for one, also love freedom. Freedom and peace are closely linked, but freedom undefended remains free not for long. It is easy for you and I to sit here in Norway, one of the most peaceful and prosperous corners of the world, and think lofty thoughts about world peace. But should we be so eager to sacrifice the freedom of the people of Iraq for the sake of peace? If forced to choose, would _you_ rather risk your life for freedom or live under a tyrannic peace? Many people, including our ancestors, have had to make that hard choice throughout history, or had it made for them. We owe much of our freedom, wealth - and peace - to the ones who chose the former option.

Please do the following:
1. Add your name to the list below. (Under the "Hello America!" letter)
2. Forward the whole mail to your friends and contacts, with copies to the following recipients:
American News;;;;;;; ; ;;;;;;;;;;;; ;;
Bush and Cheney:;

Feel free to do the following with this e-mail:
1. Send it to all your friends and contacts.
2. Do _not_ send endless copies to people who have already received it, (even though some of them may have secretaries to filter their mail). That's just rude.


The USA is on the brink of war. An aggressive and unpredictable leader is spreading fear and insecurity. His name is George W. Bush.

The meaning of the term "aggressive" must have undergone inflation over the years. It once would have referred to power-hungry leaders who provoke wars with weaker neighbours to conquer their land and exploit their resources. Now _any_ war for _any_ reason is aggressive? Bush attacked Afghanistan in self-defense. In place of its Arab occupants and religious tyrants, he introduced the closest thing to a peaceful democracy the country has had for decades. In a few weeks, Bush will attack Iraq, in pre-emptive self defense. One may agree or disagree with the view that Iraq has the potential to become a nuclear threat, but the American motivation behind the war is clear: Bush perceives a significant threat, and is taking steps to disable it. Correct or not, this is categorically different from an aggressive war of conquest and exploitation. It serves only to cloud an already complex issue to pretend that they are the same thing.

As for being unpredictable, Bush's intentions on Afghanistan were made clear immediately after September 11. His intention to attack Iraq has been obvious since at least the spring of 2002. His foreign policy has been, if not predictable, then at least _reliable_. Perhaps the word you're looking for, though, is "uncontrollable". Bush has refused to defer his foreign policy to that of Western Europe. That makes Western European leaders afraid and insecure. It's not hard to imagine why. Nobody enjoys losing control over the flow of events. Western European opposition to Bush's foreign policy would, however, be simultaneously more honest and less influential if these concerns over control were stated openly, rather than in terms of "international law" and "regional stability".

Mr. Bush possesses massive arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. He claims he has the right to use them.

As I see it, it's not meaningful to talk about anyone having a right or not having a right to use nuclear bombs. What matters is that the United States does have that power, and so far have not abused it. Nothing indicates that it will in the foreseeable future. They may be forced to _use_ that power, though, and the likelihood of this increases dramatically if truly aggressive and unpredictable dictators like Saddam Hussein are allowed to get their hands on nuclear weapons.

None of us, I am sure, would welcome a return to the Cold War, a revival of MAD and nuclear deterrence, but that is where we might be heading if nuclear weapons end up in the wrong hands. There are, perhaps, no good hands for nuclear weapons to end up in, but some are far worse than others, and Hussein's are near the top of that list.

He was never elected by a majority of his people. (32 % of adult Americans voted for Bush. He got 539,989 less votes than opponent Al Gore)

That's rule of law for you. Democracy is worthless without it. Fairness in democracy is a subjective and highly volatile concept. Peaceful elections are only possible where high-flying ideals of fairness and democracy, dragged down to earth, have been turned into _laws_. There will always be differences of opinion about the various implementations of democracy, and when a country is unable to settle these differences in the legislative or the courts of law, it is forced to settle them with violence.

Bush and Gore settled their differences in court, in full accordance with American law. There is no other way to do it. Introducing retroactive laws _after_ the election - a significant rewrite of the Constitution would have been necessary to bypass the electoral college - would not only have destabilized the country, it would have been undemocratic. Cosmically fair or not, Bush's victory was fully democratic. So would Gore's have been, had the laws been in his favor.

Incidentally, if you believe that Bush unfairly "stole" the presidential election, I am confident that you will be similarly enraged to learn that Norwegian parties have been "stealing" our Parliamentary elections on a regular basis for years. The setup of the Norwegian Parliament is not representative of the will of the people. Votes from Finnmark weigh 50% more than votes from Oslo. This means that parties that are popular in Finnmark are arguably unfairly represented in Stortinget. Whether one agrees with the practice or not, the only way to change it is by changing Norwegian law, and doing so well in advance of the next election. On election day, fairness is irrelevant. Only law counts.

He leads a regime, where he himself - and a rich elite - enjoy enormous wealth and growing privileges, while millions live in poverty and despair.

It is true that millions of Americans live in poverty by Western standards, but that only a small elite enjoys wealth is hardly true. The vast majority of the Western world is rich beyond the imagination of our ancestors as well as the people of the Third World. The average American is also measurably wealthier than the average Norwegian. Wealth is less evenly spread, but this does not seem to be a major concern of the people who live there, or the many people in the Third World who wish they did. We can disagree over economic policy, but it is hard to disagree with economic fact. Portraying the US as a society for the privileged few is deeply unfair, and says much about what privileges the person who believe it happens to take for granted.

People of ethnic minorities are oppressed and humiliated.

It was interesting to follow the aftermath of September 11, and the expected massive "retaliation" against Muslim communities. From what I gather, about 300 hate crimes were investigated by the FBI, and perhaps nine people were killed. (This according to Bad as this is, in what non-Western country would a comparable act of mass slaughter, identifiable with an ethnic/religious minority, not have been followed by riots and even massacres? The fact that none of this happened in the US speaks well for its attitude towards ethnic minorities.

His country ranks highest in the world with regard to not signing human rights treaties.

Have no fear. Now that the US have been voted off the UN Human Rights Comission in favor of Syria, the global battle for human rights is in safe hands.

We thank you, America!

Why, yes.

We know that most Americans want peace, prosperity and justice for all.

You are good people, like most people are, in Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Korea, Ukraine, Australia, Norway, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Brazil, India, Bolivia, Iran, Uganda, Portugal and elsewhere.

We thank you for giving us Abraham Lincoln, Bessie Smith, Elvis Presley, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hank Williams, Martin Luther King jr., Toni Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Owens, Woody Allen, Miles Davis, Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller, Madonna, John Steinbeck, Jimmy Carter, Julia Roberts, Muhammad Ali and many more.

If we can do anything to help you
get rid of George W. Bush
before he wrecks your reputation
and messes up the whole planet,
please let us know!

"Get rid of George W. Bush"? That is a very unfortunate choice of words. I can only think of three ways to "get rid of" an elected American president before the end of his term: Through impeachment, a coup, or by having him assasinated. There hasn't been a single coup or (as far as I know) a successful presidential impeachment in US history. That leaves assasination as the only realistic option, an attempt of which seems to be made every 10 to 20 years. By supporting this campaign, are you saying that you would support an assasination attempt on George W. Bush?

I hope that isn't what you intended, but I can't think of any other way to read this, and I am sure that your American recipients will react in much the same way. Feel free to correct me if I have overlooked something.

Best regards,
Your worried friends in the rest of the World.

Petter Nome, Journalist and TV Producer. Reiulf Steen, Ambassador. Finn Sjue, Journalist and Associate Professor. Sidsel Mrck, Author. Bengt Calmeyer, Author and Journalist. ystein Djupedal, Member of the Norwegian Parliament. Saera Khan, Member of City Council in Oslo and Central Committee of the Labour Party. Torbjrn Morvik, TV director. Margrethe Aaby, Theater Director. Herman Kristoffersen, Mayor of Troms. Knut Nrum, Comedian and Author. Svein Tindberg, Actor. Raymond Johansen, Secretary General. Mette Janson, Journalist. Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Professor of Social Anthropology. Odd Arvid Strmstad, Director. Ranveig Friland, Member of the Norwegian Parliament. Pl Gordon Nilsen, Journalist. Jon Wessel-Aas, Lawyer. Magnus Nome, Student. Nina Johnsrud, Journalist. Jannecke Hemsen, Teacher. Bente Aschim, Medical Doctor. Helge Nome, Teacher. Colleen Anne Watkins, Translator. Borgny Baastad, TV Photographer. Marte Haabeth Grindaker, President of Juvente (Youth organisation). Frank Sivertsen, Journalist. Hallvard Hatlestad, IT Proffesional and Competance Developer. Roy Corell, Nurse. Bjrn Jacobsen, Member of the Norwegian Parliament. Nils P. Lie-Gjeseth, Teacher and Webmaster. Thorbjrn Bratt, City Councillor. Sonja Holterman, Journalist. Eirik Sivertsen, Production Manager. Jens vreb, TV Director. Tone Bratteli, Director of Information. Stina Greaker, TV Director. Per A. Thorbjrnsen, Managing Director. Henrik Steen, Writer. Eirik Nome, Student. Birger Kolsrud Jsund, Journalist. Reidunn Nrstelien, Production Manager. Anne Jensen, Teatcher. Marthe Christensen, Student. Pl Rud Knudsen, Editor. Hilde Hummelvoll, journalist. Bjarte Aune Olsen, Student. Brynjar Widere, Sound Engineer. Siri Gellein, Journalist and Singer. Chris Foss, TV Director. Marte Spurkland, Journalist. Jan Holm, Journalist and Author. ystein Bache, Comedian. Yngvil Kiran, TV Producer. Andreas Lunnan, Journalist. Vivi Stenberg, Journalist. Jan Roger Henriksen, Marketing Director, Torstein Vegheim, TV Director. Kjell Terje Ringdal, Managing Director, Ellen Lund, Historian, Bjrn Holmgren, TV Director, Knut Mller Nilsen, Artist Manager, Ingvild Vaggen Malvik, Member of the Norwegian Parliament. Isabell Skagen, Project Manager, Ivar Johansen, Member of City Parliament Oslo. Karin Torp, 1 vice president of the Norwegian Union of Commercial and Office Employees. Gerd Pedersen, Secretary. Olav Boye, Research Officer, Norwegian Union of Graphical Workers. Lasse Sandberg, Administration Officer, Berit Johanne Berg, Floor Manager, Sten Bjrn, District Secretary. Ruth Grung, Commissioner for Education and Sports. Knut Fagerbakke, City counsellor. Marianne Borgen, Member of the City Governement in Oslo and Deputy member of Parliament. Aamir J. Sheikh, member of Oslo Council, Conservative Party. Per Sverre Rannem, Mayor in Steinkjer Municipality. Odd Thraning, Major in Levanger Municipality. Oddvar Hlland, Union Representative. Reidar Otto Johnsen, TV Director. Sture Arntzen, President of Norwegian Union of Commercial and Office Employees. Kai Christoffersen, Norwegian Confederation of Trade Union Offshore Representative. Lene Bomann-Larsen, Research Fellow. Atle Teigland, Electrician, Signe Tnsberg, Senior Executive Officer. Hallgeir H. Langeland, Member of the Norwegian Parliament.May Sommerfelt, Director of International Department. Maria Astrup, Graphic Designer. Heidi Srensen, Member of the Norwegian Parliament. Jan Tore Evensen, Secretary General. Nissa Nyberget, Musician. Rnnaug Tveito, Elin Enge, Kjell Erik ye, Member of the City Council, Oslo. Tonje stbye, Procect Manager. Olav Viksmo Slettan, journalist. Jens C. Andreassen, student . Susanne Abelsen, Advicor - refugees. Geir Furuseth, Journalist.

Best regards,
Your peace-loving co-citizen,
Bjrn Strk, software developer and web pundit,
Billhedrick 2003-01-09 A minor nitpick. Both Clinton and Andrew Johnson where successfully impeached. "Impeach" does not mean fired or convicted. It's much closer to "indicted" Other than that, this is an excellent answer. [more>>>]
Bruce Bawer 2003-01-10 After looking at the letter again, I realize that the most telling part certainly the most disgraceful part is whats not in it. We thank you, America!We thank you for giving us Abraham Lin [more>>>]
Gray1 2003-01-12 I wonder what the reactions would be if a letter was circulated to the authors like: Greetings people of Norway: We realize that Norwegians are wonderful people, but at the same time we know tha [more>>>]
Lennox 2003-01-12 Hey People, I signed that thing. I did so believing the Bush-adminstration being completely corrupted by big business, showing no business ethics, using trillions of dollars on war instead of peace. [more>>>]
Steve Teeter 2003-01-12 Namaste, your heart is clearly in the right place, but face facts. Please believe I'm not trying to offend here, especially as I admire Mr. Strk's analysis of that letter, but you can afford to belie [more>>>]

Monday, January 06, 2003

On request from P4, the Norwegian Ministry of Culture (actually the Ministry of Church and Culture, a rather scary title), have released several documents on the process that led to the decision not to renew P4's radio concession. The documents are heavily censored, and P4 may seize on this as indications of foul play. I don't think that's very likely. There is little doubt for me that the Ministry has the right to shut down P4 at a whim. But the documents reveal what an upside down world these bureaucrats live in. The whole process appears almost as a bidding match, where the individual applicants are judged by their commitments in number of hours to various public broadcasting buzzwords. For instance, both P4 and Radio 2 (TV2) promised in their applications to send 30% Norwegian music. Kanal 4 - the winner - promised 35%, Radio VG only 20%. Conversely, Radio 2 came out best on religious and philosophical issues - 440 hours a year, with P4 and Radio VG at 104, and Kanal 4 only 95.

Socialism does not stand strong in Norway - modern social democray is a long way away from what Marx had in mind. And when changes are made at all, they are usually in a liberal direction. That is why this decision, reactionary in an area already lagging behind, stands out as such an ugly occurence of true socialism. The Norwegian government is usually content with interference and taxation. In the area of national broadcasting, however, it is in full control of the largest broadcaster, NRK, as well as the working conditions of its competitors. (Cable and local stations are freer, see my comment below.) Bureaucrats and politicians - not the people - decide what viewers and listeners want. Bureaucrats and politicians - not investors - tell good from bad business ideas. Bureaucrats and politicians - not the company's creditors - decide when to kill the signal.

(Well, the listeners, investors and creditors too, of course, as Kanal 4 may soon discover, even though the bureaucrats in their omniscience have decided that it will be both popular and profitable.)

Incidentally, Kanal 4 is partly funded by the government. Unlike commercial radio and TV channels, who receive nothing, all newspapers in Norway are heavily funded. That is why there are so many of them. Kanal 4 is almost completely owned by newspapers, and is therefore government funded. In one of the released documents, the Ministry of Culture anticipates criticism over this by claiming that since Kanal 4 is actually owned by the newspapers' mother companies, there is no actual government funding involved. This is nonsense. The funding frees resources the mother companies can spend on Kanal 4. And as Trygve Hegnar in Finansavisen pointed out in an editorial the other day, it may violate some of our competition agreements with the EU, because P4 is controlled by Swedes. Complaining to EFTA is a long shot, and may not do P4 any good in the foreseeable future, but I'm sure they're considering it.

Another option they're considering is to speed up the introduction of digital radio - DAB - in Norway, for which they still have a broadcasting concession, by distributing receiving equipment for free. DAB, which like digital TV appears to be in demand only with government planners, has been a failure. There are only 5000 DAB-enabled radios in Norway. The equipment is fairly inexpensive, though, and it is possible for P4 to at least contribute towards reaching critical mass. Again a long shot, but they deserve credit for creative thinking.
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Everything is bigger abroad. The rich are richer, the poor poorer, roads broader, companies larger. Terrorists use real planes. Yesterday, for instance, a man threatened to crash a plane into the building of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Meanwhile, three Norwegians are scheduled in court to dispute a a $350 fine for hurling paper planes at the American Embassy in Oslo, over a year ago.
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Thursday, January 02, 2003

There are small frights and there are large frights. I can do without some of the larger ones, but I believe in a minor hair-raiser now and then. So whenever life here becomes boring and predictable, I remind myself that Valgerd Svarstad Haugland is the Norwegian Minister of Culture. That puts me right back on the edge of my seat. I have a theory that the freedom of a country can be measured by the unimportance of its Ministry of Culture. Norway doesn't measure too badly on that scale, but our Ministry of Culture has the power to cause some real damage in the hands of the wrong politician. Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, leader of the Christian People's Party, is that politician.

Norway's only national commercial TV station, TV2, was created in 1992; our only national commercial radio station, P4, in 1994. (There are others, but they are either local or on cable.) Both broadcast under almost identical concessions based on the principles of public broadcasting. The concessions, strict but broadly phrased, require a fair share of high-brow culture, news, and programs for children and minorities. Both channels are required to contribute to the "strengthening of Norwegian language, identity and culture".

TV2 has become the primary entertainment channel and a political counter-weight to the NRK. P4 is a low-brow channel with a focus on music and talk shows. Both make money. Both are popular. Commercial broadcasting in Norway has been an unqualified success.

Or so I thought. TV2's broadcasting concession was renewed in 2001. P4's renewal two weeks ago was taken almost for granted, most of all by P4 itself. Neither of these channels have paid strict attention to their broadcasting requirements - if there are programs in Sami on TV2 I haven't seem them - but P4 has gone far to disregard the requirements completely. They appear to have gambled on popularity. Fearing bankruptcy more than Ministry, they have assumed that no sane politician would silence a channel with 2 million weekly listeners.


Svarstad Haugland is obviously either politically insanse and/or deeply conscientious (a dangerous quality in a Minister of Culture). After December 31, 2003, P4's broadcasting concession will be turned over to a new channel, Kanal 4.

It takes a bit to make me angry, but I swear I was shaking for hours after I heard this. Silje Stang, a P4 talk show host, spoke for me when she said that it would be tempting to ask Svarstad Haugland to go burn in hell. For a politician to go about shutting down radio stations, no matter the legality of it, is simply not done in a free country.

70% of people polled are against Svarstad Haugland's decision, and thousands have mailed her their protests. Oddly, the other media have been largely neutral, giving equal time to critics and supporters. P4 have, according to several editorials and opinion pieces, only themselves to blame for violating the concession requirements. This is true, but irrelevant. One would think that journalists would be the first to rush to defend the rights of fellow journalists. The fog clears, however, when one clicks through to the full list of applicants for the broadcasting concession: Kanal 2 is owned by TV2 (which shares owners with a large number of newspapers), Radio VG is owned by our largest tabloid, and Kanal 4, the lucky winner, by a group of smaller media which includes Norway's primary news agency, NTB, and the Christian newspaper Vårt Land. It is hardly a conspiracy theory to suggest that every one of these media might find it perfectly fair to deny P4 a renewal of their broadcasting concession. After all, they hoped to get it for themselves.

Besides the fact that the channel is backed by what is almost certainly her favourite newspaper, it is not hard to see what it was that attracted Svarstad Haugland to Kanal 4. Its application is a hymn to the principles of public broadcasting. Even worse, I think they mean it. Here are some excerpts:

- Listeners will be "stimulated, provoked and challenged". Ie, told condescending rubbish.
- "There is no contradiction between having many listeners and broadcasting material the listeners didn't necessarily know they were interested in." Not as long as there are no commercially oriented competitors, anyhow.
- There will be, and I swear they've actually quantified it in detail by subgroup and time of day, 2929 debates, 1545 analysises and 1965 radio montages every year, spanning over such issues as culture, multiculturalism and ethnic minorities, religion, education, science, children, teenagers, the elderly, politics, foreign policy and sports.
- 35% of the music will be Norwegian.
- There will be focus on how "different forms of expressions are connected to each other, for instance how modernistic music is connected to folk music".
- Humor will be used to battle prejudices, and a program called Kebab & Pea Stew will tell listeners about "well-integrated immigrants from all over the country who have found themselves at home in our society."

I'm not making any of this up, not even "Kebab and Pea Stew".

I don't listen to radio myself, except for the NRK morning news. (Why should I, when I can find all I want, from music to audio books and radio plays, on the Internet? The other day I actually uncovered a recording of the entire 1980 Carter/Reagan debate on Usenet. Now that's my kind of narrow.) If I did listen to radio I might feel obligated to boycott Kanal 4, but I doubt a conscious effort will be necessary to avoid what promises to be a channel drearier than Dagsavisen and more pompous than Sigurd Allern. (Thank your deity if you don't know who/what I'm referring to.)

As for P4, they're angry and desperate, and might just come up with a plan, hopefully doing serious damage to Svarstad Haugland's political career in the process. (I wouldn't buy their stocks, though, despite falling 75% since the announcement.)
Jabba the Tutt 2003-01-06 How's Norway set with cable tv, Satellite tv and / or radio? Do you get channels from other Scandinavian countries? Other foreign countries? [more>>>]
Bjrn Strk 2003-01-06 Cable or sattelite TV is fairly common. At least more than 50% of households have it, but I don't have the figures. Most cable providers I've had experience with have by default two or three Norwegi [more>>>]

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

A panel of health experts would like to classify smoking as an illness. "Smokers must be treated by Norwegian health authorities as being sick," says Dr Erling Aaserud. Great idea! And if dysphemisms don't work, we can always revive some of the old indecency laws, and adapt them to smokers first, then overweights, inactive health club members, the mentally lazy, the haughty, the greedy, TV slaves and listeners to Swedish dance pop. I feel a surge of healthiness just thinking about it, (and an odd impulse to begin smoking).
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