Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Save the Planet. Yes, but do it right!

According to the Guardian on Wednesday Bush is a "renegade rightwing extremist". That's a good one! I couldn't have put it better myself.

Then after some reflection I started wondering: OK, but how progressive is the wooden victor Gore from 2000, whose defeat was declared by the Supreme Court, even though he got more votes than Bush?

Well, he would probably in some ways have become a better president. But how progressive is he? He is called an environmental activist, but take a look at his concrete proposals, as they are reported by the Guardian:

From activism to energy-efficiency: Al Gore's top tips for saving the planet
1. Insist that politicians in all parties make this planetary emergency their top priority; this is crucial
2. Think about conservation and efficiency in the way you use resources in your own life, eg:
· drive less (every mile not driven saves one pound of CO2)
· fly less
· recycle more
· keep your tyres properly inflated
· use less hot water
· use a clothesline instead of a tumble-dryer
· insulate your home
· avoid products with a lot of packaging
· turn down the thermostat by 2C
· plant a tree (one tree absorbs one tonne of CO2 over its lifetime)
· turn off electronic devices when they are not in use
3. Be a conscious consumer with regard to everything you buy, both in the marketplace and in the investments you make, eg:
· switch to green power
· buy locally grown food, and organic where possible
· buy fresh food over frozen
· buy less meat
· offset your impact on the planet's resources by investing in renewable energy projects For more information go to

These tips are not going to "save the planet".
OK, these initiatives are not bad, but how much do they really help?
I must remember to breathe less when I bicycle to work. And keep the tyres of the bike properly inflated!! And I have already turned down the thermostat by 2 degrees. And how much did it help?

Who are the big sinners, when it comes to emission of greenhouse gases?
It is not only consumers and life style that are the culprits. It is also business. In order to effectively combat pollution and get a more environmentally fit globe it is necessary for the state to pass much more restrictive legislation and change society in fundamental ways. Al Gore does not talk so much about what it'll really take to develop a society in ecological balance.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Dane writes an e-mail to the second most powerful man in the world - or is it the most powerful? - , and the Great Man answers

The Danish journalist Samuel Rachlin has written an e-mail to Dick Cheney, and the Vice has answered (see below). It is the Danish blogger Punditokraterne that asked Samuel to appear as a guest writer on their blog. And what he did was, he wrote this e-mail to Cheney
(- in this open democracy of ours any man can write a letter to the president - or those above him; and he may receive an answer, even though he is not even a voter!).

E-mail to Dick Cheney by Samuel Rachlin

Right after Vice President Dick Cheney’s trip to Europe and Central Asia, I wrote him an e-mail:

Dear Dick,
It’s fine with me that you give President Putin a lecture and tell him what democracy is about, and that he should not use the oil weapon against his neighbours. I think it’s appropriate that you tell him that the Russian government has “unfairly and improperly restricts the rights of her people.” and that Moscow should not use oil and gas as a tool of “intimidation and blackmail”. I also find it OK when you tell new East European and Baltic democracies in Vilnius that they are on the right track and they have the full support of the U.S.
But I have a problem when you, after that meting, move on to Kazakhstan to visit President Nursultan Nazarbaev - a mix between Ghengis Khan and a Soviet Politbureau Member without any tolerance of opposition or respect of human right, but with great patience with corruption and abuse of power. He is a leader of the same mold as Azerbaidzhan’s President Ilham Aliyev who recently was received by your boss in the White House.
It’s problem for me because it creates a lot of confusion and uncertainty about the American message. Nazarbayev and Aliyev are by no means on the right track to democracy and are even more undemocratic and despotic than President Putin and his crowd in the Kremlin. It’s obvious that this weakens the message to Moscow and causes confusion among the East European leaders you met with in Vilnius.
Nazarbayev and Aliyev both control significant oil wealth, and you have to understand that this could lead some people to think that the U.S. applies different criteria and values for who’s in and who’s out, and who should be lectured on what’s wrong and what’s right. That’s what we call double standards. When you and your boss cultivate relationships with people like Nazabayev and Aliyev one could get the impression that you distinguish between those who have and those who don’t have oil. The new breed of haves and haves not.
Some people could draw the conclusion that if you have oil it does not matter that much that you violate the rules of democracy and suppress basic human rights. The problem becomes even more conspicuous because everybody knows how close you and your boss are to the American oil industry. The relationship with Saudi Arabia - one of the most important providers of oil to the U.S. - has never suffered under the lack of democracy in the Arab kingdom.
You have to understand that there is not a very big jump from these observations to raising the question about the real motives behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Was it primarily a question of freedom and democracy or was it Iraq’s oil wealth that led the U.S. into the war? It’s obvious to anyone that your and President Bush’s credibility has suffered considerable damage. After Abu Graihb and Guantanamo, your lecturing about democracy and human right begins to sound hollow. After more than three years of warfare in Iraq no one can claim that the U.S. has been defeated, but the lack of results, not to speak of victories, is a defeat in its own right. That has not only undermined your status as a hyper power, but also weakened your ability to speak out about democracy and freedom on behalf of the free world - at least with the same authority as in the past.
You wound up your trip in Croatia, and in a speech to regional leaders in Dubrovnik, you again spoke about freedom and democracy. That’s a problem for me, too, because you welcomed the new countries to the EU. Listen, Dick, on whose behalf did you do that? Who gave you that mandate? Are you out of your mind, as you Americans say. Don’t you think that we have problems enough already in the EU with the timeout for the constitution debate, with our European identity and our direction.
We don’t need any good advice. We have more than enough of our own good ideas. What we need is determination and action, but right now we are confused and enervated by all the changes we have gone through with integration, expansion and one treaty after the other. We have gone into rethinking mode, and no one really knows when we will come out. Untimely interference can only make things even worse.
And don’t you actually think that you and President Bush have problems enough on your own? The Iraq war more and more looks like a dead end. The oil price in the U.S. is still half of what it is in Europe, but your voters are so angry that they are ready to start a new revolution. The trade and budget deficits look like a Hollywood horror movie. The President’s support is at a historic low, and your own ratings are lower than Michael Jackson’s. How do you feel it’s going for you, as we say in Denmark? I understand you need a breather, but I would suggest that next time you feel like getting out of there you should go back to Texas for some old fashioned hunting with your buddies.
Sincerely yours,Samuel

It did not take long before I got an answer from Dick Cheney:

Dear Samuel,
The hunting season in Texas has not started yet, and after that deplorable episode at my latest hunting trip, I have to go abroad to test my markmanship before I try to renew my license. Quite frankly, I think things are going just fine. It was a great trip - one of my best in a long time,
Sincerely yours,Dick

I like that one: "Dear Dick!" - From one man to another - right in the middle of the public sphere! Isn't it funny, though, that Dick Ch. only gives an answer to the last couple of lines of the Samuel's mail? Why is that?

It is perhaps understandable because the mail is a heavy criticism of US policy, not only double standards in the democracy and freedom rhetoric, but also criticism of the erratic economic policies of the Bush administration. It proves that the Left and other concerned democrats have been right all along in their criticism of the Bush administration's policies of world domination.

Some of the information in Dick's e-mail are quite worrisome. He'll go abroad to "test his markmanship". What does he mean by that? I sincerely hope, it's not Denmark/Copenhagen he intends to go to. Or is it perhaps Iraq? That'll be the great test of his markmanship.

I'm blasphemous. Consequently I exist

"Cogito, ergo sum" is being turned into "I'm blasphemous, consequently I exist" by Charlie Hebdo the French satirical weekly that published the Mohammed cartoons. Wednesday the weekly is going to publish a special issue of 79 pages with blasphemous texts and cartoons of - in some cases - partly or wholly undressed clerical personalities.

This is supposed to be funny. Anyway, we're dealing with Charlie Hebdo. So perhaps it will be funny. Among others there will be a drawing by one of the paper's cartoonists in which he is himself drawing the prophet Mohammed as an SM dreesed in leather. By way of revenge the prophet inflates his ego and threatens to bring about a tsunami and bird flu. The cartoonist reacts by erasing the drawing.

Charlie Hebdo sold a lot more papers in February when it published the Mohammed cartoons. Perhaps it wants to repeat the success. Perhaps it wants to express its credo that man only exists when satirizing. Anyway, there is no doubt that the Mohammed cartoons case is going to be a never-ending saga. On Sunday the 28th the cartoons were published again by the progressive Danish paper the Politiken. A triumphant chief editor, Tøger Seidenfaden, declared in Danish media that this showed what the matter was really about. When you didn't do it in harm's way, no harm was done. The Jyllandsposten, he said, published the cartoons as a deliberate provocation, and then the muslims naturally felt provoked.

Maybe Tøger Seidenfaden is right. That remains to be seen. It is also possible that people have just lost interest in the cartoons.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Mosque as a Community in Denmark

(Abu Laban in the mosque in outer Nørrebro. Even this large mosque and muslim cultural centre is in an abandoned business complex. There are no minarets or other outward signs of it being a mosque)

The Danish sociologist of religion Lene Kühle of Aarhus University has made research on Danish mosques. The research results are published in the book "Mosques in Denmark - islam and Muslim prayer sites", Univers Publishers.

There are about 200.000 muslims in Denmark. She has found 114 "mosques", or prayer "places" ("Mosque" is too ambitious a term) , where the Danish muslims practise their religion. These "mosques" are very unobtrusive, you might even say subdued. It is as if the muslims are aware of the fact that they're perhaps not so welcome in the otherwise very homogeneous Danish society. Anyway, the mosques are not as visible as the churches which tower over hamlets and towns from ancient times.

If you expected the mosques to be hotbeds of religious fervour and revolutionary (terrorist) activity, you'll be disappointed, Kühle's research shows. In most places she found a group of men playing cards and women chatting. The most noisy activity may be a game of table football. It is only in a small group of mosques, about 37 in all, that Kühle calls "organization mosques" that you find a religious head of some standing and with some religious education, an Imam, who may be sent from the "mother organization" in the home country, for instance Turkey. Even these mosques are very modest with serious religious activity only during prayer. Then there are 7 larger mosques which put some emphasis on the religious message and denomination. In these places there is a recognized Imam of some standing (for instance Abu Laban) that people will travel some distance to listen to in Friday prayer. It is only these places in Copenhagen and Aarhus that have been scrutinised by Danish media and considered possible breeding grounds for anti-Western activities or propaganda. Kühle has not tried to distinguish between potentially "subversive" imams and more docile ones, as this has not been the purpose of her research, but she considers it doubtful that one can make any kind of distinction between "evil" and "good" islam. It is not possible to "paint" islam in images of "black" or "white". The mosques do not have the influence on people's minds that the media seems to have presumed, she concludes. By means of this focus we ourselves are responsible for turning religion into politics, she thinks.

We tend to equate deeply religious with fundamentalist, she says, thus seeing a menace to the cohesion of modern society and its democratic institutions. In that way we tend to see deeply religious people as threats in themselves, which is a very questionable practice. The Danish mainstream politician Villy Søvndal, who is chairman of the Socialist People's Party, is a vocal critic of the Danish participation in the Iraq war. In many other issues he has quite moderate points of view. Had he been a muslim, he would have been considered an extremist, Kühle says. We have developed a climate of debate in which we turn people, with whom we disagree, into extremists (Kühle in interview with Danish paper the Politiken May 23rd).

After the cartoons issue there has been a lot of debate on whether there is full equality between the religious communities in Denmark. The muslims' humble prayer sites might lead to the conclusion that this is not the case.
Church and state are kept separate in Denmark. About 85 per cent of the Danes are members of the Lutheran state church, and they pay a special church tax, about 1 per cent of tax declared income. The income from the church tax goes to the Lutheran church.The other recognized religious communities (included muslims) do not get any of this money, but they can finance their activities through a right to deduct the money their members pay to their religion from the declared tax income. Most of the Danish muslims are immigrants and descendants of immigrants from Turkey, the Middle East and other muslim areas. A lot of efforts are done to integrate them in the Danish society in such a way that their distinctive culture and religion is respected. Still the Danes could do a lot more.

Especially in the religious area more can be done for integration.The Danish state church should not be a church for only Christian Lutheran protestants. Perhaps it should not be called a “church”. It should either be a comprehensive umbrella for all officially recognised religions, including islam, or else the Christian church should be cut loose from the state, so all religious communities will be truly equal. Births and deaths are registered by the state church. It has been difficult for muslims in thinly populated areas to find burial places. Some have chosen to be buried in their original home lands.Omar Marzauk, a Danish comedian of immigrant background, has said jokingly that he should have been born a poodle, not a Muslim: “Dogs in this nation have their own burial grounds, and Muslims don't," he has said in one of his shows. "So I either have to be sent out of this country in a box or change my name to “Fluffy”". Like most satire, there is some truth also in this satire: Denmark's Muslims have found it hard to find land for Islamic cemeteries.Denmark is a secular country. Science and rational thought dominate. So does the official Folkekirke. The Danes, however, are not very diligent churchgoers. Many churches are practically empty during sermons on Sundays. It is only on Christmas Eve that a few Danes find it worthwhile going to church. It is not sinful not going to church. So why bother?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Denmark sending reinforcements

At least 16 civilians and up to 60 Taleban fighters have been killed after US-led coalition forces launched a raid in southern Afghanistan, officials say.
Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid told reporters that 15 civilians were wounded in the air strikes, which took place in Panjwayi district.
Other reports say 30 civilians were killed and 50 injured.

This is what BBC News reports today. The coalition forces must be hard pressed when they have to kill so many innocent civilians. They probably look forward to getting reinforced by 290 Danish soldiers in June/July this year. Is this the kind of operations they're going to take part in:

Reporters were prevented from reaching Azizi by Canadian and Afghan roadblocks. However, locals who fled to Kandahar said the coalition appeared to be targeting insurgents hiding inside a madrasa (Islamic school). "Helicopters bombed the madrasa and some of the Taliban ran from there into people's homes. Then those homes were bombed," Mr Ikhlaf, his clothes stained with blood, told Reuters news agency at a hospital in Kandahar.
Zurmina Bibi cradled a baby in her arms and wept as she described how 10 people were killed in her home, including three or four children. "There were dead people everywhere," she said

It is even difficult to get information about what is going on. Reporters are not allowed on the scene, which is perhaps understandable, when you consider what has been going on! - It is better to let the military control the flow of information!

What is this war about? To prop up the puppet regime in Kabul? Actually, it looks more like an imperialist war for Western interests. In the 19th century the British and the Russians fought for control of this region which lies strategically in Central Asia. After the Mohammed cartoons crisis it has turned into a clash of religions and cultures war.

In the eyes of the West, the Taleban are terrorists. In the eyes of the coalition, the Taleban are fanatics who have jumped right out of the medieval dark ages. In the eyes of big parts of the Afghan population the taleban are, however, gaining credibility. After the cartoons crisis they are seen as defenders of the prophet, against the infidels. That turns the NATO war operation into a Western crusaders' operation. Denmark and its allies are up against a lot of popular resistance. In the 1980's these poor people were attacted by communist atheists. Today they're attacked by materialistic infidels from the West.

NATO was not originally designed as an alliance waging wars of aggression far from the North Atlantic area. Denmark and other NATO allies were lured - or forced - into compliance with American interests in twisting the word and meaning of the treaty. By calling it a "war" on terror, the article 5 of the treaty could be used to get support for the American anti-terrorist operations after 9/11. This seems to imply war all over the globe. Denmark and other NATO allies should try to remember what the original goals of the NATO alliance were.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Walking on water

From Songs of Experience
“Ah, Sunflower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun,
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller's journey is done;

Where the youth pined away with desire
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go.”
(William Blake)

Isn't it just a wonderful globalised world, we're living in? who'd expect to find the photo of a Dane by the side of a Dallas freeway. Globalisation makes it possible.

On the other hand, how do you "find yourself"? On a billboard beside a freeway outside Dallas, Texas? That is highly doubtful. Witness the agony of Blake "finding himself". "Pining away with desire" is sometimes an integral part of the human condition, and some people may even find life's satisfaction or fulfilment in it. But "to aspire where my sunflower wishes to go" is something else, - and maybe overshadowing the other! - Where does a sunflower wish to go? It's yearning for the Sun and all that the Sun may represent - life giver. - Divine energy. Blake had a vision of the divine that was far away from commonplace Christianity.

Anyway that's how a young Dane could "find himself". A Christian Church in Texas used his photo, taken from a collection on the internet, to advertise for their church.

His girl friend wrote to them, and the minister of the church wrote back:

To Oak Cliff Christian Church.
My Name is Lena Rangstrup-Christensen and I live in Copenhagen, Denmark.
I just wanted to write you to tell you that the picture of a blond man withblue eys that you use on your roadbanners and on the homepage is my boyfriend.
I often laugh of the thought that his picture is hanging by a road in Dallas Texsas. It is a small world we live in.
I wish you a Marry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
SincerelyStud. Med. Vet.Lena Rangstrup-Christensen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Og som alle høflige mennsker, så svarer de selvfølgelig (As all polite people, sure they answer).
COOL! I have wondered who the person is. His likeness has helped direct a few people to the church, and we have baptized three adults since the beginning of the campaign. We got his picture through a stock photo service. If you are ever in Dallas, give a holler.
Blessings of this holy season to you as well!
Steve DigbySenior Minister

See, this is really a story of international understanding and coming to terms with the inevitable. Quite apart from the fact that the more interesting story of how we find ourselves has not been resolved. In America money and the higher meaning seem to be united for a common purpose, luring common folks into the trap.

Charles D'Ambrosio has written about the search in "Her Real Name":

When they headed out again that morning, going west seemed inevitable -- driving into the sun was too much to bear, and having it at their backs in the quiet and vacant dawn gave them the feeling, however brief, that they could outrace it. It was 1977, it was August, it was the season when the rolling fields were feverish with sunflowers turning on withered stalks to reach the light, facing them in the east as they drove off at dawn, gazing after them in the west as the sun set and they searched the highway ahead for the softly glowing neon strip, for the revolving signs and lighted windows and the melancholy trickle of small-town traffic that would bloom brightly on the horizon and mean food and a place to stop for the night.

Where that search takes them, I'll not reveal, but, however, there seems to be some Blake-inspiration in the description of the sunflowers "turning on withered stalks to reach the light".

They meet billboards on the way, new signals of the eternal quest:

Outside Spokane, on an illuminated billboard set back in a wheat field, a figure of Jesus walked on water, holding a staff. Jones considered the odd concession to realism: a man walking on water would hardly need to support himself with a crutch. The thought was gone as soon as the billboard vanished behind him.

This man Jones, or is it perhaps D'Ambrosio, seems to have a certain sense of reality. If you don't believe in Jesus walking on the water, what is there to believe in? How about man (or woman) walking on the water?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Globalisation from Below

(Greek demonstration aganist Mexican police brutality in San Salvador Atenco. Photo: Jornada)

There is a lot of talk about globalisation these days. By "globalisation" is generally meant the economic activities of outsourcing of jobs, investments across borders, the free movement of capital, etc.

There is also a globalisation from below. Ideas and information travel quickly in the epoch of the internet. Like when thousands of people walk in demonstration in 22 countries (so far) across the globe in protest against the Mexican police brutality in suppressing popular protests in a small town some 25 kms outside of Mexico City. A 14 year old boy was killed by police gun fire, and more than 200 people were arrested. During transport to the prison a number of women arrested were violated and sexually harrassed by the police.

The people in Salvador Atenco were selling flowers in a place where Wal-Mart planned to build one of their giant stores. The police would evict them from the square. And then some machete wielding peasants who had some years ago protested against the building of a new airport to Mexico City came to their help, and a confrontation with the police evolved. This is one of the stories about the events. Another story claims that the police had been hiding out in the place for a couple of weeks awaiting the arrival of the Zapatistas "Second Campaign". Anyway, there's not much doubt about the police actions taking place as portrayed. 5 foreigners happened to be in the place and they were also taken lovingly care of by the police. And they have given accounts of the events after coming home.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Denmark free rider in asylum policy

The conservative government in Denmark has passed the strictest anti-immigration laws of any European government. That is a begging-thy-neighbour policy. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) writes on its homepage:

At the Tampere European Council of 1999, the EU declared its intention to establish a Common European Asylum System based on the full and inclusive application of the Geneva Convention. ECRE welcomed this approach but was concerned that, as the details of the system were elaborated, there would be pressure to adopt standards at the lowest common denominator.
Protocols to the Treaty state that the UK, Ireland and Denmark can opt out of participating in these measures.

When Denmark can stay outside the common asylum policy of the EU, it is due to the fact that at first Danish voters rejected the union treaty (Maastricht treaty) at a referendum in 1992. After negotiating four opt-outs (common currency, union citizenship, defence, and asylum) to the treaty, there was a new referendum in 1993, and this time it was passed by the voters.

This opt-out has made it possible for Denmark to become a "free-rider" in asylum affairs. Asylum seekers have become aware of Denmark being a restrictive ("xenophobic") country. It is then understandable that they avoid Denmark when they seek asylum in a European country. In practice most of them go to Sweden, skipping Denmark, or they apply for asylum in Norway or Germany. This means in practice that Denmark can save a lot on the public purse for processing asylum applications, giving asylum seekers boarding and lodging, and integrating "difficult" people. It may be good for Danish tax payers, but it is not so good for the solidarity between nations.

However, Denmark has lately experienced an increasing labour shortage, especially for technical, computer, and economic specialists, and skilled workers. So the country has wanted to open up to more immigration, but not to any kind of immigration. By means of a recently adopted selective "green card" arrangement, according to which such specialists can get work and residence permits, the country can participate in the still more intensified international head-hunting that is part of the intensifying economic race under globalisation. These people are welcome in Denmark, whereas for example the kind of boat-refugees that land on the Spanish coasts on the Canary islands and the southern coast of the Spanish mainland are perhaps not so welcome.

But luckily for Denmark, this involuntary immigration is not Denmark's problem - and expense. Denmark has got the asylum opt-out from the treaty. As the EU is intensifying its cooperation in the asylum field, and some kind of problem-sharing will be agreed upon among EU member countries, "difficult" asylum seekers may become "everybody's problem", - but not Denmark's problem.

This is the kind of strange paradoxes that the conservative Danish government's cooperation with the xenophobic Danish People's Party (DPP) is leading to.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Danish government denies claims in Council of Europe report

It surprises Terry Davis, the general secretary of the European Council, that prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen will throw the ECRI report on racism in Denmark in the waste paper bin. Rasmussen said in his news conference on Tuesday that the report contains a lot of errors. That is for Denmark to prove, Davis says.

This, however, will be quite difficult for the Danish government. Because proof of the xenophobic climate in Denmark is quite easy to find.

In the 2001 election campaign for the Danish parliament that brought Mr. Rasmussen to power, Rasmussen and his fellow liberalists from Venstre, the liberalist party expressed their objective attitude to immigrants in big campaign ads telling the Danish voters what the main problems in Denmark were at that time.The ad shown above was printed and distributed in a million copies to schools, factories, offices, shops - everywhere Danes congregate.

The ad shows Palestinian immigrants leaving court after being sentenced several years of prison for "mass rape". The court sentence is probably fair enough. What is "unfair" is the way the story was dealt with in the media, the general public, and by Venstre's spin doctors.
The Palestinians are aggressive and wave people away, which is perhaps understandable after all the fuss. They give the fuck up finger (not to be seen on this ad), most voters know the scene. All Danish TV viewers have repeatedly seen the young palestinians give the fuck up finger, when they leave court. It is a very familiar scene, and to many Danes it shows how ungrateful these people are. They come and enjoy the most advanced welfare in the world, - and just watch their reaction: They rape Danish girls, and they give the fuck up finger to everybody concerned enough to look their way!! - The cheek of these people!

But luckily we're are up for change (Tid til forandring, "Time for Change", Venstre's campaign slogan). The ad shows a few Palestinians as representing all. In that way it builds up stereotypes and prepares the ground for racial tension.

Louise Frevert, a member of Parliament from the right wing Danish People's party (DPP), which supplies the necessary mandates for the Danish government's parliamentary majority, has called muslims a "cancerous growth". She was not expelled from the party. Nor did Mr. Rasmussen stop cooperating with the party.

Mogens Camre, a member of the European Parliament for the DPP, has talked of the risk of islam taking over the entire country through Jihad. At the congress of the Danish People's party in 2004 he spoke about Turkish application for membership of the EU:

The Turkish government are a bunch of fundamentalists, who have dressed up in democratic attire..... The Turks do not intend to become Westerners. The Turks want to islamise Europe. And the Turkish government wants to cheat its way in. .... The muslims give birth to much too many children, and they do not have enough opportunities to feed them in their own backward countries, which produce next to nothing. Therefore they have decided to conquer Europe. (Mogens Camre's homepage).

And about islam he said:

The two big dictatorship ideologies, we have seen the last 100 years, lived in 12, respectively 70 years. Islam has survived for nearly 1400 years, and we're naïve, if we think we can change this ideology within a few decades. But we must do whatever we can do to stop the diffusion of the islamists' ideology, because it threatens the whole world. ....... Let me say it clearly, muslims must live in muslim country - and that is not here.

Here is a sample of Louise Frevert's writing. It is from a debate with the social liberal politician Margrete Vestager:

I can very well understand that you’re tempted to get more votes by supporting the muslims in Denmark, but the bill will have to be paid some day, and it can be expensive for the country. I do not think of the 6 bn. $ tax payers’ money, which it costs to have these people living in this country – per year – it is far more dangerous that the social liberals contribute to securing that these foreigners – not integratable citizens – will establish a power apparatus in our country, which our legislation, and hence our authorities, are not at all geared to handle. The Muslim Brotherhood has largely a free playing field in Naïve Goofy’s homeland, and of course they exploit this in an optimal way…... none of the parliamentary parties used the elections campaign to discuss the march forward of muslims…These could be the words of a nutty individual, but the point here is that they represent a substantial part of the public debate in Denmark. These politicians are Mr. Rasmussen's coalition partners.The muslims are not seen as contributors to Danish society
("6 bn. $". She forgets that a lot of them have jobs and pay taxes) .

Fogh Rasmussen's political lieutenant Jens "12 muslim men" Rohde has defended the PM's waste paper bin argument by saying that "the report is completely untrustworthy and unscientific. It has deliberately left out important information on the positive effects of government policy on immigrants".

The problem for the government is that the chickens have come home to roost. The bad climate it helped to create from the 2001 election and onwards is now retaliating on the government. It won't admit it by trying to solve the problems that are actually there. Instead it tries through Machiavellian mismanagement of power to deny all allegations. This is a very short-sighted policy.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Deconstructing Karen Blixen

("Little black Sambo - icon of Danish children's literature. Now changed for the sake of political correctness. And Blixen)

Perhaps it is not so strange after all that it is in Denmark the cartoons crisis strikes. It has been difficult for Danes to view other cultures in an objective light. Danes have taken part in European colonialism, for instance the Belgian king Leopold's imperialist undertakings in the Congo and the building of trading stations in Western Africa. Racism and feelings of superiority have constricted the view of the "native". But the view has also been dominated by the patronising care and solicitude for the "noble savage" who supposedly needs direction in life to be able to reach the highpoints of European civilization.

Now East African intellectuals have started deconstructing Blixen. It is especially the autobiographical "Out of Africa" that is singled out for analysis. It contains passages like:

"When you have caught the rhythm of Africa, you find that it is the same in all her music. What I learned from the game of the country was useful to me in my dealings with the native people...
"It was not easy to get to know the natives. They were quick of hearing, and evanescent; if you frightened them they could withdraw into a world of their own, in a second, like the wild animals which at an abrupt movement from you are gone — simply are not there. Until you knew a native well, it was almost impossible to get a straight answer from him

The Nairobi based freelance journalist and consultant Dominic Odipo comments on this passage in "The Standard":
"Blixen keeps returning to this theme of the similarities between the African natives and the wild animals who lived in the plains. If you want to understand the natives, study the wild animals that live next to them. If you frighten them, they suddenly disappear, like the wild animals that roam those plains. Until you get to know them well, it is almost impossible to get a straight answer from them!"

He also wonders how a Danish baroness could own so much land in Africa. But of course this was due to the British colonisation of the area. The British protected the white farmers' interests, and attempts at rebellion were defeated in the cruelest and most violent fashions, for instance the Mau Mau rebellion. In the eyes of this African, Karen Blixen has done incalculable harm:

"Millions of Europeans and Americans who read Out of Africa in the last century had Blixen’s image of native Africans permanently etched on their minds. To them, all African became savages for whom it was the sacred duty of the white man to come and "civilise", and to exploit without scruple.
These images were passed on to their children and on to their children's children, today our contemporaries. The damage that Karen Blixen did to the image of Africa in the eyes of foreigners is virtually incalculable".

Karen Blixen had a captivating and dominating personality. She was into the esoteric, which can be seen in some of her gothic tales, for instance "A Sailor Boy's Tale", where you follow a young ship hand Simon through a part of his life. He rescues a peregrine falcon from being stuck in the tackle yarn, and that falcon he meets again later as a Lapp woman who helps him to run away from some Russian sailors. The point is: That which you have done, comes back to haunt you. Man has a place in this world, and he is set to follow his destiny: We're part of a universal principle running through the world and all time. We find our place in the world by understanding that principle. In the same way the black savages of Africa have to understand their place in the world. With this background it is difficult to see that a world without masters and slaves may be possible.

As the baroness viewed it, there is a natural order in the world. Everybody has to know his or her place in it. As part of the Danish nobility, Karen Blixen's place was in the upper class. The blacks had their place cut out for them far below.

Young and promising poets and men of letters also had to know their place. Karen Blixen made "secret covenants" with some of the young leading literary figures of her day. Two of them, the poet Thorkild Bjørnvig and the professor of Danish literature Aage Henriksen have written about this covenant that was close to being satanic in its nature. Blixen thought that her spirit could wander and take temporary or permanent residence in these promising young people. When Blixen bewitched Bjørnvig he was 30 years old, and she was 63. Once when he was sick, she let him stay for a long time at her residence Rungstedlund north of Copenhagen. In his book about their relationship Bjørnvig quotes from one of her letters to him:

"Fortunately there is a human being I can trust, as I trusted Farah. That is why I'll now place my mantle upon you, like Elias did to Elisa, as an omen that some time I shall have three quarters of my Spirit stay with you, Yours, Karen Blixen."

The African commentators have probably not even been aware of this background. Still one of them, commenting on Odipo's article, concludes:

"I read with great interest Mr Dominic Odipo’s pieces on Karen Blixen and her ‘vile mementos and racism in The Standard on April 10 and May 8, 2006. Many Kenyans born after independence tend to react the same way on matters to do with colonialism and racism.
The bigotry that existed as recently as 70 or so years ago and its use to cream the dishonesty, Machiavellian tendencies of colonialism and colonial society is amazing. It will take Kenya a long time to come to terms with colonialism.
Looking at Karen Blixen and her life outside the context of pre-independence Kenya and colonialism is hurtful, can be hateful and may not serve Kenyans of our generation much good. Colonialism, perfecting discrimination of one group of people by another, has been described as "a variety of fascism" and is based on economic privilege, despite suggestion of more noble goals of religious conversion or ‘civilisation’."

The Mohammad cartoons can also be viewed as a kind of belated colonialism. It is high time the deconstruction is carried through to its logical end.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Criticism of Danish racism record in human rights commission

(If the option is excluding muslims or Louise Frevert, we know what to do!)

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today released five new reports examining racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance in Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg and the Russian Federation. The commission is set up by the Council of Europe, an organisation that Denmark was a co-founder of in 1949. The council works with human rights matters.

The Commission report on Denmark is very critical of the racial situation in Denmark.
It expresses deep concern about the climate in Denmark having deteriorated since the Commission's second report. There is a penetrating atmosphere of intolerance and xenophobia against refugees and asylum seekers, and against muslims in particular.
This corresponds to a lot of the analysis of Danish xenophobia on this blog (february-march arhive). The ECRI report puts a lot of blame on the Danish People's party and the Danish media which have spread the word. The report remarks that on several occasions members of the DPP
have made shockingly racist utterances in the media, without it having led to suspension of such members from the party. The report notes that it's the government's parliamentary dependency of the DPP that has given the latter substantial influence, so that it has been able to push through an anti-immigrant agenda and legislation that affects minority groups very hard.

Besides the report concludes that the police hesitating to prosecute the Jyllandsposten for blasphemy or violation of the racism article in the penal code and the fact that freedom of expression is given higher priority than anything else has given these politicians freedom to come with condescending statements on minority groups in the media:

ECRI notes with deep concern that the situation concerning Muslims in Denmark has worsened since its second report. ECRI has been informed that, apart from the above-mentioned discrimination that Muslims face together with other minority groups in areas such as employment, education and housing, politicians from some political parties such as the Danish People’s Party and some media continue to make incendiary remarks about Muslims. Although, in 2003, a number of cases of incitement to racial hatred in general, and against Muslims in particular were successfully prosecuted, ECRI notes that the police are generally reluctant to investigate complaints made by Muslims concerning hate speech directed against them. ECRI regrets in this regard that the lack of a strong message that would be sent by consistently prosecuting those who breach Article 266 b) of the Criminal Code has given some politicians free reign to create an atmosphere of suspicion and hatred towards Muslims. This problem is compounded by the fact that the media mostly interview those imams who express the most extreme views, thus confirming the image that is being given of Muslims as a threat to Danish society. In September 2005, with the stated intention of verifying whether freedom of speech is respected in Denmark, a widely-read Danish newspaper called on cartoonists to send in caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad; such drawings are considered to be offensive by many Muslims. This newspaper thus published 12 such cartoons, one of which portrayed the Prophet as a terrorist. The issue has caused widespread condemnation and a protest march was organised in Copenhagen as a result. The fact that, according to a survey carried out regarding the publication of these drawings, 56% of the respondents felt that it was acceptable is a testimony of the current climate in Denmark.

After reading a draft of the report the Danish government has criticised it vigorously. "This report goes right down into the litter bin", Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister said at his weekly press conference. He added that ECRI has made the report on the basis of listening to randomly selected sources. "That we cannot take seriously".

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mr. Rasmussen sees a big ghost! UPDATED

(And we'll never call Carlsberg freedom beer!)

At the meeting for heads of state in Vienna last week Mr. Rasmussen expressed concern about the Bolivian nationalisation of oil and gas. This is nationalisation! And of all days in the year Mr Morales has chosen that ominous day in May when the trees in Denmark turn green. Mr. Rasmussen sees the big old ghost of socialism, which is the opposite of his own ideology of liberalist conservatism. The minister for development assistance in the Fogh Rasmussen government, Ulla Tørnæs, has voiced similar concerns. She has talked of stopping aid to the Latin American country. It is a so-called "programme cooperation country", that means that it has been singled out for assistance from Denmark. It receives some 25 mio. $ yearly from Denmark. If the country loses that money it'll be even more necessary that it gets a higher price for its gas to Brazil and its oil.

This is really incredible!!!

Bolivia is nationalising its resources underground! Who else should be the proprietors of these resources and the land under which they are posited - if not Bolivia and the Bolivian people? The prices of the Bolivian oil and gas are far below world market prices! The Bolivian move - taken symbolically on May 1st - is primarily an attempt on the part of the poorest country in South America to get a decent price for its resources. In Denmark per capita income is some 45.000 $ a year (Denmark is one of the richest countries in the world), in Bolivia average income is about 900 $ per capita. Bolivia and Evo Morales stand for all the principles given a high priority in Danish development assistance: Indigenous rights, poverty, the rights of women, and promotion of democracy. This is not a dictator we're dealing with. Morales was elected by the Bolivian people. 53 per cent of the Bolivian voters wanted to get the first Indian as president in the otherwise "white" controlled and dominated country.

What is the real reason for the Danish attitude? Mr. Rasmussen talked of the "necessity of a stable investment climate". In that way he turns international capital and investors into the arbiters of last resort of what is acceptable and what is desirable in the international system. We are to be governed by the logic of capital, of big business. The TNC's are the masters of this world! But was that what Danish voters wanted when they voted for the Rasmussen government? That is quite questionable.

Evo Morales spoke to the European Parliament Monday before leaving Paris. In his speech he defended his government's policy of nationalising the gas by saying, according to Bolivian paper La Razon: "We do not expropriate. Nor do we kick anybody out." The nationalization might be viewed as a way of preventing Bolivian emigration to Europe, because more jobs would be created in the country, when it could industrialise on the basis of utilization of its own resources.
It was only the left wing of the European Parliament assembly that attended Morales' speech. Representatives of the Spanish conservative party, Partido Popular, had walked out. Only the chairman of the group and a few parliamentarians from this group stayed. Evo Morales said he felt humiliated by this. "It is necessary with dialogue", he said. He expressed admiration for the EU and said that the Latin American nations ought to emulate the European Union.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Protein imperialists

(I'm lovin' it!)
We happen to live in a world of clear-cut options: If you live in the rich part of the world you can die of obesity. If you live in the poor part of the world you can rejoice that you finance the rich part's over-consumption, and at the same time die of malnutrition or starvation.

Many Danes are happily aware of the fact that Denmark is one of the richest countries in the world. The income per capita (GDP per capita) is some 45.000$. That is a hundred times more than some of the poorest countries.

What the Danes do not know is that very often it is these poor countries that "pay" for the Danish affluence. This happens by means of the so-called protein imperialism. The so-called "highly developed" Danish agriculture feeds its animal stock with fodder imported from the poor countries. There is an enormous global nutrition loss in the proteins having to go through the animals before hitting the inner stomachs of the obese welfare citizens.

The average Dane eats three times as much meat as the average world citizen. The yearly consumption of meat in Denmark per capita is 111 kilos. That is the second highest in the EU.

The big Danish production of pork is made possible by a large import of soya-bean cakes from Argentina. To produce this import of soya beans it takes some 11.000 square km of Argentine land, or what corresponds to a quarter of the total Danish land mass. The consequences for Argentina of the production of such crops to the world market is poverty and malnutrition among its own inhabitants. Land distribution is very unequal in Argentina, and the big farms are specialised in producing cash crops for the world market. And a lot of land lies idle. That leaves too little land to small farmers with a varied production of food to supply local needs for a varied diet.

The website the footprintnetwork has tried to measure these ecological footprints. The result is that the Danes leave a massive ecological footprint in the poor countries.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Al-Qaeda: Destroy Denmark

(Arab News cartoon)

The Mohammed drawings must be revenged, a prominent member of al-Queda says in a new video. The Libyan Mohammed Hassan urges muslims to attack Denmark, Norway and France. The three countries " should be destroyed" because they allowed the Mohammed cartoons to be published: "Destroy their buildings, get the earth to tremble under them and turn it into seas of blood", he is reported as saying in Danish media tonight. Mohammed Hassan was one of the men who escaped from American imprisonment last year. He is not appearing in disguise on the video, but is dressed in a military uniform and is waving a gun. He seems to have forgotten that islam is fundamentally a peaceful religion.

The threats are taken seriously in Denmark and Norway. It is expected there'll be a terrorist attack in Copenhagen this summer. Al Queda probably only has a small following among Danish muslims, but even a few may be too many in this context.

This kind of action may damage relations between ethnic Danes and muslim immigrants again. People were forgetting about the cartoons issue, but by this provocation and crude intimidation they're reminded of it again.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Great economist passed away

The great keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith passed away recently. He was economic advisor to John F. Kennedy. But his economic ideas were no longer in vogue. Today it is generally presumed among Western economists that the "consumer is king". That is: There are free markets, free competition, and the interplay of demand ans supply determine prices. By shifting demand from one item of consumption to another, the consumer decides what is produced. The information about production and the quantities produced is passed automatically through the market, via demand and supply. By allowing the maximum freedom of market forces, it is believed in the neoclassical, Hayek-inspired school of economics, the maximum welfare of a population will be secured.

Galbraith knew how far from reality this rosy "analysis" was, even at his time:

"The giant corporation had become an increasingly obtrusive feature of the business landscape. Its importance was assumed everywhere except in the economics textbooks. And even the more casual scholars had difficulty in disguising from themselves the fact that markets for steel, automobiles, rubber products, chemicals, aluminum...electrical gear and appliances, farm machinery, most processed foods, soap, tobacco, intoxicants and other basic products were not shared by many producers, each without power over its prices, but by a handful of producers with a great deal of such power ... Between the competition of the many and the monopoly of the single firm there was now inserted the oligopoly of the few. And, although at first reluctantly, oligopoly came to be recognized as a normal form of market organization," he said in "Economics and the Public Purpose" from 1973.

Today, monopolisation of large market sectors has progressed even more. The profits of giant banks, shipping companies and oil companies show the extent to which Galbraith was right in his analysis of the capitalist economic system.

"It should be noted that exponents of the neoclassical system, while they have long deplored the monopolistic and hence pathological tendencies of oligopoly in principle, have never done much about them in practice. There was cancer, but one did not operate." ("Economics and the Public Purpose", 1973)

"The rise of the great corporation" extended far beyond the question of price fixing and demand-side management through advertising, to an extensive "influence [over] the attitudes of the community and the actions of the state ... They are not confined by the market. They transcend the market, use the market as an instrument and are the chariot to which society, if not chained, is at least attached."

Who exert power in this oligopolistic/monopolistic "market" system? According to Galbraith it is the so-called "Technostructure". It is not primarily the owners, for instance the shareholders, as it was in the market based capitalism in the 19th century. The technostructure consists of managers and technical experts at the top levels of management. They run the corporations on a day-to-day basis. That gives them power. This layer also knows how to be rewarded. The average central executive officer (CEO, i.e. top manager) of a Standard & Poor's 500 company made $11.75 million in total compensation in 2005” (

According to neoclassical lyrics this is only a "just" compensation for their contribution to output. High level management skills are in short supply. Therefore it is necessary with a commensurate remuneration. This is pure bullshit. The reason why the compensation of the top layers of management is so high is pure power. It may be damaging to the companies the managers run that they have to pay so much to the fat cats in management. It is a management style that is spreading from the US to the rest of the Western economies. The Danish business paper Borsen reports today that the top manager of the Danish multinational ISS (International Service Systems) received more than 13 mio. $ in his total pay packet (pay, incentive pay, stock options) last year. The whole top management of this company got more than 26 mio. $ for one year of work. These managers are the same people who preach wage restraint to ordinary wage earners and employees. If this bottom layer of the corporations receive pay increases it will affect competitiveness of the company and other companies negatively, it is argued.

Galbraith understood how this was a question of power - not a question of the just revenue of the "marginal product of the production factor", as argued in neoclassical theory. When wages of top management continue exploding it's because the power of this segment of society continues increasing. It's a question of class analysis, if one wants to understand it, not of anonymous market forces.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A bucket of cold water to Syria and Iran after the cartoons crisis

(Who's the driver?)

The Danish government party Venstre wants to cut sponsoring of projects for Iran and Syria in the Arab dialogue initiative Denmark has been running since 2003.

Money is wasted on these two countries, the foreign policy spokesman of Venstre says to the Danish press today. "It's no use cooperating with countries that'll rather see the back of you than your front", the spokesman says. He doesn't give it a moment's thought why some people in the Middle East would rather see the heels than the toes of Danes!

Denmark spends about 16 mio. $ a year on the Arab dialogue initiative. Money is channeled to the build up of free media and the promotion of dialogue, and Venstre now thinks it is necessary to focus the effort.

In the same way as the USA wants to spread "freedom and democracy" in the Middle East, the Arab dialogue is Denmark's way of promoting the country's core values. It is thus a kind of "cultural imperialism", a precursor for the economic interests in investments and trade. The initiative was overshadowed by the cartoons crisis. But after this crisis has ended efforts are underway to reinvigorate it. - But not to Iran and Syria. It is necessary to further the dialogue in countries where "things can be moved", the spokesman says.

It is a question if Iran and Syria are really that resilient to democratic dialogue. Perhaps there is another reason for the stingyness vis a vis these two countries. They were among the most outspoken opponents to the Mohammed cartoons. Perhaps they're also too uncooperative in the "war on terror". It is thus relevant to presume that Denmark is following the American agenda in the issue. That's shameful. And the question is if this is what Danish tax payers want. After all they pay for the show. And a lot of Danes want the dialogue to continue - also with Iran and Syria!!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Caring for the poor in different models of capitalism

Due to the stimulation of the US economy that the large military budget causes, there is quite a lot of economic growth in America at the moment. A big part of the growth is "artificial", however. The US cannot sustain such growth figures in the long run without risking a hard landing for the economy with possible repercussions for the world economy.

The increasingly unequal distribution of income and wealth may even lead to economic depression. The poor spend all their income on basic necessities. The rich can afford to save. Their savings must be invested. Otherwise demand may fall and trigger an economic downturn.
These macroeconomic problems are aggravated by the rising number of people who are forced to live at or under the poverty line. Increasing expenses to housing and health care combined with insufficient wage increases to poor and middle class people put more in more people in a precarious economic position. This is corroborated by an investigation made by sociologist Mark R. Rank and quoted in the New York Times. According to this research there is a marked increase in the number of poor people in the USA. In the Eighties 13 per cent of all Americans between 40 and 49 experienced at least a year in which they were placed below the poverty line. In the 1990s this number increased to 36 per cent of all Americans in that age group, according to Mark Rank's analysis.

The deteriorating living conditions are worsened by the fact that the minimum pay is rarely increased. American law makers bow too easily to neoliberal economists' and employers' arguments that the poor should not be allowed to price themselves out of the labor market. The Eurosclerotic EU countries are cited as examples of countries where this happens. This is, however, a gross misinterpretation of what is going on in the EU labour market. The Nordic countries with high minimum wages have very low unemployment figures.

In the US a lot of workers make no more than the minimum pay, which at the national level is very low, much lower than in Denmark. Quote: “Workers who are covered by the FLSA are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $5.15 an hour” (US, Department of Labor). In France the minimum wage (Le SMIC) was about 8 euros an hour in the beginning of 2006, or considerably more than the American minimum wage. In Denmark the minimum wage is not fixed by law, but as the workers are highly unionised by collective agreement. It was about 14 $ an hour at the end of 2005. Taking income taxes into consideration, it is only slightly higher than the French level.

In the other end of the income scale incomes are very high. Quote: “The average CEO of a Standard & Poor's 500 company made $11.75 million in total compensation in 2005” ( Income disparities have been widening as a consequence of the neoliberal economic order.Of course, for a comparison, what is interesting is to look at average pay, and what you can get for that pay. According to most surveys, the average American wage earner/salaried employee made about 17 $ an hour in the beginning of 2005.

Here it is noteworthy that taking inflation into consideration, average pay has barely budged since the beginning of the 1980s. The neoliberal model has led to sharpening competition in the labour market and outsourcing to low-income countries. And average wage earners are the losers in the income race compared to high income earners.

And how much – or rather – how little do they get for the average income? Quote: “Meanwhile, those who secure the middle-class jobs of the 21st century will have to make $17 an hour stretch further than ever as they pay more for health care or risk doing without insurance and assume much or all of the burden for their retirement. Meanwhile, those who secure the middle-class jobs of the 21st century will have to make $17 an hour stretch further than ever as they pay more for health care or risk doing without insurance and assume much or all of the burden for their retirement” (Washington Post 31st of December 2004).

There is, sadly, a long way to go from a recognition of these facts and to a reformation of the system. When stingy employers and their political allies run a country reforms are not in sight.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Fighting the wrong war

(American soldiers going for a swim. Children in Darfur. Baghdad Dweller)

Why do the US, Britain, Denmark and Australia fight the wrong war in Iraq? What is the fun of going to take a swim in the pool in Camp Victory, when defeat is just around the corner?

The coalition thought they'd be met with happy Iraqis throwing flowers at the soldiers. That this dream vision of the democracy and freedom crusaders' happy conquest could pop into the fool heads of neo-cons tells something about their flawed history interpretation, comparing Saddam to Hitler and believing that the inhabitants were thirsting for the Western concept of freedom. Now an Iraqi crowd is shouting 'Victory to the Mahdi army', when a British helicopter crashes in the Basra region. Where have all the flowers gone?

Why not recognize defeat and pull out the troops and devote the efforts somewhere else, where it is perhaps possible to make a virtual crusade for human rights? Does the answer lie in the Western thirst for oil? Or is it the Israel lobby and the Israeli connection, i.e. fighting for civilisation's outpost in the ME?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Smaller parliamentary majority behind Danish Iraq force

The Danish government has decided to prolong the Danish bataljon's stay in Iraq with one year, but it is with a smaller parliamentary majority than previously. The centre social liberals and the centre-left Social Democrats will no longer vote for the soldiers' continued presence in Iraq. They believe the force could serve better other places in the world.

It leaves the government of the liberalists and conservatives with the support of only the Danish People's party.

The soldiers' trade union regrets the decision of the two political parties. The soldiers feel more comfortable when there's a broad coalition in parliament behind their stay, and when this also reflects a popular backing. Opinion polls have shown that Danish participation in the "coalition of the willing" is increasingly unpopular. There is now a majority of voters against. So far Denmark has lost 3 soldiers in Iraq. Last Wednesday an IED that killed an Iraqi civilian exploded close to Danish troops. It is believed the Danes are increasingly being targeted by the insurgents.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Straw too soft on Iran

Look at what the Guardian writes today, after Tony Blair fired Jack Straw as foreign secretary:

The key to the demotion of Jack Straw from foreign secretary is Iran. Mr Straw for more than a year, in his favourite outlet the BBC Today programme or at various press conferences, said repeatedly a military strike on Iran was inconceivable.Politicians always try to avoid boxing themselves in, but Straw did on this issue: if a military strike had become a serious option, he would have been forced to resign.
He was reflecting the reality of British domestic politics. Against the background of the Iraq debacle, Mr Straw knew it would be difficult to win support for the military option in cabinet and that it would create even more upheaval among the membership of the already weakened Labour party.The problem for Mr Straw is that Tony Blair does not view Iran the same way. He regards the threat posed by Iran as the most serious in the world today, and is even more messianic on the issue than George Bush. That does not mean that a military strike will happen but Mr Blair, like Mr Bush, thinks it is a good idea to keep the option on the table, if only to keep Iran guessing.

So, Mr. Straw was up against some of the worst crusaders for Western interests that we have know for a long time. Blair is a moralistic crusader - or so it looks! What is he really crusading for? The high moral principles that made him want a meeting with the Pope some time after the illegitimate attack on Iraq? No way. Blair may appear stupid, but actually he is not. He has revealed his true character on a number of occasions, for instance - and particularly - when he has defended the interests of big business and big tycoons. They have helped to finance the Labour party through loans. In return they've got a seat in the House of Lords.

It is politics for the almighty business interests. And this is continuing. The US and Britain have a long tradition of interfering in Iranian politics. The CIA together with British intelligence ousted Mossadegh from power in Iran in 1953. Iran has some of the largest oil reserves in the Near East. It is of paramount importance to the West that these resources be controlled by Western interests. The alleged nuclear threat is an excuse for action. It's a bit surprising that Jack Straw should be the victim. But this is the game of politics. The master is the last to go.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Back to the rhetoric of the "evil empire"?

(Preparing for a new "Coalition of the Willing")

Russia uses its large resources of fossile fuels to blackmail other countries, and the country is suffering big democratic setbacks, Vice president Cheney said Thursday in a meeting with Baltic leaders.

He further criticized the country of putting limitations on human rights.

When one considers how the USA is treating prisoners in Guantánamo and in the CIA and army detention centres in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe, this criticism sounds rather hollow.

It is certainly relevant to blame Russia for not living up to human rights obligations, but it is hypocritical when the USA's own record in the area is taken into consideration, not only in regard to the treatment of detainees, but also in the area of economic and social rights, where the treatment of minorities and immigrant groups does not live up to UN standards.

So why the Vice's criticism? There seems to be no doubt that you have to look somewhere else for an explanation. The US is putting pressure on Russia up to the negotiations in the UN Security Council on the Iranian nuclear programme. It has not pleased Washington that China and Russia have taken a somewhat independent stance when it comes to agreeing on possible sanction or the military option. It might inspire the "freedom fries" eating French and other parts of Old Europe to get naughty again.
And it leaves the USA with the choice to go alone with a "coalition of willing", or not doing anything at all, - and that would be intolerable for a hard-liner like Cheney.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The environment destruction fun game

Fouling up the environment is a big joke these days! Look at this ad for the Hummer vehicle, the monster truck that any North American macho with due self-respect, ought to drive. The ad comments on the site ban SUV's:

Look at this attempt to ban our beloved behemoths! Don't they know we don't need to follow any laws written by girly men? Somebody needs to tell them that Hummer H8 owners follow a higher power. Apparently they don't know that the "H" in Jesus H. Christ stands for "Hummer!" Who cares if we're contributing to the destruction of the environment? Who's to say that it's wrong to put other peoples' lives in danger? What's wrong with being at greater risk of rolling our vehicles over? Jesus Hummer Christ doesn't see anything wrong with it, so why do these people?

It's the New York blogger Elisabeth who called my attention to it. Of course, you could say that environmental-destruction-capitalism-with-a-smile is better than the raw much-too-serious-capitalism-that's-only-in-it-for-the-profits-and-give-goddam-about-people, but this attitude may lead to callousness and cynicism. And if there's one thing the environment can't stand it's cynicism. Something has to be done to save the world from global warming. The ice caps on the North and South poles are melting, average water levels in the oceans are rising, polar bears drowning, and the climate is deteriorating and destroying man's natural habitat many places on the earth.

Jyllandsposten - Offended by freedom of speech? Mohammed drawings again, again, again!

Jyllandsposten seems to want rather desperately to call attention to itself over the Mohammed cartoons. Tuesday Carsten Juste and Flemming Rose, editor and cultural editor, subpoenaed the Danish attorney Havemann for libel. Havemann is attorney for the 27 muslim organisations that subpoenaed the Jyllandsposten for violation of the blasphemy article in the Danish penal code after the publication of the Mohammed cartoons, and after the public prosecutor would not sue the paper.

In a statement to the press Havemann wrote: "According to information I have received, the worst of the drawings, the one with the bomb, is made by one of the paper's own cartoonists, apparently commissioned by the chief editor, because the drawings coming from cartoonists outside the newspaper were not sufficiently blasphemous.... If that is correct it supports one of our basic allegations: That the purpose of the publication of the cartoons was to mock a religious minority in Denmark".

These words have offended the Jyllandsposten to such an extent that it sues Havemann on claims of libel and demands of 16.000 $ in reparation payment. "We're not touchy, but there're limits", Carsten Juste has said to Jyllandsposten's online paper.

It is odd that Juste did not see any limits in the paper's practice of freedom of expression when the butt of the joke was the Muslims and their religious sentiments.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bolivia nationalizes gas resources

On Monday the Bolivian government sent out a decree to nationalise the country's big gas fields. This has been regretted by some. The Spanish foreign ministry released a statement on Tuesday expressing "deep concern about the measure and the possible consequences for bilateral relations. This concern also extends to the ways this measure was adopted".

The Bolivian measure is understandable, however, in light of the enormous profits the foreign mining companies have been enjoying in Bolivia, which is one of the poorest of Latin American countries. It has perhaps heightened tensions that Bolivia sent out troops to seize the gas fields. The operation of the fields is not affected. And the foreign companies, among them Petrobras from Brazil, probably find out how to adapt to the new situation. The Bolivian government will take a controlling stake in the companies, and force through a larger part of the profits to the state purse.

Larger incomes from the exploitation of the natural resources will help the country to promote development if the money is wisely spent on development projects and promotion of the country's own technologies.