Oct 202021

No doubt about it: There is more domestic violence (“Intimate Partner Violence” or IPV) in the Nordic countries and the UK than in, for instance, Spain, Italy and Ireland. In spite of greater gender parity!

Allow me to draw your attention to an Icelandic TV series, “The Flatey Enigma”. This is to all appearances a fairly ordinary crime story, true enough from the 70s., with a vibrant female heroin and a dull and ugly scoundrel who happens to be the investigating police officer.

However, there is nothing ordinary about the series. Just as the heroin has to revert (in 1971) to blackmail to have a particularly interesting article published in an academic journal – because she is only a woman, after all – the director of this series has had to use a “crime device” to demonstrate that Icelandic women were battered in the 1970s.

I watched the four-part series with growing dismay. I had known that conditions were hard for everyone in Iceland back then, and that women rarely had reason to laugh or even smile, but I did not know they were battered. I decided to look into the issue.

In the seventies, some very few women were fortunate or brave enough to go abroad to work and/or study. They had no trouble finding work throughout Scandinavia, because they had a reputation of being extremely hard-working. While abroad, they learned that women need not defer to men, and they learned to talk back. In 1975, back in Iceland, they were able to organise the most remarkable demonstration of female power I have ever heard of: They persuaded the country’s entire female population to go on strike for one day. How they managed, I cannot imagine! But they did.

It was a stunning affair. The country was absolutely paralysed for a whole day. No food on the tables, schools and childcare centres closed. Male doctors had to nurse hospitalised patients, daddies had to change toddlers’ nappies, planes were grounded…

After that, things changed. Everything changed, and very quickly. Vigdis Finbogadottir became president, and Iceland evolved from a miserable backwater where many people still lived in turf huts into a truly modern country. (I hasten to add that the greedy bastards who drove Iceland to the brink of extinction in 2008 were not women. Mind you, women can be greedy bastards too.)

No, Icelandic women need not bow to any man in public. BUT, in private, alas, things are still not well. An article in Foreign Policy notes:

One theory to explain the Nordic paradox is that increased gender equality fuels male resentment, creating frustrations that are channeled into physical violence—a mode of action where men can easily still dominate. Violent outbursts of this sort, fueled by feelings of injured masculine status, are so deeply psychologically motivated that they can be difficult for governments to counteract.

In the same article a link takes us to the abstract of a study carried out by the National Hospital.

Aims: The purpose of this study was to analyse the prevalence of hospital visits and nature of injuries caused by intimate partner violence (IPV) against women and associated costs. All visits to Landspitali National University Hospital by women 18 years or older subjected to IPV, inflicted by a current or former male partner during 2005–2014, were observed and analysed
…. punching (29.7%), shoving (17.8%), kicking (10.5%) and attempted strangulation (9.8%) were the most common types of aetiology. Repeated new visits were 37.8%.

I repeat: There are few Muslim immigrants in Iceland, so it’s no use blaming them.

If asked to pick one of the suggested causes of the Nordic Paradox, I would vote for “backlash”. If you impose norms on a recalcitrant group, it seems intuitively obvious to me that there will be resistance. Some will protest loudly. Others will just take private action.

Female emancipation dethrones the male. Many men have absolutely no wish to sit on a throne and be “boss”, and for them female emancipation is liberating. For many others, however, it is perceived as socially castrating and as a violation of what they consider their birth rights.

There are lessons to be learnt here for countries where female emancipation is still a matter of the future (e.g. Afghanistan). Action will have to be taken to help the male population come to terms with a new and disconcerting (for them) reality.

Oct 192021

Have you heard of the Nordic Paradox?

I quote a paper on the subject:

Intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW) is a global public health issue often assumed to be associated with gender inequality. The so-called Nordic Paradox, the apparently contradictory co-existence of high levels of IPVAW and of gender equality in Nordic countries, has not been adequately explained.

Let me tell you, all this is new-speak in my ears, starting with ” IPVAW”, which is international jargon for what we normally refer to as “domestic violence”.,

The reason I found the said paper was that I was confronted a few weeks ago by friends in Spain who resented my – ehem – “insinuation” that Spaniards go around battering and killing women. Yes it is true that a year or two or three ago, 55 women were killed in Spain. But, my friends continued, how many people live in Spain? So how many femicide victims are there per 100k in Spain?

I was put to shame.

My friends sent me figures and charts and goodness-knows-what, to demonstrate the opposite of what I had posited. Below, you will find a map of the EU countries. Source: Violence against women: an EU-wide summary. The 2012 findings were apparently more or less corroborated in a rather more wide-ranging March 2021 report. You will recognise the “FRA” logo of both reports.

What the map tells us is that the countries with least domestic violence are, interestingly, countries we generally consider Catholic. Countries with the highest reported levels of domestic violence are Denmark, Finland and Latvia. I repeat: these figures are from 2012.

So, are Protestants more violent than Catholics?

Are Catholics more reluctant to report domestic violence than Protestants? What about Muslims?

This line of enquiry is not politically correct, so I will leave it for now.

Norway and Iceland are not on the map as they are only EEA countries.

Statistics Norway provides very little information about domestic violence in Norway. All I found were three terse sentences:

Lifetime Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence: 27 %
Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence in the last 12 moths: 6 %
Litime Non-Partner Sexual Violence: Official National Statistics Not Available.

As for Iceland you will see that Denmark, Finland and Iceland are high up on a WHO shame list (notice Turkey!!!):

To summarise: In the European Nordic countries, not least in Iceland, there is greater gender parity than practically anywhere else in Europe. Forget the details for now, but let’s just say that women in these countries enjoy as much liberty, pay and prestige as men. E.g.: The Danish, Finnish and Icelandic prime ministers are all women. However, there is more domestic violence in these same countries (and in the UK) than almost anywhere else in Europe.

Again I direct your attention to the interesting paper about a Swedish study that I mentioned by way of introduction. It refers to various suggested explanations for the paradox, such as male backlash at female success, and high alcohol consumption. It discusses whether women in Sweden are more prone to report maltreatment than women elsewhere. It points out that there are reasons to argue that the opposite may be the case. The paper also dismisses the theory that immigrants are at the heart of Sweden’s poor showing, as “othering.

Enter Iceland. Again, Iceland is not on the EU map and is more interesting than Norway in this context, as I hope to demonstrate. Iceland is a particularly interesting country for researchers of — not least — medical, social and natural sciences as it is an island. (Hardly any Moslem immigrants have even considered taking refuge on that cold Atlantic rock. ) Due to its tiny population of about 360 thousand, Island is also frequently a statistical aberration.

So, no, Muslims do not explain IPV in Iceland.

To be continued.

Oct 142021

Have I made fun of the term? I bow my head in shame.

Yes, it is true that being allowed to vote once every four years for some caudillo to lead your country is not really worth fireworks. However, Democracy is not only about ballot boxes! Sometimes, you only understand that, when Democracy has been lost. And it is so easily, alas, lost.

Democracy requires “Separation of Powers” (a concept commonly attributed to Montesquieu). “Separation of Powers” means that the executive branch (i.e. the president, the army, the police and the secret service) have no powers over the judiciary (i.e. the courts) and the legislature (i.e. the National Assembly or whatever assembly determines what laws should apply in a country.) Separation of powers is absolutely quintessential for a “Democracy”. Every once in a while, we see that a hotshot decides that he should be his country’s emperor, like Napoleon. Alas, the basis for such a decision is more often than not sociopathy; certainly not wisdom.

An excellent if somewhat lengthy documentary from the European TV channel Arte about conditions in Hungary serves as an illustration of what happens when one man holds too much power. It should give you goosebumps as it thoroughly illustrates at least three points, of which the first, that Hungary is now only nominally a Democracy, is only a prelude. Let me cut to the quick: In the midst of the EU, then, you have a country led by a governmental crime syndicate; a rather chilling thought.

The deceased Portuguese novelist José Saramago wrote a wonderful novel that humorously illustrates how easily Democracy could be subverted, even without violence: “Ensaio sobre a Lucidez”, literally Essay on Lucidity, 2004, (the English translation of which is called “Seeing”). I recommend an article about the book in the Guardian by Ursula K. Le Guin. She concludes:

He has written a novel that says more about the days we are living in than any book I have read. He writes with wit, with heartbreaking dignity, and with the simplicity of a great artist in full control of his art. Let us listen to a true elder of our people, a man of tears, a man of wisdom

The novel can be read as a sequel to “Essay on Blindness” (1997). Whereas the “Essay on Blindness” is horrifying, the tardy sequel is kind to the reader. Yet, it leaves no doubt: On a rainy day, Democracy can be undone by a mere gesture, or absence of gesture, of the hand.

As we all know, of course, many countries are run by autocrats and/or de-facto crime syndicates. Many, many countries. Hungary, however, is in the EU. The EU prides itself on transparency and rule of law. Indeed there is no concealing from the EU what is going on in Hungary and Poland. But as you will see in the documentary recommended above, there is nothing the EU can legally do about the matter. So far.

What about your country? Does it claim to be Democratic? Is it really?

We all saw how close a call the US had, when the country’s voters nearly gave Trump “four more years” in “fair and Democratic” elections. What would happen to France if Eric Zemmour becomes that country’s president in “fair Democratic” elections? (And what will then happen to the EU?

No, I do not subscribe to the idea that Democracy is outdated. China and Russia may believe in authoritarian leadership, in imprisoning or even killing whistle-blowers and journalists that ask difficult questions and expose abuse of power. I do not. I should add, for the record, that China and Russia are not the only countries where constructive criticism is unwelcome. And in case you have forgotten, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are still wanted by you-know-what country.

No the problem is not that the US and the EU are too Democratic, but that they are not Democratic enough.

Who voted for Trump and who will vote for Zemmour, and why?

I find myself wondering whether sex slaves vote and if so, who do they vote for? They make up a small, yet not totally insignificant proportion of most countries’ populations. Imagine your country as a large empty aquarium. Pour in all your country’s sex slaves and they will just barely form a film over the floor of your aquarium. Add all the people who fill the shelves of all your country’s grocery stores. Add all the street sweepers, all those who wash all the floors in hospitals and all the floors of your cities’ innumerable office buildings… The tide is rising in the aquarium. You still haven’t added the unemployed.

What about the majority of your rural population, which is probably “at risk of poverty and social exclusion“, as the EU puts it: “The at-risk-of-poverty rate is the share of people with an equivalised disposable income (after social transfer) below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, which is set at 60 % of the national median equivalised disposable income after social transfers.”

Please, PLEASE note that we are talking about 60% of the MEDIAN “equivalised disposable income”. In plain English: half the population have an income above the median and half have an income below it. In my country 18 % of all fully employed people are “at risk of poverty and social exclusion”.

Who do they vote for? Do they vote for Labour, or whatever the equivalent of Labour is called in your country? Will our Labour-equivalents truly improve their conditions? Will any major party that respects rule of law? My guess is that the answer to that question is “no”, and that our “at risk of poverty and social exclusion” voters know that.
No wonder, then, that wild-eyed preachers, charlatans, megalomaniacs and sycophantic scoundrels find it easy to deceive consumers and even voters by offering a deceptive ray of hope.

Take a look at your country’s median income in 2021. You might consider how far the median income would get you if you had to pay rent, electricity, transportation, childcare, insurance, internet, phone bill, etc. etc. etc. oh, and I forgot food.

Sep 232021

I det siste har jeg stadig oftere måttet høre på sinte spydigheter fra ikke-nordmenn om det de betrakter som norsk hykleri i klima- og miljøsaker. Det dreier seg f.eks. om våre karbonkvoter – at vi betaler oss ut av å måtte redusere utslipp; at vi subsidierer kjøp av elektriske luksusbiler (uavhengig av hvor mange bensin- og dieselbiler en familie ellers måtte disponere og bruke); at vi utrydder ulver; at vi driver flathogst osv., osv.

I uke 37, hadde Klassekampen et sint innlegg om Equinors fracking i argentinsk Patagonia. Lørdag 18. september minnet samme avis leserne om “Kobbermyggen” i Repparfjorden. Myndighetene har gitt konsesjon og tillatelse til drift av en kobbergruve i Repparfjorden, mot innvendingene fra blant annet Sametinget, Havforskningsinstituttet og Fiskeridirektoratet. Noe av problemet gjelder avfallshåndtering. På mandag sendte jeg et innlegg om disse to sakene til Klassekampen. Det ble ikke tatt inn. I stedet kom et tilsvar om fracking fra Equinors “Informasjonsdirektør”: “Grove påstander om Equinor i Argentina”. Jeg lurer på hva årslønnen er for en informasjonsdirektør hos Equinor.

Er det en tilfeldighet at det i Wikipedia ikke finnes noen norsk utgave av den lange engelske artikkelen om “tailings”? (Jeg tror ikke ordet “slagg” er en tilfredsstillende oversettelse av ordet, da “tailings” også omfatter kjemikalier som brukes under utvinningen, i tillegg til naturlig forekommende stoffer som omdannes når de reagerer med vannet.)

Verdens naturvernunion (IUCN) har i dag 81 medlemsstater, blant dem Norge, som møtes hvert fjerde år. I 2016 ble det lagt fram et forslag om å forby dumping av avfall fra gruvedrift i havet. (Vedtak fattet av IUCN er riktignok ikke bindende.) Norge og Tyrkia var de eneste statene som stemte mot forslaget. Til og med Kina og Russland stemte FOR. En overskrift fra organisasjonen Earthworks gir et talende uttrykk for Norges renommé fra et miljøvern-ståsted: “Indonesia’s Move Away from Ocean Mine Waste Dumping Sets Example for Norway, Papua New Guinea“. Er det Papua New Guinea Norge ønsker å bli sammenlignet med?

I artikkelen “Mining waste too sharp for Norwegian fjord marine life” forklarer den skotske forskningsinstitusjonen the Herriot-Watt University følgende (fritt oversatt): “Det å dumpe gruveavfall i miljøet er stort sett forbudt i Europa, men i Norge er det helt vanlig at selskaper søker om tillatelse til å sende slammet rett ned til de dypeste områdene i tilliggende fjord. Avfallet medfører store endringer i fjordene, hvor det dannes en finkornet havbunn uten liv og uten de organiske stoffene som organismer trenger for å livnære seg.” Legg merke til at det Herriot-Watt kaller “dumping”, kaller folk som Monica Mæland “deponering”. Det høres unektelig mer sofistikert ut.

Vårt eget Naturvernforbund har en fotoreportasje i Jøssingfjorden hvor det ble dumpet avfall fra titan-gruven i Tellnes fram til 1984, men hvor fjordbunnen enda var død i 2020.

Under tittelen “Risking Fjords For Profit? Norway’s Dirty Mining Storyi the New Internationalist leser jeg at både Repparfjorden og Førdefjorden (hvor det utvinnes rutil, som inneholder titan) har sterke dypvannsstrømmer, og at Havforskningsinstituttet frykter at det fine livløse støvet på bunnen av fjordene vil bli spredd vidt omkring, slik at giftstoffene i støvet, kommer inn i næringskjeden.

De norske myndighetene hevder visst at kobberutvinning i Repparfjorden vil være “grønn” industri. Temmelig frekt, spør du meg. Mer enn det: Kynisk.

Hva gjelder den berømmelige norske elbil-politikken, er IMF ikke imponert (fritt oversatt): ” Jo dyrere bilen er, jo større er tapt skatteinngang for staten og tapte avgifter; dermed gis de største subsidiene til husholdninger med høyest inntekt…” Videre (fritt oversatt): Norge kunne “heller ha betalt subsidier for hver bensin- eller dieseldrevet bil som faktisk ble erstattet med en elektrisk bil.” Så enkelt kan det sies. Ingen vil vel hevde at IMF er venstrevridd? En annen sak er at Norge må være det landet i Europa hvor elbiler forbruker mest energi pr mil. Vi burde kanskje heller ha subsidiert elbilbruk i Afrika?

Norge gjør i det hele tatt mye rart det ikke snakkes nevneverdig om i norsk presse. Equinors fracking-eventyr i USA ble riktignok gjenstand for en modig Brennpunkt-dokumentar. Et av de uforglemmelige punktene i dokumentaren er hvordan Equinor prøvde å bortforklare skadevirkningene av deres virksomhet i de rammede distriktene. Nå skal Equinor i stedet forgripe seg på Patagonias Mapuche-land. Jeg gir sant å si ikke fem øre for informasjonsdirektørens forsikringer.

Også Norsk Hydro har vært på eventyr i Søramerika. The Guardian hadde en talende overskrift om Hydros virksomhet i Amazonas: “Pollution, illness, threats and murder: is this Amazon factory the link?

For å gå tilbake til Repparfjorden: Jeg innrømmer at 300 arbeidsplasser i Finnmark ikke er til å kimse over. Ordet “arbeidsplasser” er i det hele tatt et magisk ord som åpner stengte porter over hele verden, porter som tillater at :

  • Immigranter på flukt må dø (eller drepes?)
  • Urfolk må gi avkall på sine områder
  • Fjorder må kveles
  • Arter, f.eks. ulver, må utryddes
  • Pollinerende insekter må forsvinne
  • osv. osv.

Dette, sier de, for at vi skal være konkurransedyktige og beholde vår velferd. Men beholder vi vår velferd? Til å begynne med blir det bare de lavest lønnede som dumper ned under fattigdomsgrensen etter hvert som strømprisene stiger. Senere blir det stadig flere …

Mark my words.

Til gjengjeld: Fra og med i dag (22.09.2021) er alle spanske ulver fredet. Drap av ulv straffes heretter med 8-24 måneders fengsel + bøter, og forbud mot å drive jakt i 2-4 år. En gledens dag for mange; men som i Norge er temaet betent.

Aug 242021

A few hours ago the Israeli military butchered a fifteen year old unarmed Palestinian. This is the 12th child on the West Bank killed by Israeli soldiers so far this year.

On 13 August the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) (OHCHR), wrote:

From the start of the year until the end of July 2021, Israeli military forces have killed 11 Palestinian children in the West Bank. This is more than the recorded deaths of Palestinian children under the occupation in all of 2020. As well, a reported 67 Palestinian children were killed in Gaza during the violence of May 2021.

Moreover, the OHCHR substantiates that the Israeli authorities will balk at nothing in order to prevent the truth from being known, even to its own citizens:

UN human rights experts have called on the Government of Israel to immediately return confidential documents and office equipment that its military seized from the offices of Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) in Al-Bireh, in the occupied West Bank.

In recent years, DCIP has critically and reliably reported on the patterns of arrests, maiming and killings of Palestinian children by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. The silencing or hindering of these activities violates the fundamental human rights of expression and association, which Israel has committed itself to uphold through its ratification of the two 1966 International Covenants.

It is high time that the governments of the EU, the EEA, the UK and the US make it clear that no country that so blatantly disregards human rights can be considered an ally. By failing to do so the said governments will have been accessories before, during and after the facts, to heinous crimes against humanity that have been going on for decades. By failing to do so, they are, in fact, no better than the non-Western countries they so love to ridicule and denounce.

Aug 112021

If Trump said that, it must be wrong, right? Wrong. (Alas, when will we learn that even our enemies may occasionally have a point?)

Even the New York Times, even the Washington Post and even the Guardian and Le Monde need sponsors, sponsors with large purses, very large purses, people like Jeff Bezos. I bet Jeff Bezos is a Washington Post sponsor…

Hold on! The Washington Post is actually OWNED by Jeff Bezos, you know the guy behind Amazon (a company where employees are afraid they’ll get sacked if they have to go to the loo). Put it this way: Jeff Bezos would not be someone I would like to work for. I would not vote for him in any political context. I would not want my children to have anything to do with him or his offspring or his companies. You see, my theory is: Tell me what company you own and/or run, and I will tell you who you are.

So do I trust the Washington Post?

Jeff Bezos took a little ride into space the other day. Good for him. It must have been fun. I don’t like the way he makes his money (by treating employees like machines), but I don’t care how he spends his leisure time. What I do resent, however, is that according to Aljazeera’s Listening Post, the CBS Morning News Show devoted no less than 212 minutes to Jeff Bezos after his space jaunt, “almost as much” as the show had devoted to climate change over the entire past year. (So I certainly don’t trust CBS.)

Now, do I trust Aljazeera? Of course not. Aljazeera, too, is owned by somebody, the King of Qatar, I gather. Working conditions are no better in Qatar than at Amazon (possibly no worse either). My point being: Aljazeera and the Washington Post are both news outlets that pride themselves on delivering top-of-the-shelf, intrepid journalism. They are very important sources.

Sources of their calibre hate peddling outright falsehoods. Deceit, however, takes many forms, as we know, one of them being silence. What is not said is as rhetorically forceful as what is said. In my previous post I wrote of the Israeli Pegasus spy-ware. The Listening Post on Aljazeera, a program I warmly recommend because, as they say, “we don’t cover the news, we cover how the news is covered”, said not a word about how the spy-ware is used in so-called Democratic countries. Not a word.

But they did discuss the role played by the German Springer tabloid “Bild” in German politics. Very interesting, that. Very reminiscent, indeed, of the role played by the Washington Post and Fox News in US politics.

Meanwhile, I find myself wondering whether Jeff Bezos intends to try to run for president. (As you see, my distrust of the man is visceral.) There is something vaguely megalomaniacal about the man’s “visions” for us earthlings in space. Maybe I am reading the wrong text? Maybe the man is merely grieving, as I grieve, about the fate of humans all over the globe, about animals, and plants – species, no less, many of which have been eradicated in the course of just a decade. Is he mad enough to imagine that he will save humanity? Or is he merely planning his own and his friends and family’s escape to another planet?

Let’s forget about whatchamacallit Bezos! We are, after all, marching now, inexorably, towards something that hardly bears thinking about. Let us NOT forget, though, that beauty still exists and will always exist in one form or another no matter what happens to our planet and the species that inhabit it. Listen to Ravel’s Bolero, for instance, to the music’s sore-footed, determined march towards a somewhere “over the rainbow”, which inevitably, again and again, turns out to be way past the horizon for the refugees, say, or the elephants and zebras and squirrels – just a trickle of them at first , then more and more, and more…

Poor consolation, perhaps, but: There will always be music, always be glorious sunsets, always be stories told at dusk. And there will always be acts of generosity and solidarity and simple kindnesses that warm a frightened heart.

For years, even the most excellent sources of top-notch journalism have been evasive about climate change. When will they do their job? Or to put it differently: When will their sponsors allow them to do their job? Will they ever? Or will theys just rely on Jeff Bezos getting them away from a ruined planet to continue their business of getting rich on Mars?

What the rest of us need to know is how to respond to climate change. We don’t just need warnings. We need – let’s face it – a revolution, an inter-disciplinary, knowledged-based revolution.

I envisage the empowering of marine biologists, meteorologists, entomologists, agronomists, epidemiologists, anthropologists and of social scientists of every order, economists, psychologists, etc., etc. in every country in the world and from every economic echelon. Not just them, their students too. At the local level I envisage citizens being invited to discuss, in every municipality: HOW DO WE DEAL WITH THIS?

This would all of course entail a certain amount of chaos, so some rules of engagement would have to be established, and I certainly don’t know what rules, but I want to be asked. I want all of us to be asked! These are times of urgency and urgent measure are needed.

I leave you here. For now. THINK. THINK HARD.

Aug 082021

The winged snow-white horse Pegasus was the offshoot of a Gorgon, Medusa (the lady whose hair consisted of vipers). Since he now resides among the stars in the sky (the great square of Pegasus), we may have forgotten what his mother was. But we have recently been told that he now also resides in an unknown number of mobile phones.

Mainstream media have made a big fuss about the Pegasus spyware issue. Indeed, the issue merits a rumpus, but just what have the Guardian, the Washington Post, Le Monde and BBC been saying about it? If you open the links, you will see that the articles are near identical.

This is the take of all the articles linked above: Israel has been naughty because it has been selling cutting-edge spyware to countries that regard political opponents, journalists and human rights activists as terrorists.

The journalists have discovered that everywhere Netanyahu went, Pegasus went too, as in the nursery rhyme:

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And every where that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go

Put differently, Netanyahu was on an ingratiation spree, offering Pegasus to his hosts. Since time immemorial people have brought gifts when they went a-visiting. I am sure that offering a beautiful white horse was not uncommon in the Middle East.

Somebody joined the dots and found that Kashogi was killed shortly after Netanyahu’s visit to Saudi Arabia and that Pegasus had been lodged in the phones of several of his closest contacts. This effectively indicates that Israel might have been accessory to Kashogi’s death. But then again, Israel maintains that the country is perpetually at war, and that collateral damage is therefore unavoidable. For my part, I have never had the impression that loss of non-Jewish lives worries Israeli authorities, so this is not “news”.

Now you will not often catch me defending Israel, and strictly speaking I shall not do so now either, except by pointing out one small detail: selling weapons and drones (and other devices that disseminate death and despair) to any country that is willing to pay is not normally the stuff headlines are made of. It is what most countries do on a regular basis. I mean, honestly, our so-called democratic countries doing business with murderous dictators is what keeps those dictators afloat. Not that I defend such practices, but the press is distorting the Pegasus spyware issue. Israel is merely doing what most other countries do.

The problem about Pegasus is not that Israel has been naughty, but that Pegasus exists at all. When your mother is so hideous to behold that you are struck dead from just a glimpse of her, no wonder you turn into an instrument of evil. Pegasus is an example of scientific advances that are detrimental to the future of mankind. I quote Edward Snowden as quoted by the Guardian:

“for traditional police operations to plant bugs or wiretap a suspect’s phone, law enforcement would need to “break into somebody’s house, or go to their car, or go to their office, and we’d like to think they’ll probably get a warrant”. But commercial spyware made it cost-efficient for targeted surveillance against vastly more people. “If they can do the same thing from a distance, with little cost and no risk, they begin to do it all the time, against everyone who’s even marginally of interest,” he said. “If you don’t do anything to stop the sale of this technology, it’s not just going to be 50,000 targets. It’s going to be 50 million targets, and it’s going to happen much more quickly than any of us expect.”

These are, I repeat, Snowden’s words, not the Guardian’s. Snowden is, you will remember, already a fugitive because he spoke out about the massive unconstitutional surveillance being conducted by NSA against his country’s citizens. The Guardian’s reporters are perhaps not willing to risk everything, as did Snowden, by broadcasting what the existence of Pegasus actually means for the future of news reporting.

Nor do the above linked articles even hint at how so-called democratic countries to whom Israel has sold Pegasus – including the countries home to the Guardian, Washington Post, Le Monde and BBC – how those countries use the spyware. Do the said countries’ legislators even know it is being used? Are the courts duly informed each time a subject is subjected to the most invasive surveillance known to history?

I put to you that the journalists writing the near identical stories in the above linked articles will have been near paralysed. Petrified. I put to you that they are asking themselves whether Pegasus has already been stabled in their phones.

Jul 262021

Have you noticed that some countries are simply unbearably smug? Take the United Arab Emirates, for instance, that have the gall to do exactly as they please, because they are rich. They don’t even pretend to care about such trifles as “freedom of expression”, for instance, because nobody will presume to castigate a country that is home to a futuristic paradise for the rich (Dubai). Nobody interferes, nobody even lifts a finger, although the emirates have, de facto, occupied Socotra, which is formally part of Jemen. And as for the press …. Have you even heard of Socotra?

By contrast, Norway’s complacency is too subtly disguised to attract much negative attention, but what lies behind the country’s cleverly manicured self-promotion?

It is true, you don’t often hear of people getting arrested in Norway for publicly making rude comments about the King or Prime Minister. But then again, people rarely do (publicly make rude comments, that is), because Norwegians don’t seem prone to get seriously angry. Are they too well-fed, too busy watching Netflix?

Norway claims to be committed to defending human rights all over the world, but has important arms industry or, as the Government terms the exported goods, “defence-related products”. A 2020 press release gives a favourable impression. But does it present the full picture?

In 2018, it became clear that Norway had been selling arms to the UAE, despite “concerns they could be used in the war in Yemen“. Note Reuters’ courtesy in the choice of the term “concerns”, although every informed adult knew perfectly well that the goods were certainly being used in Jemen. Of course, the Government was disconcerted over even the remotest possibility of such misuse of innocently exported goods, and immediately prohibited all export of arms to the Arabian Peninsula.

Yet, just a couple of weeks ago, there was a new “shocking” disclosure of arms sales to the UAE. Again, the Government promptly prohibited export of arms to the Arabian Peninsula. Nobody seemed to remember that they already had done so back in 2018.

Norway claims to be committed to reversing climate change, and if you run a search on the web for “Norway + climate”, sure enough, you will find plenty of results with the key words “climate fund” and “… invests in green energy” – all bollocks, of course, because, Norway has not even started to reduce its CO2 emissions and continues to peg its future to hydrocarbons. Mind you, the country also invests heavily in “promotion”, “public relations” and image building, so the truth of its carbon footprint is not immediately evident.

You may not know, for instance, that the state-owned company Equinor has, since 2007,

…. invested around 40 billion USD in the USA, mainly in offshore and onshore oil and gas exploration and production. Through a series of acquisitions, totalling over 10 billion USD, Equinor built a substantial business in US shale gas and oil, or so called “unconventionals”.

Equinor report 09.10.2020

You won’t find many articles calling into question Norway’s commitment to the “forces of good”. I believe Norway, like the UAE, is so rich that it can pay to have the world look the other way when it behaves badly. It pays liberally for reconstruction of Gaza every time Israel bombs Gaza back to the Stone Age and kills a sizeable proportion of the Gazan population. At the same time, Norway is one of the few nations that never condemns Israel’s concerted efforts to exterminate Palestinians. Norway is best-friends with everybody. Norway can pay and Norwegians sleep well: They have Netflix, plenty of space and social security.

Not everybody living in Norway is Norwegian, however. The country reluctantly admits a trickle of political refugees, though every attempt has been made over the past decades to curtail immigration. An acquaintance of mine ended up in Norway after 9/11 1973. That’s right: 9/11 nineteen seventy three. When he was arrested in his home country during the US-assisted dictatorship there, many of his friends and contacts had already been tortured and/or killed. Thanks to a prisoner exchange program, he was exported to Europe, and he has lived and worked in Norway, and paid taxes to Norway for over 50 years. 50 years! He was granted permanent residency in Norway soon after his arrival, but has nevertheless since had to apply to the police every two years to have his ID card renewed. Every time, he has to go through a humiliating application process on the internet, answering all sorts of intrusive questions such has “how many days have you spent abroad over the past two years.” Now, with Covid, he has been informed that he will have to to wait for several months before he receives a valid ID card. After 50 years!

Norwegians love travelling. They might go shopping in London, spend a weekend or two on a beach in Spain, enjoy a safari in Africa, meet friends at a bar in Copenhagen, all in a single year, without a second thought. But my acquaintance must record each and every entry to and departure from the country. And now, without an ID card, he cannot travel at all. After 50 years!

Last year, the authorities finally allowed people to apply for naturalisation without relinquishing their original citizenship, so he spent a few hours filling out the forms on the Internet, clicking “Next” and “Next and “Next” each time he reached the bottom of a screen. The last screen he reached contained only one word: PAY. The fee, he learnt, was NOK 5500, (USD 642.22 or EUR 540). After 50 years!

That’s a lot of money. Maybe not for you, but for many people, yes, it is an insurmountable amount, certainly for immigrants. Even Norwegians would scream if asked to pay such an amount for anything other than a weekend at 5-star hotel.

Some countries are just simply indefensibly self-satisfied.

Jul 042021

During the period 1122–1133, Ari Froði (the Learned) wrote Íslendingabók “the Book about Iceland”. This remarkable piece of scholarly literature was written in Icelandic, or Norse, if you will, although the writer was probably much more fluent in Latin, at least when writing. In those days, Latin was the language of choice for European scholars, of whom there were embarrassingly few, most of them clergymen.

Parenthetically, I should add that in Spain there were lots of scholars at the time, not least Arabs and Jews, and lots of linguists. In the thirteenth century, Spain was even lucky enough to have a king (Alfonso el Sabio 1221–1284 ) who understood the potential of the country’s wealth of learned subjects. Under his reign, tomes and tomes of invaluable scientific literature from all over the world were translated into the vernacular and Latin. Had it not been for this tremendous effort to translate as much as possible of all available knowledge, goodness knows how long Europe would have continued to languish in darkness.

So, during Europe’s Dark Ages, a light shone in the South, in Spain, and in the far North, in Iceland. In the rest of Europe, almost nobody could read or write, and even the Bible was just abra-cadabra for almost everybody.

Ari Froði writes in the “Book about Iceland” that all of the island’s farmsteads date from the first 60 years after the initial settlers arrived in (according to Ari himself) 870. Each and every one of the settlers who reached Iceland’s shores during those first years, is accounted for in another truly iconic historic document, it too in the vernacular, Landnámabók, presumably also written during the first part of the 12th century; author unknown. Of course, the settlers must have had slaves, livestock, wives and children, though there is no mention of livestock, and only occasional mention of wives and children. (An infinitesimal proportion of the settlers were, actually, women!)

Landnámabók sometimes mentions slaves (mostly Irish), either because they were particularly deserving, or because they betrayed their masters, and in some cases, we learn how many slaves a settler brought. Please note that these slaves had been captured or ensnared, as wild animals are captured or ensnared, during their owners’ raids on the British Isles. In other words, the brave and supremely enduring settlers were, in most cases, the same brutes who killed left, right and centre, on their jaunts through Europe.

Yet, having reached Iceland, they almost all demonstrated extraordinary courtesy, asking previously arrived settlers for permission to go ashore. Iceland appears to have been, until about 1262, an anarchist’s wet dream. People (mostly men) occupied large tracts of an otherwise vacant island, respecting the rights of both prior and subsequent arrivals until the island was “fully settled”.

In other words, they were all miraculously governed by a system of common consent which soon evolved into a body of laws recited once a year at Thingvellir. “He who recites the laws” was elected at regular intervals from among the country’s wisest men. There was no army, no police, no king, no president.

What’s more, we must assume that many of them could read; otherwise, why would Ari the Learned have written his book in Icelandic? Not only that: many of them could write! They wrote the most wonderful stories, lots and lots of them, the Sagas.

They had their feuds, true; they sometimes killed a man or two and were driven from the land, as a result, but by and large, they took pride in doing the honourable thing, whatever that was, and were extremely civilised.

WHY? How come bloodthirsty bandits turned a country into a lighthouse on a dark and gloomy continent? I have a theory about that: Of course they had common sense, and common sense told them that unless they were able to cooperate, they wouldn’t survive.

Almost equally important, though, was their concept of honour (sæmd). They knew their actions were being recorded and would go down in history. They assumed that not only their offspring, but whole generations, followed by generation after generation, would know the name not only of every hero but also of every bastard that had ever lived on the island. They behaved well in the hope of immortalising their honour.

Alas, common sense is not our strongest suit. A human being will only be guided by common sense up to a certain point. The same sense of honour that prevented Golden Age Icelanders from misbehaving, would drive them to exterminate one another in a series of skirmishes, including an utterly ludicrous naval battle, during the first half of the 13th century (described in Islendingasaga by Sturla Þórðarson, written early in the 14th century.) Rather than live sensible lives, they died ludicrously honourable deaths.

The chieftain Kolbeinn Tumason allegedly offered up his prayer “Heyr himna smiður” the night before his ludicrously honourable death in 1208. The translation is literal and does not convey the musical beauty of the verse. (Source: Wikipedia as at 4/7/2021)

Hear, smith of the heavens,
what the poet asks.
May softly come unto me
thy mercy.
So I call on thee,
for thou hast created me.
I am thy slave,
thou art my Lord.

In the course of the following three centuries, Iceland would turn into a depressing blot on European maps. For hundreds of years, the godforsaken island would be inhabited by near-starving bedraggled primitives. WHY? How come these eminently civilised farmers in the far north lost everything?

For the same reason that those of us who live in wealthy countries in the twenty second century are soon going to lose everything: Common sense, I repeat, is not our strongest suit.

The nice part of this story is that even after Iceland was virtually wiped off the map, its people’s sagas would live on, translated into many languages. To this day, then, readers all over the world can enjoy compelling tales about how Icelanders dealt with greedy bastards. No doubt, in time to come, future generations will read about our scuffles with the greedy bastards who will have turned our beautiful planet into a wasteland and our young democracies into neo-liberal fiefdoms.

Jun 122021

The race trick has been played since time immemorial, you may be sure. For all I know, it dates back to when we were competing against and possibly exterminating the Neanderthals.

Our race plays the power game with all kinds of tools, some of them legal. No country’s legal code has been able to foresee all the low-down, dirty tricks a totally callous person can concoct, and the race trick is one of the simplest.

If, for example, you can convince your compatriots that blue-eyed people belong to an inferior race, you are in business. Blue-eyed people, you will explain, tend to be less resistant to heat and sun than people with darker eyes and skin colour, and since our planet is growing hotter, heat resistance will prove to be an asset. You might suggest limiting university admission to those who have passed an infernal heat resistance test. Some 30 years later, you will find, to your delight, that relatively few blue-eyed kids have parents who can afford sending them to university even if they pass the heat resistance tests. Then you can say you told us so: “they are born losers, ” you will explain.

You will not find it quite as easy to explain that people with a certain shape of nose and – say : large feet, narrow hips and thick lips – are members of a superior race, in spite of eager sponsoring from the Botox camp. True, Hitler managed to pull off the Arian Race hoax a few years ago, but I’m not sure voters would make the same mistake again, at least not yet.

No, for the “superior race” trick, you should ally yourself with a religious charismatic movement such as that of an Ayatollah Khomeini – if it makes you feel comfortable – or that of a Pentecostal Flor-de-Lis, if you prefer. (Jair Bolsonaro hoodwinked under-privileged Brazilian voters by claiming to be Evangelical. The Guardian has a very interesting article explaining why Evangelical movements attract so many people in the favelas.) Let the preachers do the work for you. Let them chant that those who vote for you are God’s chosen people. “The others” are scum.

God will protect his chosen people from Covid. In Israel, he does so by providing vaccines, whereas the others (who have been denied vaccines) will die like flies in the window sill. In Brazil, God admittedly withholds vaccines from those who cannot afford them. But they will survive anyway, thanks to the Lord, of course. (Those who don’t won’t live to tell the tale.)

Denying vaccines to an ethnic group is one of the measures that can be used to achieve “ethnic cleansing”. “Ethnic cleansing” is a modern term for one of the darkest and most horrible crimes known to humanity. We used to call this particular form of crime “genocide”.

Ethnic cleansing is practised to this day. In China, it appears, it is practised against the Uigurs; in Myanmar against the Rohingyas (cf. the euphemistic “displacement crisis” of 2017 – NB before the recent military coup); and in Israel’s occupied territories and Gaza against the Palestinians.

So what about the term “racism”? If, strictly speaking, there are no human “races”, may we no longer denounce white supremacists as “racist”? Of course we may! Whoever actually believes or pretends to believe in racial hierarchies is obviously a racist.

E.g.: Israel maintains that anybody who condemns Israel’s treatment of the population on the West Bank is “Anti-Semite”. This means that Israel nurtures a racist ideology.

But please note that no modern government will admit it differentiates between people on the basis of “race”. The reason Tom, Dick and Harry still imagine there are genetically significant bases for identifying discrete races is that the powers-that-be have not made it sufficiently clear that such is not the case. There are, in many countries, political, religious and/or economic forces that benefit from nurturing racist ideas.

Let’s face it, the Homo sapiens sapiens is not angelic, no matter how evangelic it claims to be.