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    Støre & Jensen

    Dette må være en av de beste debattene jeg har sett på lenge. 13. januar i år. Jonas Gahr Støre river Siv Jensen i fillebiter i en debatt om Gaza. Dette er en bra debatt fordi man får utforsket det pro-israelske ståstedet i hele sin bredde, framført av en vanvittig dyktig retoriker i en grundig, langformats debatt mellom to personer. Og det viser seg jo fort at det simpelthen ikke holder vann. Det er også sterkt å se hvor opprørt Jonas Gahr Støre er. Når han holder besinnelsen så konsekvent i sine vanlige debatter, og så bryter med den her, så får han formidlet et sterkt inntrykk av at dette virkelig er viktig. Eneste minus for Støre er at han av og til er litt for overtydelig i sin "jeg snakker jo, i motsetning til deg, faktisk med disse folkene hver dag"-retorikk. Det er viktig for ham å vise at Jensen ikke har peiling, men han kommer av og til litt for tett på å drite henne ut, og det kan også være farlig. Uansett: Vel verdt å sette av en halvtime med noe popcorn og se denne.

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    Here is a Reuters video of Israeli soldiers, including a high-ranking officer, shooting an unarmed, tied, non-resisting, defenseless man with a rubber bullet, in direct violation of Geneva Convention IV, Article 3. This is a war crime. Warning: this video is disturbing. It shows a man being shot.


    And just to see if this blog can pack in David Foster Wallace in any given post (my brother recently suggested I should rename my blog "David Foster Wallace is Dead"), here is an epic, spectacularly cruel Technicolor takedown DFW did of John Updike, back in the day. Evil literary criticism at its most evil. Move over, Dale Peck.
    Toward the End of Time concerns an incredibly erudite, articulate, successful, narcissistic and sex-obsessed retired guy who's keeping a one-year journal in which he explores the apocalyptic prospect of his own death. It is, of the total 25 Updike books I've read, far and away the worst, a novel so mind-bendingly clunky and self-indulgent that it's hard to believe the author let it be published in this kind of shape.

    Det har visst endegyldig klikket for Ari Behn.

    Paratactics and parastrategy

    I think Stanley Fish has it exactly right in his recent analysis of the prose style in Barack Obama's inaugural address. Not least because I get that warm fuzzy feeling of "he says what I wanted to say with a much greater level of precision":
    It is as if the speech, rather than being a sustained performance with a cumulative power, was a framework on which a succession of verbal ornaments was hung, and we were being invited not to move forward but to stop and ponder significances only hinted at.

    And if you look at the text – spread out like a patient etherized upon a table – that’s exactly what it’s like. There are few transitions and those there are – “for,” “nor,” “as for,” “so,” “and so” – seem just stuck in, providing a pause, not a marker of logical progression. Obama doesn’t deposit us at a location he has in mind from the beginning; he carries us from meditative bead to meditative bead, and invites us to contemplate.

    Of course, as something heard rather than viewed, the speech provides no spaces for contemplation. We have barely taken in a small rhetorical flourish like “All this we can do. All this we will do” before it disappears in the rear-view mirror. But if we regard the text as an object rather than as a performance in time, it becomes possible (and rewarding) to do what the pundits are doing: linger over each alliteration, parse each emphasis, tease out each implication.

    There is a technical term for this kind of writing – parataxis, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the placing of propositions or clauses one after the other without indicating . . . the relation of co-ordination or subordination between them.”

    The opposite of parataxis is hypotaxis, the marking of relations between propositions and clause by connectives that point backward or forward. One kind of prose is additive – here’s this and now here’s that; the other asks the reader or hearer to hold in suspension the components of an argument that will not fully emerge until the final word. It is the difference between walking through a museum and stopping as long as you like at each picture, and being hurried along by a guide who wants you to see what you’re looking at as a stage in a developmental arc she is eager to trace for you.

    Of course, no prose is all one or the other, but the prose of Obama’s inauguration is surely more paratactic than hypotactic, and in this it resembles the prose of the Bible with its long lists and serial “ands.” The style is incantatory rather than progressive; the cadences ask for assent to each proposition (“That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood’) rather than to a developing argument. The power is in discrete moments rather than in a thesis proved by the marshaling of evidence.
    The thing that strikes me is that Fish is merely pointing this out and commenting on it neutrally, as if this was one way of doing things, where Obama could have chosen another and it wouldn't have made much of a difference. It seems like he's saying it's only a stylistic choice.

    Me, I say that stylistics create (indeed are) content and therefore reacted negatively to precisely this style. While the paratactic (and shouldn't that be parataxic, btw?) mode of writing has a lot of use in postmodern oratory, I feel that what made Obama's previous "defining moment"-speeches (notably his 2004 keynote speech and "A More Perfect Union", his speech on race) notable was precisely the skill with which they created and sustained an argument that educated the public about a theme and thereby redefined that theme in public consciousness. Obama's keynote speech was an active element in defining away the idea that red states and blue states are coloured forever, and that led to the 50-state-strategy that won him the election; his race speech was key to creating a different way of talking about race in the context of the election (maybe even for good, now). Also, it saved his campaign from drowning - and I have numbers to back that up.

    The inaugural address, instead, relied on the heavy symbolism of the moment to carry the speaker through a series of rousing rhetorical flourishes which failed to mount a sustained redefinition of the situation, as he did in the previous speeches. It's not a big deal, but it was a lost opportunity to continue the pedagogic streak in the campaign with the maximum number of viewers ever. Over 60 % of all Americans could have been exposed to some set of fresh ideas, some important redefinition of concepts. Like the "war on terror" idea or the "axis of evil"-ideas. Those stuck. Obama didn't really make any of them stick. Maybe the "era of responsibility" thing. Maybe.

    In short, I think it was just this paratactic style, which I might otherwise enjoy in many forms (I am a blogger, after all) that set me off in the address. This is why I kept saying there was no theme, no argument, no redefinition. That's why I didn't think it was a speech that grasped kairos by the forelock quite as hard as necessary.


    John Updike is dead. I was never a big fan, but the man sure could write nice sentences. For some reason this complete throwaway paragraph in Rabbit, Run stayed with me:
    This building, which once commanded half of the acreage the town is now built on, still retains, behind a shattered and vandalized fence, its yard, a junkheap of brown stalks and eroded timber that will in the summer bloom with an unwanted wealth of weeds, waxy green wands and milky pods of silk seeds and airy yellow heads almost liquid with pollen.
    The paragraph has little function or purpose in the book except to serve as a sort of symbol for Rabbit himself and it sets a mood of lost potential, etc. But it just sort of sits there, looking pretty. In the context of the book, it's a bad paragraph. But there's something about the almost-too-muchness of poetic alliteration in it that stuck with me. 

    Non Habeas Corpus

    Sure, we have these people locked up already, so who cares about building a case against them. Or, y'know, keeping records about them:
    President Obama's plans to expeditiously determine the fates of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and quickly close the military prison there were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials -- barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees -- discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.

    Instead, they found that information on individual prisoners is "scattered throughout the executive branch," a senior administration official said. The executive order Obama signed Thursday orders the prison closed within one year, and a Cabinet-level panel named to review each case separately will have to spend its initial weeks and perhaps months scouring the corners of the federal government in search of relevant material.

    Several former Bush administration officials agreed that the files are incomplete and that no single government entity was charged with pulling together all the facts and the range of options for each prisoner. They said that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were reluctant to share information, and that the Bush administration's focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosecutions a far lower priority.
    Which, I suppose, leads one to wonder exactly how they knew these people were evil terrorist illegal enemy islamofascist non-human pond scum. If there weren't any records being kept, or for that matter being collected. How did they do reviews and inventories to make sure that all the cases were properly overseen? That their judgment in each case was correct? How did they even know who they were dealing with?

    But lest we forget, these were "very bad people". Terrorists and bombers and "responsible for 9-11". Man, they really locked up some perverters of democracy. Good going, guys.

    Which reminds me of something William Gibson said, back at the end of the halcyon days of the first Bush administration.
    One actually has to be something of a specialist, today, to even begin to grasp quite how fantastically, how baroquely and at once brutally fucked the situation of the United States has since been made to be.


    Oh, completely unrelated - a really weird Google ad in this article:

    Nordics Are Israelites
    4,000 English Books Say So! Free Saxon-Israel Books & Magazines

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    Noen ganger så glemmer jeg å følge med på 5080 i noen dager, eller til og med noen uker. Og så plutselig så har de fått Torbjørn Røe Isaksen i studio til et veldig bra intervju om samer og Woody Allen. Ja, og Israel, da. Det er faktisk Røe Isaksen, altså.

    Unlucky strike

    Unlucky Gaza

    This little t-shirt motif (go to the Flickr link for a larger size) comes to us courtesy of the Lacktr Prpgnda Community.

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    My friends in the band Real Ones just won Spelemannsprisen, Norway's most coveted music award, for best pop group. You can hear their new album online for free here. Congratulations!

    Barack Obama roasts his new chief of staff (back in 2005)

    “[Rahm] was the first to adopt Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ for dance. It was an intriguing piece. As you can imagine, there were a lot of kicks below the waist.”


    A functional sestina about how to construct a sestina mathematically.

    I think I'm going to enjoy the Obama presidency.

    Also, old democracies rock:
    NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2009, a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and call upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

    Bombing a school

    Remember seeing those shots of bombs hitting Gaza which sort of flew along and then broke up into many little bombs? I wondered at first if those were cluster bombs (which it would be madness to use in a densely populated area like Gaza). It turns out that at least some of them were white phosphorus.

    White phosphorus, as you know Bob, is not a little illegal. First off, the Geneva Convention bans all attacks on civilians. Then, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons bans the use of incendiary weapons. White phosphorus is an incendiary weapon - basically burning phosphorus which cannot be put out by water. It just burns and burns and burns. If you get it on your skin, it will keep burning your skin until removed or until you completely choke it off from oxygen with a fire blanket (which is hard to do with someone who is on fire).

    Now, in addition to all that, white phosphorus is also poisonous. Not just does it burn you, it causes heart, kidney and liver failure because your body absorbs the phosphorus. So it's more deadly than ordinary incendiary devices like napalm. That means that by any serious interpretation (i.e. of anyone except the US, Russia and Israel) of the Chemical Weapons Convention, it's a chemical weapon, which means it is specifically banned.

    So yeah, here it is being used. Here it is being used on a school. Here it is being used on a school full of children and full of refugees. A school which the UN has converted into a makeshift refugee shelter. A school full of 1600 (civilian) children and refugees. A school which the Israeli Defence Force had the GPS coordinates to. The pictures, through some act of God, do not contain images of unspeakable horror. Nobody gets hurt on screen. But you get to see what white phosphorus looks like up close, as it rains down on a school full of children and other civilians. Somebody please tell me how this is not a war crime. Somebody tell me how Israel has a right to defend itself against all these children.

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    So. did anything happen yesterday? Let's check the morning papers...

    Observations: there were actually newspapers that do not have Obama on the front cover or as lead story (Aftonbladet!). Another observations: once you leave the US and come to Europe, the newspapers all either have more text or naked women on the front page. Best design is the Guardian (because the underlying design is rock-solid, mostly) and, surprisingly, the Bradenton Herald, with an understated, simple design which doesn't use that special font size newspapers are saving for war times.

    The Bush Years

    8 fucking years.

    I feel a profound relief. There's been this cloud of political enfeeblement that has been hanging over my twenties. I've gone through the better part of this decade thinking that we could never get things to move in the right direction. The best we could hope for was to stem the tide of ignorance and civilisational decline that the White House has been in charge of. The complete depression of political hope that resulted from his reelection was unbelievable. I completely lost faith in democracy. If the people were that stupid, how could things ever get better?

    Maybe I'm exaggerating. I didn't suffer many of the effects of the Bush presidency. I live in one of the most pleasant little democracies in the world. Others weren't so lucky. Dumb bombs dropped on their cities. Their jobs were lost, their states collapsed, cities flooded because of the ecological damage. The rule of law was weakened. The respect for democracy weakened. Cultural bonds frayed and broke. The West's relationship to the Islamic world burned down. Two weeks ago, I saw kids throwing rocks and fireworks in my city in part because of the Bush administration. There was tear gas in my streets, and the Supreme Court of Florida was at the very least partially responsible.

    What I'm struck the most by now is the sense of great opportunities lost. We've moved through one of the most dynamic periods in history with one of the most inept American administrations in history. The Bush administration was the wrong kind of radicals. They were radically deconstructive. There was nothing "conservative" about their destructive actions. They picked apart the very institutions that could have driven this period through profound social and political changes. The internet has exploded, the developing countries have been finding a voice, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. China! India! Imagine how a progressive, forward-thinking man like the notorious technophile Al Gore (caveat: despite his many many faults, obviously) could have helped with this decade. Maybe we wouldn't have had profound reforms, but maybe we would have been closer to the moment those reforms are politically feasible.

    The 2000s have instead been pervaded by the sense that everything that could possibly go wrong, did. I haven't for a second lost the feeling I had, back in 2002, that within the realm of the politically possible, this president could not possibly do anything worse than he did. Sure, his second term lacked the sheer kamikaze flavour of his first, not least after he lost the midterms, but even these four years have been hard to bear.

    And now? We'll, I like to think that I'm realistic about the limits on what Obama can do - for instance, I'm sure it'll take him at least three or four hours to personally make peace in the Middle-East - but I do think that we've turned some sort of corner. If nothing else, then in the sense that things in general may be getting better.

    But while the US is puttering away trying to rebuild its broken home, its democracy in ruins, its complete and total breakdown of political discourse, the rest of us need to figure out a way to not depend on the US, or on any single nation, both to get by and to create social change.

    The most pressing thing is the need to reform the Security Council so that the veto, which the US is using over ten times more than any other country, can be voted down effectively. We need to remove status from the permanent members, and introduce some sort of absolute requirement for permanent membership. A certain number of citizens, a certain test of democratic ability. Whatever. The US, or any other country, should not be allowed to dictate the security policy of the world based on its own national interests. Fix this and we really could have peace in the Middle East by lunchtime.

    This is just one suggestion. There are heaps of others: economic structural reform, establishing a system of international law, a functioning supranational political body. We need to bring ourselves into a world where we can operate independently of the fluctuations of the US. If the Bush years have taught us anything (and honestly, the first four years would have been enough) it is that we can't tie ourselves down to the political whims of one country or one region. Especially a democracy so labile, so incomplete, so destructive and unpredictable as the United States of America.

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    Yikes. As far as I can tell, Mikkel has caught a direct factual error in Obama's inaugural address. It was Thomas Paine, not George Washington who wrote the "depth of winter" thing. How embarassing.

    Me? I was underwhelmed by the speech itself. I think it didn't help define the moment or his presidency. There were no game-changers in it. I don't really have a problem with the high style of the speech, which seemed to fit the momentousness of the occasion. But I did think that there was too many nicely turned phrases that were just generalisations. I would have loved him to delve into specifics about what responsibility means, for instance. And I would have liked him to outline what he thinks the role of the people or of democracy is in his administration. Also, I would have hoped to have heard an entire inaugural speech without American exceptionalism. But no.

    But despite all that, the crowd loved it. So that particular test was passed.

    Jason Kottke has an interesting observation: the whitehouse.gov website has got a new robots.txt file. That's the file that dictates what folders web bots crawling the web to compile search engine lists are not allowed to enter. The old one had 2.400 lines of folders it disallowed. The new one doesn't have any.


    That was fast: Whitehouse.gov is redesigning.

    William Gibson has a moving little piece on the difference between the America he grew up in, and the America that is happening this afternoon.

    He also makes mention of that bus station, btw, in his poem "Agrippa: A Book of the Dead" which was an early digital piece made on a diskette which could only be read once, now available online as a "regular" poem:

    When the colored restroom
    was no longer required
    they knocked open the cinderblock
    and extended the magazine rack
    to new dimensions,
    a cool fluorescent cave of dreams
    smelling faintly and forever of disinfectant,
    perhaps as well of the travelled fears
    of those dark uncounted others who,
    moving as though contours of hot iron,
    were made thus to dance
    or not to dance
    as the law saw fit.


    The Nielsen-Haydens have assembled what feels like the truest history of the Bush years.

    Remember the Bush presidency? Good times, man. Good times.


    Number crunching

    According to the Al-Jazeera Gaza Twitterbot, Hamas is reporting that 48 of its fighters were killed in the Gaza bombings and the subsequent invasion. 

    According to Gaza Body Count, 1203 dead have been confirmed so far. Those 1203 are 98,93 % of the casualties, with the remaining 1.07 % - 13 dead - on the Israeli side. 

    If that's true, then 3.99 %, almost 4 % of those killed on the Palestinian side were legitimate targets. The remaining 96 % were innocent bystanders. 

    Or, well, "bystanders" is maybe the wrong word, seeing as how they were locked inside a territory they couldn't escape from. Maybe "terror victims" or "murder victims" are a better phrase.

    Whatever we call them, I believe that percentage is far higher than most wars in the 20th century. I have top people getting the numbers now. In the meantime, let's suffice to say that there is no way that this can be adequately described as a war on Hamas aggression. Reading purely from the numbers, this was a war on Palestinian civilians which happened to hit some Hamas fighters. I'm sure you could pretty much carpet bomb Gaza and get the same percentage. I wonder if they were even aiming. 

    Update: My top people. Well... Mikkel, actually, has gotten hold of the numbers. They're in comments.

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    Ting Finn Jarle Sæle ikke vet

    Og forresten drar Finn Jarle Sæle noen tall ut av fullstendig løse luften uten kildehenvisning her:
    Vår presse later som om det ikke er slik. De to legene Mads Gilbert og Erik Fosse, som har gjort en innsats for lidende mennesker – har ikke informert om dette. Deres legetjeneste var faglig arbeid. Deres journalistikk brøt med alle presseetiske regler. De snakket om myrderier, om blodbad – som forutsetter at Israel aktivt har gått løs på sivile. Men tallene taler for seg. I et folketett område, er de sivile tapene de minste i krig til nå. Og prosenten sivile som ble drepet den første uken, var 25 prosent av antall drepte. Det er noe av det laveste som har vært i noen krig.
    Sæle, tre ting:

    For det første så tror jeg ikke på det tallet ditt på 25 %. Det kan simpelthen ikke stemme.

    For det annet så er 25 % på ingen måte de laveste tapstallene blant sivile i krig til nå i det hele tatt, se kommentarer på posten over.

    For det tredje så er ikke Gilbert og Fosse journalister, og har aldri hevdet å være det. De er øyenvitner, altså kilder. De skriver ikke sakene selv. Øyenvitner er, som du kanskje vet, siden du er redaktør for en norsk avis, noe man faktisk er pålagt å bruke som journalist når man ikke selv har sett noe.

    Og vet du hvorfor journalistene ikke har sett noe og derfor må bruke øyenvitneskildringer? Fordi Israel ikke slapp inn journalister. Det opplever jeg som litt problematisk - gjør ikke du?

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    He's just making that shit up as he goes along

    A remarkable fact of which I was unaware is that the last third of the speech — the part about the dream — was extemporized by King. He had a text, completed the night before. But as he was addressing the crowd, protesting the indignities and brutalities suffered by blacks, he put the prepared speech aside, paused for a moment and then introduced an entirely new theme.

    “I still have a dream,” he said. “It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ ”

    With that quotation from the Declaration of Independence, King made clear that his vision of the future for black Americans was for them to be part of the larger society, not embittered opponents of it. He reiterated the point a few minutes later. Faith in his dream, he said, will bring a day “when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.’ ” Those “I have a dream” paragraphs still bring tears to my eyes.

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    Well, it looks like the bombing of Gaza is stopping. And just in time for the Obama inauguration. What could possibly be the odds of that

    In Klassekampen this morning, there was an op-ed piece by three supreme court attorneys with a drop-dead convincing argument that Israel has perpetrated crimes of war and blatant violations of customary law, maybe even crimes against humanity. The Israeli leadership should be tried, preferably in an international court - though a Belgian, Spanish or Norwegian one would do just fine for me - and condemned. 

    Nærhet — nå også trendy

    I en Underskogtråd ser jeg at ifølge siste nummer av damebladet KK er nærhet og intimitet det nye analsex. Det er finanskrisens skyld. 
    Sextrend for folk flest

    Ikke avansert!

    I 2009 blir det trendy å være nær hverandre.

    Finanskrisen er med på å bringe oss nærmere hverandre, også på soverommet, spår sexologer.

    Som en motvekt til analsex, pornoboomen, flatskjermer og overfladisk dating er det nemlig tid for nærvær og intimitet.
    Og Det Nye spør, på forsiden, det kompliserte spørsmålet "Munnsex - uskyldig flørt eller utroskap?"

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    Wow, I sure am glad President Gore will be stepping down on Tuesday. He's been such a boring president. 


    Calvin & Hobbes for grown-ups

    (hey, C&H was for grown ups)


    You know what really gets me about the unbelievably bad Songsmith commercial by Microsoft? It's not the bad video game music from the 80s, the cheesy script or the completely irony-free presentation. No, it's the sad story that lurks underneath. A story of a father who is so caught up in his going-nowhere, soul-crushing advertising job that he has never heard his own daughter sing. He then uses her tool for creating autonomy (a macbook, btw) and assimilates it into his own soulless corporate existence. It's really quite a profound critique of neoliberalism.*

    * Warning: clicking link may very well cause brain damage. (...) accepts no liability for any claim made in this regard.

    Kåre Willoch på Redaksjon EN igår:
    Det vises hele tiden til nøytralitet. Men dersom du er nøytral i en strid mellom undertrykker og undertrykt, da har du i realiteten allerede valgt standpunkt for undertrykkeren. Dette var det Nelson Mandela som sa.

    Ari from Edge of the American West has a long and interesting post about Martin Luther King. The following rang some bells w/r/t the recent riots in Oslo:
    But at the same time, it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.

    Flere råd til Obama

    På slutten av kronikken Trygve Tronhuus Svensson og jeg skrev om Obamas retorikk skrev vi:
    Om 20 år kommer ikke USA til å være den kulturelle, økonomiske og militære supermakten vi kjenner fra det 20. århundre. Men de neste åtte årene vil bli overveldende preget av nattens vinner, og selv med forminsket makt vil USA påvirke oss alle. Forhåpentligvis vil vi allerede i morgen kunne glede oss til 20. januar 2009. Da den nye presidenten vil levere nok en tale, sin inaugural address. Den store forskjellen er at det da vil være makten som snakker. Og Barack Obama vil, om han vinner, deretter bli stilt overfor retorikerens største utfordring: Å artikulere budskapet om for-andring som politisk virkelighet.
    I NY Times idag kommer fire taleskrivere med råd til ham om hva han bør putte i den talen. Det er mye interessant lesning.

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    Dear President Obama

    826 Valencia - you know, Dave Egger's after-school tutoring project - has asked kids to write letters to Obama. Some of them are in the NY Times this morning. My favourite one is this one:
    Here is a list of the first 10 things you should do as president:

    1. Fly to the White House in a helicopter.
    2. Walk in.
    3. Wipe feet.
    4. Walk to the Oval Office.
    5. Sit down in a chair.
    6. Put hand-sanitizer on hands.
    7. Enjoy moment.
    8. Get up.
    9. Get in car.
    10. Go to the dog pound.

    — Chandler Browne, age 12, Chicago
    Some actual political help in there, too.

    Special expanded edition of the Harper's index covers the Bush presidency. This one is a must-read. Våre norske lyttere kjenner kanskje et par av faktaene igjen fra Morgenbladet denne uken.
    Date on which the first contract for a book about September 11 was signed: 9/13/01

    Number of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and North African men detained in the U.S. in the eight weeks after 9/11: 1,182

    Number of them ever charged with a terrorism-related crime: 0


    Factor by which an Iraqi in 2006 was more likely to die than in the last year of the Saddam regime: 3.6

    Factor by which the cause of death was more likely to be violence: 120

    Chance that an Iraqi has fled his or her home since the beginning of the war: 1 in 6

    Portion of Baghdad residents in 2007 who had a family member or friend wounded or killed since 2003: 3/4



    Who are you?
    I am Kairos, master of all.

    Why do you run on tiptoe?
    I am Kairos, ever-running.

    Why are your feet winged?
    Because I fly like the wind.

    Why do you hold a knife in your hand?
    To remind men that sharper than the sharpest blade am I.

    And why does your hair hang down into your face?
    For him who meets me to grasp me by the forelock.

    Then why is the back of your head bald?
    Because when once on winged feet I have raced past, none that I have passed shall grasp me.

    Why did the artist create you?
    For your sake, stranger, that I might teach you lessons.

    -- The poet Poseidippus, epigram from a statue of Kairos, god of the moment and of opportunity.

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    Ezra Klein is, as usual, making lots of sense:
    ...all observers agree that flattening Gaza has pushed Hamas back onto its hardline haunches. I don't know what happens to Hamas in some alternative reality where they are elected, fight with Fatah, take power, and then Israel doesn't blockade Gaza and the U.S. doesn't cut off aid. Maybe everything is the same. Maybe it isn't. Maybe the 8 percent that wants to be a popular government more than an eschatological remnant becomes 17 percent. But in the reality we live in, the blockade and the aid cutoff ensured that Hamas would remain radical. Destroying their governmental infrastructure ensured that the guys who make missiles and not the guys who are trying to figure out agricultural policy will chair the floor at the next general meeting. And more than that, it ensured that the Palestinian population that suffers beneath Israel's blockade will be ripe for Hamas's theology of a better tomorrow, and a divine ally, and an eventual victory. The concrete appeal of cross-border commerce with Israel can only contend with the emotional resonance of death to Israel if the people of Gaza realize that they're benefiting from the former and getting nothing for the latter.
    He also links to this interesting post on Salafist elements in Hamas.

    Thomas Friedman ♥ mass murder

    Thomas Friedman, NY Times columnist, thinks mass murder is the way to educate those raucous, roguish Arabs:
    Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future.

    Israel’s military was not focused on the morning after the war in Lebanon — when Hezbollah declared victory and the Israeli press declared defeat. It was focused on the morning after the morning after, when all the real business happens in the Middle East. That’s when Lebanese civilians, in anguish, said to Hezbollah: “What were you thinking? Look what destruction you have visited on your own community! For what? For whom?”
    Yeah, okay. Two things, Tom, foreign policy columnist to the stars:

    1. This doesn't work. Never has. For one thing, it just isn't true that Hezbollah was weakened by the war. It was strengthened. Because, absurdly enough, yes: oppression and mass murder has a tendency to make people angrier and more violent. Arabs are strange that way.

    2. This is kind of illegal. We call it "mass murder" where I come from. I believe they call it "war crimes" elsewhere. Also: "crimes against humanity".

    Flamme forlag sitcomifiserer pressekonferansen til Aschehoug

    mel: Cheers
    Sometimes you wanna go
    where you get lots of name recognition
    and they're always glad you came. 


    Mads Gilbert & John Ging are on Democracy Now today, talking about Gaza

    Det trodde de faktisk før, men det er vel ingen som gjør den feilen lenger

    Actually, that's what they used to think

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    Well, well, a representative from the Pentagon admits to Bob Woodward that there has been torture of a Guantanamo suspect.
    "We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.


    Military prosecutors said in November that they would seek to refile charges against Qahtani, 30, based on subsequent interrogations that did not employ harsh techniques. But Crawford, who dismissed war crimes charges against him in May 2008, said in the interview that she would not allow the prosecution to go forward.


    "For 160 days his only contact was with the interrogators," said Crawford, who personally reviewed Qahtani's interrogation records and other military documents. "Forty-eight of 54 consecutive days of 18-to-20-hour interrogations. Standing naked in front of a female agent. Subject to strip searches. And insults to his mother and sister."

    At one point he was threatened with a military working dog named Zeus, according to a military report. Qahtani "was forced to wear a woman's bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation" and "was told that his mother and sister were whores." With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room "and forced to perform a series of dog tricks," the report shows.


    The interrogation, portions of which have been previously described by other news organizations, including The Washington Post, was so intense that Qahtani had to be hospitalized twice at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which in extreme cases can lead to heart failure and death. At one point Qahtani's heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the record shows.


    "There's no doubt in my mind he would've been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001," Crawford said of Qahtani, who remains detained at Guantanamo. "He's a muscle hijacker. . . . He's a very dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don't charge him and try him? I would be hesitant to say, 'Let him go.' "

    You know, despite the fact that the prisoner is dangerous, if he has been tortured, and especially if he made confessions under torture, he should be released in compensation. In that case, it is the fault of the torturers and those who authorised the torture if he commits further abuses. If they didn't want him going free, then they shouldn't have tortured him or illegally detained him. They should have gathered evidence and put him on trial, like we do all other human beings who commit crimes. This is just one of the many many reasons torture is not just morally wrong, but illegal: you can't use it to get legally recognized confessions. 

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    Arne Næss er død

    Trist. Ble 96 år gammel. Publiserte som bare faen. Jeg hadde stor glede av hans En del elementære logiske emner på ex.phil. Jeg er stadig lei meg for at hans visjon for ex.phil (faget var på mange måter hans baby) holder på å dø ut.

    Store flashbacks til nylig afdøde Inger Christensen nu til morgen når jeg læser denne posten på Crooked Timber:
    Et samfund kan være så stenet
    At alt er en eneste blok
    Og indbyggermassen så benet
    At livet er gået i chok

    Og hjertet er helt i skygge
    Og hjertet er næsten hørt op
    Til nogen begynder at bygge
    En by der er blød som en krop


    Her er video av hele Fosse og Gilberts pressekonferanse. De ble nylig berømte da de vant Nobel super prize av Finnmärcksker Royal Academy.


    The top link above is to a video of a press conference by doctors Mads Gilbert & Erik Fosse, just returned from the Gaza strip. Around 18-19 minutes in, there are some questions in English. Probably some more during the conference.

    Bono has started his new column for the NY Times. This should be interesting. The first one is... well, it's not that good, actually. Very "how Frank Sinatra gave me a painting one night when we were having drinks and talking about the mystery of Miles Davis"-ish.


    Siv Jensen: Usensurert & Unplugged

    Til eventuelle nye lesere: Jeg anbefaler å lese igjennom til siste punktet.
    [Det var] svært oppsiktsvekkende at Bjarne Håkon Hanssen valgte å avholde en pressekonferanse i regjeringens lokaler som ga inntrykket at også regjeringen beklaget trykkingen av [Muhammed-]karikaturene og at Norge har ytringsfrihet. Det er dette avgjørende feilsteget fra regjeringen gjorde at Frp måtte reagere. Norges regjering skal aldri på noen måte beklage at vi har ytringsfrihet.1
    (Siv Jensen: "Regjeringen skaper usikkerhet", Dagsavisen, 15.02.2006,)

    Samtidig er det viktig at regjeringen holder fokus på å informere regjeringene i landene i Midtøsten om at et helt land ikke kan få skylden for det noen aviser har trykket i et land med ytringsfrihet.
    (Siv Jensen, sitert i "Opposisjonen maner til ro", Dagsavisen, 06.02.2006)

    - Frykter du økt spenning også på norsk jord?
    - Konflikten er her allerede. Mange oppfatter at det er brytning mellom kulturer. Det dreier seg om manglende respekt hos mange av vår nye landsmenn. Om respekt for verdier som menneskerettigheter, kvinnesyn og ytringsfrihet. Denne debatten går allerede i ungdomsmiljøer, sier Jensen, og understreker at det bare dreier seg om et mindretall av våre nye landsmenn.
    (Siv Jensen intervjuet i "MUHAMMED-TEGNINGENE -Manglende respekt for norske verdier Siv Jensen - ...varsler muslim-oppgjør.", Aftenposten Morgen, 09.02.2006)

    Når regjeringen nå vikler seg inn i unnskyldningsprosessen mellom Selbekk og Islamsk Råd, vil det se ut som om Norge ber om unnskyldning for at ytringsfriheten er brukt, en verdi som krasjer med den undertrykkende og autoritære delen av islam, sier Jensen.
    ("Feighetens forestilling", Dagbladet, 11.02.2006)

    I en situasjon der vi har en rimelig ensidig dekning hvor legen Mads Gilbert, som er medlem av partiet Rødt, usensurert i alle medier kan gi sin historiebeskrivelse av det som skjer. Og at den er politisk farget er det ingen tvil om, og det reagerer jeg på...
    (Siv Jensen, Dagsrevyen, 06.01.2008)
    [alle uthv mine.]

    1. Amen.

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    Here's a column by Cory Doctorow full of little life-lessons which I need to internalize in a big way.


    I'm going to stop being angry with Gaza and go have some really, really late dinner instead. But I thought I should share this old gem by my brother. Poor Yusuf. And poor Suleima.

    Til fremtidig bruk: Livestreaming av politiradioen over internett. Jeg elsker informasjonssamfunnet.

    (Noe av) det jeg så

    Her er video og beskrivelse av noe av det jeg så noe av før jeg gikk hjem. Jeg skrev det jeg så inn i en Underskogtråd. Limer det inn under. I tillegg lenker jeg til den posten jeg skrev om hvorfor jeg er imot voldelige demoer - fra for et par dager siden, fordi den har falt vekk fra forsiden.

    Det var en voldelig demo etter fakkeltoget, oppe utenfor UD. Demonstrantene prøvde å komme seg opp til den amerikanske ambassaden. Politiet avanserte i full mundur, ca 50 mann sterke med syv biler. Det ble kastet noen få brostein og en del søppelspann og askebegre fra oppe i parken. Politiet ryddet parken over veien der jeg sto, og jeg måtte krysse diskret foran en linje med hestepoliti foran slottet for å komme meg hjem. Så politiet bruke pepperspray på de fremste demonstrantene. Det så ut som det hadde gjort tidligere, nemlig at det var hovedsaklig innvandrerungdom fra midtøsten som var voldelige.

    Tidligere idag, derimot, så jeg en fullstendig unødvendig gassing av demonstranter utenfor ambassaden, rundt klokken 1835. Det var ingen våpen, stein eller fyrverkeri og kun en liten folkemengde på rundt de tredve, mot en 20 politifolk bak en barrikade.

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    Her er de viktige nyhetene. Politiet hevder det var "de verste opptøyene siden 80-tallet". Jeg vet ikke om det er sant (jeg så kun en brøkdel av begivenhetene). Men det virket på meg som en liten del av det som skjedde.

    Hjemme fra demoen

    Jeg vet ikke om jeg skal le eller gråte: Alle nyhetene nå handler om gatekamper i Oslo. Dagbladet, VG og NRK. Vi hadde den største anti-krigsdemonstrasjonen i Oslo siden markeringen mot krigen i Irak, 15. februar: 40.000 mennesker gikk fredelig i gatene. Etterpå lagde en liten gruppe på etter mitt anslag 100-200 kvalm rundt de amerikanske og israelske ambassadene. Det ØDELEGGER fullstendig budskapet til demoen og fjerner effekten fra media. Vi skal ikke gi dem anledningen til å dekke noe dramatisk og sexy som gatekamper. Gi dem heller anledning til å dekke de 40.000 menneskene. På grunn av gatekampene dekker de nå også pro-krig, pro-massemord-markeringen i mye mye større grad enn fakkeltoget. Det er en total visuell-retorisk seier til Israel-bevegelsen.

    Samtidig så er det dumt å tenke at det er gatekampene som dekkes først og fremst av media. Det synes jeg er en konsekvent feilprioritering som gir feil inntrykk av det som skjedde. Volden trumfer freden selv i media. Hvorfor er vi alltid så flinke til å dekke volden, og ikke dens årsaker?

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    Good advice on raw ingredients for cooking (which to throw out, what to replace them with, which to always have on hand, etc.) from Mark Bittman. I just had lunch, and this article made me hungry. I think I agree with most of these.

    Jaydiohead - it's a freely available Radiohead/Jay Z mashup. Two great tastes that go great together! Like chocolate and pizza.

    SV har begynt å argumentere for å sende norske sikkerhetsstyrker til Gaza. Det forslaget støtter jeg. En sikkerhetsstyrke i Israel/Palestina er en del av løsningen på dette tidspunktet i konflikten. Det er også i mye større grad i vår langsiktige sikkerhetspolitiske interesse å løse konflikten i Gaza enn i Afghanistan. Begge er viktige, men Israel/Palestina er en av de største konfliktskaperne i forholdet mellom den muslimske og den europeiske verden. Å løse den vil vår sikkerhet fra terrorisme positivt.


    Do you see any grey areas? Me neither

    Art. 3. In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following

    (1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

    To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
    (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
    (b) taking of hostages;
    (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
    (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

    (2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

    An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

    The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

    The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

    Art. 4. Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.

    The Geneva Conventions,

    It's worth it, in times like these, where lies are flying almost as thick as the bombs, to remember how simple, how precise, how totally crystal clear the rules of war are.

    The blockade of Gaza, the until today total refusal to allow fresh medical supplies, food, medicine, water and power into the Gaza strip, and the refusal to allow the evacuation of the civilian population are - say it with me:

    They're war crimes. And given their systematic nature, and their place in an entrenched and systematic structure of abuse and oppression (not to mention an illegal occupation), they are crimes against humanity. There is no wriggle room here. There is no difference of interpretation. I keep repeating this, but it needs to be said, over and over: the Israeli political and military leadership are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Oh, and btw, the very targets that Israel are picking out are also illegal:
    Art 14. Protection of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population

    Starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited. It is therefore prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless for that purpose, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of food-stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works.
    (Protocol II)

    Breaking news: Sarkozy & Mubarak appear to be very close to brokering a ceasefire in Gaza.

    SMS fra Cederoth

    Takk for all støtte. De bombet de rurale fjellsidene rundt Cederoth by for to timer siden. 10 skrubbsår, 2 bekymrede mødre, alt kom hit til Ariel Sharon Memorial Hospital. Vi vasser i død, blod og amputater. Masse barn. Gravid kvinne. Jeg har aldri opplevd noe så fryktelig. Nå hører vi sandaler i sanden! Fortell videre, send videre, rop det videre. Alt. GJØR NOE! GJØR MER! DREP DIN LOKALE PALESTINER! Vi lever i historieboka nå, alle! ANITA A. SÆHLE, 3.1.09, 13:50 CEDEROTH, ISRAEL.

    Prank call to an Israeli recruiter. It starts as a stupid but slightly funny prank call, but there's actually some pretty psychologically interesting stuff from the Israeli agent in the last third of the transcript.

    Things we love this morning

    * My country, who owns 50 % of NAMMO, a Norwegian weapons production company which according to the NRK (National Broadcasting Company) this morning may or may not (we just don't know - and does it really matter?) be producing weapons being used to bomb civilians in the Gaza strip. Way to go with the credibility problem, there, Norway. Could we stop producing weapons soon?

    * Russia, which has stopped all delivery of gas to the Ukraine. Good thing it's not winter, when the Ukraine would really need that gas.

    * The crowd who had their cell phone videos out when they saw police officers executing a suspect on a San Fransisco train (video link, disturbing content).

    * Getting up. Too early.

    Cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished

    Isaiah, Chapter 1

    1: The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
    2: Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
    3: The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.
    4: Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
    5: Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
    6: From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
    7: Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.


    Chapter 40

    1: Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
    2: Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
    3: The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
    4: Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
    5: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
    6: The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
    7: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
    8: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
    9: O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
    39 chapters in between the two.

    For the Barack Obama completist only, here he is discussing restaurants in the Chicago area. Its a little more surreal than it sounds. Also, he uses the exact same phrasing and tone of voice he uses to discuss the financial crisis, which totally scares the bejesus out of me.


    Anbefaler Redaksjon EN i kveld. Kåre Willoch, Line Khateeb og Rune Johansen sier mange fine ting. De andre enten hyler og skriker og er hysteriske, eller er fra Frp. Det er fint å se at fredens krefter kan vinne en ordkrik, iallefall.

    Concern trolling for fun and profit when lives are at stake

    Well, well. Mr. Janhoo, a critic of Mads Gilbert, is copy-pasting his responses into this blog and Shady Acres. That probably means he is doing this systematically elsewhere, on all blogs posting Gilbert's SMS. Classical astroturfing concern troll. "I just want to make sure every side is heard". Except, of course, for the side of the facts of events in Gaza. If he is so concerned about the truth about Gaza getting out, it might interest mr Janhoo to demand that the Israeli government lets independent, non-partisan actual reporters into the Gaza strip war zone.

    Mikkels replies are good and informative. You should go read them.


    Lengre nekrolog over Christensen av Skyum-Nielsen.

    John W. Bolton and John "Torture memo" Yoo* wants the US to keep wiggling out of its obligations. Note the defensive, resigned tone of the article. I like it.

    * A war criminal.

    Video av Inger Christensen på DR.

    Erik Fosse trenger din hjelp

    ...dersom du er sykepleier eller lege og liker spennende arbeid under utfordrende omstendigheter og har et avslappet forhold til personlig sikkerhet:
    Melding mottatt av JoStein Moen:
    Takk for hilsen. Ja dette er ubeskrivelig jævlig. Mer enn 100 barn er nå drept. Dette må stoppes. Vi er svært interessert i sykepleiere. Dette teamet ble forberedt i løpet av et par timer forrige søndag og vi prioriterte ikke å bruke tid på rekruttering siden vi visste at grensen kunne stenges når som helst. Hvis noen er interessert kan de kontakte Synne Holan på holan@norwac.no

    Hamas innfører bompengeorden for alle militære kjøretøy.

    Line Khateeb er på :Tabloid om Gaza klokken 18:55.

    Inger Christensen (1935 - 2009)

    De stiger op, planetens sommerfugle
    i Brajcinodalens middagshede luft,
    op fra den underjordisk bitre hule,
    som bjergbuskadset dækker med sin duft.

    Som blåfugl, admiral og sørgekåbe,
    som påfugløje flagrer de omkring
    og foregøgler universets tåbe
    et liv der ikke dør som ingenting.

    Hvem er det der fortryller dette møde
    med strejf af sjælefred og søde løgne
    og sommersyner af forsvundne døde?

    Mit øre svarer med sin døve ringen:
    Det er døden som med egne øjne
    ser dig an fra sommerfuglevingen.

    On a completely unrelated note, I just woke up from an ambitious, involved dream simultaneously telling the interwoven stories of Santa Claus in hiding in a storefront, me escaping through an urban landscape in the style of a Broadway musical and the story of a man living as unskilled labour in a film noirish Los Angeles, where he mostly polished neon signs after dark. What the hell does that mean?

    Highly civilised people

    Every morning's newsletter from the New York Times contains a note at the bottom about events that took place on this day in history. On December 29th, the third day of the Gaza bombing campaign, it read "On Dec. 29, 1940, during World War II, Germany began dropping incendiary bombs on London." For the people of London, if they had time to reflect on the irony, this must have seemed like the perversion of New Years Eve. Fireworks raining down in destruction, rather than celebration. "As I write", wrote George Orwell in an article published two months after the firebombing started, "highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me."

    George Orwell

    As of yesterday, at least 437 people have died in Gaza and 2,250 have been injured by highly civilised human beings since Israel's bombing campaign began. Many of them were civilians. Women. Children. 1.5 million people live on the Gaza strip, and half of them are under 14. It is the most densely populated area in the world, and all the doors are locked. How do you think the people there are feeling?

    Let's not use names that do not fit the reality of events. The bombing of Gaza is a crime against humanity and a mass murder of civilians. There is nothing proportional or proper about this. There is nothing here that conforms to the laws of war. The people who ordered it are war criminals who should be tried in the International Criminal Court and spend the rest of their natural lives in jail.

    On December 29th, I participated in a protest that drew several hundred people out against the bombings. We started at Parliament and then moved up the hill to the area outside the Israeli embassy. The mood was aggressive and unpleasant, dominated by Palestinian and other Arab teenagers and young men. Several people, mainly male refugees in their 40s, as far as I could tell, were waving signs saying "[Star of David] = [Swastika]". As we ascended the hill next to the royal palace, I saw young men running off into flowerbeds to pick up rocks. As we neared the embassy, I had already realised that things were going to go wrong, and I decided to make myself scarce. I detached myself from the protest, cut through the park, came out 50 meters in front of the column of people and passed just in front of the police barricade before making my way out of the protester's paths.

    As the protesters reached the barricades, I saw rocks flying and fireworks arcing out and exploding under the streetlamps. I watched the protest for a little while, until I got too cold, and then skulked off home. On the evening news, I saw that the conflict had escalated and the police had used tear gas, and we saw kids in Palestinian headscarves lighting things on fire and overturning barricades and being driven away by police.

    And so, another chance of creating the image of a respectable peace movement was wasted. In the minds of television viewers across the country, supporting the cause of solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people is something that angry kids with masks across their face and rocks in their hands do.

    Am I angry with the kids who threw rocks? Of course I am. What they did was wrong and counterproductive. Do I understand why they feel the way they feel? Of course I do. I feel much the same way. But I'm using that feeling differently.

    Protests, though not neccessarily the most effective form of political action, are acts of political speech. They are meant to cause action to be taken. They are meant to change minds, to articulate grievances and differences, to show disgust and to be humane in the face of barbarism. They are rhetorical acts. Rhetoric is language which is instrumental: it is measured by how much it gets things done.

    Throwing rocks accomplishes nothing. It creates a quick fix of gratification, an outlet for rage. Then the tear gas clears and nothing has changed. We aren't in this for our own gratification. We are in this to create political solidarity with the suffering people of Gaza. We want to end the violence and the oppression. More violence does not help. We are trying to build and articulate political consensus that will force the Israeli to end the violence in Gaza, and the unlawful occupation and oppression of the Palestine people.

    Said more generally, though, I think that the actions of the protesters are going against the grain of what the peace movement has to be. It has to do with how I see what we're up against. Consider for a moment what the term "crimes against humanity" mean. According to the Rome Charter, it means:
    [P]articularly odious offences in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings. They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. However, murder, extermination, torture, rape, political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice. Isolated inhumane acts of this nature may constitute grave infringements of human rights, or depending on the circumstances, war crimes, but may fall short of falling into the category of crimes under discussion [emphasis mine]
    That the bombing campaign on Gaza is a war crime is so obvious one must be criminally negligent to think otherwise. That it also constitutes a crime against humanity is now something that we, as activists, must keep in constant focus. The people directing this atrocity should never set foot outside of Israel again unless it is to see the inside of the International Criminal Court.

    When I began this post with the note on the incendiary bombing of London, I was drawing an obvious paralell. But the paralell does not appear to be as obvious to everyone as it should be (think, for instance, of the banners I saw in the protest. The idea that this has anything to do with Jewishness is stupid and must be beaten back at all costs. Norwegians can think, for instance, of Trond Andresen's unbelievably stupid article in this Saturday's Klassekampen). So to clarify: my point is that the Israeli government and military are, like the highly civilisaed beings of Orwell's time, comitting crimes against humanity from the air. Raining fire and brimstone on the innocent and the guilty alike. Burning children alive. Killing pregnant women. Killing people who had nothing to do with anything; who were just living their lives. Highly civilised people.

    Consider again what crimes against humanity means. It isn't just blowing children up and saying that there is no crisis here. It is doing so as part of a systematic policy of atrocity. The children die because there is a plan in which their lives are not valued. A crime against humanity is using the power of the human intellect and rationality to destroy the civilisation which raised it. It is a crime which destroys our very humanity by using our humanity against ourselves. It is the perversion of thought.

    The bombings are a nightmare, but it a nightmare of human invention - a crime against humanity. Crimes have perpetrators. Perpetrators can be tried and they can be punished. Don't throw rocks. All rocks that we throw hit ourselves. We will get through this by being calm but full of rage. Keep the rage alive and use it productively.

    The opposite of a crime against humanity is civilisation. It is to use the same highly civilised gifts and powers and institutions that the crimes against humanity pervert in order to create peace, security and freedom.

    I want people to talk about what is happening. Write about it, protest about it, demand action from your government, not just words. Demans Security Council intervention. Demand a peacekeeping force. Demans a boycott (if you think that will help - I'm unconvinced). But: Spread the information around. Sooner or later, something has to give. But for that to happen the peace movement has to be serious, it has to be massive, it has to be across the entire cross-section of humanity and most of all, it has got to be peaceful. We have to channel our rage through civilisation, not out of it, or towards it. We have to be even more highly civilised than our barbaric adversaries.

    It sticks with me that the kids at the protest were throwing fireworks. I think this had to with available weapons at the time (later, they supposedly tried siphoning gas from nearby cars). Their rage was greater than the weapons available, but even with better weapons, they couldn't have won the war. It struck me, then, that this is a metaphor for what I am trying to argue here. We win when we stop trying to do the same as our opponents with weaker weapons. That's what being civilised is all about. Fireworks should be the highly civilised opposite of a barbarically civilised aerial bombardment, not an impotent attempt to replicate that bombardment on the ground. So save the fireworks people, please. We'll have plenty of use for them when we win.

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    Oh, and if you're kidding yourself that the US is not involved, watch this.

    The situation in Gaza is "catastrophic"

    That's John Ging from the UN Relief and Works Agency speaking. "It really is difficult to convey in words..."

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    SMS from Gaza

    Mads Gilbert is a Norwegian doctor and solidarity worker who is one of very few foreigners providing eyewitness accounts to Norwegian media from inside the Gaza strip, where he is volunteering at a hospital.

    This one was verified to me earlier today by people in the aid community in touch with Mads Gilbert as being geniune. I've snipped the translation from Shädy Äcres:

    "Thanks for your support.. They bombed the central vegetable market in Gaza city two hours ago. 80 injured, 20 killed. All came here to Shifa. Hades! We wade in death. Blood and amputees. Many children. Pregnant woman. I have never experienced anything this terrible. Now hearing tanks. Tell it, pass it on, shout it. Anything. DO SOMETHING! DO MORE! We're living in the history books now, all of us! Mads G, 3.1.09 13:50, Gaza, Palestine.
    How dare they say there is not a humanitarian disaster happening? This is a crime against humanity. The leaders of this atrocity should be tried and convicted and thrown in jail for the rest of their lives.

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    Pressemelding #1-09 fra UD er en norsk fordømmelse av invasjonen av Gaza. I går ba Støre også Sikkerhetsrådet om å gripe inn og refererte til at det er slike situasjoner som dette vi forventer at rådet skal løse.

    Flere ferske øyenvitneskildringer fra Mads Gilbert. Skulle ønske jeg hadde Al-Jazeera nå.

    Informative Boing Boing post about citizen journalist resources on the bombing of Gaza. Of particular interest is the Al Jazeera Gaza Twitterbot.

    Livni lyger

    Klassekampen har et veldig bra intervju i sin lørdagsutgave med Mads Gilbert, en norsk lege og Palestina-aktivist som driver med nødhjelp i Gaza. Det er verdt å lese, om ikke annet så for å bryte med de barbariske uttalelsene til Tzipi Livni til Haaretz:

    Livni said "there is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce."

    In her remarks to reporters, Livni said Israel had been careful to protect the civilian population and had kept the humanitarian situation in Gaza "completely as it should be".
    Kontraster denne åpenbare løgnen med Gilberts situasjonsbeskrivelse:

    Gilbert er sjokkert over uttalelser fra Israels utenriksminister Tzipi Livni om at det ikke er noen humanitær krise i Gaza.

    - Det er tydelig at Livni ikke har sett de som vi ser. Det som foregår i Gaza, er en menneskeskapt humanitær katastrofe. Halvannen million mennesker er sperret inne på et lite område, uten fluktmuligheter. De er nesten uten inntekter, strøm, mat og medisiner, og har ingen beskyttelse. For første gang på våre reiser i området, har Erik og jeg sett folk i matkøer. Dette er det nærmeste vi kommer Warszawa-gettoen. Når Israels regjering sier at dette ikke er en humanitær krise, er deres historiske hukommelse særdeles kort.

    - Israel hevder at Hamas hindrer distribusjon av humanitære hjelpesendinger?

    - Dette stemmer etter det vi får vite overhodet ikke. Israel sprer nå så mange løgner om konflikten og forholdene i Gaza at det nesten ikke er til å tro. Problemet her er ikke Hamas, men den israelske okkupasjonen og en lammende blokade, som blant annet har tvunget helsevesenet i kne også før de siste, dramatiske krigshandlingene. Blant de mindre synlige konsekvensene er at behandlingstilbudet for vanlige sykdommer og skader i en utsatt befolkning på halvannen million, praktisk talt er lik null.

    100 mot en

    - Jens Stoltenberg gikk i sin nyttårstale langt i å sidestille Hamas’ raketter og Israels flyangrep, og dette preger mange vestlige reaksjoner. Hvordan oppfattes dette i Gaza?

    - Det er fullstendig absurd å framstille dette som en symmetrisk konflikt med delt ansvar. Det er en vanlig oppfatning blant lokalpolitikere og andre i Gaza om at disse nålestikkangrepene mot Israel bør innstilles, men det er ute av alle proporsjoner å sammenlikne dette med Israels militæraksjon. Til nå er tre israelere drept, og mer enn 400 palestinere. Det går altså mer enn 100 palestinske liv på ett israelsk. Vi vet av rik erfaring at alle palestinske ledere blir behandlet som terrorister av israelerne. Dette skjedde også da tusenvis av sivile ble drept i Israels kamp mot PLO og Yassir Arafat på åttitallet.

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    Myths & Facts About the Bush Presidency. Wow, the Bush presidency was totally awesome. How could I have missed this.

    The lede ought to have read:

    Myth: everything in this article is true.
    Fact: everything in this article is wrong.

    Research into the "broken windows" theory shows that there might be something to it. I think the takeaway lesson here is that if society seems dysfunctional, people tend to ignore its requests. Maybe because its requests could very likely be arbitrary, maybe because they can get away with it. Maybe because what the hell, other people are doing it.


    That thankfully our founders were wise enough to say we have this position and it's constitutional -- vice president will be able to be not only the position flexible, but it's gonna be those other duties as assigned by the president. A simple thing.

    Happy New Years/Manifesto 2009

    Before I forget:
    Happy new years, everybody! You all rock.
    Here's where I spent the New Years Eve weekend:

    (photo: Øystein V. More from our trip here.)

    (I didn't take pictures all the time. But I will post some pics when I get around to it.)

    I hope you have a happy, safe and free 2009, and that you will be surrounded with love, success and happiness.

    My goals for the new year:

    * Redesign the blog.
    * Work less, but more efficiently.
    * See more of my friends, if they still remember me.
    * Work out at least 3x/week.
    * Single-handedly create peace in the Middle-East; redesign the current system of international organisations; phase-shift our global economy out of scorched-earth capitalism into a democratic, green, fair economy; cure HIV/AIDS; stop global overpopulation; win the rights listed in the UN Convention of Human Rights for all people, everywhere and bring forth a new culture of mutual tolerance, respect and cultural cooperation in which philosophy, science, literature and all other art forms freely exchange and cross-pollinate across borders.
    * Try to cook more creatively.
    * Drink more water and less coffee.
    * Stay on top of the bills.
    * Save money.

    What are yours?


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    Gaza diary.