Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Don't call me stupid!

John Kerry, which I admittedly have voted for in both senatorial and presidential elections, showed his lack of political astuteness when he earlier this year encouraged students to work hard so they wouldn't "get stuck in Iraq".

His remark was, in my opinion, clearly not about the lack of education or intelligence of military personnel. Rather he meant to emphasise the importance of preparing and working hard, contrasting it to the Bush administration who rushed to war without any fig leaf of thinking to cover its nakedness of ill-preparation.

His remark was stupid nonetheless because it could, and was, so easily spinned negatively by the Republicans. Seemingly belittling "the troops" is not a smart move by a politician in a country that worships and idolizes its military. The reality is, however, that the US military does not attract the cream of society to its ranks, especially not as enlisted personnel.

When I joined the US Navy as Seaman Recruit I had the third highest ASVAB (entrance test to the military) of my recruit company of 90 men. I say this not to put down my shipmates, who where great guys and served with much more distinction than I, but as an illustration of the level of recruitment to the armed forces. I, who in my early twenties only scraped through college and am presently on course for either third or lower second class law degree, should not be in the top 4 percentile of any group of people. Especially not since the ASVAB does not just test skills in math, science and language, but also "auto & shop" and "mechanical comprehension," which in my case I have not got.

Having a big heart is, in my opinion, much more important than high scores in ASVAB, IQ, SAT, GMAT, LSAT or GPA or whatever, but who are we kidding if we claim that the military doesn't mainly attract the ones with the lowest scores?

Simon Jenkins on Scottish independence.

Another well written column by Simon Jenkins, this time about the Scottish question.

One point only, what good does Gordon Brown think he is doing by highlighting the question of Scotland's position in the Union, when this is one of David Cameron's pet issues?"

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

To your tents, O Israel!

French president Jacques Chirac argues in today's Guardian that "Europe must shoulder its share of the Nato burden". This might be surprising to American politicians and commentators who, in 2003, threw tantrums over France's opposition to the Iraq war, but is really quite representative of French defence thinking.

France has, in its Fourth and Fifth Republic incarnation, been the leading proponent for strong and independent European military armament and position in the world. France was, in 2003, actually more 'gung ho' and in favour of military intervention in Iraq, than most other European nations*. In order to emphasise its independence (and perhaps also out of eccentricity), the French government opposed the Bush administrations rush to war. This nuance of the disagreement didn't of course matter to right wing American politicians and media who exploited deep seated Anglo-Saxon dislike of France to discredit Chirac's arguments and policy.

There are two competing defence strategies in Europe with France and Britain representing each position. France, favouring independence, has developed its own nuclear weapons, tanks and fighter planes. Britain on the other hand has aligned itself completely behind the US, abandoning its military independence and relies on the US for its nuclear deterrent.

France's position has, in my opinion, been strengthened by the Iraq war. More Europeans echo the sentiments of Israel when they abandoned King Rehoboam in 1. Kings 12, saying:
What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents.
More Europeans are today rejecting American military leadership, in particular the 'House of Bush', looking instead to their own tents.

It is in this light that Chiracs words of: "A stronger European defence, more effective and more certain of its assets, enhances alliance capability as a whole and contributes to global equilibrium," should be seen.

* Britain doesn't really count.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Politiet ved Faderhuset 2. (Danish)

Jeg har været tæt på at slette gårsdagens indlæg flere gange fordi jeg nok er for unuanceret i mine betrakninger, men har indtil videre ladet den stå.

Mit syn på politiet er unægtelig farvet af mine personlige oplevelser af politiets opførsel i forbindelse med fodboldkampe. Især min oplevelse i Juli 1997 på Brøndby Stadion hvor politiet gik til angreb med hunde og stave på alle der stod på FCK's fan afsnit.

Gårsdagens video ikke er utvetydig bevis på politivold og jeg erkender at politiet burde have ret til med magt at arrester alle medvirkende til en demostration der bryder loven.

Men, hvor meget magtanvendelse er nødvendig og rimmelig overfor mennesker som blot nægter at sætte sig ned? På det tidspunkt hvor politiet slår løs i retning af hovederne på de sidende demostranter, udgør de pågældende personer ikke en fare for hverken politiet eller Faderhuset.

Jeg kender ikke lovgivingen mht. politiets brug af stave, men i min mening burde stavene kun kunne anvendes imod personer der udgør en aktuel fare for vold mod personer* (eller meget alvorlig materiel skade) og der er ingen anden måde at standse vedkommende på. Kort sagt burde politiets magtanvendele være i proporation til den aktuelle fare som demostranterne udgør. Blot at modstå anholdelse burde ikke i sig selv give politiet ret til at slå løs med stavene.

* Med 'vold mod personer' mener jeg det som engelsk ret kalder Grievious Bodily Harm eller Actual Bodily Harm.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Politiet ved Faderhuset. (Danish)

Det Danske politi har (endnu engang) brugt deres knipler imod en forsamlet menneske mængde. See bl.a. denne denne video på Politikens hjemmeside. Videoen, som er ganske mild i forhold til den brug af knipler og hunde som jeg personlig har oplevet fra politiets side, har fået de Radikale og SF til at kræve en redegørelse fra Justisminiteren.

Det jeg finder mest chokerende ved vidoen er ikke politiets alt for voldsomme fremfærd, men at politiet gør det uden det mindste skam foran den tilstedværende presse.

Politiets handlinger ved Faderhuset kan ikke afvises som en undtagelse eller bortforklares med at nogle få betjente mistede besindelsen. Når Politiet slår ukontroleret med knipler ned i hovederne på sidende personer gør de det fordi flertalet af befolkningen ønsker de skal gøre det.

Ja, de Radikale of SF prostesterer, men R og SF er to forholdsvis små partier som flertalet af væglerne foragter. Hovedparten af de politiske partier, og deres væglere, vil helt sikkert støtte politiet i denne aktion. Jeg vil blive mere end overrasket hvis ikke justiministeren i sin redegørelse vil rose politiets indsats.

Question for Cricket fans.

Although I do follow Cricket, I wouldn't call myself a connoisseur or even a big fan. I would therefore like to ask any cricket fan who might stumble across this blog the following question: Why didn't Australia ask England to follow on, after England was all out 445 runs behind Australia?

I accept that there was no real risk of Australia losing, but it seemed to me like the perfect situation to "invite" the opposition to follow on. That way Australia would be ensured to have enough time to bowl England out, even if a freak of nature stopped play for a half or whole days play.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


So I'm thinking of applying for postgraduate study next year. I Britain law is an undergraduate degree and postgraduate work will not advance your career prospects unless you want to go into academia.

My reason for wanting to do a Masters in Law (LLM) is purely to avoid working. I have absolutely no career plans or hope for future employment. I'm not particularly good at law, although I'm very passionate about it. The only thing I ever did well in life was when I studied theology, but the boat has sailed on that option.

As usual I'm going for the bottom and mainly applying to universities with
little prestige, i.e. the former polytechnics. I will, however, apply to a couple of good universities, hoping that they somehow might make a mistake and admit me. That strategy worked for getting into Southampton.

The places on my list right now are Southampton Solent University, University of Portsmouth, East London University and the London School of Economics. It really depends, however, on if and where the Church is going to ask my wife to work.

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian.

I was somewhat skeptical when The Guardian brought in Simon Jenkins as a columnist. Having read some of his writings in The Times, I thought he was to right wing for my Guardian.

I have, however, really enjoyed reading his column over the last year. He has used it to draw attention to some of the most important political issues of today, in particularly the folly of Bush and Blairs 'war on terror'.

In yesterdays column he made, in my opinion, a correct analysis of Blairs exaggeration of the the threat posed by terrorism. I especially liked this point:
The use of the word terrorism to imply some grand military offensive against the west may sound good in White House national security documents and Downing Street speeches. But terrorism is not an enemy or an ideology, let alone a country or an army. It is a weapon, like a gun or a bomb. It is not something that can be defeated, only guarded against.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I hate the noise of crisps being eaten slowly!

I'm sitting in the university Library trying to work on my dissertation and I just don't understand what goes through most peoples head. Help me understand.

Why do the majority of people totally disregard regulations forbidding conversations and eating in the study section of the library? I am surrounded by talking and crisps (i.e.. chips) eating fellow students.

The reason I don't engage in this type of behaviour is not just because its disturbing to others, but (mainly) because its not allowed. I feel like a complete deviant! Something is clearly wrong with me...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wearing the Cross

It seems to me that many Christians are only satisfied if they can portray themselves as being persecuted. This is evident particularly in American Evangelical thinking and has inspired the Christian Right to crusade against Liberalism, Humanism, Feminism, Academia, Hollywood, the Judiciary and much more.

Of course there is a strong biblical mandate for rejoicing in persecution, e.g. Matt. 5:11 (NIV):
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me
Today, however, Christians in many parts of world seek a status of persecuted, rather than actually being mistreated by individuals, groups or society.

In Britain this desire for persecution has been taken up by an employee of British Airways and the Anglican Bishop of York. The British Airways employee, Ms Eweida, is not allowed to wear her cross necklace visibly during work. Ms Eweida claims this is discrimination, as Muslims, Sheikhs and others are allowed to wear different religious pieces of clothing visibly. In her complaint she is now being supported by Bishop John Sentamu, who calls British Airway's policy "nonsense". For more see this BBC article.

Ms Eweida does not, in my opinion, have much of a legal case because she does not claim that the wearing of her cross is mandated her religion, either in public or private. Ms Eweida's right to free exercise of her religion (see Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights) is therefore not being impeded.

Besides the legal point I find it sad that Christians want to enforce a supposed right to something so un-essential to Christianity. Christianity, at least in my opinion, does not required the wearing of certain items of clothes or jewelry and the true exercise of the Christian faith have nothing to due with outward symbols or rituals. Rather it has to do with a changed heart. Mr. John Sentamu and Ms Eweida wants to reduce Christianity to want it is not, an outward religion.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Legal Definition of Religion

Sometimes religious insights come from unexpected sources.

Today I read the following statement of Judge Dillon in the case of Re South Place Ethical Society*:

"Religion as I see it, is concerned with man's relations with God, and ethics are concerned with man's relation with man. The two are not the same, and are not made the same by sincere enquiry into the question; what is God?"

The background for this case is that in the UK trusts that are for the purpose of the 'advancement of religion' are charitable. This is important because charitable trusts have many advantages, most importantly exemption from income tax.

The South Place Ethical Society's objects were the "study and dissemination of ethical principles and the cultivation of the a rational religious sentiment."

Judge Dillon held that the purpose was not religious and therefore not charitable.

* [1980] 1 W.L.R. 1565.

Working Hard

I've clearly made a mistake in choosing to study law at the University of Southampton.

According to this survey Southampton law students are the third hardest working law students in the UK, after Cambridge and Oxford (or else we're the third worst liars!).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Sky is falling (again)!

I know that most of what I write on this blog is alarmist in nature and contains negative perspective on current affairs. But what can I say or write when the issues I feel passionate about, i.e. Civil Liberties and Human Rights, are being attacked by democratically elected leaders in the US, UK and mainland Europe?

The latest depressing developments, according to this Observer article, are labour's plans for yet another criminal justice bill in the United Kingdom, which will include following measures:

- Giving probation officers - rather than judges - the ability to send offenders who breach their licence back to prison.

- Giving police officers powers to hand out on-the-spot fines for a range of 'minor' street crimes.

Labour is apparently also planning a new anti-terrorism bill with measures to prevent Human Rights laws using used to prevent terrorist being deported and possibly a proposal to extend the police's ability to hold terror suspects without trial for more than 28 days.

The most depressing thing is that Labour is supposed to be the good guys (as opposed to the naturally authoritarian Conservatives). But, how is can you support, or trust, Labour when one of its senior leaders (Gordon Brown) wants to tighten race hatred laws because comments made by the British Nationalist Party leader would offend 'mainstream opinion in this country'.

There are many things that would (and should) offend mainstrean opinion, but is that now the basis for criminalising behviour or speech?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Watching you in Denmark.

Returning to my favorite subject: surveillance cameras. The infatuation with this authoritarian and anti-social device is not contained to Britain alone.

The Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende reports here, here and here, that a committee (appropriately named The TV-Surveillance Committee) under the Danish Justice Department is recommending that banks, hotels and shops should be allowed to install surveillance camera monitoring their entrances, facades and parking lots.

The next step is for the recommendation to sent to a public hearing after which it will be presented to Parliament as a legislative bill. Although this step is minute compared to the invasion of surveillance camera's in Britain, its still a step in the wrong direction.

The right to privacy is an absolute principle in a free society and should be valued for its own merits and not just because interference with privacy can be misused. Freedom is, for me, just as much about not being watched or information about me being registered by the government, private enterprise or even my neighbor, as it is about being able to speak freely.

Why do politicians believe we'll be safer or happier by being watched? Similarly, why do people accept or even desire to be watched? Are we really that scared of each other?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

America Votes 2

Just to show that I'm not the only one who sees todays midterm election as crucial for the state of democracy in the US, The Guardian journalist Julian Borger states in this article that:

"If the Democrats fail to take either chamber of Congress in the current disgruntled climate... it would undoubtedly spark questioning of America's credentials as an effective representative democracy."

Monday, November 06, 2006

America Votes

Tomorrows midterm election is of pivotal importance for the health of democracy in the United States. I sent my absentee ballet a couple of weeks ago and it shouldn't surprise any of the few readers of this blog that I have voted for Democrats in every race I'm eligible to vote in. I also belong to the Democrats Abroad, although I am not actively involved in that organization.

It is vital for America and for the future of democracy that we, the Democrats, win control of the House of Representative and hopefully also the Senate. I believe this not just because we have better idea's and ideology than the Republicans, but because America will have become a 'de facto' one-party state if the Democrats fail again. If we can't win this time we'll never ever win control of Congress again.

I cannot see the Democrats winning the White House back in 2008, we simply don't have the ability to appeal to sufficient number of voters nationwide in presidential campaigns. This is evident in the fact that only one Democratic presidential candidate in the last 40 years has received 50% or more of the popular vote, and that was Carter in 1976 in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

But it is possible to win control over Congress, in spite of the widespread Gerrymandering*, beacause the majority of voters, I content, are more in agreement with our policies. The Republican President is right now very unpopular, as is the Republican controlled Congress and the Democrats are favored in the polls. The Republicans are plagued by scandals and display all the characteristic of a party burdened by being in power for a long time.

Yet in spite of this the Democrats may still be in opposition when we wake up Wednesday morning. The Democrats, who in most congressional elections on average have about half as much money to spend on campaigning as do the Republicans, also have a hard time mobilizing their voters and the pathetic low voter turnout rates make polls unreliable. I fear that once again we will be disappointed and Republicans will be able to rule unopposed in many years to come.

For more on Gerrymandering, its effect and definition see this article from the Detroit News from Oct. 29.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saddam Trial

The trial of Saddam Hussein and his inevitable death sentence raises serious questions about democratisation process in Iraq, if democracy is to be defined as more than majority rule. Democracy connotes freedom of conscience, speech, movement and enterprise, as well as adherence to values such as The Rule of Law and decent treatment of every human being no matter how flawed or evil they are.

Yes, I accept at that Sadam Hussein was a horrible dictator and responsible for mass murder, but this trial was flawed and political. The governmental interference in the case and the numerous replacements of judges and lawyers has undermined the claims to justice this trial had.

Finally, there is, in my opinion, no excuse to execute anybody. Not even if they are spies, brutal murders or dictators responsible for mass murder. It is not an excuse that the Iraqis are newly liberated people and that the Iraqi population wants Saddam dead.

Just as the Nuremberg Trials and the trial of Adolf Eichmann, this trial undermines the principles of democracy.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Deleted Post

I've deleted today's post.(Thank You Andreas for your comment, nice to hear from you. Your 'Adventwiki' project looks interesting!)

Received a letter today from the Hospital giving me an 'Electromyography' (EMG) appointment Dec 1. The MRI scan was performed last Wednesday. The hospital called me up at 8:30 PM and asked if I could come right away (I live less than a mile from the hospital).

Hopefully I'll have some test results in a few weeks, that will tell me and the doctors what's wrong with me...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Britain is "surveillance society".

The BBC has today the 'startling' news that Britain is 'surveillance society'. I find it amazing that this reality can be presented as news, although it is great that a mainstream media outlet like the BBC is highlighting the issue of surveillance.

Britons has long ago given up their right to privacy in the public space. No wait, Britons have never had that right. The British Bill of Rights from 1689 is a Bill of Rights for Parliament, not individual citizens. Britain, by never having adopted an entrenched constitution with individual rights, does not have any legal protection of its citizens. Only indirectly via the Human Rights Act 1998, does the European Convention of Human Rights to some extent protect individual rights. Britain is in effect an elected dictatorship of Parliamentarians who have no limit to their power.

That's why surveillance cameras (I refuse to use the misleading term CCTV's) has been allowed to appear in every size and shape by public and private operators to the point where Britain has abandoned any sense of decency its is surveilance of the population.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Americans who think Europeans hate America should try and live in Europe and experience the way Europeans adopt American traditions and culture.

The US dominates this world, not just economically and militarily, but also socially and culturally. Many Europeans resent this one way traffic of culture and ideas. This resentment is, however, not dissimilar to the way many Americans resent Hollywood's influence or the US mass medias pathetic news and current affairs reporting. Disliking bad American sitcoms and soaps is the same as disliking America or be anti-American.

Being a dual national gives raise to many interesting conversations and I have never met any real hate or dislike of America in Europe, no matter how many Republican presidents the US electorate keeps sending to the White House.

Yesterday, I experienced the way Halloween has taken over in Britain. Neither my wife or I had seen kids go 'trick-or-treating' in England before so we weren't prepared when the first bunch showed up at our doorstep. I, remembering how I felt as kid going door-to-door, hurried to Sainsbury to buy some sweets. I don't really like Halloween or anything to do with witches, ghosts and the underworld, but it felt good to be able to make some kids happy.

The problem is that I know that there's some candy leftover and I can't figure out where my wife has hid it...