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Accusations of anti-Semitism in Norway October 5, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Academic matters, International relations, Norwegian politics , comments closed

It seems to be a recurring trend to accuse Norway of anti-Semitism and hate against Israel. Lately these criticisms have come from Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman over the decisions to divest Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit from the national pension fund stock portfolio and from the Israeli embassy over a seminar series at the Norwegian university NTNU (if you read Norwegian, here’s a blog post from me, and another on the latter).

It seems there are a great number of people out there with an interest in portraying Norway as a country of Jew-haters who wish to see Israel destroyed. From my experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. With the obvious exception of both the extreme right and the extreme left, there seems to me like there is very little hate of Jews and Israel in Norway. There is, however, much sympathy for Palestinians and much resentment over the actions of the Israeli state. This should not be confused. Critique of the so-called Operation Cast Lead aka. the Gaza Massacre is not equal to hate of Israel. Support for UN resolutions condemning the separation wall is not anti-Semitism. (more…)

How does Obama spend his time? September 30, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, United States , comments closed

POTUS_trackerJust came across POTUS Tracker, an interesting little tool from The Washington Post that lets you track what Obama emphasizes by how he spends his time in meetings. Apparently foreign policy and the economy are what he spends most of his time on, with health care only clocking in at place no. 5.

(Hat tip to Pravda for finding this).

Centre-left victory in Norway September 15, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Norwegian politics , comments closed

It now seems more or less certain that Norway will see 4 more years with a centre-left government under Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg from Labour. At the moment the right wing parties are throwing blame around and the centrist liberal party Venstre (Left) lies in shatters. The party president has announced his resignation.

More than a socialist victory, this election is a hard blow to the centrist parties in Norwegian politics. Fighting between the two major blocks seems to have drawn voters especially from Venstre who defended their position in between the two blocks. Infighting and chaos among the right wing parties must probably also account for a major part of the loss.

On the socialist side of the centre, voters appear to be shifting from the more radical Socialist Left (SV) to the more moderate Labour. The centrist coalition partner Senterpartiet (the Centre Party) keeps their members of parliament. What this means for shuffling of cabinet seats remains to be seen.

Norwegian election thriller September 14, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Norwegian politics , comments closed

Votes are being counted in the Norwegian parliament election. At the moment, 78 % of the votes are counted and the official prognosis is at 86 seats to the government centre-left block and 83 seats to the right-wing block. Jens Stolenberg’s cabinet seems to be hanging on by it’s teeth. Getting through the finance crisis so far with the lowest unemployment might be an important reason.

Still, things are far from decided yet. This will be undecided for hours yet.

Experiment on election prediction markets August 5, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, Political behavior , comments closed

I’ve recently become involved (as a participant) in an interesting experiment performed by PhD student Sveinung Arnesen at the University of Bergen in which we are asked to predict the election result through a market model, buying and selling fictive “shares” in the outcome based on our own evaluations. This is based on prior experiments like Iowa Electronic Markets experiments by the University of Iowa in connection with American Presidential Elections, and the work of Robin Hanson.

Participants have been recruited through the political party organizations (at least I was), and appear to only have the option of buying or selling “stock” in our own party and/or government coalition. I assume part of the reason why we are restricted to our own party is the need for keeping the results secret to avoid incentives for strategic attempts at driving up the predicted value.


Obama’s soft power July 25, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : International relations, World politics , comments closed

Some numbers are out from Pew Global Attitudes on how different nations view the United States after the change in the presidency. Dan Drezner has made some comments on them, saying that this is a measure of how Obama’s soft power policy is changing the world’s  attitudes. But the really amazing stuff has been dug up by Kevin Drum at the Mother Jones blog. Just have a look at this table (click it to see the entire table in its original location):


These figures are rather amazing. There seems to be only one country where the people don’t think Obama is more likely to do the right thing in international affairs – Israel. And the relationship between Israel and the US can hardly be said to be much like the relationship with any other country…

Gay marriage and religious freedom July 19, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Human rights , comments closed

I’ve commented before on how ass-backwards I think the argument is that state recognition of same sex marriages should somehow be an infringement on religious freedom. Bondo at Voting While Intoxicated comments on this topic today, and I feel inclined to reiterate.

The basic human right of religious freedom dictates that we should recognize each individual’s right to their religious practices (within reason). If same sex marriage should in any way be a infringement on that right, allowing it would have to restrict the practices of a church or other religious organization. It does not. The state will still recognize heterosexual marriage just as before.

What would constitute infringement on religious freedom would be if states decided not to recognize marriages conducted by accepted religious organizations just because they were between two people of the same sex. As long as one religious organization recognizes such practice, so should the government.

Presidents and constitutions in Latin America July 10, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Political Theory, World politics , comments closed

Now that more information is available, it seems clear that calling the situation in Honduras a coup. Using the military to drive the president out and sending him into exile is hardly part of a legitimate judicial process. Steven Taylor had some good comments about that today. For that matter i recommend all his comments on the situation in Honduras.

Even though the rest of the government obviously overstepped their bounds in ousting Zelaya in the manner they did, it still remains that the entire government wanted him gone, including his own party. Now, I don’t know much about politics in Honduras, but it all reeks of something. And looking at Latin American politics from the side, it does seem to reek of the same thing that has happened in several other countries in the region lately: That the executive branch gets in a position to keep changing the constitution and election laws to counteract the checks and balances of government, such as term limits. (more…)

Coup in Honduras? June 29, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , comments closed

What does it take to make a coup? There might be some things I’m missing here, but according to this CNN report it appears to me that the president of Honduras has been deposed on orders from the parliament and the supreme court regarding what they have ruled are unlawful actions in trying to change the constitution. I see how it may be encroaching on the powers of the executive for the parliament and the supreme court to issue orders to the military, but it seems a bit of a stretch to call it a coup, doesn’t it?

Or have I just got the situation all wrong based on what is reported by American and European media?

The Iranian election undoubtedly rigged June 25, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , comments closed

Daniel Berman and Thomas Rintoul of the Insitute of Iranian studies at the University of St. Andrews have analyzed the figures from the Iranian election. The report is published through Chatham House. They conclude that there is little doubt that the election was rigged to a degree that has decided the outcome.

Their most interesting finds:

· In two conservative provinces, Mazandaran and Yazd, a turnout of more than 100% was recorded.
· If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory was primarily caused by the increase in voter turnout, one would expect the data to show that the provinces with the greatest increase in voter turnout would also show
the greatest ‘swing’ in support towards Ahmadinejad. This is not the case.
· In a third of all provinces, the official results would require that Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, all former centrist voters, and all new voters, but also up to 44% of former
reformist voters, despite a decade of conflict between these two groups.
· In 2005, as in 2001 and 1997, conservative candidates, and Ahmadinejad in particular, were markedly unpopular in rural areas. That the countryside always votes conservative is a myth. The claim that this year Ahmadinejad swept the board in more rural provinces flies in the face of these trends.

Even in an unstable “democracy” such as Iran, it seems highly unlikely that such results could appear by coincidence. Of course this wasn’t unexpected, but it has become very hard for the Guardian Council to deny that there were irregularities. As the sham of democracy in Iran falls, we might see the regime losing even more of their popular support, which might turn out to become a catalyst for change in the long run. At the moment, however, it seems to me that the regime has the upper hand with its brutal treatment of the protests.

Hat tip to Kai Arzheimer for posting on this report.