The opposite reaction to terror September 22, 2011Posted by Sverre in : Human rights, Political behavior , add a comment
Norwegian newspapers today report the following: A month after the terror at Oslo and Utøya, a group of researchers from the University of Bergen repeated three of the survey questions they asked Norwegians as part of the International Social Survey Programme, right after the terror in Madrid in 2006. They were amazed at what they found. Norwegians are more sceptical, not less, towards extending police powers of surveillance.
They asked the following questions (english translations from ISSP documentation):
Suppose the government suspected that a terrorist act was about to happen. Do you think the authorities should have the right to
- Detain people for as long as they want without putting them on trial? 2006: 53 % yes – 2011: 50 % yes
- Tap people’s telephone conversations? 2006: 85 % yes – 2011: 67 % yes
- Stop and search people in the street at random? 2006: 58 % yes – 2011: 44 % yes
This constitutes a clear drop in support for security measures that invade privacy and civil liberties, quite the opposite of what we would expect. (more…)
We killed the bastard! Let’s party….? May 2, 2011Posted by Sverre in : Human rights, World politics , 2comments
So, Osama bin Laden is dead. The most hated man in the western hemisphere has been brought down. Justice is served. Or is it? If we take a step back from the thrill of the moment and examine the facts, what has really happened here?
United States’ agents have localized and killed a foreign national on foreign soil, then recovered his body. This man is accused of committing serious crimes against humanity, but no attempt was made to capture him alive and put him on trial. The president of the United States has acted as both prosecutor, judge and jury with the US Navy Seals as executioners. Despite this, President Obama freely owns up to his achievement, without even an attempt at explanation as to why the killing was necessary.
Official word from the US Government is also that the mission was to kill It also seems that the aim has been to kill him, not a serious attempt to capture. And the rest of the western nations applaude. Including Norway’s prime and foreign ministers. And the people of the United States (and to a lesser degree in Europe as well) celebrate. Celebrate the killing of another human being.
Law without ethics? February 10, 2010Posted by Sverre in : Human rights , 1 comment so far
The Norwegian weekly newspaper Morgenbladet brings a thought-provoking piece this week by professor Hans Petter Graver, dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo. In a recent book by novelist Kjartan Fløgstad, the way the law profession went into the service of Nazi Germany is put in a very bad light.
Professor Graver, far from leaping to the defense of his profession actually defends the depiction by Fløgstad, even giving it current relevance by drawing parallels between the reinterpretation of German law to accomodate Nazism and the reinterpretation of American law under Bush to legitimize coercive interrogation techniques such as “waterboarding” or even hitting a detainee in the face or stomach.
He points to a dangerous tendency within his own profession not to take a moral stand, insist there are two sides to every issue and be servile to government. This may be done under the guise of a neutrality necessary for preserving the rule of law even under bad regimes, but it requires ignoring the original intent of the law, ripping the very foundation out from under the system in the process. There are good examples of the law profession participating in the defense against external enemies, but in defending the rule of law against perversion by internal enemies, the historical record is not very good.
Race – an outdated concept? January 29, 2010Posted by Sverre in : Human rights, language , add a comment
Great controversy has apparently arisen in the US over the inclusion of the word “negro” in a national census. Once again I am reminded of the different reality I live in. Where I come from, Norway, race isn’t a concept we’re familiar with neither in social science nor politics. Nationality (including second and third generation immigrants), religion and cultural heritage are certainly issues, but genetic “race” alone is an alien concept. We do have some dark blotches on our record, most notably treatment of Jews before WWII and the Rom and indigenous Sami peoples until far too recent years. In present day Norway, I perceive the concept of race as one that belongs to the extreme right fringe of society.
Nonsensical boycott uproar November 13, 2009Posted by Sverre in : Academic matters, Human rights, Norwegian politics , 1 comment so far
My university, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), has been the centre of an international controversy blown ridiculously out of proportion for the last few weeks. It peaked today with a university board meeting actually attended by reporters from Al-Jazeera(!). I assure you not a common occurence in a Norwegian university.
It all started with a petition by thirty-four academic staff members from NTNU and the regional college HiST recommending an academic and cultural boycot of Israel and Israeli universities. Interestingly enough, at least two of the petitioners have jewish backgrounds themselves. Although I am sympathetic to the cause, I think the idea of academic and cultural isolation is more likely to be counterproductive to the larger goal of improving conditions for Palestinians. My opinion is however beside the matter. For reference, the total number of academic staff at NTNU is about 2700, of which 34 doesn’t seem like an alarming number. This also mobilized a counter-petition by other members of the staff.
Next, three professors at NTNU organized a seminar series about the Israel-Palestine conflict with the endorsement of the university Rector Trond Digernes. They invited international speakers like Stephen Walt, Moshe Zuckermann and Illian Pape in addittion to various Norwegian speakers. They instantly came under attack by “friends of Israel” that critizised them for a biased selection of speakers, accusing them of being inspired by hatred of Israel and jews.
This was eventually picked up by Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. That’s when the ball really started rolling. The usual freak anonymous hate-calls and blog flaming is to be expected. But After the Ha’aretz article, NTNU actually received an official letter from the Israeli ambassador accusing NTNU of “Israel-bashing”. For diplomats to interfere with university seminars, especially with such language, seems rather unusual to me.
Gay marriage and religious freedom July 19, 2009Posted by Sverre in : Human rights , 2comments
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.