"When Evil is your neighbor, it is insufficient to stay silent"

I have just read the book Att Bo Granne med Onskan, or 'to live as a neighbor with evil', from 2010 by Klas Åmark, a professor of History at Stockholm University. The title of this post is Åmark's final words in the book.

In 2001 Göran Persson, then prime minister and a social democrat, commissioned 20m SEK to a grant project of six subjects over five years where Åmark was to write a summary which became the above book. The project concerned the relationship of Sweden with Nazi-Germany during 1933 to 1945. According to Åmark, Persson does not think it is necessary to apologize for being neutral during World War II. Apologize is perhaps a strong word but personally I think we should have sided immediately with Britain against Nazi-Germany.

The book is written without much discussion of the concomitant relationship with Anglo-America. You get a feeling that Sweden was surrounded by Germany and the Soviet Union without any hope of remaining in their civilization but instead having to succumb to the novel alien Nazi-world. Sweden did not take up arms to fight for what they say they stand for today and which was the alternative then.

When the social democrats now force the rightwing coalition to accept that the rebels can't be helped by ground attacks with the Swedish air force contingent that is to participate in the Libya war, they call upon this ghost of letting the heavy fighting to Anglo-America. It is of course good that Sweden joins the battle with NATO, even if I'm personally against these particular attacks for reasons that I have given in earlier posts, but it would be interesting to know if the Swedish people really is for this adventure since they are against joining NATO.

I'm not saying that entering the Libya fight would be the same thing as joining World War II. The Libya mission is one of these policing activities. But together with Afghanistan and Iraq it represents a conflict between democracy and dictatorship, something Torgny Segerstedt wrote a book about after having stated in 1933 that Hitler was an insult to the world. I don't know but the fact that Libya held the chairmanship of the UN Human Rights Committee qualifies as such but Gaddafi does of course not represent a military threat although there should not be any funds available for fighting at present, economically speaking.

It is not only the Arab and Persian worlds that are dictatorial. We also have China. Strangely, pragmatism and economic realities then also become our enemies to a certain degree. However, I am being constantly reminded that the economy rules which together with problems of disclosures of what the realities of power actually is today, which sometimes makes me worried.

In 1939 the situation was more clear. Anglo-America was democracy. They are more lonely though. So much greater reason for clearly side with enlightenment. It is good to see that Sweden is perhaps a little more on democracy's side today.


Fragmentation of the West, then of the EU?

Well, Saddam Hussein managed to fragment the West when Germany and France did not sign up to the Iraq War. It is now evident that Muammer Gaddafi has managed to fragment the EU since we find France and the UK on one side and Germany on the other. The fragmentation of the Franco-German axis is interesting because the credit rating of France depend on its close association with Germany according to Georg Soros. NATO is not really functional since Germany and Turkey are against the Libya intervention and the EU is a joke.

I'm not talking about the UK standing at the side of the Euro-zone, which is another type of fragmentation, but of the divide along the line of the interpretation of multiculturalism. One definition of this word means that all cultures are equal and should get equal respect in society where they coexist. I guess this is an extension of an anti-racial idea where race equals culture. In my mind all cultures are not equal even if human rights are equal in all cultures.

It is very easy to make claims that violate such an idea. Take for example the Cosa Nostra in Sicily. A culture, not good. The Burmese culture, for example, is not known for its beauty either. In Sweden the cultural solution that the Sweden Democrats want is not popular but almost 7% of the Swedes want to subscribe to it.

Gaddafi's culture, his idea of a society, is regarded by many as something the like of Cosa Nostra even if they generally do not send their sons to the London School of Economics and get awarded PhD's. Gangster cultures have to be taken seriously these days when the Mexican's fight for law and order against the drug mafia.

You run into problems with multiculturalism when cultures become civilizations like the Muslim world and the Chinese world. I believe that mankind can evolve optimally from the Western culture but not from the authoritarian cultures due to the superior freedom of thought. However, just like democracy lasted for about a hundred years in Athens the trust of authoritarianism might threaten it after about a century right now. Samuel P Huntington became famous with his "Clash of Civilizations" which we now find in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. We also find it in economic squirmishes between the West and China.

What are we then to make out of the so called Arab Spring? It seems like some countries prefer to treat it as a democracy movement and the search for universal freedom. But then we should remind us that the countries rioting have about 7% of their population liking the World Trade Center disaster. The West has many enemies in these countries and we don't know yet who will be in charge when the debacle is over only that organized religion is best poised to take over.

Which is then the best approach to take if we want to become friends with countries in North Africa and the Middle East? Do we want to participate in their civil war as some seem keen to do? It is very difficult since there seem to be different principles of engagement in different geographical regions. Dictators are good in Bahrain but bad in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. I still think it is very dangerous to enter the fray.


The Libya Rebellion

Gideon Rachman discussed the Libya situation recently on FT.com where he said that it was a battle between the "hot-heads", Cameron and Sarkozy and the "ditherers", Obama and Merkel. Caroline Glick, of the Jerusalem Post, writes the following on her blog: "The US's new war against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is the latest sign of its steady regional decline. In media interviews over the weekend, US military chief Adm. Michael Mullen was hard-pressed to explain either the goal of the military strikes in Libya or their strategic rationale. Mullen's difficulty explaining the purpose of this new war was indicative of the increasing irrationality of US foreign policy." These are harsh words about Obama's foreign policy.

However, Obama did try to impose his idea on the Israelian situation in the volatile Middle East by suggesting that progress was made on the two-state solution. He knew that Mubarak was coming to the end of his tenor and that, as Glick points out in her blog, the Muslim Brotherhood was standing in the door as the strongest candidate. He also knew, as Glick also points out, that the rebels in Eastern Libya might be al-Qaida since they had funded the al-Qaida in Iraq.

When during the second televised debate during the pre-election era Obama stated that a goal of his was to become independent of Middle Eastern oil in ten years, he indicated that he is on the way out and has since said that he is viewing across the Pacific rather than the Atlantic. This is obviously not good for Israel since they are rather integrated to the US than to the EU. My question is if the US really has that many objectives in the Middle East as they used to. Is it not rather the EU with their large immigration from the Arab world and a larger percentage of their oil than the 10% the US is importing that has interests?

William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary, claims today in The Times that the Arab Spring event, only in its cradle, has passed the 9/11 event in importance. It has been argued earlier that the financial crisis of 2008 is rather the most important event during this century and that China, the winner of that debacle, is not very keen on fighting in Libya, having abstained from voting in the Security Council. Hague claims that it is a universal opinion that people prefer the rule of law rather that rules imposed by state intelligence services. Apparently the Chinese do not agree and I know for sure people in Sweden that also do not agree, although I prefer the rule of law myself.


Liberal interventionism?

After the understanding that foreign troops or intervention in the Middle East and South Asia fails and backfires, the Arab League leader is already hesitant, and the BRIC nations abstained from laying their votes in the security council, which would translate into tarnishing the reputation of the West and boosting that of China, with significant negative effects in world trade, it is important to ask whether it is not more liberal to let the Libyans to themselves rather than intervening?

We don't have to go to North Africa to run into this problem. In the EU we have a problem between Germany and Greece that one person said was as close as you get to war in the EU these days. The German public doesn't think the life style of the Greeks should be paid for by German taxes. This phenomenon now changes the way the EU is going to operate in the future presently laying the grounds for a two speed EU.

Solidarity among all the nations with redistributions that work within a country like Germany does not work between EU countries, ie Europe is not the United States of Europe. The USA, by the way, does not have a majority for the Libyan debacle. Sixty percent is against.

Being liberal then is to let people have their own culture. The Greeks have their's and the Libyans their's. This does not mean the Greeks or the Libyans are less intelligent or does not mean you have to invoke racial ideas. But they want to live differently. In Sweden then, within our culture, we are not so keen on letting people perform honor killings, genital mutilations like those in Africa nowadays or in China producing eunuchs pre-Mao. Not to mention foot bindings. All these are control minded people's dreams of humiliations.

So we live in a non-authoritarian section of the world where human rights are respected to a greater extent. It is conceivable that some five to ten percent of Libyans are democratic and share our values but it is not necessarily conceivable that Libya would be more stable and that peace would rein if they were in power over more authoritarian subjects. The notion that democratic values are universal is a theorem in need of proof. The proof of time.


You don't drop democracy from 14,000 feet?

Tony Blair writes today in The Times the following: "First, there is no doubt that the best, most secure, most stable future for the Middle East lies in the spread of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. These are not “Western” values; they are the universal values of the human spirit. People of the Middle East are no different in that sense from the people of Europe or America."

David Cameron said the other day, about Tony Blair, that "you don't drop democracy from 14,000 feet". Why is it then that they seem to be very intent on doing just that again? Some countries that are said to have acquired democracy like South Korea is probably not very similar to European democraccies either. But Libya is further away than this even. They lack the Confucian tenacity and the attributes of European and American democracy. It took hundreds of years to develop this culture of democracy.

Let us assume for simplicity that authoritarian values are not heriditary then the people in Libya dwell in a basin separated by a ridge to that of Western democracy and freedom. Where then is the nearest pass? Helping out with air and ground attacks was not a success in Iraq nor does it seem to work in Afghanistan. I believe that hitting ground targets in Libya, especially now when Gaddafi already is in Benghazi, will kill civilians and then there is a hundred percent incidence of avert reactions and the whole thing back fires.

I believe the most reasonable solution is to let the Libyans fight it out and eventually find out how they want to live and what culture to emulate if they so wish. There will be the least casualties in this way.


Fama, Pestus et Bellum?

1300 73m, 1350 51m, 1400 45m, 1450 60m, 1500 69m and 1550 78m. What you just read were the populations of Western Europe at these years from Bennett, MK The World's Food (1954) p5. It took 250 years for the population increase to resume after famines, pest and wars.

Douglass North wrote 1973 that property rights in Europe in general and in England in particular was a determining factor for the development of the Industrial Revolution after 1700. He also claims that the reason for why free men got property, real as well as immaterial, was the the negotiation position of serfs improved as the malicious 250 years went on. Labor was scarce and land less so. For some reason this only happened initially in England and Holland.

Niall Ferguson, who excels in comparative history, does a comparison between the development of property rights in North and South America in his recent book Civilization: The West and the Rest. Thus he creates an argument for the importance of such rights that were coupled with representation as one of his six arguments for the rise of the Western Civilization. He also makes the point that this was a British import since they worked also in Canada, New Zeeland and Australia. Hong Kong did better than Manila.

The comparison between North and South America is interesting in one additional respect that Indians remain in South America to a much higher extent than they do in the North which raises the question about the ethical problem of having replaced the North American Indian culture with ours. They were put to work for the conquistadors whereas they went to their own reservations in the North. It is a very difficult question because it is not really possible to say that we should not exist because we were bad to the Indians.

I have realized that some people have problems with defending their own civilization today because of this. However, it was of course a different situation then and people thought in different ways. We are supposed to be enlightened today but similar effects can be seen recently when a lot of people cheer Anglo-America on as they enter Iraq to attack them for this a few years down the line.

Science, another of Ferguson's factors, helped us understand that racial differences does not matter that much after a horrible malconclusion of pseudo-scientific results that led to such a monstrosity like the Holocaust. Is it possible then to discuss cultural differences, with comparable history for example, or do you get a racist epithet by doing this? Realizing that many people would not agree, I think you can. It is important for developing cultures that work well and that lead to humane and efficient societies. But then again, you have to say that our culture is preferable to that of the North American Indians. More humane?


Intervention in Libya?

Skicka Nordic Battle Group till Libyen Brännpunkt SvD: "På försvarets hemsida kan vi läsa att ”Nordic Battlegroup är en viktig del för att stärka fred, frihet och demokrati i såväl Sverige som andra delar av världen”."

Magnus Andersson and Rikard Nordin both active in the Swedish Center Party Youth Organization wants to enter the fray in Libya. I have no idea what Nordic Battle Group could actually do there but I would like to argue about the wisdom of doing so.

The situation in Libya is horrible any person with good intentions would like the killing to stop. However, I personally don't think it is in actuality possible to do much about the situation from the outside. Robert Gates, the US Defense Secretary, even goes so far as to say that anyone that advice the President to enter Libya militarily should have his head examined. The reason for why he says so is probably that it is very easy to enter such a situation with good intent but very difficult to actually get out at a later stage. It is more than clear that trying to help will back fire and give you a bad reputation.

Should you go in anyhow to save people's lives? Probably not in this case because it is highly likely that Muammar Gaddafi started this debacle to copy the Damascus Spring event in Syria. To prepare for his sons to take over by exposing "troublemakers" that then can be eliminated to give them peace of mind for another generation. This Conspiracy Theory is valid if the present situation seem to hold out in that Gaddafi will regain his power in the country. It is unfortuantely only possible to have a position on activity of leaving the Arab countries to mind their own business.

I have heard that the Arab League is talking about the no-fly zone in beneficial terms. I'm not sure I trust their judgement on the issue though. They might just want the US to get bogged down at yet another site. Also, when you find out the no-fly zone was not enough you end up doing more and then you get stuck. It is a contradiction in terms that the Arab League is positive for an intervention since it is governed by rulers that would not themselves like interventions.


The Dieting Problem

There was recently a debate in the press about the ethical problem of society giving the individual rules to follow concerning his/her health. The reason is of course that there are societal costs involved. Smoking is such a habit that is being phased out in society seemingly successfully. Over weight (BMI=25-30) and obesity (BMI larger than 30), however, is a more sensitive subject. BMI=weight in kg/square of height in m).

I recently had a reason to research the topic of dieting. It occurred to me that the reason for the veritable jungle of dieting advice on the net and the literature is that making controlled experiments would be very difficult where you both find out which calorie deficit you should use for optimal results and on top of that which type and composition of the food to use. To do this with one single person of the same age is for example not possible. It would have to be performed on large cohorts of individuals where compliance for a standardized diet would be impossible to achieve. The problem is of major importance due to the large proportion of people that are overweight and that try to diet.

Knowing that liver glycogen is first made available when you start to fast followed by muscle glycogen which makes the dieter very happy initially because glycogen binds water, up to 4 liters in a 70kg male, which gives initial weight losses that are substantial. What is not clear from available information is how the glycogen is rebuilt, if it happens when the weight increases due to water accumulation rather than fat. It is conceivable that it can happen continuously or that it happens after the diet is over and the dieter searches his/her equilibration weight.

Thanks to detailed information on food products and databanks with food energy information it is possible to find out where your break even point is in the energy consumption of your sedentary life. Online calculators can be used to calculate your basal metabolism rate from your sex, age, height, weight and for calculation on how much energy you have to remove to get a certain weight loss per week. As a rule of thumb a pound of fat has 3,500 calories which means that you have to lose some 500 calories a day to drop 0.45kg per week. The Microsoft Excel program makes it very easy to do these chores. Losing a kilogram a month on fasting 300 calories per day would be something many people could easily do in this fashion.

The break even point, ie practicably a level of calorie intake that accounts for your basic life without exercise, can then be used to arrange for a given life style that can be maintained in this fashion. After all, it occurred to me, taking responsibility for what you eat is approximately the same problem as brushing your teeth.

I could not find information on what level of weight loss per week would be optimal. However, it is mostly recommended that people should not diet faster than half a kilogram per week. Not more than 10% of your starting weight over 6 months. The reason for this is that higher levels of calorie deficit per day than about 500 might induce a starvation mode. This is when the body starts using energy more efficiently which means that the weight loss would decrease making it less optimal for more dieting pain.

Detailed information on this important issue would be useful due to the enormous impact on the psychology of dieting. Starvation mode is dangerous because you burn lean tissue rather than fat because the body lowers the amount of the more metabolically active muscle tissue. Exercise during dieting is beneficial for avoiding the starvation mode. You can find programs calculating energy consumption for various types of exercise over your sedentary level on the net. If you walk, you use about 1 calorie per minute for every 1km/hr you walk.

Dieting regimes often discuss the possible effect of the proportion of protein, carbohydrate and fat in the diet. Hard data for this are hard to come by but it is known by athletes that a high carbohydrate containing diet where the fat content percent is about 20 is optimal. A 70kg male needs about 32g protein per day to repair. The reason for this is that higher glycogen stores are built in the muscles which give the athlete a higher durability and thus trainability. This can obviously be important for people that in general move about during the day. They will be less tired at the end of the day. However, eating becomes more boring.


Scholar's ink is holier than martyr's blood!

Already by 1500 more than 1,500 scientific and mathematical articles had appeared in print claims Niall Ferguson in his just released book Civilization: The West and the Rest. The reformation of 1517 fragmented the Church in Europe whereas it was lying like a wet blanket over the Ottoman Empire. Printing books became prohibited by death penalty 1515. Calligraphy of the Quran was more in Ottoman style.

It is not 'comme il faut' to point this out among Western scientists, but Ferguson reminds us that science led to proficiency in war by sharpening the weapon systems in use. He shows a graph where the results in mathematics are compared for countries of the East and the West and notes that the Easterners are beating us in tests distinctly now on the basic school level. However, we don't know if school math tests will translate in superior elite mathematicians. As I pointed out earlier, it is still up to the Chinese to prove that they will achieve the same per capita results in science as the West without freedom of thought.

Interestingly, Ferguson also points out that there is a delay in the effect of superior science by telling the tale about Ottoman siege of Vienna 1683, that could have ended badly, a couple of years ahead of the publication of Isaac Newton's Principia and John Locke's Second Treatise of Government, books that cemented the appearance of the United States by inspiring Thomas Jefferson and the Scientific Revolution.

Furthermore, Christians new that separation of Church and State was important as can be seen in the Biblical statement from Matthew 22:21 "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's". The Muslims have a problem with this to this date. Political Islam is a problem today in Europe. As I pointed out earlier, Francis Bacon (1561-1626) also quoted the Bible when claiming that Man should subdue Nature at the same time as he advocated for science.

How much of a problem is this today when the West contemplates the problems in North Africa mostly as a threat to their economy by a raised price on crude oil rather than a fight for human rights and political freedom. Well, if we look back on the Iraq war and remember how much bile the US and Britain has had to endure for the liberation of the Iraqis it should be easy to understand this. By staying out of this intervention, France and Germany began a strain on the trans-Atlantic relationship that today is cemented with differences in the economical outlook for the future. Needless to say, it is of great importance to Islamists to rule by dividing the West which Muammar Gaddafi, as Saddam Hussein, knows when he bombs his own oil installation to look for an effect on the price of oil.


Right-of-Center in Politics--Here to Stay?

A couple of articles in The Times today, one editorial and one from David Miliband, the former Labor foreign secretary, deal with the problem the center-left is facing in Europe. I also read a book by Göran Greider, a free-thinking social democrat unsatisfied with the recent election result in Sweden where the right-of-center alliance won, discussing the heritage of Olof Palme recently called You don't escape Olof Palme.

Perhaps that is what mankind in Europe actually has done, it escaped social democracy, an over-moralizing phenomenon. We have found out with new means that the populace is actually placed a little right-of-center rather than left-of-center. Differences seen earlier might have been due to differences in the elite rather than among the broad masses. The internet and social media has now lifted the bar sufficiently to erase these differences and we will for some time now find politics where it has landed?

Göran Greider mourns Palme's "democratic socialism" without being able to formulate an alternative because the majority has proven to be placed right-of-center? He is even so unsatified that he asks "there must be a way out of here". Maybe there is not?


Is a Meritocracy Necessarily Beneficial?

Reading Ian Morris' Why The West Rules--for now from 2010. Morris creates an index composed of organizational function, ie, city size, calorie consumption, information capacity and military capacity, equally weighted, and follows this from 14,000 BCE till today.

The West, which in essence is everything west of India, starts out 2,000 years ahead of the East mostly due to the availability of plants and animals to domesticate. The West leads over the East until after the Roman Empire and the Han dynasty after which, and during the age when Muslims and Christians dominated the West, the West passes the East during the Industrial Revolution around 1800.

Like Kenneth Pomeranz Ian Morris speculates on how the West leaped ahead. They both focus on the utilization of coal. Interestingly, metallurgy was more advanced in China and they had used coal for heating since the 11th century but they did not mechanize pumping of water with a coal-fueled steam engine like James Watt did. This was a collaborative endeavor with an investor, metallurgy and academic skills. The preparation of the field with science and efficient economy was naturally important for the whole thing to actually take off.

Morris' explanation for why the many more Chinese did not succeed is that they did not enter into the scientific revolution but instead initiated a second renaissance, succumbing to authorities from the past. He also describes how the Chinese due to lack of interest turned down mathematics form Portuguese Jesuits despite the fact that the Jesuits won competitions in China on predicting solar eclipses. It is evident from this that they did not get that idea formed by Francis Bacon to find new knowledge that would "liberate mankind".

Freedom was already important in the West at the time of the American Revolution and meritocracies, like the one in China, can probably act as a filter to weed out creative non-conforming elements that show less interest in learning classics by heart. This phenomenon might still be important for how to arrange education in society. Learning without problem solving, as in a primary education, is probably only good up to a point, then it becomes inefficient.


"Muscular Liberalism"?

Paulina Neuding writes the following in a Project Syndicate article recently: "Thus, the lack of “muscular liberalism” in one of the world’s most liberal countries has paved the way for both Islamists and right-wing populists. Europe’s leading politicians have spoken out, and now it is time for European civil society – its newspapers, critics, curators, academics, and publishers – to declare the failure of multiculturalism and show some courage in defending the values they claim to embody".

I'm not sure I like the expression "muscular liberalism". First, I am not sure exactly what it means and second, because it sounds a little non-intellectual for a quite complicated and academic subject. It was first used by David Cameron, the UK prime minister, at a security conference.

I agree with Paulina Neuding, however, concerning standing up for a person like Lars Vilks when he is assaulted by people that does not know how to behave in a Western country, although, I, as earlier stated, think it is not a good idea to humiliate religious belief unnecessarily.

I have realized that some people don't think a position like mine is strong enough against multiculturalism, defined as Neuding does in her article. Religious belief is very important for a majority of people on Earth, so I don't understand why the intermediate position should be difficult to accept. Different faiths have to be accepted in society although cultural expressions of violent tendencies, both actions and threats, have to be prevented.