Friday, October 21, 2005

Rust Doorman Free 

ACQUITTED. The doorman who was arrested for a shooting at the cafe Rust last spring. The state's attorney has determined he acted in lawful self-defense.

You may remember this case because of the sensational hospital raid in which a group of armed, hooded thugs snatched the shooting victim's brother out of the hospital, where he was under guard. (That brother now lives in Jordan, but has been convicted in absentia for his involvement in the attack on the doorman.)

The doorman was, however, charged with illegal possession of a firearm, for which he received a five-month sentence without possibility of parole, but that time has already been served.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ambassadors Amok 

I didn't catch this story in the Danish media, but this article just popped up in my inbox and offers some interesting updates on the Mohammed cartoon issue.

A number of Muslim countries with embassies in Denmark have sent a protest to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the caricatures.

"We are hoping for understanding about Muslims' feelings about Mohammed. And we're hoping for an apology from Jyllands-Posten," said Mascud Effendy Hutasuhut, minister counsellor at the Indonesian Embassy.

In addition to Indonesia, a number of Arab states, Pakistan, Iran, and Bosnia-Herzegovina have complained about the cartoons, which they see as a hate campaign against Muslims in Denmark.

See, this is the problem. It's one thing for religious extremists to get cranked up about something while the mainstream practitioners shrug it off. It's another thing altogether for the official apparatus whole countries, whole blocs of countries, to freak out when the free press in one little democratic country (with a population about the size of one Indonesian suburb) runs a little exercise in free speech. And as for accusations from a Danish "hate campaign against Muslims" coming from countries that routinely compare all Jews to pigs and monkeys (and worse) through the various organs of their state-controlled communications... well, color me unsympathetic.

I don't deny those cartoons were insulting to Muslims. It sucks to be insulted. But I think Peter Viggo Jakobsen gets it right:

Peter Viggo Jakobsen, department chief at the Danish Institute for International Studies, said the Muslim ambassadors should not get their hopes up.

"If they have the faintest idea about how a Danish and democratic society works, they should know that the Danish government doesn't have any say about Jyllands-Posten's rights of expression," Jakobsen said.

This is the kind of story that makes me wonder if it isn't just Islamic extremists that don't get it—if perhaps Islam itself really is incompatible with a free press. I suppose the logical argument would be that no, Islam is not incompatible with a free press, but these particular governments, each of which has perverted Islam in its own particular way, are incompatible with a free press. Which raises the next logical question: if Islam as defended by the nations of Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, "a number of Arab states," and Bosnia-Herzegovina is a "perverted" form, then where exactly is this "ideal" form of Islam practiced? Where is this beautiful, harmonious version of Islam I keep hearing about that's so compatible with all the liberties enshrined in the western tradition? Where are its defenders? Where are the reasonable and clear-eyed Muslims who can say, "This is foolishness. Islam is about the relationship between man and God on a one-to-one basis. What a newspaper says or doesn't say about the religion, or any of its practices or dogmas, has absolutely no relevance to the practice of our religion. It can be insulting, but so can the service at most Danish restaurants, and we've learned to live with that."

I ask sincerely. Because if Islam and freedom of speech can't get along, we really are in for a clash of civilizations.

I just hate those.

There is some scholarly material on the subject: like here (.pdf), for example. And here's a 1998 news story from Ireland that's worth a look, if only for this astonishing paragraph:

The United States is arguably the best place on earth to be Muslim. Multicultural democracy, with its guarantees of religious freedom and speech, makes life easier for Muslims than in many Islamic states in the Middle East. It's an idea they'd like to export. U.S. Muslim social organizations send money and medicine to beleaguered Kashmiris and Bosnians. The Web site of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, an organization devoted to "promoting the establishment of free trade and justice," has links to the Islamic University of Gaza. "The U.S. Constitution describes the perfect Islamic state," says Muhammed Muqtader Khan, who teaches American politics to Muslims. "It protects life, liberty and property."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What's Good for the Goose is... Naw, Screw It, Just Kill the Goose and the Gander 

As fears of an Avian flu pandemic kick into full panic mode, some are already laying the blame on the Bush Administration. For example, a Counterpunch article entitled "The Excuses Begin to Fly: Bush and Avian Flu" hypothesizes that the administration's aggressive movements and big noises related to the flu are merely pre-emptive spin control. The administration is just setting the rest of us up, the author suggests, so that after the flu has come and killed and gone, they can say, "we really, really tried, people!"

Fair enough.

The point is also made that the administration opposes a suspension of patent rights on Tamiflu in order that it might be produced by everyone, everywhere, without fear of lawsuits, as a contingency against a pandemic. "No urgent call for suspending those rights in an emergency from the administration that has deemed virtually no human right worth protecting as it pursues its GWOT (Global War on Terror)."

Problem is, the people making these arguments haven't generally been real supportive of the War on Terror. The citation makes that pretty clear.

If it's fair to criticize Bush's handling of the bird flu threat on the basis of his handling of the War on Terror, it's got to be appropriate to assess what an avian flu pandemic response might be like if handled the way "GWOT" critics would like to see the War on Terror handled. What would such a response look like?

Root Causes! We'd have to begin by trying to understand the root causes of the eventual pandemic. That won't be easy. First of all, they're going to involve a lot of biology. Not just human biology, but bird biology. And cellular chemistry. And maybe even math.

Sensitivity! We're going to have stress that it isn't birds we hate, but the strain of influenza that they're carrying. Wherever possible we should try to coax the flu out of the birds so that we can kill the flu without killing the bird.

No Profiling! It isn't as though bird-borne influenza is the only dire threat to humans posed by our animal friends. There's no need to make them feel targeted. A lot of European countries are already passing laws restricting the trade of fowl, and some Asian countries have already slaughtered millions of birds—most of them perfectly innocent!—out of sheer panic. This must end. If we're going to ban the import of chickens and turkeys, it's only fair that we ban the import of pigs and horses. And monkeys. And dogs and cats and insects and fish.

Hearts and Minds! If we took the time to get to know these birds, and gave these birds a chance to know us, surely we could persuade them to identify the flu-carriers in their midst and have them migrated down to some uninhabited island somewhere.

Halliburton! Goddammit, you just know they've got something to do with this!

One Man's Influenza... Lastly, it's possible we brought this flu on ourselves. Maybe we haven't been very good to our bird friends, what with all the... the... you know, the corporations and things... and maybe it's actually morally and ethically fair that they should bring this flu at us. Presumably certain news services will spell this out for us by using scare quotes around such incendiary terms as "influenza," "avian flu," and "pandemic." Ready for "the so-called war on influenza?"

Doesn't sound like a winning formula to me. Personally, I say we kill every suspect bird population out there, impose an immediate 6-month ban on the movement of any birds (in the infected population) across any borders, and, yes, suspend the damn patents already and crank out any effective medicine we can as fast as we can and start setting up the means for its distribution.

But that's just me.

Dog Bites Man 

The author of some Massachusetts legislation to hold owners responsible for any attacks their dogs make on others is... attacked by his own dog.

It's a beautiful world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Princeling in the Public Eye 

About fifty percent of Danish media attention is being dedicated to the little royal mewling, so if you're really interested just keep on playing Danish Media roulette with the links in my masthead. As a public service, I give you this link to the Danish princeling's first public appearance. That done, I'd like to leave the whole thing behind. After all, if I'm going to waste your time going on and on about a baby in Denmark, it's going to be this one:

* * *

Actually, as long as I've given myself that segue into the land of Molli Malou, allow me to extend the digression to boast of her having passed her first swimming course. It was an eight-week course (or maybe ten-) and she didn't exactly learn how to swim so much as how not to drown if suddenly submerged in water. Here's a scan of an underwater photograph of her taken by the instructor. Observe her incredible talent at not drowning!

* * *

I should also mention for those of you who aren't here that the darkness is beginning to descend upon us, and will be here in earnest once we turn the clocks back this weekend. As it is we're waking up in darkness and eating our very early dinners in darkness; by this time next week we'll be dropping Molli at daycare in darkness and doing our last-minute shopping for the things-we-need-for-dinner-but-forget-to-get-during-the-day in darkness. Then it's only a matter of a month or so until it's so dark for so long that by the time you realize it's gotten light outside and your eyes begin to adjust, it's already getting dark again.

And as long as I'm mentioning things, I might as well mention that I think my daughter called me daddy for the first time today. It wasn't exactly daddy... more like "Dah Dee," two words, slight reflective pause in the middle.

I'll allow it.

* * *

I've talked about Denmark's egalitarian streak in the past. Here's a new manifestation: violent girl gangs.

In a gentler vein toward gender equality, Danish "experts" are now urging Danish companies to close the "perq gap" between Danish men and women. Apparently men get annual perqs worth about 4.2 billion crowns (~ $700 million), while women's annual receipt of perqs only amounts to 679 million (~ $113 million).

* * *

It's "efterĂ„rsferie" in Denmark right now—fall vacation. So things are pretty quiet out there. BT has been kind enough to offer a section on "fall vacation inspirations". They suggest spending one day of your fall vacation staying in and baking on the Great Bake Day. What's "Great Bake Day" about? What are its origins? According to the article I just linked to, it's "a concept developed by a handful of ad-boys from the ad bureau Just/Kidde."

Just/Kidde? Sounds an awful lot like Just/Kidding, but apparently they're for real. Ironically enough, Trine's baking some bread as I write this. I don't have the heart to tell her we've still got two whole shopping days left until Great Bake Day.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


The issuer of death-threats against the nefarious Drawers of Mohammed was apparently arrested on Friday with little fanfare. He was a 17-year-old man "with a Muslim background." The two artists who'd been advised by police to go underground have now been advised that it's safe to go back to their regular lives.

Hell, it's late and I'm tired. Read it yourself. If you need a translation, I'm sure the Jyllands-Posten in English link will have it tomorrow.

Meanwhile... bonfires all over the nation to celebrate the birth of Denmark's latest royal heir.

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