The vaccine rollout has started in Denmark

Like everywhere there has been some bumps during the upstart, but the vaccinations has started in Denmark, and there is now a plan for how the vaccine roll-out is going to happen.

The plan is obviously in Danish, but it runs through June, and most people will probably be in group 12 (over 16 or 18 years). The name of the category shows that it hasn’t been decided the age cut-off for vaccination is 16 or 18 years. I am guessing that it is likely that children will get vaccinated after all the adults are (high-risk children are already vaccinated in this plan).

Currently just over 100,000 people have received their first dose, which is approximately 1.75% of the population. This number includes everyone living in nursing homes.

I will almost certainly be in the general group of vaccinations, so it might take up to half a year before I get my vaccine. I obviously hope to be get it already in April, but fully understand why those of us not at risk, have to wait until it is our turn.

The plan is going to be updated regularly so it reflects the actual progress and the delivery rate of vaccinations, but even if it subject to change, the mere fact that there is a plan that one can look at/follow along, is somewhat of a relief.

Culling the Danish mink

It is a story that has gotten some traction in international media, but which might have been overlooked by people focused on the US election.

The Danish government has ordered the culling of all mink in Danish mink farms.

Denmark is the biggest mink fur producer in the world, so this is a multi-million dollar industry that is getting wiped out.

The reason for the decision, which I am sure wasn’t taken lightly, was that the mink poses a health care risk – more precisely, they are a source of new mutations of the corona virus – some with worrying characteristics. Or as BBC explains it:

Mink kept in large numbers on mink farms have caught the virus from infected workers. And, in a small number of cases, the virus has “spilled back” from mink to humans, picking up genetic changes on the way.

Mutations in some mink-related strains are reported to involve the spike protein of the virus, which is targeted by some, but not all, vaccines being developed.

“If the mutation is on a specific protein that is being currently targeted by the vaccine developers to trigger an immune response in humans then it means that if this new virus strain comes out of the mink back into the humans, even with vaccination, the humans will start spreading it and the vaccine will not protect,” Dr Peyre told BBC News.

While the culling is going on, the region of Denmark where the strain has been observed in humans, has been shut down. People have to stay in their municipalities, avoid gatherings, and all bars, restaurants and cafés have been closed. An effort to test everyone in the region (approximately 280,000 people) has begun.

Some politicians in the Danish parliament, especially those in opposition to the government, has questioned whether the measures are necessary, but it is worth noticing that the only scientist in the Danish parliament, Stinus Lindgreen, has come out in clear support of the measures, stressing the need to react quickly to ensure this doesn’t turn into a greater problem.

Currently, there is negotiations going on about how to compensate not only the people directly affected, but also people who are indirectly affected by the culling and the shut down of the region.


The iceberg theory of sexual harassment

Danish politics is right now rocked by Morten Østergaard, the leader of the mid-center party Radikale Venstre, stepping down due to a 10-year old case of sexual harassment. The case that led to him stepping down, was the report of him groping a female member of parliament from the same party when she first became a member of parliament, 10 years ago. It came out when the party decided to have a 24-hour session, where people could call in and report or talk about past cases of sexual harassment. This is part of the party’s attempt to change the sexist political culture in Denmark.

A lot of people have of course focused on the so-called irony of the leader having to step down due to the very problem the party is trying to fight. Which of course shows that people really don’t get the whole concept of trying to change the culture.

Morten Østergaard has himself explained that he stepped down not because of the old incident, but rather due his handling of the case after it came out, trying to claim it had been handled internally, without admitting it was him who had done it.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people attacked the woman, Lotte Rod, who stepped forward, claiming that it was a coup – apparently in coordination with Sofie Carsten Nielsen, the woman who took over as leader of the party, even though Lotte Rod didn’t support her as the new party leader. They also make a great point of it being a very minor transgression (an unwanted touch) which in no way should lead to such drastic results.

I, on the other hand, was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

You see, I have developed something I could call the iceberg theory of sexual harassment (note, I am not using theory in the scientific way here). It goes something like this: Any credible report of sexual harassment about a person or organization, hides a equal or larger number of unreported cases. Unreported in this case, might not be internally, but definitely not known to the general public/surroundings.

The iceberg theory is based on empirical evidence, but is also based on the simple fact that people who are unwilling to respond boundaries in one case, is likely to not be willing to respect boundaries in other cases. This is true for sexual harassment, and it is true for things such as sexual assaults and rape (see e.g. Repeat Rapists on Campus, which explains that repeat rapists are responsible for a majority of rapes). Do note, that I am not claiming that people who commit sexual harassment will go on to commit sexual assault or rape, but that the same type of mechanisms are in play.

On the organizational level, it has been shown many times that an organization that accepts sexual harassment in one case, has also accepted it in many other cases.

And of course, the other shoe also dropped in the case with Morten Østergaard, who admitted that there was also a complaint about him from 2016. This time, from a 21 year old intern. This was apparently not know to the other members of parliament for the party, which is quite likely due to legal reasons.

Is this the last case? Only time will tell, but it certainly did show that his decision to step down was the right one, and that there is a lot of work left to change the political environment. Both in Radikale Venstre, where the process has started, but also in the other political parties, which to a large degree seems either to ignore the problem or to deny that there is one.

Note, there is comment moderation switched on, which means that if you haven’t had a comment approved before on this blog, your comment will be put into a queue until I approve it. I will try to check regularly for new comments, but I am somewhat away from my computer most of this weekend, so it might take a little time before I notice and approve the comment.

It should go without saying that sexist, bigoted and slanderous comments won’t be approved.

Shutdown of Denmark

After a few weeks of trying to contain the COVID-19 through placing people in quarantine, the Danish government took much more drastic measures the last couple of days.

  • New time-limited emergency laws have been put in place, allowing:
    • The closing of schools and other institutes of learning, as well as public institutions in general
    • Forcing people into isolation if they have a dangerous disease
    • Allowing police to force their way into homes without a court order, if the Ministry of Health asks them to do so
    • Prohibiting events over a certain size
    • To put aside certain laws guaranteeing treatments for certain ailments within a certain time frame
    • Make it possible to limit access to public transportation, hospitals, and nursery homes
    • Create protective measures that guarantees delivery of goods
  • All public schools, high schools and places of higher education is shut down for two weeks from tomorrow (most closed down today)
  • All public cultural institutions (e.g. museums), libraries etc are closed down for two weeks
  • All state employees working in non-critical roles are sent home with pay for the next two weeks. If they can work from home, they should do so, otherwise they will get a paid leave.
  • Courts have closed down for the next two weeks, except in exceptional situations
  • The travel from certain places (Italy, Iran, China, parts of South Korea, different parts of Europe) are restricted, in the sense that you are forced to a mandatory examination
  • The government has asked for all events with more than 100 people to cancel the next two weeks
  • The government has suggested that cafe, restaurants, and bars consider closing down the next two weeks
  • The government has asked everybody to try to limit their travel on public transportation, especially during peak hours
  • The government has suggested that all private schools, high schools, and institutes of learning close down the next couple of weeks
  • The government has asked all private employers to get their employees to work from home or use their vacation if possible
  • The government has suggested that private religious congregations, museums etc close down for the next two weeks

As you can see, the actions taken are quite far-reaching, and affect most Danes. Personally, I will be working from home the next two weeks, communication with colleagues via the internet. For a lot of introverts, this probably sounds fantastic, for me, as an extrovert, it is not something I look forward to.

I am not too happy about the temporary law allowing the police to force their way into homes without a court order on behalf of the Ministry of Health, but I guess I can see the need for it under certain circumstances. If it is misused, the police and/or the Ministry of Health can be dragged in front of a court (unlike in some countries, people actually occasionally win over the state in Denmark).

The reason the Danish government is taking these actions, is because the spread of the virus was getting out of control, and because the Italian health minister warned Denmark that they needed to take drastic actions to avoid getting into a similar situations as Italy.

The measures taken is an attempt to both try to limit the spreading of the disease and to protect the most vulnerable. Before this, the idea was to contain the virus through asking people to go into quarantine – this clearly didn’t work, as the spread has more than doubled every day this week.

Generally, the steps taken by the government are widely supported, though a large minority believe that the whole threat is overblown. None of the later group appears to be working in health care or similar.

For more coverage, see The Local which has made the article free to read.

How to completely miss the point

The Danish government party, Socialdemokratiet/The Social Democrats, have made a video which is supposed to show that they support all children.

You don’t have to be able to speak English to get the gist of what the video is about. It is based on the Privilege walk exercise, which is based on Peggy McIntosh’s 1989 article White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, and has is meant to illustrate how privilege will affect people.

Now, look at the video from the Social Democrats, and you’ll probably notice straight away that they have completely missed the point of the exercise. The group of children in the video is extremely homogeneous, and there are none with different ethnical backgrounds or with visible handicaps.

Yes, the video ends up with great differences between the children, but the big distance this is only possible because they have changed the questions in order to remove any referring to white and able bodied privileges, and instead focusing on only those that can affect this particular group of children. It is understandable why they have done this, but it goes against the whole concept for the exercise.

I cannot even begin to understand why anyone would do this particular exercise without any representations for the groups that faces systematic discrimination in the Danish society. I can only think that this was done deliberately to not draw attention to the plight of those groups, and instead focuses on more traditionally social democratic priorities – e.g. class and education. This is, unfortunately, not surprising, given how the Danish Social Democrats has become more and more anti-immigrant, in order to win voters back from the xenophobic Danish Peoples’ Party.

Trump, Greenland, and Denmark

So, Denmark has been a bit in the new lately. First there was some minor coverage of the fact that Trump was going to visit the country in early September. Later the coverage became much more massive, because Trump stated that he was going to ask Denmark to sell Greenland to the US. This idea was rebuffed by the Danish PM, who in a Danish newspaper called the idea “absurd”, and pointed out that we are past the time where countries sell other countries and populations. Trump didn’t take this rejection kindly, and he cancelled the visit, calling the Danish PM (or perhaps her choice of words) nasty.

It is rare for world leaders to actually say what they think about Trump’s ideas, so this has gotten a lot more coverage than Trump’s usual inept foreign blunders – see e.g. Washington Post’s <a href=”” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>A foreign leader finally said what she really thought about Trump’s ideas. Trump called that ‘nasty.’</a>

Unsurprisingly to most people outside Trump’s election base, the Danish PM’s answer to Trump is deeply popular among people from Denmark and Greenland.

It is popular for several reasons, one of them the simple fact that she was entirely correct in calling the idea absurd. It is correct because asking Denmark to sell Greenland is similar to asking England to sell Scotland – they are two distinct territories within the Kingdom of Denmark, and Mette Frederiksen is only the PM of Denmark, not Greenland.

Denmark does, however, hold a lot of power over Greenland, and in theory, it could happen that Denmark decided to ignore the autonomy of Greenland, and sell it, but as Mette Frederiksen said, the time for that kind of behavior is long past. Also, Greenland matter a lot for Denmark and the Danish’s view of their importance in the world.

To make clear how unpopular the suggestion, and later reaction by Trump was, I present you with this tweet, by the conservative politician Mai Mercado

The Conservatives are in opposition to the current government, and generally don’t go out of their way to back up the Danish PM. They are also generally very pro-USA, and more or less consider Ronald Reagan a patron saint. And Mai Mercado is not just any member of the Conservatives – she is one of the leaders.

Not surprisingly, Trump reacted to the rejection by trying to bully Denmark and the Danish PM

This prompted an reaction by Lars Løkke, the former PM of Denmark, and the biggest rival to Mette Frederiksen.

Now, because some of the people involved are sane adults, there is an attempt to normalize the relationship, but I think that Trump won’t be able to invite himself to Denmark anytime soon.

One note about the attempt to normalize the relationship – some have tried to downplay the usage of the word “absurd”, claiming that it has a less strong meaning in Danish than in English. That is to some degree true, but not in the situation where Mette Frederiksen used it. And it was an absurd idea.

The Danish election

June 5 is the Danish Constitution Day, and this year it was also the Danish election.

The Danish election was basically a choice between an environment-focused center-left coalition or a right-libertarian coalition, and there was a lot at stake.

Happily the center-left coalition won.

Nearly as important, the center-left coalition won in a way, which probably will force the major party, the Social Democrats, to tone down their xenophobic tendencies, and help make the country better for immigrants and refugees.

Also nearly as important, a fascist party that had entered the election, didn’t get anyone elected. Unfortunately a far-right, xenophobic party, Ny Borgerlige, got in with 4 mandates. Happily, the existing far-right, xenophobic party, Danish Peoples’ Party, got slaughtered, and is down 21 mandates to 16 mandates.

The Guardian has a good commentary on the election results from Denmark: Europe, take note: in Denmark, the humanitarian left is on the rise

On a more personal note. As I have written before, I supported a specific candidate, Samira Nawa (link in Danish), and I am happy to report that she got elected to the Danish parliament.

The Danish election is approaching

I don’t write much about Danish politics, but I hardly make any secret of the fact that I am not happy with the current Danish political situation, where there is a right-winged coalition government kept in power by a xenophobic far-right party (the Danish Peoples’ Party).

This might change soon, as the next Danish election is approaching fast – the exact date of it is unknown so far, but it has to be held no later than July 17th, and the smart money is that it is going to be held on the same date as the election for the EU parliament, May 26th.

Given the current polls, it looks like the current government and its allies will loose, and the next government will be based on a center-left coalition, led by the Social Democrats. How exactly the government is going to be put together is not clear yet, but it fairly clear that it will probably be the Social Democrats together with the Socialists Peoples’ Party and perhaps with the Danish Social Liberal Party, and with support from the red-green Unity Party and the Alternative, a center party with a green profile, but whose exact political profile is unclear to many of us.

The Social-Democrats have flirted with many of the xenophobic ideas of the current government, even leading some people to suggest that it could form a single-party government, getting support from the right side, especially the Danish Peoples’ Party, when it wants to toughen the already very restrictive Danish laws regarding refugees and immigration, and with the left side, when it wants to make economic policies.

Both the Unity Party and the Danish Social Liberal Party has said that they won’t support a Social-Democratic led government doing that, while the Alternative have indicated that they won’t find it acceptable. The Socialist Peoples’ Party has been very unclear on this subject, but seem to be willing to go along with the Social Democrats, no matter what path they choose.

So, currently, the situation is that there is a real chance of changing the politics in Denmark towards a more humane policy. This is done by vote for one of explicitly anti-xenophobic parties. This is the Unity Party (Enhedslisten) and the Danish Social Liberal Party (Radikale), and perhaps the Alternative (Alternativet) and the Socialist Peoples’ Party (SF).

Given the economic politics of the Unity Party, and the fact that they are officially anti-EU, I am not going to vote for them. Luckily, I have a much better fit in the case of the Danish Social Liberal Party, who have many great politicians and candidates. I don’t agree with them on everything, but I agree on the things that matter, especially their fight against xenophobic and inhumane laws.

The party has some really great candidates in Copenhagen, but I personally endorse Samira Nawa, who is second on the list (after Ida Auken). Samira Nawa runs on a platform of leaving the country a better place for the next generations, and focuses not only on immigration, but also on education, environment, and the treatment of children.

A quick glance at the study profiles of the current Danish government

As a follow up on my last post, I thought I’d better take a look at the current Danish government, and how they spent their youth studying.

There are current 22 members of government. I went through their official CVs, and used Wikipedia to supplement dates where necessary/possible.

Of the 22 members of government, 14 have an University degree, while the rest either have a non-academic degree (journalism, nursery, school teacher) or haven’t any degree at all. Of the 14 people with a university degree, one is a ph.d., 9 have a Masters, and the rest have a Bachelors.

At least two members of government hold multiple degrees at the same educational level (something which new laws will keep others from getting).

It was frequently difficult to get information about when they had started studying at university, so it is hard to say for sure whether many of them had finished their study on time (5 years for a Masters, 3 years for a Bachelors), but of the people where we know when they started, only 2 out of 7 managed (here I have left out one of the people with multiple degrees, as she would count in both groups). Both of those, which finished on time, have a Bachelors degree.

One of the things that the current government is pushing, is that young people should start at their education straight after high school. From the data I’ve got, it seems like at least 12 members of the government didn’t do this (here I count both people going on the university or to a non-academic degree), 4 might have (one of these is very unlikely), and 3 have for sure. I don’t have sufficient data for the last five.

What the data also shows, is that of those people that went straight on to their education, none of them managed to finish it on time. Of the 4 people who might have gone straight on, none of them finished their education on time if that was the case. So, it seems like that there is no member of the current government for which it holds true that they went straight from high school to their education, and managed to finish the education on time.

I wonder why they believe that young people today can do this, when they couldn’t do so themselves?

Restricting the choices of young people in Denmark

A few weeks ago, I went on a bit of a rant on twitter about how the Danish politicians are restricting the education choices of young people, instead of giving them the same opportunities as they themselves had back when they were young.

Since Twitter isn’t the best platform for such a rant, I decided that I’d expand on my rant here. I’ll do that by posting my tweets, and add comments those places where I feel it is necessary.

In Denmark there are two different ways to apply for university – one is through what is called quota 1, which is directly related to your grades in high school. The other one is through what is called quota 2, where one can use relevant experience to add on to your grades. If your grades are high enough to get admitted, you automatic get in through quota 1, even if you apply for quota 2 admissions.

Back when I applied for university, there was a fairly large group of activities that you could use to up-qualify when applying for quota 2. The activities in this group has been reduced through the years, making it harder to get in through quota 2. At the same time, there has been a change in the rules, which means that grades count for more when you use them to apply for university within two years of receiving them – this is done by multiplying the grades with 1.08.

This obviously increases the required grade average to get in, making it harder to get in through quota 2 (and even quota 1, if you wait more than 2 years before applying).

In Denmark, students get a student’s grant, allowing them to focus on studying. This grant is usually not enough to pay the bills, but it allows the student to keep their work hours to a reasonable amount while studying. The rules for getting this grant is that you have to be an active student – at university this includes going to exams, and not fall more than half a year behind. This is more strict than when I was a student, but this is more due to the fact that it wasn’t possible to monitor these things as easily back then, as it is now.

More problematic, is the fact that the Universities kick people out, if they consider them inactive. While the rules are less harsh than the rules for the student grants, it still requires the students to go to exams and pass a certain amount of exams every year.

This doesn’t sound too bad, but this is much stricter than when most of the politicians went to university, where the only requirement was that you passed exams in 3 tries (and you could apply for a dispensation for trying a 4th time). Back then, it frequently happened that students at the university took a break for a year or two, traveling, working, or even studying something else, before returning to the study and finish it. This is no longer possible.

When it comes to writing the Master’s thesis, the rules have also changed significantly. It used to be that students could spend years on writing it, becoming experts on whatever subject they wrote about. Now, they have to finish it with 6 months of (officially) starting it.

This was actually what started the whole rant. It is a brand new law, blocking the possibility for someone to take an education in case they already have an education at an equal level. This means that a nurse (who, in Denmark, has a bachelor degree), cannot decided that they want to upgrade to becoming a doctor, since a doctor degree requires a bachelor degree in medicine.

What makes this worse, is that in recent years, a number of degrees, including the nursing degree, has been upgraded to be a bachelor degree.

I started in 1994 studying Business Management (Almen HA) at CBS. After spending a couple of years doing that, I figured out that it wasn’t for me, and I switched to economics at the University of Copenhagen.

Waking up one morning, realizing that I couldn’t face a career in economics, I dropped out of that study. After spending some time working manual labor (warehouse work), I decided to take a shortish education called Advanced Computer Studies (Datamatiker), which was a course in programming and systems development, which took just over 2 years.

Graduating from that study coincided nicely with the burst of the bubble, meaning that it was hard to get a job. Since the study has showed me that programming and computer science was interesting, and that I was pretty good at it, I decided to go on studying, rather than desperately hunt for a job.

I applied to study Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen. Since I had already been enrolled at two university level studies (business management and economics), I had to submit a motivation for my application and my reasoning for why they should admit me. This was not exactly a triviality, as someone actually was going to evaluate my application based on this, but it wasn’t a very high barrier either.

I got my B.Sc. in Computer Science in 2007, having at that time, worked full time for years.

The thing is, since I started working with IT systems, the stuff I learned while studying business management and economics has come into good use, allowing me to be better at my job, than I could have ever been if I had just gone straight to computer science.

I cannot emphasis this enough. It was not considered a problem back then. It seemed more important that people found something that they liked, than that they finished on time. This definitely doesn’t appear to be the case now.

This is the part I don’t get. Why are the politicians so focused on reducing the opportunities of the youth today. What is it that drives their restrictions? Do they think that the opportunities that we had back then was bad? Or that young people now, somehow doesn’t deserve to get the same chances as we did?

I will correct myself here. I can see that an economic argument could be made for the benefit of people finishing their first study, but I can also make an economic argument for the benefit of people finding the right study, since that will probably increase their job satisfaction in the long run (job satisfaction and productivity is linked).

Back when I started studying, Computer Science existed, but it didn’t show up on my radar. If I hadn’t changed around like I did, I’d never have ended up there. It would have been horrible to find out what I really wanted to study, and then be blocked from studying it.

Also, what is going to happen to the future type-setters. Here I am talking about people working in a field which suddenly becomes obsolete because of the change in technology. It is very possible that a field today, suddenly becomes obsolete tomorrow. By denying the people in such fields the chance to get a new education, they become stuck, and will probably have a hard time getting jobs.

I really don’t see why that is so hard.

Edit: I have written a follow-up post, where I take a look at the CVs of the current government