Monday, January 31, 2005


Don’t believe the world around you!

Last August, I went through Oklahoma. While having brunch at a roadside diner in the middle of nowhere on the Oklahoma prairie I started talking to this group of people in their 60ies. They seemed cheerful. And before I left to head back east in the SUV, one woman in the party turned to me and said "And remember ... It’s all about Kerry!". Her lunch companions all joined in.
I was petrified. I just couldn't believe it. Kerry had outspoken supporters. In Oklahoma. It's hard to find a more deep dark red state.
At that moment I was convinced there was nothing that could stop Kerry. As it turns out - I was wrong. Which only comes to prove one thing - in the battle between logical, coherent models and empirical facts - the models will always prevail. Empirical fact-finding is subject to people's everchanging taste and opinion. Logic and rationality is universal. Even in Oklahoma.


The Greens, and how to cook their agenda

Last week a junior colleague at the department came by to introduce himself. He seems to be hooked on theories that predict that the world is going to end next monday, around tea-time.

Just as it is hilarious to hear theologians refute science (and to know when the bible-bashers are dead wrong), it is somewhat amusing to listen to green beans when they discuss economics.

The Kyoto protocol seems to pull a certain strong heartstring. Nevermind the fact that Kyoto doesn't work, or that economists all over the world have spoken out against its stalemate form of regulation. At least the fact that it has been opposed by "the Bush administration" seems to bring these advocaters together, oblivious of the fact that Bush and his administration was backed up by a 95-0 vote in the Senate, during the Clinton administration.

For more on where "the Greens" go wrong. Enjoy the field of environmental economics:

The Commons

Friday, January 28, 2005


Watchdog groups for every political preference

It is so obvious. The media is 'dilluting' any real possibility for a true 'public discourse'. Sorry, folks, I'm just reiterating phrases from the braindead world of Academia. Some of my colleagues out there ...well, let's forget about them. Nevertheless... I today know more about politics and the people who are reporting it to me, than I have ever had the possibility to do before... in the history of the world.

Simple question 1: So if things are so bad, how come there's a thriving community of watchdog groups out there?
Simple answer 1: Because things aren't really bad at all.

No, I do not want to come off as Pangloss. But really, the importance of watchdog groups, and the possibility they have to influence the media, opens up for more than what any Dystopia theory can provide us with.

Exhibit A and B:

I today include two watchdog groups in my links (in the bar on the left). I like them both (for different reasons).
First of all the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) which is reporting that the election campaign overall press coverage was highly favorable of Kerry (read the pdf press release).

At the same time, Media Matters for America, brings us the news that two reporters have accepted payments to promote the Bush agenda.

And while we're at it. Here's a few more of those watchdog groups that I recommend:

The Media Research Center
Accuracy in Media
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

More news. More sources. More verifications. How can more (of all of this) lead to less (democracy)? A reasonable answer is of course that it can't.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


NBC distancing itself from CBS

This just in (well, a couple of days old)...
It is truly fascinating how fast the other networks are re-positioning themselves in a world "post-Memogate".

NBC's Zuckers says 'memogate' couldn't occurNEW YORK, Jan. 22 (UPI) --
The president of NBC Universal Television Group told the Television Critics
Association in Los Angeles incidents like Memogate could not happen at NBC.Jeff
Zucker said his network has safeguards in place to prevent incidents.The biggest
shock to us is that none of those safeguards were in place there, NBC Universal
Television Group President Jeff Zucker said Friday. Because nothing like that
could have gotten through, at any level, because of the safeguards we instituted
more than a decade ago.In 1993, after a producer staged an explosion of a truck
for a Dateline NBC segment, NBC News procedures added safeguards such as a
department of standards that looks at each story without a vested interest,
executives and attorneys who do the same and anyone in the newsroom is
encouraged to come forth with concerns, anonymously if necessary, reported the
New York Daily News Saturday.I was struck by a number of things that we do that
they didn't, Zucker said. The role of the senior producers and executive
producers, if it gets that far, is to challenge the premise of every

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Fire in the (consultant) hall!

Interesting story by Amy Sullivan about the "in-crowd" inside the Beltway. Consultants - can't live with them, can't live without them. The ground rule is - if they can't beat anybody, don't buy them. But since they all know eachother already they thrive on social (not professional) skills. Just because they can't manage to win an election for their Democrat customers doesn't necessarily mean that they get a pink slip.


New Mini Poll posted!

The Campaign Poll
The numbers are in! My latest poll did give a few strong messages. No, no science involved. But it shows, to a certain degree at least, what my readers consider to be important groups in the U.S. election campaign.
The question read: “Which group do you believe played the most important role in shaping the campaign agenda and eventually secure the Bush-Cheney victory of 2004?”

52 percent of you said that married couples were most important, followed by (to my surprise) Security Moms (22 percent) and the somewhat more obvious alternative “Swing-state voters” (17 percent). The bottom of the list tells us that the visitors on this sight do follow the academic analysis and are not being mislead by rumors in the media – only 8 percent voted for the two categories “rural voters” and “Evangelical Christians”.
One category received zero votes. Just as so many other institutes have pointed out, the Bush/Cheney win could not be attributed to an increase among ethnic voters (mainly Hispanics, even though the increase among black voters since the last election was also significant for Republicans, although smaller).

Presidential Poll
After the inaugural ceremony, I think it is only fair to take on a new presidential quiz. Even though it would be great to hear every single contributers’ arguments I will be alright with just the stats for this poll.
With his inaugural address, president Bush has embarked on an agenda, based on
strong policies. Which former U.S. President do you consider THE LEAST effective
when it comes to introducing (and carrying out) his policies, while in office?

I have listed 9 presidents. (I could not list all 43...) Some may argue that Reagan should be on the list, considering his both terms in office were faced with a Democratic majority in Congress, as was Georg H W Bush. While, on the other hand, Jimmy Carter’s administration was more transparent and did bring in policies that were enforced (even though his approach to international matters was utterly weak). My reason for not including Reagan is that he did take on Congress in two terms, where his Supply Side (voodoo) economics eventually found not only foes. His international performance, shaping the last crumbling days of the Soviet Union and the cold war, makes him a great policy entrepreneur. H W Bush is not included since he did manage to take the U.S. through the transition period of 1989-1993, with the first Iraq War and a never before measured high approval rating (90+ percent).

Other presidents who might be suggested for the list (Calvin Coolidge, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur) have been able to pass the bar according to my highly subjective judgment, based on a selection of a few issues.

Monday, January 24, 2005


Games and the players who play them

About two years ago, a colleague of mine presented an evolutionary form of explanation for his empirical study on the uprising of local parties in Sweden. The main influence for his research was based on Edgar Kiser's analytical narratives - a way to try to converge empirical research with game theory settings. He received intense criticism at the seminar from some older professors who claimed that this was no proper way of dealing with game theory. I tried to ruch to his defense as I suspected that the older crowd had not opened a book on Game theory after the 70ies.
And of course, he, and I, were right, as proven in this newly published paper by Dan Houser:
Players and strategies in game settings. The paper can be downloaded here (pdf).


The Big Three lose out on coverage

So it has happened again! During both the Democratic and Republican conventions, the big three (ABC, NBC, CBS) lost viewers to Fox News! FNC get +57 percent since 2001. Amazing!(Although, when it comes to the convention coverage, I still feel that MSNBC had the best action when Senator Miller challenged Chris Matthews to a duel. I was in Madison Square Garden, listening to Brooks and Dunn who performed after Vice President Cheney's speech and unfortunately wasn't able to watch this wonderful piece of tv entertainment as it unfolded itself on the air.)


Liberty will prevail

I don't have to quote the people of the press. It was a rhetorical success: President Bush's Inaugural Address.
I've spent the past weekend analyzing the speech and the reactions in the press. And, if you take out the polarized positions that will always editorialize (which to a certain degree is only proper) a speech like this, few dissenters are heard and an astounding majority agree that this was a very powerful speech indeed. Some ranked it as high as a top five presidential speech in the category of inaugural addresses. Delivered with a firm, confident feeling of an ideological resolution. Bush is definitely ideological. Statesman-like. And the speech itself promises some strong positions in politics.

If you haven't already... Listen too it again... and compare it with earlier speeches of its kind. I personally think that it shares a lot of both ideological and rhetorical resemblance with Ronald Reagan's 1964 speech "You and I have a rendez-vous with Destiny" .)

President Bush also made the resolute position somewhat broader and balanced between a libertarian notion (which became obvious when he mentioned The Homestead Act - the historical transformation of public goods into private property) and strong sense of communitarian ideals, as in this passage where he connects "The force of human freedom" founded by "the mission that created this nation..."

It is interesting to see how much of a thematic and semantic space that this speech shares with Bush's 2001 inaugural address. The U.S. is depicted as the good Samaritan. Without apostrophizing Thomas Jefferson as he did last time, it is clear that Bush's visions have more in common with Jefferson than with Lincoln.
Freedom was mentioned 27 times. Liberty was mentioned 15 times. And every single time freedom/liberty was used in its deontological rights/negative form. Talk about rigidity!

So what would make the coming four years more ideological? Why would Bush's address this time around find more fertile ground for the executive agenda? The answer quite possibly lies in the selection of the new cabinet, together with a new Congress dominated by fiscally conservative officials like DeMint, Thune and Coburn. It is fair to estimate that school vouchers, tax cuts for college investments and a strong reform on Social Security are top priorities. (Yes I know, as far as policies goes with the senators mentioned above, Thune didn't run on reforming Social Security. But then again - he was running against Daschle... )

And so the speech turned back to founders, and ultimately, the Founder of liberty. As if Bush had cut and pasted paragraphs out of Second Treatise of Government or Leviathan:
"History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible
direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty."

The linking of domestic and international issues was done in a confident way, when Bush stated in intrinsical value of freedom: "Freedom which is eternally right." And by pointing out: "There is no justice without freedom."
But if the personal freedom part was dominated by Jefferson, the international part became a duplication of James Monroe's address to Congress. Bush's preemptive measurements share a lot of common strategic ground with the Monroe doctrine. This is also where we do find the clash between incommensurable values that dates back to, indeed Jefferson's days: standing army/no standing army, dominance by hegemony/isolationism... but most important of them all is the new openness that distinctly draws a line between the new GOP and the old GOP version of Lincoln. Bush was strikingly humble in taking on the mantle and honor when he declared his doctrine of of preemptive interventions to defend liberty. The task, he stated, is to end "tyranny in our world. [applause] This is not primarily the tasks of arms, though we will defend our freedom and of our friends of arms when necessary. [...] America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed... America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause [...] America will not impose it's style of democracy on others [...] Democracy and freedom has to be chosen."
The last sentence in this paragraph makes all the difference. In a world of real clear politics, there are, of course, a fine line to walk and history will tell whether Bush can face up to his promise. But his address on the steps of the Capitol promises that the U.S. has traveled a long way since the days of Fort Sumter.

I will leave this post with the last paragraph from President Bush's address. It will be hard for any coming president to formulate a better stronghold for liberty than in the words of Bush:
"America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength — tested, but not weary — we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."

Friday, January 21, 2005


My book on the net

Those of you who would like to get a copy of my book (in Swedish) on media pack hunts (in pdf) can now get download it: Offentlighetens tribunal - drevkarlar och demokrati.

I will soon post translations of the chapters and re-written paragraphs for my forthcoming texts on the subject. But it is true what they say:
“It is easier to make a fish soup out of an aquarium than to make an
aquarium out of a fish soup.”

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Four more years - and new fresh faces

As President George Bush gets ready for his second inaugurational ceremony let's think of what the world of poltics has come to.
I saw the stage outside of the White House a few weeks ago. They were still working on it back then. It looked pretty sturdy, as if the ceremony was going to be permanent - like the permanent campaigns of today's politics.

The solid stage on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. made for a great metaphor: only the Commander in Chief is steadfast standing while people around him have to rely on less solid ground. The ramp is just for show - as is politics.
Together with the inaugurational ceremony itself, the last days of scrutinizing Condi Rice makes this all too apparent. When Rice faced the Senate hearings and Barbara Boxer made headlines in her attempt to attack the Bush administration and Ms Rice personally, this too was all about the show. No policies get changed over a Senate hearing. No constituency gets altered. No election is decided inside the Hill. But the perception of politics is in many ways the most important part of politics.

Newsweek did a Kingdon gig on Bush in their latest issue, called Window of Opportunity. (I don't really care much for Kingdon's so called theories - they are just neatly packaged nonsense.) In the article it becomes apparent how spendible people are today. Bush wanted to fire "[b]asically everybody" in his cabinet. And the reporter, Richard Wolffe, makes the obvious mistake of granting W a significant style of leadership. As if the president could decide the game himself. It would be more consistent with today's mediated society that Bush simply had to fire people to open up for new allegiences with a newly elected (and more Republican-dominated) Congress.
And so the story goes. Even people who saw themselves as close personal friends of the Bush family, as Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, were cut off.
But this is not a personal style of leadership. This is a way of dealing with alliances in a mediated society where an old investment can soon turn to be a burdon.
(Some might say that even Nixon did clean out most of his cabinet, but this was definitely out of the ordinary back in 1972.) Today it seems as if politicians in executive office positions need to find fresh faces to build political capital around. Before the media society eats them up.

And when you see those demonstrators on TV, boosted by professional hacks, remember that the U.S. is not really very divided at all and that politics has NOT become more polarized.

Monday, January 17, 2005


"Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot"

I have written a new article about the American election that has been published in the latest issue of Svensk Tidskrift: "Texaspajasen vann" is the story about how Swedish media is unable to portray the U.S. elections in an objective way. In the same issue, Peter J Olsson, the editor of Kvällsposten, comments on Swedish Public Service and their openly displayed lack of interest in a fair and balanced view of Republicans in the U.S.


The Swedish Model going bankrupt

Nils Karlson of the Swedish Ratio Institute gets well-deserved attention in an article by Rahn: "Beguiling curves of the Swedish model" in The Washington Times.

I ought to write more about tax evasion as the most important explanation of how a "welfare model" can survive over the years, but I don't have the time right now.


Back from a break

So I'm back again. I had something most people in my field only come across very seldom - but yes, it is true: I did have a few days off. More people should try it. It's an interesting experience.

Enough said. Back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


The Price of Liberty

Yesterday I visited the Smithsonian museums on The Mall in D.C. An article on the impact of U.S. military intervention is to come.

I will, however, take a shorter hiatus. Hopefully back within a week.

In the meantime. Go in and vote for the The Robert Fisk Idiotarian of the Year.

depeche mode tour 2005/2006