Monday, February 28, 2005


Swedish political scientists worst in the world

Karl Gunnar Persson at Copenhagen University delivers this front attack on Swedish political scientists (in Swedish) in an op-ed in Sweden's leading daily Dagens Nyheter.

The key paragraph in the op-ed includes the following sentences:

"Alltför många samhällsvetenskapliga institutioner präglas av en självgodhet som
manifesteras i en oroväckande hög - i en del fall nästan total -
internrekrytering, inte bara på adjunkts-, forskarassistents- och lektorsnivå
utan även på professorsnivå. Brist på mobilitet och stimulanser från andra
miljöer förstärker självtillräckligheten."

In his slaying of the Swedish political scientist dragon he refers to an evaluation made by Simon Hix, from London School of Economics. The bottom line being that Swedish Political Scientists are poorly represented in the world of science, due to nepotism and political hiring strategies (I believe it is called quotation based on gender...). And what follows is that Swedish Pol. Sci. Ph.D:s don't get published where it matters - in the important academic press.
An international comparison makes it obvious: A political scientist at Columbia University is seven times as productive as a political scientist at Lund University.

I guess I have to take refuge in my home university in the U.S., George Mason University, which is ranked 40th in the world - as opposed to my Swedish campus, Lund University - where one member of the faculty wanted to throw me out because I used rational models in my research. Well, let's just say that he is a part of a faculty that is being ranked as number 287 in the world...

You can read the entire study here.

I have to agree to a large degree: Political Science in Sweden seems to make less sence every day that goes by. But there are some great exceptions, a person who, as it happens, left Lund a long time ago.


The importance of positioning oneself

Opinions are not to be taken lightly. To many people, they are important parts of a pattern that makes up their entire personality: A preference or opinion is how someone is (or wants to be) viewed in the eyes of others.
This can be pretentious manners, but doesn't necessarily have to be something so trivial.

This weekend I rented the movie Shine. Again.
I love this movie, not only the Oscar-awarded acting that Geoffrey Rush uses to portray the gifted pianist David Helfgott, who escapes into madness when the outer world becomes too frightening. For anyone who loves piano pieces from the Romantic, and Modern-Romantic era (mostly Liszt and Rachmaninov) this movie says something about the stakes for performers who try to succeed in the in the ferociously competitive world of classical music.

The high-brow world of classical music is also a great case scenario for a study of people's preferences, and the importance music fans give (or would like to orchestrate) concerning their pet pastime activity. (The same is true about die hard rock'n'roll-fans too, but you often lack the high-brow connections in discussions over chord-settings and lyrics from The Ramones versus The Clash. My personal favorite is otherwise The Ramones' first album, by the same name, with two songs that begins "I don't wanna... " - "I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You" and "I Don't Wanna Go Down To The Basement" - and two songs with the more positive connotation "I Wanna" - "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue".)

Anyways, the philosophy of esthetics is a highly dangerous topic, filled with numerous landmines. But as we are mostly interested in the general theory of establishing propositions of thought, we don't necessarily have to value their philosophical legitimacy.

Now, imagine that you want to signal to someone that you feel very strongly about a subject. You then try to create a convincing argument, use the appropriate language, and so forth. This is what an economist might label to attend to your resources, and allocate as much energy as you may provide, in a setting that you will foresee (or assume) according to your rational expectations.
If we go back to Shine, and its monumental theme which is being spun around Rachmaninov's third piano concerto, there are obviously strong opinions about which pianist can best convey the emotions of Rachmaninov's seductive and highly complex piece that so few performers can truly master.

In my opinion, based on my somewhat small collection of recordings of the "Rach 3", I would like to stay away from the mainstream of opinionated fans, who argue that Rachmaninov's own recordings from 1939/1940 or the early Horowitz' recordings (1930) are to be viewed as extraordinary just because they are played fast and resolute. My reason for objecting is that both Horowitz' and Rachmaninov's recordings are shorter (around 33 minutes) as opposed to the full time recording (46 minutes). Rachmaninov allowed for some severe cuts in his live performances, just to be sure that he didn't bore his audience with this monstruously long concert.

The Decca label's own grand old man - Ashkenazy is another one many fans would praise, and then especially his old recording from the sixties with the Moscow Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, with Kyril Kondrashin as their conductor. He has also played it together with London Symphony Orchestra, both with Anatole Fistoulari and Andre Previn on the pulpit.
And there are more names that ought to be recognized: Peter Rösel and Bernd Glemser, Idil Biret, Byron Janis, Jon Nakamatsu, Lang Lang and not to forget Konstantin Scherbakov. They all have something to admire, but not all of them can deliver the entire piece, its three very different movements, in a convincing way.

But back to the signals and people's opinions. As there is no cost of delivering a highly critical message on the web, the statements and evaluations on the web are often extremely harsh, following a tradition that comes close to slandering behavior in the press. There are numerous examples of these reviewers with very strong opinions: Here's one. Here's another. And here's a whole list of people with strong, and sometimes highly opposing views on Helfgott's ability to play the Rach 3. (It is hard to track all the recordings that have been made of the Rach 3 - here's an extensive list.)

But... one important part about evaluating a piece, is measuring up to a number of standards concerning esthetics: Is there an objective epistemological truth to musical taste? Is there relativity in the ontological performance of a musical piece? As you will see above - none of the reviewers even come close to such philsophical statements - but many of them are very keen on stressing their high-brow attitute, in an effort to nurture their own credibility and their own favorite pianists. This may very well be called pretentious behavior. But it is also something else - it is a way of signalling sincere concern in a world in flux - where other interests may come just as easy. By having an extreme position, or an extremely strong one - people can signal belonging and identity to others. Especially when the cost is near to nothing.


Oh, and my personal favorite version of the Rach 3? ;) It has to be Leif Ove Andsnes performing live together with Oslo Symphony Orchestra and Finnish legend conductor Paavo Berglund (1995). Andsnes is amazing with his bombastic, forceful nature and he has chosen the less played cadenza in the first movement. It really sounds like elephants running across the piano - exactly like Rachmaninov described his intentions with the piece.

(By the way - I recommend the following ultimate bumper sticker for crazy music fans.)

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Connect the dots

The general rule is - if it walks like a liberal, and talks like a liberal, then...

The Media

The Network

The Individuals


And the stupid white man is...

Here are the nominees for tonight's Academy Awards. Take at look at the nominees for best documentary feature:


Maybe an overweight we-all-know-who should move to Cannes instead. They seem to like conspiracy theories better over in Europe.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Stockholm smells old...

Blogging is becoming mainstream. And where some big bloggers (not me!) are updating with real facts and new information and analysis, other big bloggers (still not me!) are only copying eachothers' messages.

Imagine this - somewhere in Iran there's an imprisoned blogger. Now...
Compare the following entries in these two blogs: The Stockholm Spectator and Johan Norberg.

Same bat day, same bat sentences. The tam-tam phenomenon is working just fine, not only within mainstream media, but obviously also in the bloggosphere in Stockholm.


Voice or exit?

The same old strategy... it's either voice... or exit.
See; Harry Reid in WSJ on Exit Democrats.

The Containment strategy!!!??? Can I laugh now...? Guatemala, Cuba, El Salvador, Vietnam, Campuchea... Hey, Harry? How did that work for you? Did you contain them? What is it you're relly looking for? Major screw-up coalition propositions from Dems?

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Communist propaganda at work

Alicio, a Swedish blogger, has made great analysis of Faktum, the Public Service program I too have filed a lawsuit against, to the Swedish Broadcasting Commission. Interesting to see that all the people involved in the program about terrorism are associated with the left, communist affiliations or pro-Palestinian movements. The framing of the question is also well taken care of by Alicio, who shows us how the reporter from Faktum is only focusing on definition problems when the US will act as an occupying force, thereby trying to legitimise any terror activity in Iraq as a "liberation movement", while the same reporter is not even mentioning all the conventions and Security Council statements concerning terrorism which is directed against civilians.

Funny thing - it turns out that the Swedish journalist, Piroz Kianersi, who made the piece about "Terrorism" is a member of the Swedish Youth Stalinist Revolutionary Communist Movement (KMPLr - yes, I know they recently changed their name...). That would have meant nothing, in terms of proving a bias, if it wasn't for the fact that he has this presentation of himself at SVT:s own homepage (in Swedish):

Translation of parts of the presentation below:
"I want to show that an alternative world is possible. And I want to spread a class conscience that is often not present. [...] I do not want people to think that the world in general becomes a safer and more calm place and that the US in particular will become more tolerant and follow the International Geneva conventions if John Kerry gets the power instead of Bush."

Piroz Kianersi
Filmer: Budda vs Piroz och Framför en stridsvagn.Ålder:
25 år Jag kommer ursprungligen från Iran och flyttade hit när jag var 9 år.
Jag studerade till en början konst i England och senare Media och Kommunikation
vid Linköping universitet och det var där som intresset för film vaknade på
allvar. Så jag gick vidare med Filmvetenskapliga linjen på Stockholms
universitet. Sen dess har jag sysslat med ett par filmprojekt bl.a. de på
Fanzine. Jag är främst intresserad av spelfilm, men på senare tid så har
det blivit mer dokumentärfilm. Det som jag drivs av är i synnerhet
inspirationen, känslan som man får när man sett något som man tycker är riktigt
bra eller när jag kommer på en bra historia, när någon läser ens manus och
tycker att det är bra. Men i största allmänhet är min drivkraft, hur kliché det
än låter, viljan att förändra. Jag vill: Visa att en alternativ värld är
möjlig. Sprida den klassmedvetenhet som lyser med sin frånvaro. Visa en mer
nyanserad bild av samhället än vad medierna gör och en mer demokratisk bild av
världen, där inte västvärlden hela tiden är i centrum (de priviligierade i
väst). Och det här vill jag göra på ett sätt så att alla kan se och ta till sig
det - dvs jag vill inte göra ett pretentiöst drama som ses och sedan recenseras
av en kulturelit i spalterna på DN-kultur. De jag riktar mig till finns på
Hammarbyläktaren, i korridorerna på vårdhemmen, på verkstadsgolvet, eller
hängandes ute vid centrum i en förort. Sist men inte minst vill jag ha en värld
där människovärdet står långt över vinstintresse och profitbegär, en värld som
genomsyras av solidaritet och tolerans, istället för den skära
egoismen. Jag vill inte: - Se flera dokusåpor, reality-program som är lika
skräddarsydda för att få oss att konsumera varor vid reklamavbrott som den
trallvänliga musiken som ligger i bakgrunden i en stor livsmedelsaffär. - Se
flera Hollywoodfilmer, som gör anspråk på att vara underhållning, men som i
själva verket förmedlar en ideologi. - Att folk ska tro att världen i allmänhet
kommer att bli lugnare och USA i synnerhet kommer att bli mer tolerant och följa
folkrätten om John Kerry kommer till makten istället för Bush. Därför har
jag gjort filmen Buddha vs Piroz: Filmen Buddha vs Piroz är en resa genom ett
land i tredje världen. I filmen försöker jag vara så pass ärlig som möjligt, med
alla reflektioner och tankar som kom över mig där borta - en ständig påminnelse
om att den verklighet som jag möttes av i Nepal är en verklighet för majoriteten
av världens folk. Jag anser att det är viktigt att tänka på att de flesta
människors vardag inte handlar om mobiltelefoner och café latte, utan snarare om
mat för dagen och rent dricksvatten (och jag menar inte Robinson eller
Farmen). Därför har jag gjort filmen Framför en stridsvagn:Drivkraften som
fått mig att genomföra hela det här projektet är just dom oerhörda orättvisorna
som finns kring den så kallade Palestinakonflikten. Samtidigt tycker jag att det
är oerhört viktigt och intressant att visa solidaritetsrörelsens engagemang, som
många gånger bortses från i medier. Målet med filmen är att ge en
verklighetstrogen bild av Palestiniers vardag där dom ses som människor lika
mycket som Israelerna, fönstret till denna vardag är dom aktivister från väst
som gör det FN borde ha gjort nämligen att åka till Palestina för att fungera
som observatör mitt i ockupationen.


Blogroll update

I should have done this a long time ago. But finally, I have updated my blogroll (on the left). You will now find three new blogs included:

Daniel Drezner's blog - because it is probably the most important blog out there concerning economics and new media.

Virginia Postrel's Dynamist blog - the author of The Future and Its Enemies, yep, she is one of my favorite bloggers with a sharp pen and a great insight in world events from an economic perspective. Read her entry (from her NY Times article) about Lawrence Summers and the reason why some people get an "is" mixed up with an "ought".

Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo - full of comments and news about the ongoings on the Hill.


Girlie-men in the Press room

James Dale Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, a gay escort service, a phony news bureau et cetera, et cetera...
Let's just make one thing clear - if you want to mess with a political party to sabotage, and you are disguised as a reporter, be sure to have an air-tight cover-up story.

The "outing" of Gannon
Ok, so it has been officially out for a week now, with Gannon even appearing on Wolf Blitzer and when even the Sentinel is facing the fact!
All over the US, the editorial pages are asking a number of relevant questions, for example how this one man was able to fool the security officers at the White House? Some argue that it is possible that the White House knew all along, and liked the whole thing, just to have Gannon there to delay press briefings and give the administration positive feedback.

Pimp my press card
Then again... what was his main objective?
Let's just say that some bloggers (don't you just love DailyKos?) go all out with conspiracy theories. Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes they are true. Sometimes they are far from substantiated. The latest rumor seems to be that Mr Gannon can unravel the old CBS-Memogate story. As they said in the old times - Read all about it!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Pardon my French - "Double-W"

What the bloggosphere is saying about Bush's visit... well, MSM is pretty tough on both sides of the Atlantic gap that Bush is trying to abridge.

Bill O'Reilly is calling for a boycott on French products, since Chirac doesn't declare Hezbollah a terrorist group. (Didn't that man say that he would never use the boycott weapon against anybody? That it was immoral? That it was to LEAVE THE SPIN ZONE???)

Meanwhile, The Sun reports that Chirac avoids speaking English in front of Bush .

It is sometimes easy to understand why Europeans have hostile feelings towards the U.S. At the same time, it is easy to understand why some Americans go "First Iraq - then France". There is something lacking here, and I believe the French word for it is cohabitation.


Back to moral votes and bloggers

A Moral Majority?
It's quite interesting to see that some analysts where able to get it right just a few days after the U.S. elections in November: It's the terrorists, stupid! And some acknowledge that they were wrong, and point other interesting facts. No, moral value-voters didn't have the impact some liberals would like them to have (as scare-crows, I'm sure).
One of the best-selling books right now is God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get it:

While the Right in America has hijacked the language of faith to prop up its
political agenda -- an agenda not all people of faith support -- the Left hasn't
done much better, largely ignoring faith and continually separating moral
discourse and personal ethics from public policy. While the Right argues that
God's way is their way, the Left pursues an unrealistic separation of religious
values from morally grounded political leadership. The consequence is a false
choice between ideological religion and soulless politics.

Back to Blogging
Now, a few months later and the inaugural address being us, Peggy Noonan does, as always, bring on an analysis on blogging activity and its impact for the future: The Blogs Must Be Crazy. There seems to be a new trend all over the world to, all of a sudden, highlight bloggers - as Stewart Purvis does in the UK:s own The Guardian. And Swedish news bureau TT is keeping up with the trend.
And O'Reilly at Fox interviews Rony Abovitz, the blogger who brought down CNN:s Eason Jordan. Watch his blog here: Fix the World.

I think MSM finally caught up and realized what must have hit them in the head for so long.


Immigration for sale?

After a vile debate about immigration, Becker posts a great column on his blog! Yes, immigration should be open for business - everywhere. The fact that a country/society doesn't allow free immigration doesn't automatically mean that it is a totalitarian or a unfree society. And Becker should know about discrimination, getting into Academica in the 50ies when there were quotas on how many Jews a faculty could have... (His dissertation "The Economics of Discrimination" is greatly recommended.)

The Hoppe debate

Unfortunately, some parts of the libertarian spectrum of blogs, have a hard time with deontological reasonings. The otherwise much brilliant Cato fellow Tom G Palmer has been fuming over Hans-Herman Hoppe's texts on immigration and the right for a society to limit it. (This has probably more to do with Hoppe's unfortunate, and plump, remark about the fact that Palmer is gay, than with the political theory Hoppe is advancing.) But many libertarian bloggers followed Palmer, like Swedish blogger Johan Norberg (see his entry on Wednesday 29/9/2004), most famous in the U.S. for his superb book about globalism - In Defense of Global Capitalism, followed suit to proclaim that Hoppe is a bigot. Along with the internal libertarian debate there where debates over Hoppes tenure at UNLV. This whole ordeal soon turned out to be labeled the Hoppe Hysteria at UNLV. Famous bloggers at The Volokh Conspiracy wrote about Hoppe and his teaching. But apparently - Hoppe also have students who like his classes.

About immigration

Hoppe's argument is that in a time of welfare states, any immigrant that wants to enter a country, should have to pay for the "full costs" for his/her entry. Becker's argument follows the same line of reasoning (see above).
I wonder what Palmer will say about it. Because in this case, sad to say, Palmer is just making more harm by using ad hominem arguments. As in the case with this newly released book on American history.
Funny thing - Palmer - who is accusing Hoppe of attacking his person instead of his politics, is himself attacking the authors (of the book mentioned above) instead of their research.

Well, well, back to the sandbox. Initially this post was about economics, and the wonderful science of Gary Becker. I would like it to end like that too - so, here it goes again:

There seems to be strong economic foundations for an argument that immigrants could very well be expected to pay their way in over the borders.


Still confused but on a higher level?

Let's take it again - that whole thing about open intellectual debate is a hard thing to keep up, for some people.

This speech can get a man fired from one of the most prestigeous chairs in the academic world. The debate over Summers argument concerning the lack of females in the scientific field has fired up feminists in other places who call for resignations and more. (To the statistical matter of the case: there is a valid reasoning and scrutinizing of Summers' speech which is concerned with the standard deviations Summers doesn't seem to master, as Posner points out.)

Yet, many bloggers have showed the controversy inside the controversy over freedom of speech: Churchill vs. Summers. MSM is catching up. And the positioning is sad. If the speech on 14th January is accused of being stereotypical, then so is the blasting of Lawrence Summers.

While the columnists in NY Times and Washington Post (Eugene Robinson, Anne Applebaum) are having a field day with Summers, Fox News is playing the role of the indignant watchdog in the Churchill case. O'Reilly is fired up, no doubt about it. No he seems on a manhunt, and is trying to make it impossible for Churchill to visit EWU. But there are fortunately some Fox columnists who give time for reflection. Neal McCluskey from the Cato Institute, point out that the case could have been taken care of in a much faster manner, if students were adressed as consumers, and taxpayers agenda (or, implicitly - Bill O'Reilly) didn't influence the field of social science, the deal with Churchill wouldn't be so much of a public policy issue.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Swedish Partisan Service

I have filed a lawsuit (diarie number 0239/2005) against Swedish Public Broadcasting (SVT) to The Swedish Broadcasting Commission for the SVT society program Faktum where they portrayed George W Bush as the only world leader who wanted to create a third world war. This was, according to the poor sarcasm from the reporter, his whole political objective, while Kim Jong-Il and other leaders "only wanted peace".
I am not alone in this. There have been several charges against SVT for this program during the last days. Yet, it remains one of the biggest political shows in Sweden, where the government is running the show...
And while they are at it - SVT produced a new commercial (only government-sponsored commercials are allowed on Public Service TV...) where they blame Berlusconi for his media empire in Italy and argue that Sweden is the only country with truly "free media", as if they were seemingly oblivious of how the media monopoly in Sweden is de facto run by the Swedish (socialist) government.

Sweden's conservative youth has produced a great response.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


That teacher 'fling thing'

Female teachers accused of sex crimes is the new media hype. But is it truely a new societal phenomenon? As sociologists debate over whether this phenomenon is a new thing or if it has always been there (and the only reason we now find out is because the media searchlight has found interest in this field) journalists are fighting stereotypes when they report: The female perpetrators are young, attractive and seem to have fully functional social skills. This is far from the way male sex offenders are being treated. And so the reportings also tend to lean towards "understanding" these women, instead of ostracizing them, as is often the case with their fellow male offenders.

It started out with Seattle-teacher Mary-Kay Letourneau, and now - this week alone, two cases have hit the news in the U.S. and another one in Sweden.

Cops say one Texas teacher, Kathy Denise White had sex with a 17-year-old, and
Tennessee teacher Pamela Rogers Turner had sex with a 13-year-old boy. They join
at least three other recent cases: Florida teacher Debra LaFave, 24, is expected
to plead insanity to charges she had sex with a 14-year-old student, according
to her lawyer; California teacher Sarah Bench-Salorio, 28, allegedly molested
two boys when they were 12 and 14; and 33-year-old California teacher Rebecca
Boicelli was arrested last month on statutory rape and related charges after DNA
tests confirmed that a former student fathered her 2-year-old baby when he was

Friday, February 18, 2005


Aaaaa(rgh)cademic debates gone berserk

The debate goes on and on... Now, lawmakers in Ohio want to ban bias at universities. If it was only that easy. Instead - what this might come to, is a strong infringement of academic and intellectual freedom.

Recommended reading:
Fire's new blog on Academic freedom - The Torch.


Going, going, gone

This is a tv-feast you would not like to miss! CBS is going to air a Dan Rather special on March 9!

As we all know by now, Rather is stepping down. And his time at the station is going to be celebrated. Bring in the Nielsen ratings! This might be a bigger mediahype than any wardrobe malfunction during a half-time show.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Sven Rydenfelt is dead

Sven Rydenfelt died today. Sven was a true Hayekian free-market economist, and a member of the Mont Pellerin Society, who kept up the fight for open borders and stood against government interventions, even in a country like Sweden, where such principles are almost never heard of.

One of his most famous books is A Pattern for Failure (In Swedish: Bönder, Mat, Socialism - thanks Erik L for the correction) which was published in the U.S. witha foreword by Milton Freidman.

I met with him as late as two years ago, when I interviewed him for Svensk Linje. Back then he was still driving his car, and he still enjoyed his life in his apartment, on the fourth floor, without an elevator.

Sven Rydenfelt died at an age of 94 years.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Uddén and Partisan Public Service

Cecilia Uddén at Swedish Public Service TV, has been brought in front of The Swedish Broadcast Commission. Their verdict is clear - her reportings have been biased and pro-Kerry.

Their sentencing here (in Swedish).

Thursday, February 10, 2005


New Report on PR and the Executive

Public Relations and Propaganda: Restrictions on Executive Agency

Just came through the U.S. Embassy's infolink. Interesting read, anybody?


Oh the discourse we live in!

Today, Swedish Public Service TV used their Mediamagasinet (The Media Magazine - journalists who try to act as watchdogs over ... eh...well... journalists) to make a comparison between Fox News and Al Jazeera. The Media Magazine found that they were very similar, and that both channels could be viewed as platforms for political propaganda cleverly packaged as "news".

As if Fox was working in a vacuum... where other forms of bias could not occur in, say in CBS, ABC, NBC and CBS.

Oh, the discourse we live in - and the irony it brings! Journalists who work for a government run Public Service station in Sweden use guilt-by-association drama to accuse Fox News for carrying a political bias.

Fox is working on a market where it has to compete for its viewers and the daily bread of the channel. It's prime purpose is of course not political - it is to make money. A tax-financed tv-channel, on the other hand, doesn't have to be bothered with such petty things as making a profit. It can simply focus on it's main objective, which might just be to keep delivering the propaganda about the supremacy of the welfare state - and public service.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


You know you spend too much time with Austrians when...

There's a market for everything, eh? Well, when your Austrian economics friends send you gift ideas like this for Valentine's Day, you know that it is true. (Thanks, Colleen, for this truly mindblowing link...)

But no matter what they say - It is hard to make economics sexy.


The Open Society and Its Enemies

I firmly believe that the road to hell is being paved by people of good intentions.

On a market for ideas, the value of a personal belief is not necessarily decreased just by having the government prohibiting people from stating their point of view. (As in hate-speech laws, riot laws et cetera.) On the contrary - it might actually increase the political importance of a certain ideological pattern. Neo-nazis all over the world profit from the attention they get when they are being prosecuted for racial remarks. Noam Chomsky has become a cult figure, and has cleverly marketed himself in this fashion over the years, to groups that find his estrangement with main stream U.S. policies (and government) as something to be respected.

Banning someone from speaking their mind is not the way to win an intellectual argument. It is the direct opposite of an open society - it is suppressing the very freedom that is supposed to be the birthright of that society.
In the case with Ward Churchill (see my posts on this blog: 7 February, 5 February), the hightened attention around his speech has made a growing number of American scream for his expulsion from U of Col at Boulder. (See reports from AP.)

But there should be time for reflection here. I have written so before. Universities are not political lapdogs for politicians to do with as they please. And it seems as if there are others out there who also believe that the best way to do battle with Churchill and his ideological friends is by putting up an intellectual argument within the academic community.

According to this post from the Academic Bias blog:
We suspect the University of Colorado is acting not out of principle but a
desire to quell a public relations disaster. If the university wants to make
amends, hire a professor to do battle with Professor Churchill’s ideas. That is
the way towards truth, not silencing voices we find disturbing.

Oh... and to keep politicians from tampering with the academic community and its research I further stress that all public universities should be closed down.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Media Logic (Churchill = Kerik)

Media logic, and how it is oh so easy/hard.
Start off with an easy Principal-agent theory.
Take seemingly any big piece of news out of the newspaper. Backtrack the story to its source. Try to go as far back as possible.

Theory > all stories have an origin that depends on marginal utility. all media outlet will determine their behavior according to risk-strategies (not necessarily Pareto-optimal levels).

If we follow the Kerik scandal and the evolution of the reports about Churchill they appear to take off in the same way (one, or a few sources start off on one single issue that is later being connected to various other related or non-related issues).
But if the theory of media logic is worth anything it should take into account the marginal utility involved in leaking these stories to the press, and the risk for printing them.
In Kerik's case - following Memogate and CBS's embarrasment - the risk involved is high. Any misleading paragraph in a paper might backfire on the media outlet. In Churchill's case the risk is virtually zero.

The fact that the two media scenarios evolve in the same way (fast, with a widespread amount of news outlets bringing out the same message) the situation for both Churchill and Kerik are the same in terms of retaliation. It is hard, not to say impossible, at least initially.


Saturday, February 05, 2005


The Churchill media craze

A professor at University of Colorado at Boulder, Ward Churchill, has made headlines all over the U.S. when he referred to the victims of 9/11 as "little Eichmanns" in a written commentary. (Read his statements here.) His argument is packed with slippery-slope fallacies and, hence, is somewhat weak. But nevermind that. There is a lot of rage in Churchill's piece about the "little Eichmanns": The bottom line being that anyone who is silently feeding of the US capitalist system is a co-conspirator (together with the US military state) against the poor and oppressed people in the the world.

This is pure orthodox marxism. Nothing strange about that. But the media craze tells us that the main stream audience (i.e. people outside of academia) has a hard time dealing with statements like these.
There are two analytical levels here (at least). First, there is the semantic level, dealing with the way Churchill made his remarks, and the metaphors he used.
The second level deals with the metaphysical level - whether there are premises to support such a claim from both an ethical point of view and a more ontological, realist form of perspective.

On these two levels, we might come to different conclusions, depending on normative frameworks and our respective taste for rhetorics.

But then there is that last sad part of it all - in which a media outrage, staged by a few and organised by many is working to throw Churchill out of Boulder, and end his tenure.
It is no coincidence that the most prosperous academic communities (intellectually speaking) are the private universities, where teachers are not held accountable by politicians or just any man on the street outside but are rather treated according to the standardised form of intellectual scrutiny that is the trademark of scientific communities. If people outside of academia would decide the course of science, Galileo's research would still be considered a blasphemy.

So.. this post has been about the importance of intellectual freedom at universities and why government-run universities are always a bad thing.

On top of that, based on the statements I've read from Churchill, it seems like the man is nuts. But that is a completely different story.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Ayn Rand 100 years

"Who is John Galt?"

Yesterday was a special day in Sweden. The think-tank Timbro published a translated paperback version of Atlas Shrugged. To commemorate the author Ayn Rand, who would have been 100 years on February 2, this week Timbro organise public seminars all over Sweden about Rand's novel with it's paramount theme of human greatness.

It usually begins with Ayn Rand...
Atlas Shrugged (in Swedish: "Och världen skälvde") has become one of the most important books in the last century. In a poll conducted in 1991 by the Book of the Month Club, Atlas Shrugged was listed as the book that had changed readers' lives more than any other book, except The Bible.

For more on Ayn Rand:
Ayn Rand Institute
The Objectivist Center


MoveOn goes head on

MoveOn hasn't changed their tactics of all-out assaults and full confrontations with anyone who disagrees with them. Following the less than favorable analysis from FactCheck.Org concerning MoveOn's latest ad (both in a newspaper version and on tv), MoveOn instantly went head on and sent a letter to FactCheck plus paid for a full page ad in New York Times.

MoveOn's latest criticism of the analysis, made by FactCheck, clearly shows that the message about Social Security is perfect for spinning - especially when you can distort any kind of economics and expect your supporters to buy your version.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


MoveOn is getting dirty again

As we await George Bush's State of the Union address:

MoveOn - the liberal PAC doesn't seem to mind to get their hands dirty. I'm sure George Soros is getting his money's worth.

During the election, MoveOn tried to make Americans think that fully automatic weapons (so-called "assault weapons"), such as the AK-47 (Kalashnikov), would become legal to buy due to decisions made by George Bush and Republicans in Congress.
Before this incident, MoveOn made two campaign ads, comparing Bush with Adolf Hitler (watch them here). No comment needed. (See related stories: Washington Times, Drudgereport)
They Moved on (no pun intended) during the election campaign by putting out ads which charged that Gallup's opinions polls were biased. (No evidence for this allegation could be presented, not then, not later.)
Then MoveOn tried to get inte the business of documentary movies (just kidding, it should say "propaganda") by paying more than half of the budget for the highly partisan "Outfoxed" movie, directed by propaganda moviemaker Greenwald.

Now, MoveOn, is at it again. This time they are putting out ads that claim that Bush wants to slash Social Security (while implying that he is only interested in doing so, in an effort to make it harder for hardworking Americans).

The good thing is that FactCheck is onto them and they are blasting MoveOn in this Memo.

I agree with those who said that the campaign 2004 was an ugly smear campaign. But even if the candidates and both DNC and RNC did their best they could not come close to some of the 527's where MoveOne - by all standards - is an all-time low. Yet again, MoveOn show their true brown colors - as brown as the mud they are throwing.


Advertisements and Semantics - ROTFL

Watch out how you present your ads. As in this one, titled “She Was Soooo Thrilled”. Hint: If you manufacture necklaces - beware of the fact that Generation X has a whole new approach to this little thing called semantics.
According to the Dad in this ad, this particular present left his daughter "speechless".
I'm sure it did. I'm sure it did.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Why are Swedish journalists surprised?

Peppe Engberg provides a refreshing article about Swedish journalist in post-election Iraq:
”Unexpected turnouts at Iraqi polls on election day” The Mantra of today has now
been repeated nine times on the Public Service radio and four times on the tv
news. On top of that, there has been six surprised headlines in today’s morning
papers. And it’s only 9.05 AM. […] The turnout at the Iraqi polls only surprises
those who let their ideology limit the view.”

It would be nice if Swedish media outlets, on the recommendation of Mr Engberg, use the days after the election to try and get rid of correspondents who are trying to hide their own lack of competence and analytical skills in wordings about how surprised the rest of the world is.

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