Friday, April 29, 2005


Business - the Japanese way

An old friend of mine recently finished his dissertation on the Japanese trade culture (The "Lagged" Internationalization of Japanese Professional Business Service Firms: Experiences from the UK and Singapore, published at Gothenburg University). His case study explores the difficulties that these businesses have faced, as opposed to the Japanese commodity industries, which are flourishing, to say the least.
Now, some things about the Japanese culture fascinates me, and it is the unorthodox way of doing business by chance. Like Takashi Hashiyama, president of Maspro Denkoh Corporation, who resorted to an interesting way (however, not unusual in Japan) to do a business deal - he played rock, paper, scissors with his clients. Daniel Drezner has the story on his blog.

While highly rational (being able to turn down a client just by referring to the selection process) this behavior seems utterly out of place in Europe or the U.S. And still, so much of business transactions are done in much the same manner. It's not necessarily discriminatory. It's just another way of letting chance have its say to ease up often boring decision-making practices. What's next for Japan? Casual Friday?


Please hire me...

In some fields you simply cannot fail...

Monday, April 25, 2005


Eva Braun of Liberalism

Katie Couric runs NBC's Today Show with a firm grip. A personal cult has been created around her and anything but pleasant gossip is now being spread about the terror she brings to those who don't obey. (leak from Drudge)

Couric, who has been dubbed the
"Eva Braun of Liberalism" by Ann Coulter will face allegations in Monday's edition of New York Times when Alessandra Stanley brings the punches:
Couric "has grown downright scary: America's girl next door has morphed
into the mercurial diva down the hall [...] At the first sound of her peremptory
voice and clickety stiletto heels, people dart behind doors and douse the
lights. [...] Something has to be very wrong with NBC's TODAY if viewers are
turning to ABC's Diane Sawyer as a refreshingly wholesome, down-to-earth

First Dan Rather, now Katie Couric... news show hosts might consider giving up their larger-than-life approach.


Eva Braun of Liberalism II

Here is the NYT article. Gotta love that old photo together with Bryant Gumble! So 1991!

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Old journalism - bad for democracy?

Two great posts by journalism professor Jay Rosen (NYU) that highlight the need for a market solution to convention coverage and the decreasing credibility of the press. Rosen has earlier done extensive research and written comments on the White House press corps, in the wake of the Gannon scandal. His comments reflect the archaic and anachronistic problems that face a system where MSM isn't keeping up with a changing world.
The Economist has more on the development:

If there is nothing special about the press, then there is nothing special
about what it does. News can be anything--including dressed-up government video
footage. And anyone can provide it, including the White House, which, through
local networks, can become a news distributor in its own right. Given the
proliferation of media outlets and the eroding of boundaries between news,
comment and punditry, someone will use government-provided information as

This leads to one simple conclusion. If the media landscape is changing, so too must government in its way it treats journalists. I am not the only one to say that the WH press corps has played its last card and doesn't give anything more than news feed that we nowadays can get elsewhere. Just as in the 60ies when one debate between Nixon and Kennedy forever changed the way TV journalism was being treated in elections.


Child-bride debate and religious scrutiny

Some of Muslim readers have contacted me about my recent post concerning Runar Sögaard and his preaching about Mohammed marrying Ayesha when she was 6, and "welcoming" her to his house (I guess that phrase is free for interpretation) when she was 9. This according to Sahih Muslim Book 008, Number 3309.

Yes, I am aware that Virgin Mary was around 12 when she gave birth to Jesus. Which was implied by my subtle point when I wrote that Mr Sögaard's speech was "etnocentrist, at best".

Still, I have a hard time understanding what's so inflammatory about all of this. This is clearly a part of an old context that seems out of date in most modern societies. According to old Mosaic law puberty decided when you became a man or a woman in society. Child-brides (by modern day standards) were not unusual. The only part we might want to discuss is why this custom still lingers in the Muslim communities in the Middle East and among a few evangelical Christian congregations in the American heartland.


Propaganda Service

Think Public Service is a good thing for democracy? When are Europeans going to realize that Public Service Broadcasting is only a way for government and their supporting reporters to promote their political ideals?

This BBC report tells it all.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Come, All Ye Faithful

If you're looking for a big riot these days you have to turn to Italian Serie A soccer league (where the Juventus fans are now fighting eachother). The notorious Drughi group is battling for power over the south bend of the arena with the other supporter group - the Fighters. One fighter-member, Rafaele De Vaire, was almost stabbed to death in a recent attack by three Drughi members.

But you can also spend some time with religious groups and see how some people seem ready to do anything just to pick a fight - by extensive name-calling or hate-speech. (It's like that downright stupid Yo Mama-aggressive stance, a war of words that you often see in the rap culture movies, which is the usual run up to a good old fight or a shootout. The reply that follows such an allegation is most commonly "Oh yeah? Well, yo mama is so fat that..." It makes me wonder - why even bother trying to portray a skewed argument if all you want to do is fight? I don't get it, really. If someone said "Yo mama is so fat that..." to me, I guess my reply would be "No, not really. She's actually not very fat at all. Here, let me show you a photo." For some reason you never hear that in the gangsta movies. ) Then again... maybe I am just too "white" to get it.

The US lack one specific feature in their media environment, which on the other side of the Atlantic brings heated discussions to the Europeans home. Everyday. Around tea-time. Tabloid papers have impressive circulations still. And they provide all the good stuff - scandals, gossip, news in a more personal format, and lots of angry columnists. Publish and be damned at its finest. It's a grand business indeed. I should know, because I have been one of those angry columnists in the tabloid papers for over five years.

Swedish Aftonbladet (the biggest tabloid in Sweden - a socialist newspaper with lots of young radical feminist columnists and just as many Bush-bashing stories on any given day) has been targeting the Norwegian evangelical preacher Runar Sögaard. On his CV you'll find that he's the "spritual coach" for Matt LeBlanc and other Hollywood people. In one of Mr Sögaard's preachings, from earlier this spring, Aftonbladet has found that he throws out some harsh words against Islam (article in Swedish) - explicitely about the fact that Muhammed was engaged to his wife when she was 6 (and he was in his 50) and that he later married her when she was 9.
This is ethnocentrist at best, and Mr Sögaard's preaching has little to do with any reasonable discussion about the ethics of Muslims around the world. Anyone can see this. Muslims in Sweden did the stereotypical move and released death treats against Sögaard on a homepage, which both Aftonbladet and its main competitor Expressen reported: "If I see him, I will shoot him" (in Swedish) . Sögaard ran to the police and asked for protection and the whole thing turned nasty. Sometimes you gotta ask yourself why some Muslims seem to love to indulge in all the crude stereotypical behavior. Like this Swedish immigrant puts it (article in Swedish) - it's time for Swedish Muslims to wake up and realize which country they have moved to, and that the only proper answer to allegations like these will have to be with words.

Still, the debate and the furor seems out of place. I can't count all the times I've had to fend off insults from atheists who proclaim that I am a homophobe just because I am a Christian (and the Old Testament proclaims that homosexual men ought to be stoned to death). This is just bad inference and total lack of logic, of course. While you may argue that homosexuality is a sin, and indeed many Christians do, I find lots of Bible teachings which point in the exact opposite direction and I therefore have no trouble combining my Christian beliefs with the understanding that homosexuals are no more sinners than the rest of us. But it would be insane to go about and put death threats on everybody who challenged Christianity. At it is sad to see how many religious groups that seem to thrive on hate rather than understanding based on higher intellectual proportions.

This post deals with the allegations: For starters, we need to make a distinction between Mosaic or Old Testament Law and New Testament teachings. Whilst the Apostles specifically threw out parts of Mosaic Law, such as circumcision and dietary restrictions, the vast majority of laws were not commented on. This is unfortunate as the Old Testament contains some very interesting laws that no modern Christian would ever dream of adhering to. For example:

You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food for a profit. (Lev 25:36-37)

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard." Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death ... (Deut. 21:18-21)

People ought to be more concerned with liberating themselves than with flaming speeches against other faith-based groups.
The bottom line: "Does Christ ask us to be libertarians? I answer, emphatically, no; He commands it."

Friday, April 22, 2005


What bloggers want

A cool commentary to DN's Stefan Jonsson and his ranting about bloggers with tantalizing nazi-connections (doesn't that fall into Goodwin's Law?) and descriptions about the web as "the Law west of Pecos".

This cartoon says it all.


Liberal 527's up and running

George Soros (who promised to move into a monastery if Bush was re-elected) seems to have a hard time keeping other promises he has publicly announced. Like that whole thing about getting big money interests out of politics. McCain-Feingold, anyone? With or without French Dijon mustard?

Yes, it is a bunch of bs, of course. Politics is power. Power also equals money. And there it is. Soros is no fool. He just likes the rest of us to think that he has altruistic philantropical motives behind funding some of the meanest PAC's out there - MoveON for one.
Now he's bringing together the Phoenix Group - to get big money industrialists into funding liberal 527's and to create a new information network, on an old Fox News mindset.

It's sad when the liberals don't see the irony. Soros - the man who became even more wealthy when he speculated on derivatives and currencies in the 80ies (and brought down the Thai bath, the Spanish peseta, and the Swedish krona, to name a few) is the one who is financing people in liberal PAC's who think that we should put an end to greed in the world by getting Republicans out of office. It's hilarious!

[Read the article here.]

Thursday, April 21, 2005


The biggest Swedish daily still doesn't get it

Stefan Jonsson, at the culture desk on Sweden's dominating daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN, with an approx. circulation of + 600 000) is mad. Very, very mad. (His article in Swedish here.) See, there are these despicable individuals out there called bloggers, and they don't do news the way the fancy-pantsy press does. They even have the guts to scrutinize DN when they rip pieces from New York Times (a plagiarism stunt which DN eventually was forced to take responsibility for) or when they are building their reports from the US on a left-wing bias and juggle with facts to promote a slanted political agenda.
Damn those bloggers who are behaving like "the Law west of Pecos", DN fumes. (Namecalling apparently also fits DN like a glove...) They only attack our poor journalistic material because they like to promote their own agenda (i.e they are "right-wing extremists and nuts who agree with the US") - a statement which also reads: Because we, here at cozy DN, we don't have an agenda at all. We are objective. We are "real" (self-aggrandizing, pretentious) journalists in an elite media outlet.

The best comment yet is this insightful remark to the branding-game DN plays with The Spectator:

When media and the intellectual dominance in a land or culture forbid or hinder
challenges to the worldview that is proclaimed by government or especially the
media establishment, one of the best ways to make your opposition voiced is by
blogging. You can there write what the establishment can not control.

A number of Swedish blogs have referred to DN's Stefan Jonsson and his agitation. I know it must be hard to find your own work coming under fire, when you thought you were the one who should do all the bashing. Time to wise up for Jonsson. Size isn't all you need to survive in a media age. Dinosaurs do die out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


MSM getting the hype

Daily Kos was on C-Span recently. I don't know if they have marble staircases but I doubt there is any less prominent way to treat bloggers than to put Markos Moulitsas on the air.
And yet again the Chomskyans seem to be dead wrong - one of Chomskys theoretical points in his book Manufacturing Consent is that there is a filter called "flak and the enforcers" in MSM which can take the breath out of grass-root initiative and competition. As if C-Span would be able to clip the wings of Kos and "make him mainstream". Even if they could ... this would open for other blogs to fill the gap.
The reason for this allocation of blogs? Cost-efficiency. To post an entry costs next to nothing. To put a tv show on the air is a veritable money-muncher, even by C-Span's standards.

So in a way Chomsky was right - "Follow the Money" is the lead motive for a sound media analysis. Too bad he doesn't know any microeconomics and can't see the big picture.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Lies and the lying liars who tell them

[First of all - I know I should be keeping up this blogging business, but my deadlines are keeping me from adding to the news flow in my own little way. I promise my frequent readers to be back with more soon. In the meantime - please enjoy this little piece.]

Back to Lisa Carlsson again - yep, we're heading back to the funny farm at Swedish Television, the network which so proudly hails itself as an "independent objective media outlet" in the sacred name of public service (now, with a new CEO who has been hand-picked from the darker corners of the Social Democratic party with a long career behind him as a cabinet member - no doubt this will lead to a new era of independent journalism).

If Americans ever wonder "why they [as in Europeans] hate us so much" look no further than to Mrs Carlsson. My meeting with her and her blatant bias has been discussed on this blog in November.

In a recent post, The Spectator, tears her latest piece apart, with the help from columnist Roland Poirier Martinsson.

From the blog:

Given the resistant strain of anti-Americanism that thrives in SVT
production labs, the epidemic seems set to spread. Roland Poirier Martinsson
finds fresh groundsfor concern while viewing SVT’s Kulturnyheterna. The programme’s reporter
Lisa Carlsson lays out the following arguments:
-The USA is undergoing a library crisis
-The three libraries in the town of Salinas are to be closed down
-More than 250 American libraries have been closed down in the last two
-All the above is to be expected in a country where the president boasts
that he doesn’t read

One to three are demonstrably false, while the last is an outright lie. And even if they were all true - the main focus on the story is the fact that three libraries are going to close in Steinbeck's old hometown Salinas - a city with 130 000 citizens (on the opposite side of the globe in Swedish eyes). One can only imagine the heated discussion that this must have unravelled at the morning meeting: "Three libraries are closing in Bush's America - talk about a cultural dusk! Let's do a thing on that!"

And more... on cultural differences, also referred to by Spectator:
One of my favorite American correspondents, Bruce Bawer, who works out of Oslo has a great story in THe New York Times on the cultural clashes and economic reality.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


The best debate in the last election

I know I haven't been very good at updating this blog in the past weeks. This is due to the chapters I am currently trying to write for my what I hope will be my next book.
As for now, I would like to recommend an old favorite from the 2004 election, the debate between Tucker Carlson and Jon Stewart on Crossfire. Even though Jon Stewart is being applauded by the kids at Georgetown (who crowded the studio) Carlson actually shows that his argument is flawed. Crossfire is in fact no more a partisan hack-show than Stewart's own The Daily Show (which runs on The Comedy Channel every night).

Enjoy! (scroll down, the listing is on the left)

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