Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Bias as Spontaneous Order II
Now, Virginia Postrel writes in a column in NY Times, bias may be viewed as a simple case of signalling trust in a coordination game. It can quite simply be considered a selling point!
The two year old paper which Postrel is referring to is this brilliant little piece that I've been using in my research for quite some time. (Abstract and downloadable copy can be found here.)
Sendhil Mullainathan and Andrei Shleifer at the Harvard Department of Economics have produced a great way for analyzing the bias potential and market differentiation techniques by media outlets.
...the beam in thine own eye...Part II
... or how the Newsweek story became a simple case of news framing...
Strike the Root has a comment on how likely it would be that the Koran had been flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo:
Anyway, we know our government would never disrespect the Koran in any way, as
our secretary of state says. They might kill people, stack them in pyramids
naked, put leashes on them, and attach electrodes to them, but they would never,
ever flush the Koran down the toilet.
In any case, Strike the Root reports that the outbreak in Afghanistan might not have been triggered by the Newsweek at all, according to what military advisors now say. Which makes the Newsweek story even more so a question of domestic affairs. The propaganda machine in Muslim countries have used the Newsweek story to frame its already glowing hatred for the US, and the Bush administration has been able to feed its hatred for Newsweek. Sweet world.
Monday, May 23, 2005
Beyond Red and Blue
"Rich people are boring, but poor people are interesting..." and they might hold the key to an election. Read the new Pew Research on why Republicans were able to keep the majority on capitol and Bush in the White House.Ruy Teixeira seems to agree (at Donkey rising):
[T]hose voters who seem to correspond most closely to one's intuitive sense of the heart of the white working class--that is, white voters who have a modest income and are non-college-educated--are precisely the voters among whom Democrats did most poorly.
...the beam in thine own eye...
The Newsweek scandal has erupted again and again during the past week. But the story needs to be about more than right or wrong. It's also about policy diffusion. Thomas Friedman writes about the lack of integrity and coherence that seems to be a standard concept in the attitudes from the Arab world:
We are spending way too much time debating with ourselves, or playing defense, and way too little time actually looking Arab Muslims in the eye and telling them the truth as we see it.
The Bush administration seems to be too focused on retaliating against Newsweek, thereby just adding to a blame game that doesn't really give any clear policy advantages. The Western world's news media on the other hand is too locked on targeting Bush (for just about everything) to even begin to question the lack of civil order or genuine enlightened debate in the Muslim world - the demonstrations and violent outbursts are more a result of propaganda than civil indignation over the defamation of the Islamic holy book.
Sometimes it might just be a token of decency to actually turn the tables on the ones who blame the U.S. just as a way to further their own goals. (Update: See some pretty straight-forward comments by Cox & Forkum.)
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Media Bias as spontaneous order
The Spectator has a few posts on this recently. Robin Aitkin, a long-time BBC reporter is now providing the world with a bias case similar to the old Golberg-story on CBS: old reporter gives an insider's view of how a big media corporation has a hidden agenda about how to portray the news. In Aitkin's case, the BBC bias is similar (if not an exact copy) of the bias among journalists in Swedish public broadcasting:
Why did BBC journalists feel so strongly about Iraq? “They cannot bear President
Bush because he’s a Republican and an evangelical Christian. The sight of a
Labour Prime Minister going into battle alongside such a man was more than many
BBC people could stomach.”
Dislike of Republicans is close to being a BBC
article of faith, say Aitken. “I remember being in the Washington office during
the Lewinsky affair and saying that I rather sympathised with the Republicans. I
think it would have gone down better if I’d confessed to being a
Another article of faith is belief in the moral authority of the
United Nations. “That is something that the BBC holds very dear. I long for the
day when I hear a reporter say something sceptical about the UN.”
Another story on the Spectator points out that media people in the US are far more Democrat-leaning than the rest of the population. There seems to be universal patterns here. But the universability goes further, and deals with more than mere political tendencies. Even the media critics are becoming more global, where news assessments are being blamed for the same things. In this case, a paper is discovered to have lured a politician into incrementing himself. The same debate has been going on in Sweden about Janne Josefsson and his hidden cameras who discovered hidden racism among right-wing party members (article in Swedish).
But there is more to it than just this obvious impression. Jay Rosen has a insightful post on the theme "Each nation its own press" - how institutional arrangements from ideological perspectives can alter the public discourse in different countries.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Battle of the Sexes - the psychology debate
A better understanding of the subject at hand may be derived from this great debate between Steven Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke at Harvard.
Video debate 1 here.
Video debate 2 here.
Transcripts and overheads here.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
At least they got some exercise
You have to give them credit for standing up for what they believe in: which obviously includes such Democratic icons as Mao, Lenin and Che Guevara (did I miss a flag with someone else on it?).
Credibility: bloggers vs MSM
Thought-control in Sweden
In Europe the public service broadcasting companies are now putting censorship on their reporters. If you're a right-wing journalist, that is. Last year, the Swedish blogger Gudmundson (article in Swedish + another article in English) had to stop his hobby of blogging, due to demands raised by his superiors at the Swedish Broadcasting Company (SVT). The newly appointed Chairman of the SVT Committee Board Lars Engqvist (which appoints, among other things, all the important executives at the SVT Company) has already stressed the importance of a truly free broadcasting service. He just happens to be a long-time member of the Social Democratic government. His predecessor is the former Social Democratic Minister of the Treasury.) For some reason though, it seems to be perfectly alright for SVT employees to attend Communist rallies (article in Swedish) during First of May parades, or to keep commenting on current events (like former journalist Björn Elmbrant's show on "Hyper Capitalism") with radical leftist or progressive ideas. Fancy that! "Free television" is the new campaign slogan of SVT which they air in their daily self-promoting ads. And noone is free under the oppression of capitalism.
As a teacher at the Lund School of Journalism I see the breeding stock that is on it's way to enter fashionable media corporations like SVT. And their world view is horrible to say the least. (Although their knowledge level is just as low as their arguments.) A general hatred of the US, Israel and anything right of center (center being the Social Democrats...) is considered a right-wing conspiracy. Aah, too many anecdotes to tell about this kind of students: Michael Moore is a great journalist, Reagan came to power because of a CIA conspiracy with Iran, the capitalists are controlling media outlets, and so on...
To say that journalists suffer from paranoia is unfortunately not an overstatement. When they get money from a government-sponsored Public Service broadcasting network to bring out their world views things can only be expected to get as bad as in Sweden.
The Games We Play III
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
The Games We Play II
I took a little hiatus and got down to serious game-playing. Again (see my earlier post).
Following the advice of an old colleague I started to use the Dutch Wall Defense (Opening/ECO code A80-A99) and a wonderful strategy with black - the Queen's Gambit Declined, Ragozin/Westphalia Variation (D38: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Bb4 5.Bg5 dxc4).
I've now given up on the Scandinavian Defense (B01) and all the Indian variations (E10-E99) where the pieces seem to be "all over the board" (excuse my pun) but the Catalan (E00-E09) which shares a few qualities with the QGD Ragozin has started to become a favorite, more or less forced upon me by aggressive opponents that I've played against online.
Global Chess Challenge in Minneapolis
The GCC is supposed to take place on May 18-22. It seems like the hotels are overcrowded already. 1.400 people have already signed up! Maybe because of the sweet little sum of $500.000 in prize money. Among the contestants are contemporary stars like: Alexander Beliavsky, Joel Benjamin, Pentala Harikrishna, Gata Kamsky and Hikaru Nakamura...
Great chess resources can be found here:
Chess Archeology (with old PGN recordings of classic games and openings)
Chess Base (online Chess bulletin with emphasis on tactics)
Chess Corner (with a few hints and lessons for beginners)
Chessgames (a wonderful selection of recorded old games and listings by player)
Swedish Chess site I
Swedish Chess site II
Swedish Chess site III
A modern classic on censorship
Zappa is my hero. And his relaxed answers to the censorship-advocaters around him in the studio points out that the overtly correct pundits (from all over the political scene) so many times are totally lost in their cause to do good. I firmly believe that the road to hell is paved by naïve do-gooders. Zappa gets his point across in a nice way, and manages to say "kiss my ass" on to his opponent from the Washington Times.
This is a sweet little excerpt from the transcript:
Bob Novak: Is there no filth, no obscenities that you think would qualify to be suppressed?
Zappa: We're talking about words here[...] and there are no words that need to be suppressed.
Tom Braden: But there are certain words you use that are... eh... describe an act of fornication, eh... which are brutal!
I have to go and get my old Zappa records and listen to "Bobby Brown goes down" or "Crew Slut".
If the Patriot Act got the Republicans racing like cattle in a stampede, the filibuster issue certainly has made the Democrats flock around any media outlet available as if it was a buffet table on Madison Avenue.
And the flip-flopping is remarkable. (To be fair though, even Madison changed his stance on the Bill of Rights after som heavy influences from the correspondance with Jefferson over in Paris.)
Here are some samples that I have found:
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)Then:
"According to the U.S. Constitution, the President nominates, and the Senate shall provide advice and consent. It is not the role of the Senate to obstruct the process and prevent numbers of highly qualified nominees from even being given the opportunity for a vote on the Senate floor." (Congressional Record, May 14, 1997)
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)Now:
"So we're saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn't too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Don't you think so?" (Remarks at MoveOn.org rally in Washington, March 16, 2005)
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Then:
"I also plead with my colleagues to move judges with alacrity--vote them up or down. But this delay makes a mockery of the Constitution, makes a mockery of the fact that we are here working, and makes a mockery of the lives of very sincere people who have put themselves forward to be judges and then they hang out there in limbo." (Congressional Record, March 7, 2000)
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Now:
"We will invoke every rule in the Senate that we can, without standing in the way of vitally needed programs, to show the people who put it in power that they cannot just by fiat undo 200 years of American history." (Fox News' "Special Report," April 21, 2005)
Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) Then:
"The Constitution is clear that only individuals acceptable to both the President and the Senate should be confirmed. The President and the Senate do not always agree. But we should resolve these disagreements by voting on these nominees--yes or no." (Congressional Record, Jan. 28, 1998)
Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) Now:
"But what has not ended is the resolution and the determination of the members of the United States Senate to continue to resist any Neanderthal that is nominated by this President of the United States for any . . . federal court in the United States." (CNN's "Inside Politics," Nov. 14, 2003)
Monday, May 09, 2005
That's my Bush!
The blunt side of Bush
(Streamlined video here.)
(Streamlined audio here.)
Landon Parvin, Ronald Reagan's old speechwriter did produce a typical jokester-speech. But the question is of course if it was suitable for the First Lady's political image. Afterall, Laura Bush is not Ronald Reagan. Part of the transcript together with pictures can be found at Luc van Braekel's weblog here.
"She's no Lady, she's his wife"
And if you want to get into the heated debate over the First Lady's double standards you should read the posts on the subject by Michelle Malkin, The Volokh Conspiracy, Protein Wisdom, and InstaPunk.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
The South Park Generation
Liberals (and conservatives) who oppose Wal-Mart and other big industries get squashed by their own principles,
Liberal Feminists who have double standards on sexism (advocating the end of male sexual tyrrany while at the same time lining up behind Paris Hilton) are executed.
The Animal Rights movement receives a whole episode (where the PETA people eventually are eaten and being peed on by their own animals - who they earlier have married)
The conservative gay-bashers get bombarded in the first season episode "Big Gay Al's Big Animal Gay Boat"
Social conservatives who are afraid to address issues of sexual character (while apparently having no problem watching Desperate Housewives - like Laura Bush) get a few hits in a number of episodes. For example the part when Cartman declares that the only thing you need to do to get rid of your parents is to call the police and say that you got "molesterad" (sic). Or when the true sexual nature of adults is revealed to the kids in South Park (in the episodes "Cartman's Mom is a Dirty Slut", or when chef takes up his song about his experience with women: "Sometimes a man needs to be with a woman. But sometimes when the loving is over, the woman just wants to talk and talk and talk... But a prostitute is someone who will love you no matter who you are or what you look like. But that's not why you pay a prostitute. No, you don't pay for her to stay, you pay for her to leave afterwards. [...] A prostitute is like any other woman they all charge something for sex, and they do it well."
Clearly, South Park is not for the puritans (or the alleged ditos) of any political creed among Democrats or Republicans. But neither is the next generation.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Grand Old (Spending) Party
Jacob Weisberg has an article in Slate on the issue.
The figures of what it costs to stay in office are not pleasant for an administration who would like to be perceived as having a financially responsible agenda: Total government spending grew by 33 percent during Bush’s first term. The federal budget as a share of the economy grew from 18.5 percent of GDP on Clinton’s last day in office to 20.3 percent by the end of Bush’s first term. The Republican Congress has enthusiastically assisted the budget bloat. Inflation-adjusted spending on the combined budgets of the 101 largest programs they vowed to eliminate in 1995 has grown by 27 percent.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
I will speak at Ratio on May 19
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Do you sodomize your wife?
Last week I was watching a debate show where a (Swedish) labor party secretary (Marita Ulvskog) argued that labor union members who are working in the public sector ought to have a raise in their minimum wage (from today's standard of $13 an hour for anyone whithout a post high-school education). The reporter kept asking her how a country like Sweden would be able to afford such a raise for all employed in the public sector and the inevitable reply from the former cabinet member was to "raise taxes". Then came the blow. The reporter asked "How much do you earn?". "$150 000 a year", came the reply. "And how much are these publicly employed women worth?". "Well", Ulvskog hesitated "they are of course worth $150 000 a year too."
This is great! A politician who is called on her own salary in comparison to people who actually carry out a job in the public sector is a great bait for journalists. If they are willing to push the politician far enough (most journalists are afraid to get bad blood running).
When politics becomes micro-political, up close and personal, some of the policies are sometimes hard to discuss.
And the lesson we learn in political communication is - Attack is always the best defense! A politician might go on and on about the value of the publicly employed, unqualified jobs that someone needs to take care of et cetera. But calling a politician on what this really means opens up for a whole new perspective - where we can clearly see that he or she is not being very truthful, or honest in their assessment. A former cabinet member, like Mrs. Ulvskog above, clearly cannot present a valid case where she can argue that Sweden ought to pay $150 000 for a cleaning lady in a public school. Furthermore, it proves that she feels awkward about the salary she is making as a pro-politician while at the same time advocating high income taxes for everyone in Sweden - most of whom earn a lot less than she does.
And the attack (or in Game theory terminology - defect) alternative works just as well against journalists. CBS did the same kind of stunt on the 1992 Republican convention where they chased journalists around the convention floor to ask them if they had ever committed adultery (watch real-media clip here). Dan Rather is among the interviewed - and he was of course ... ducking. When journalists are faced with the same questions they hand out to politicians they aren't so willing to cooperate anymore. Public policies as well as journalist ethics definitely becomes more interesting on a personal level.
Sodomy and you
Last month, Antonin Scalia came to NYU Law School and in a seminar room packed with law students he was faced with the same kind of question as he advocated would be a proper way to confront homosexuals about their private lifes (i.e. the argument behind his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court case that overturned Bowers v. Hardwick concerning the the nation's sodomy laws). One student simply asked the Supreme Court justice: "Do you sodomize your wife?" The microphone was ripped from the hands of the student but the question was already out there, and Scalia couldn't run away. The student later defended his question on his blog. The Nation has a story on it here.
The moral of the story: When journalists or members of the public are defecting - when they are in fact confronting politicians or public officials about their lip-service principles - then the attacked better know his principles, and stand by them. You can have any private morals you want. But if you try to make them public morals, like Scalia (and Mrs. Ulvskog above) has done - you better realize that you will have to defend not only your principles but also your personal life.
And like always - if you think that old morals will remain a social glue in society you better realize that you're fighting a lost cause. And that you're going to lose. And that it's going to hurt. A lot.
Cleaning up at the LA Times
It's a good day for democracy. It's market efficiency at it's best.
Monday, May 02, 2005
Why Anti-Swedenism is good for you
The Fly Bottle has a few talking points about this and other things that we are supposed to dislike. Thomas Jefferson for one. The bigottry of the Jeffersonian time presumably originates from many issues, from his time in office as well as personal shortcomings: The Sally Hemmings connection, Jefferson's lack of a good enough prose to finish the Declaration of Independence all by himself (which is why he had to get extensive help from Benjamin Franklin), his lack of principles about checks and balances and the judiciary (his stance on the Madison vs. Marbury case), and the fact that he gave up his principles of opposing a standing army while in office, which was due to aggressions by the British, (see this page for quotes by Jefferson). All in all - this is what happens when you get a clash between principles and pragmatism, and it is hard to argue that Jefferson really did abandon his old principles just because he had to fight political opponents. I really don't see Fly Bottle's case here.
But Sweden, or more specifically, "anti-Swedenism" obviously has a place in the Fly Bottle's heart:
Conservatives and libertarians seem to have an irrational disdain for Sweden, as
if it could slide into full-on Juche flesh-eating collectivism at any moment.
They crave and horde bad news about the Swedish economy or the travails of the
Swedish welfare state. Why? Because Sweden is a fairly rich, happy, stable, and
quite free nation with a gigantic welfare state. And we don't want to be more
like Sweden, and we resent the fact that it works as well as it does. But I
think it is quite possible to make the argument that we shouldn't be more like
Sweden without feeling the need to argue that Sweden is a disaster.
The question ought to be, how can anybody who has any knowledge on constitutional economics and principles about fair governance see Sweden as a case fit for this world? Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution obviously likes Sweden. And I can agree to some extent - it's a great place if you want to go hiking. But to work there?
I have listened to professor Cowen speak fondly about Sweden a couple of times. But the susbstantial argument that needs to be made is that the Swedish model is built on tax evasion. And Cowen has not made it a secret that the dynamics of Swedish "welfare" economics is based on the citizens possibilities to flee from taxes (by taking out more vacation, doing home-improvements on their own, getting parental leave (which is lest costly than to hire a nanny), et cetera.
High marginal tax rates will do this to a country. And it eventually brings on a stagnated economy. Will Wilkinson, at Fly Bottle, however, seems to be ignorant about this. Yes, Sweden doesn't have high corporate taxes, but in a globalized world it is hard to keep the business within the borders if you do. So the target has instead been to hit working people, with low incentives or abilities to move, to pay for the ever-growing public sector. And it is not paying off. Look at this list of tax rates in the world. Sweden is firmly anchored in the top. The question Wilkinson should ask himself is - Is Sweden the most prosperous country in the world? The economic freedom in Sweden is lower than in the 1950s, health care (Sweden's proud public program) doesn't provide the same level as in the U.S. The Swedish Trade Institute made a report last year that shows that GDP per capita in Sweden is only 40 percent of the U.S. GDP/cap. This puts the welfare of a typical Swedish family at the same level as residents in some of the poorest U.S. states - like Alabama or Arkansas.
While Sweden keeps using progressive tax incentives to effectively kill all new job creations there are at least other countries in Europe who realize that the solution to job market crisis might be the direct opposite - flat taxes have become increasingly popular.
Wilkinson can move to Sweden if he wants to. Before he does, I suggest he takes a closer look at the land where all the virtues of mankind are supposed to be set free.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
The True May Day
This post has collected a few good thoughts about what May Day is really about - the crimes against humanity made in the name of Socialism.