Oh'MyBama 2008 #7

“If you talk to Warren [Buffet], he’ll tell you his preference is not to meddle in the economy at all — let the market work, however way it’s going to work, and then just tax the heck out of people at the end and just redistribute it,” Obama said. “That way you’re not impeding efficiency, and you’re achieving equity on the back end.”

The Non-American Presidential Race?

No, I am not talking about that the fact that the rest of the world is watching this race with more interest than ever before, nor the fact that there are screaming legions of Obama supporters across most of Europe, nor the fact that three Brazilian senators just petitioned to change their names to Barak Obama, or the fact that the election will set US policy at a vital time, I am talking about the fact that neither of the candidates were born in the US.

Well, Obama might have, but there is doubt (and a lawsuit, see post), but McCain was distinctly born in Panama, in the then US controlled canal zone. Some have claimed that because of this, he is not a "natural born citizen" and thus not eligible to be the head honcho.
Seems as though most experts are pretty clear they see someone being born of two US citizens, the father stationed abroad on orders of the US govt. (Navy), is a "natural born citizen." The reason it is interesting is that the case has never been tested, though some interesting historical precedents crop up (from the NYT):
It also surfaced in the 1968 candidacy of George Romney, who was born in Mexico, but again was not tested. The former Connecticut politician Lowell P. Weicker Jr., born in Paris, sought a legal analysis when considering the presidency, an aide said, and was assured he was eligible. Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. was once viewed as a potential successor to his father, but was seen by some as ineligible since he had been born on Campobello Island in Canada. The 21st president, Chester A. Arthur, whose birthplace is Vermont, was rumored to have actually been born in Canada, prompting some to question his eligibility.
Interesting that the two main candidates both face legal challenges (though unlikely) to their presidency. Which means...
Libertarians have a chance!! 
Ok, not so much, but look below at the table of election results in 2004.. with no Ralph Nader... Libertarians are in third! Which means when Obama and McCain are barred from the Presidency, we'll be there to swoop in.

Grand total

Presidential Candidate


Home State

Popular Vote


Running Mate

Running Mate's
Home State

RM's Electoral



George W. Bush






Dick Cheney



John F. Kerry






John Edwards

North Carolina


John Edwards (a)

North Carolina


John Edwards (a)

North Carolina


Ralph Nader






Peter Camejo



Michael Badnarik






Richard Campagna



Michael Peroutka






Chuck Baldwin



David Cobb






Pat LaMarche



Leonard Peltier

Peace and Freedom





Janice Jordan



Walt Brown






Mary Alice Herbert



Róger Calero (b)

Socialist Workers

New York




Arrin Hawkins (b)





100 %




Needed to win




Source (Electoral and Popular Vote): Federal Elections Commission Electoral and Popular Vote Summary

Best Article to date on origin of the Georgian War

Short version is that Russia is good a propaganda and had long planned the assault, as well as for all intents and purposes initiating the assault. From the WSJ:

How the Georgian Conflict Really Started

August 28, 2008; Page A15


'Anybody who thinks that Moscow didn't plan this invasion, that we in Georgia caused it gratuitously, is severely mistaken," President Mikheil Saakashvili told me during a late night chat in Georgia's presidential palace this weekend.

"Our decision to engage was made in the last second as the Russian tanks were rolling -- we had no choice," Mr. Saakashvili explained. "We took the initiative just to buy some time. We knew we were not going to win against the Russian army, but we had to do something to defend ourselves."

I had just returned from Gori, which was still under the shadow of Russian occupation. I'd learned there on the ground how Russia has deployed a highly deliberate propaganda strategy in this war. Some Georgian friends sneaked me into town unnoticed past the Russian armored checkpoints via a little used tractor path. We noted that, during the day, the tanks on Gori's streets withdrew from the streets to the hills. Apparently, the Russians thought this gave the impression, to any foreign eyewitnesses they chose to let through, of a town not so much occupied as stabilized and made peaceful.

However, if you stayed overnight after observers left, as I did with various locals, you could hear and glimpse the tanks in the dark growling back into town and roaming around. A serious curfew kicked in at sundown, and the streets turned instantly lethal, not least because the tanks allowed in marauding irregulars -- Cossacks, South Ossetians, Chechens and the like -- to do the looting in a town that the Russians had effectively emptied. Now that the Russians have made a big show of moving out in force -- but only to a point some miles to the other side of Gori toward South Ossetia -- they've left behind a resonating threat in the population's memory, a feeling they could return at any moment.

The damage in Gori's civilian areas, like the Stalin-era neighborhood of Combinaty, give the lie to claims made by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in these pages that Russian forces "acted efficiently and professionally" to achieve "clear and legitimate objectives." Either that, or they fully intended -- as a "legitimate" objective -- to flatten civilian streets in order to sow fear, drive out innocents and create massive refugee outflows.

Gori's refugees are now flooding back. Many have returned also to Poti, a port city near Abkhazia, and far more strategic than Gori because it serves as a trading lifeline for Georgia and potentially offers future access to NATO ships. The Russians are digging in around the town and in the port area itself, and refusing to budge as the world looks on.

"I got a call from the minister of defense that Russian tanks, some 200, were massing to enter Tskhinvali from North Ossetia," Mr. Saakashvili told me. "I ignored it at first, but reports kept coming in that they had begun to move forward. In fact, they had mobilized reserves several days ahead of time."

This was precisely the kind of information that the Russians have suppressed and the world press continues to ignore, despite decades of familiarity with Kremlin disinformation methods. "We subsequently found out from pilots we shot down," said Mr. Saakashvili, "that they'd been called up three days before from places like Moscow. We had intelligence coming in ahead of time but we just couldn't believe it. Also, in recent weeks, the separatists had intensified artillery barrages and were shooting our soldiers. I'd kept telling our guys to stay calm. Actually we had most of our troops down near Abkhazia where we expected the real trouble to start. I can tell you that if we'd intended to attack, we'd have withdrawn our best-trained forces from Iraq up front."

According to the Georgian president, the Russians had been planning an invasion of his country for weeks -- even months -- ahead of time: "Some months ago, I was warned by Western leaders in Dubrovnik to expect an attack this summer," he explained. "Mr. Putin had already threatened me in February, saying we would become a protectorate of Russia. When I met Mr. Medvedev in June, he was very friendly. I saw him again in July and he was a changed man, spooked, evasive. He tried to avoid me. He knew something by then. I ask everyone to consider, what does it mean when hundreds of tanks can mobilize and occupy a country within two days? Just the fuelling takes that long. They were on their way. Would we provoke a war while all our Western friends are away on vacation? Be sensible."

I put it to Mr. Saakashvili that there was also the question of why now? Why did the Russians not act before or later? It was a matter, he said, of several factors coming together: the useful distractions of the Beijing Olympics and the U.S. elections, the fact that it took Mr. Putin this long to consolidate power, the danger that tanks would bog down in the winter.

But two factors above all sealed Georgia's fate this summer, it seems. In April, NATO postponed the decision to admit Georgia into the organization until its next summit in October. Mr. Saakashvili believes Moscow felt it had one last chance to pre-empt Georgia's joining NATO.

Finally, he says, the invasion had to be done before the situation in Iraq got any better and freed up U.S. forces to act elsewhere -- a matter not simply of U.S. weakness but of increasing U.S. strength. "If America thinks it is too weak to do anything about Georgia," said Mr. Saakashvili, "you should understand how the Russians see it, how much Moscow respects a strong United States -- or at least a U.S. that believes in its own strength."

The Star Trek Hypothesis

It is interesting that on Star Trek, most every race encountered seems to be bipedal, human shaped, and generally very similar in both ability and intelligence.

My idea is that it is possible the level of intelligence does not vary greatly between advanced beings, though size and shape will vary widely. Then again...

Following the model of evolution on earth, we know a few things to be true. The first is that intelligence only comes about when there is an evolutionary benefit: increasing survival and the size of the next generation.

The second, and vital question, is at what point does evolution stop? And I believe that to be directly tied to the notion of a self-aware individual, no longer following instincts. It is of course more complex than that, level of support for all individuals must be relatively similar regardless of intelligence etc, but this is something which came about hundreds if not thousands of years ago for humans. At that point, there is no greater likelihood that any given species will increase or decrease in intelligence, and thus it is possible that by reaching this threshold point, all intelligent and self-aware beings are roughly equivalent in their understanding.

But my second thought is this: while the species overall has stagnated its need to evolve higher intelligence, higher intelligence will continue to develop. This is because intelligent individuals are drawn to other intelligent individuals, on average. And dont get all up in arms about this, because its exactly why we are not still monkeys or mice for that matter. In 1, 10, or even 100 generations of course this will not matter much. But over the long term, there will be a spreading of the human race, basically the band from highest to lowest expanding by the highest expanding upwards.


"To evolve is to survive" err, not sure who said that, or if anyone ever did.. but regardless, I have taken the message to heart.

If you dont have firefox 3, get it now. Then get a little app called Gmail file space. Its about 200k, and its completely inconspicuous, and turns your gmail account into an online harddrive. Not sure how they do it, but its fantastic.

Then, log in with the account BookOfNorm@gmail.com and the password normspace

In there you will find more rich media Norman content than you could ever hope to find. Well, actually, you will currently find:
Owl City - One of my new favorite bands, basically a cross between Postal Service and Shiny Toy Guns
A bunch of my favorite pictures
Carolina Liar - One of my other new favorite bands. Get this, or you will be the last one left out when everyone around you is humming "I'm Not Over" and you dont know why...
Transport Tycoon Delux - Quite possibly one of the best simulation games of all time. The only drawbacks are a dumb AI and the... amazing.. music.

Go. Get.

And yeah, its totally legal. Other than the sharing part.

First robot on robot kill

Long talked about, long written about, we are now at the cusp of a new era. A few days ago a Reaper aircraft (the bigger meaner brother of the predator which has become so famous), sighted, target, and destroyed a remote controlled vehicle being used as a bomb by the insurgency in Iraq.

Both vehicles were of course still remotely controlled, and the insurgency vehicle presumably only in a rudimentary line-of-sight manner, but regardless it marks the first robot-on-robot kill in human warfare, and it will be far from the last.

Britains Best Olympics in 100 Years

The UK stands 4th on the overall medal table at the end of the Olympics, with 19 gold medals. That is pretty damn impressive for the motherland, and a far better showing than they were hoping for (they targeted 8th overall as their goal). Article on their return home from the BBC:

Members of the Great Britain team arrived back in the United Kingdom from China on Monday following their best Olympic performance for 100 years.

British competitors won 19 golds in Beijing to finish fourth in the medal table with a haul of 47 medals.

The team landed at Heathrow Airport on a dedicated British Airways Boeing 747 featuring a special gold medal "nose".

The biggest cheer was for the first sight of all the gold medallists led by Becky Adlington and Chris Hoy.

Hoy, triple gold-medallist in the velodrome, said: "It's quite overwhelming. It's an incredible reception. You're living in a bubble in the Olympic village and it's only when you land and see quite how many people have turned up you realise - it's incredible.

"I'm going to take a couple of months off but it hasn't really sunk in yet.

BBC's Matt Slater

"It's been a long pressure build-up and it's going to be nice to switch off and see friends and family and do normal things again."

The 32-year-old Scot, however, laughed off at suggestions that he may now receive a knighthood.

"I think that's ridiculous to be honest, it seems crazy."

The majority of athletes are due to be taken to a hotel for a reunion with their families, but some of the gold medallists will head straight for a news conference.

The Princess Royal was one of the first to step off the plane, followed by Sebastian Coe. The London 2012 chairman, who now leads the drive to the Olympics in four years, said: "Those guys just performed way beyond what we expected."

Teenage diver Tom Daley said: "To come back with the team has been great."

Ahead of meeting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Daley added: "I think I'll have one or two days off and then it's back to hard training for London."

GB athletes at Heathrow
GB's gold medallists get a noisy reception at Heathrow Airport

Kelly Sotherton, who missed out on a medal in the heptathlon, said: "My London training cycle started the day I left the track. As soon as I won my medal in Athens I was preparing for Beijing and London is only four years away.

"We had a great Olympics, but I'm sure we'll move on and be more successful in 2012."

The plane, renamed Pride after the British Olympic lion mascot, bears a message "Proud to bring our British heroes home" emblazoned on the fuselage.

And there was some extra weight on the inbound flight too - 44lb of additional metal, in the form of Olympic medals.

Extra champagne was ordered for the flight and the airline gave the medallists special upgrades, although it was reported that many athletes requested apple juice.

Unloading their baggage was a job in itself - there were 700 pieces of equipment on board, including 80 bikes, six javelins, and four canoes.

Captain Alasdair MacFadyen said: "We've all been following Team GB whilst they've been in Beijing.

"They've done the UK proud and we're so pleased to be delivering them back to home soil to the heroes' welcome they've earned."

Organisers had warned fans to stay away from the airport and said the public could mark the homecoming at a victory parade in London on 16 October.

A reception at Downing Street is also likely to be arranged.

Prime Minister Brown has already stated the honours system will recognise the team's achievements.

BBC's Tom Fordyce

The British Olympic Association had targeted an eighth-place finish in the table.

But despite some below-par displays in athletics and equestrian events, excellent performances from the swimmers, rowers, sailors, boxers and canoeists helped Team GB finish above the likes of Australia and Germany.

The cyclists won a total of 14 medals, including eight golds, with Hoy's efforts making him the first Briton in 100 years to win three golds at the same Games.

Swimmer Adlington will receive a huge reception in her home town of Mansfield following her two golds in the Water Cube.

The 19-year-old became Britain's first female Olympic swimming champion in 48 years with victory in the 400m freestyle. She followed that achievement by winning gold in the 800m event.

Her victory will soon be toasted in the Adlington Arms after it was announced the local Yates's pub would change its name in her honour.

The golden 'nose' is prepared for lift-off
The Olympic golden 'nose' to celebrate Team GB's efforts
The rowers picked up two golds, two silvers and two bronzes for their best Olympics since 1908 while Britain's sailors will have a hard act to follow in 2012 in Weymouth.

They won four golds, including a third for Ben Ainslie, who was elevated to the same status as record-breaking swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt by Olympics chief Jacques Rogge.

Britain's boxers also did well, with James DeGale adding gold to bronzes for David Price and Tony Jeffries, while Tim Brabants picked up the country's first ever canoeing gold.

Despite a magnificent 400m gold for Christine Ohuruogu, the athletics team disappointed overall, falling one short of their target of five medals.

"It has been frustrating - we almost hit the target, but you don't get medals for close," said UK Athletics performance director Dave Collins.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already said the British government will be investing heavily in the country's sporting talent in the build-up to 2012.

"As we move up to it we want more and more young people in Britain interested in sport," he said.

"That is why we will be investing more in sport in our schools, as well as for our elite athletes."

When Jellies Attack, Part The Deux

So, and this is scary stuff I warn you, I just got back from a day trip out on the Dip (family boat), and I have to say the jellyfish bloom in the Mid-Atlantic is quite amazing and appalling. There are a few species, one small and translucent that does not sting and one up to about 8in in diameter, red, and with long nasty looking tentacles, and they are everywhere. There are, quite literally, millions of them. Far more than I have ever seen before. You sail along, and there they are, all around you, all around the boat, everywhere. Colleen and I went ashore on a small island and found a spot where about 200 of them were clumped together in a few square yards of ocean because of the tide and current. Makes me nervous just to go in the water (and I know that some beaches in Europe have already had to install jellyfish nets so that people could go swimming.)

To me, loving going in the ocean and out on the water, this is one of the most apparent and appalling symptoms of the destruction of the oceans as well as global warming.

Lawsuit against Obama: Is he American?

This is, in my eyes, a major blow to the Obama campaign, and it came from.. Hillary Clinton. A Clinton ally has filed a lawsuit against Obama claiming that he was actually born in Kenya (his mother was meant to fly back to Hawaii for the birth, but there is pretty good evidence she did not make it back).

This is interesting because it cannot be dismissed easily by the Obama campaign coming as it does from inside the democratic party, and two because I have been very surprised all along at the very limited airing of the question of whether or not Obama was actually American. I have actually thought about the issue many times before, as I am both interested in public office and a dual citizen. I have been amazed and impressed that the US public has been so muted on Obama's ties to other nations, and specifically (and most surprising of all) the fact that he is or at least was raised Islamic.

To some degree I wonder how much of it is the fact that the US public simply does not know or does not focus on it because the media has not yet told them to focus on it. The trial itself I believe stands on thin evidence (though it is plausible that that Obama was not born in the US, to me it rests on a number of technicalities which will be difficult to prove), but the idea of the trial and the coverage it will get are surely a huge blow to the Obama campaign. Article forwarded on from my brother James:

A prominent Philadelphia attorney and Hillary Clinton supporter filed suit this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic National Committee and the Federal Election Commission. The action seeks an injunction preventing the senator from continuing his candidacy and a court order enjoining the DNC from nominating him next week, all on grounds that Sen. Obama is constitutionally ineligible to run for and hold the office of President of the United States.

Phillip Berg, the filing attorney, is a former gubernatorial and senatorial candidate, former chair of the Democratic Party in Montgomery (PA) County, former member of the Democratic State Committee, and former Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania. According to Berg, he filed the suit--just days before the DNC is to hold its nominating convention in Denver--for the health of the Democratic Party.

"I filed this action at this time," Berg stated, "to avoid the obvious problems that will occur when the Republican Party raises these issues after Obama is nominated.".

Berg cited a number of unanswered questions regarding the Illinois senator's background, and in today's lawsuit maintained that Sen. Obama is not a natural born U.S. citizen or that, if he ever was, he lost his citizenship when he was adopted in Indonesia. Berg also cites what he calls "dual loyalties" due to his citizenship and ties with Kenya and Indonesia.

Even if Sen. Obama can prove his U.S. citizenship, Berg stated, citing the senator's use of a birth certificate from the state of Hawaii verified as a forgery by three independent document forensic experts, the issue of "multi-citizenship with responsibilities owed to and allegiance to other countries" remains on the table.

In the lawsuit, Berg states that Sen. Obama was born in Kenya, and not in Hawaii as the senator maintains. Before giving birth, according to the lawsuit, Obama's mother traveled to Kenya with his father but was prevented from flying back to Hawaii because of the late stage of her pregnancy, "apparently a normal restriction to avoid births during a flight." As Sen. Obama's own paternal grandmother, half-brother and half-sister have also claimed, Berg maintains that Stanley Ann Dunham--Obama's mother--gave birth to little Barack in Kenya and subsequently flew to Hawaii to register the birth.

Berg cites inconsistent accounts of Sen. Obama's birth, including reports that he was born at two separate hospitals--Kapiolani Hospital and Queens Hospital--in Honolulu, as well a profound lack of birthing records for Stanley Ann Dunham, though simple "registry of birth" records for Barack Obama are available in a Hawaiian public records office.

Should Sen. Obama truly have been born in Kenya, Berg writes, the laws on the books at the time of his birth hold that U.S. citizenship may only pass to a child born overseas to a U.S. citizen parent and non-citizen parent if the former was at least 19 years of age. Sen. Obama's mother was only 18 at the time. Therefore, because U.S. citizenship could not legally be passed on to him, Obama could not be registered as a "natural born" citizen and would therefore be ineligible to seek the presidency pursuant to Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution.

Moreover, even if Sen. Obama could have somehow been deemed "natural born," that citizenship was lost in or around 1967 when he and his mother took up residency in Indonesia, where Stanley Ann Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian citizen. Berg also states that he possesses copies of Sen. Obama's registration to Fransiskus Assisi School In Jakarta, Indonesia which clearly show that he was registered under the name "Barry Soetoro" and his citizenship listed as Indonesian.

The Hawaiian birth certificate, Berg says, is a forgery. In the suit, the attorney states that the birth certificate on record is a forgery, has been identified as such by three independent document forensic experts, and actually belonged to Maya Kasandra Soetoro, Sen. Obama's half-sister.

"Voters donated money, goods and services to elect a nominee and were defrauded by Sen. Obama's lies and obfuscations," Berg stated. "If the DNC officers ... had performed one ounce of due diligence we would not find ourselves in this emergency predicament, one week away from making a person the nominee who has lost their citizenship as a child and failed to even perform the basic steps of regaining citizenship as prescribed by constitutional laws."

"It is unfair to the country," he continued, "for candidates of either party to become the nominee when there is any question of the ability to serve if elected."

V for Vendetta

  • Valerie's letter has 5 pages.
  • The title "V for Vendetta" contains 5 syllables.
  • The title of each chapter begins with the letter V.
  • Beethoven's fifth symphony is used by V and noted for the prominent use of three short notes and one long, which is the Morse Code identifier for the letter V (this code was used as a call sign by the BBC during World War II, most famously in the sense of V for Victory).
  • Evey's name is composed of "E" (the fifth letter of the alphabet), "V" (5 in Roman numerals, and the fifth letter from the end of the alphabet), and "Y" (25th letter of the alphabet, or 5 squared).
  • The woman who dies in the cell next to that of V at Larkhill is named Valerie Page.
  • V is eventually identified as the prisoner from Room 5 at Larkhill Internment Camp. The five doors are labeled with Roman numerals, so Room 5 is emblazoned with a "V".
  • Valerie's room number at Larkhill Internment Camp was 4, in Roman numerals "IV", which is also the phonetic form of Evey.
  • V's hideout is accessed from the closed Victoria tube station, the damaged sign of which resembles a sideways V when Finch locates it.
  • V's personal motto consists of the Latin phrase Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici (By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe), which in turn consists of five words that begin with the letter V - V mentions the origin of the phrase is Faust.
  • Guy Fawkes Day happens on November 5. November is also the only month in the Gregorian calendar with the letter V in it.
  • The government consists of the five branches which are identified with the five senses.
  • At Larkhill, V is injected with Batch "5".
  • V's last word, at the end of the series, starts with a V.

Frontier Markets

Frontier markets market cap growth. This is not in my paper, but I just really like this chart--though it is hard to read... pretty incredible growth.

Bigfoot body update

It was a rubber suit. No real shock there.

McCain takes the lead in polling

It really means very little, but my hope is that it makes the media get their head out of their ass and realize that a lot of the country does not see Obama as the Messiah.

My central worry is that the more that I hear of McCain's policies (as he has moved to the middle on the economy to garner support), the less I like. E.g. the way to lower gas prices is not by implementing a "windfall" (thieves) tax on oil companies. He is at least also further towards the middle on social issues as well (other than the necessary support for abortion during a Republican election campaign), and is certainly more protective of the environment than the public land-use and CO2 happy GWB. For those confused on how that last sentence meshes with being a libertarian, libertarians generally speaking see a role for the government in protecting common goods. While some would argue that there is no such thing, or the definition is very narrow, I see the environment and environmental resources as classic public goods, where the personal desires of one can affect a resource belonging to all, and thus must be regulated.

Regarless, McCaindom its still better than the People's Republic of Obama.

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a sharp turnaround, Republican John McCain has opened a 5-point lead on Democrat Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential race and is seen as a stronger manager of the economy, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday."

Bigfoot's Body

So, its been all over the mainstream news now: a couple of local guys down in Georgia claim to have the body of a bigfoot. Most within the bigfoot community think that they are doing it just to get money and attention, as they run a bigfoot tour business and have set up a online store etc.

I tend to agree.

The most interesting part of the story to me has been just how good these guys are at marketing. Stanford has in fact offered both of them honorary professorships of entrepreneurship, quite impressive in its own right.

Dolphin Culture

A group of dolphins off of Australia have been seen tail-walking, and teaching each other the trick. One of the females in the group spent a couple weeks and a dolphinarium when after becoming sick from being trapped in a lock, and she likely saw the behavior there, picked it up, and then taught others in the wild. There is of course no benefit to this behavior other than that it is fun, and a new trick to play around with. The transmission of ideas and indeed the creation of a "culture" shows the high level of these animal's intelligence.

I wonder whether the very medium of water acts as a barrier to higher levels of intelligence, as intelligence is directly related to the need to manipulate and control the environment around you. This is a) more complex in the three dimensional world underwater, and b) more difficult with streamlined shapes best suited to aqueous environments.

Sweden - The Authoritarian Regime

Sweden is generally viewed from the US as a shining example of a successful socialist state. A nation where citizens identify with each other so strongly, and social norms so powerfully affect individuals that it is often seen to operate outside of normal rational human behavior. In reality, it is a highly controlled society, using authoritarian tactics to maintain stability. Great article forwarded from my brother:

While Sweden Slept

By BRUCE BAWER | December 8, 2006

The approach of the New Year and departure of the old inevitably brings a flurry of "year's best" lists. This even applies to nations, which some organizations make it their business annually to rank in order of wealth, quality of life, and what-have-you.

Surprisingly often, the Nordic countries come out on top. This placement is usually a reflection less of objective reality, however, than of the list-makers' enthusiasm for the Nordic welfare-state model. The criteria, in other words, are formulated in such a way that the Nordic countries will inevitably end up on top. Hence Norway, for example, is repeatedly named by the United Nations as the world's richest country — forget that prices and taxes are so high that even business executives lunch on dry sandwiches brought from home in aluminum foil.

Now it's Sweden's turn. The Economist Intelligence Unit, associated with the Economist magazine, has awarded the title of world's most democratic country to Sweden. For many observers, this is not only wrong — it's staggeringly, outrageously misinformed.

Sweden is, after all, a country in which the people are fed by their political, press, and intellectual establishment an unvarying diet of propaganda promoting the socialist welfare state, demonizing Israel, and whitewashing Islam. As for America, the official view was neatly captured in a post-September 11 editorial in the nation's largest newspaper, Aftonbladet, which assured readers that the terrorists who attacked New York and Washington weren't Sweden's enemies but simply hated "U.S. imperialism," a reasonable position given that "the U.S. is the greatest mass murderer of our time." Such views, taught in Sweden's classrooms and enshrined in Sweden's state-approved schoolbooks, are reiterated daily by Sweden's mainstream press organizations, all of which are either government-owned or government-subsidized.

Dissent is powerfully discouraged. In Sweden, whose murder rate is currently twice that of America and where Muslims now constitute over 10% of the population and are disproportionately unemployed and prone to violence, the Swedish press routinely depicts America as crime-ridden. Polls show that the majority of Swedes are deeply disturbed by their country's dramatic social changes and highly critical of the policies that brought them about. Yet the crime and violence generally go unreported, so only rarely does any of the criticism seep into the press. Though two-thirds of Swedes question whether Islam is compatible with Western society, this issue is simply not open for public discussion.

To quote Jonathan Friedman, a New Yorker who teaches social anthropology at the University of Lund, "no debate about immigration policies is possible" because Sweden's "political class," which controls public debate, simply avoids the topic. Recently, the city of Stockholm carried out a survey of ninth-grade boys in the predominantly Muslim suburb of Rinkeby. The survey showed that in the last year, 17% of the boys had forced someone to have sex, 31% had hurt someone so badly that the victim required medical care, and 24% had committed burglary or broken into a car. Sensational statistics — but in all of Sweden, they appear to have been published only in a daily newssheet that is distributed free on the subways.

Instead of reporting on such worrisome findings, politicians and the press alike focus on the evils of America and Israel. Last year, for instance, Sweden's state-owned TV network ran a series of "documentaries" about America that included Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine." Viewers were protected from the fact that it had been shown to contain lies and fabrications. The series also included a sympathetic account of Stalin's atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, whom Swedish TV described as having been executed not for history's most colossal act of treason but "for their Communist sympathies," and something called "Why We Fight," which explained America's military actions as motivated by the avarice of military contractors.

Swedish book publishing is similarly unbalanced. Recently Michael Moynihan, an American writer based in Stockholm, toted up the English-language political books that had been translated into Swedish since September 11. His long list included several works apiece by Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore, plus volumes by the communist historian Eric Hobsbawm, the anti-American journalist John Pilger, and the "Holocaust industry" critic Norman Finkelstein. On the entire list, only one author was not a leftist.

When voices of dissent do break through in Sweden, they're often punished. During the runup to the Iraq war, the Swedish government censured the independent TV channel TV4 for running an "Oprah" episode that presented both pro- and anti-war arguments. TV4 was charged with violating press-balance guidelines when in fact its offense was being too balanced — it had exposed Swedish viewers to ideas from which journalists had otherwise shielded them.

Only one sizable party in the country, the Sweden Democrats, articulates most Swedes' concerns about their country's immigration and integration policies. Again and again, it has been the object of breathtakingly undemocratic treatment by the political establishment. Earlier this year, for example, the government closed down the Sweden Democrats' Web site because it had published a cartoon of Muhammad. Stig Fredriksson, head of the free-speech organization Publicistklubben, complained bitterly. But the incident was hardly reported in Sweden — and, of course, barely caused a ripple abroad. If the Bush administration had closed down a Democratic Party Web site¸ there would be scare headlines and editorials thundering about dictatorship — and rightly so. But when Sweden's rulers did it, it was apparently acceptable — because they did it in the name of political correctness.

Sweden Democrats have been the targets of events that recall China's Cultural Revolution. Staged "people's protests" by members of the "youth divisions" of other parties have led to the firing of Sweden Democrats from their jobs. A few weeks ago, a junior diplomat was dismissed when it became known that he was a member of the party and had criticized his country's immigration policy. On several occasions, thugs loyal to the ruling parties have broken up Sweden Democratic meetings and beaten up party leaders. And this is a nation in which a party led by an admitted communist was, in recent memory, part of the ruling coalition.

The Sweden Democrats enjoy considerable public sympathy. But given Sweden's oppressively conformist political climate, that sympathy is of necessity largely sub rosa. Mr. Friedman has suggested that one reason why the party has no seats in Parliament is that Swedish elections aren't really secret — other people at the polling place can look at your ballot and see which party you support. The stigma attached to voting for the Sweden Democrats is just that strong. Another reason is that the major parties have worked together vigorously to keep the Sweden Democrats out of the public square. The success of this collaborative effort is reflected in the fact that Sweden is the only major Western European country whose legislature contains not a single representative of a party critical of its immigration policies.

In 1972, the British historian Roland Huntford titled his book about Sweden "The New Totalitarians." He is echoed by a number of observers today who describe Sweden as an example of "soft totalitarianism." Are they right? That's a matter for debate — though it's a debate that won't take place in Sweden.

Mr. Bawer is the author of "While Europe Slept" and lives in Oslo, Norway.

The Securities Lending Mess

Naked shorting should be banned. The industry's opposition to this is understandable, but has no place in legitimate and well regulated market. Interestingly, the financial media have been trying as hard as possible to make the SEC's naked short selling ban look like a foolish mistake, as for a long time, most have been against the idea that naked short selling is an issue at all. It is, and lets just hope the SEC has the balls to go through with regulations.

Not the best written or least biased article out there, but interesting nonetheless:

Media Herd Lassoed by a Lie

August 19th, 2008 by Mark Mitchell

In the middle of last week, a previously unknown professor in Switzerland published a report that purported to show that the SEC’s emergency order preventing naked short selling in 19 financial companies had been a mistake. By the end of Friday, that report had become the basis for stories by reporters at the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Economist, TheDeal.com, Dow Jones Newswires, Reuters, and Hedgeworld.

So much for the notion that our financial media is comprised of independent thinkers, all busily analyzing data and asking probing questions in the sacred pursuit of “truth.” Far easier to copy straight from the press release (or, more likely, the email sent around by some short-seller or lobbyist).

“The 19 stocks lost 3.83 percent of value…compared with their peers,” reported the Financial Times.

“The…shares affected by the order lost about 3.8 percent of their value, compared to their peers,” reported Reuters.

“Shares covered by the order lost 3.8% of their value compared with their peers,” reported Dow Jones Newswires.

“Shares covered by the order lost 3.8% of their value compared with their peers,” reported the Wall Street Journal, which merely reprinted the Dow Jones story.

That this phrase was circulated with such precision is all the more remarkable considering that it makes absolutely no sense. “Compared to their peers”? What does that mean? If I have a hundred bucks, I cannot lose $3.80, “compared to my peers.” Either I lose the $3.80, or I do not.

Aside from being gobbledygook, the phrase is grossly misleading. The 19 shares covered by the emergency order did not lose value. To the contrary, their prices rose dramatically from the day that the order was announced until its expiration (at which point prices plunged).

Yet, to drive home the misperception, the Wall Street Journal’s headline reads: “Stocks Under ‘Short’ Order Fell During Protection Period.”

Reuters reported that “many of the 19 stocks…suffered declines in their share prices.”

The Financial Times proclaimed that the emergency order “had contributed to a decline in the [19 companies'] share prices.”

All according to the professor in Switzerland. But clearly, these reporters did not read the report by the professor in Switzerland. If they had, they would have known that the professor, who is named Arturo, did not claim that the 19 stocks’ prices had fallen. He said only that their “abnormal returns” during the period of the emergency order were 3.8% (or 10%, according to a follow-up report) less than the “abnormal returns” of “their peers” — a sample of 59 financial stocks that weren’t subject to the SEC’s order.

An “abnormal return” is the difference between expected returns (based on previous performance of the stocks and overall performance of the market) and actual returns. It is highly debatable whether it makes sense to look at abnormal returns (as opposed to plain old prices), but even supposing they are relevant, Professor Arturo’s numbers (if not his misleading language) suggest that the SEC’s emergency order profoundly improved the performance of those 19 stocks.

The professor analyzes only one time period prior to the emergency order: June 1 to July 14. He finds that over this period, cumulative abnormal returns for the 19 stocks were negative 12.34%. From June 15, when the order was announced, to June 20, cumulative abnormal returns were positive 12.42%. From the time that the order actually went into effect on July 20 to its expiration on August 8, the abnormal returns were negative 4.57%, still a lot better than the period prior to the emergency order.

Meanwhile, according to the report, the 59 financial stocks that were not directly affected by the order got an even bigger boost. Their cumulative abnormal returns were negative 10.82% over the pre-emergency order period of June 1 to July 14, and positive 5.68% over the July 20-August 8 period when the emergency order was in place.

It might seem paradoxical that unprotected stocks were helped more than the protected stocks, but it is not really surprising when you consider that illegal naked short selling of many of those 59 companies was far more prevalent than in the cases of the privileged 19. Perhaps criminal naked short sellers, guessing that the SEC might extend its protections across the market, began borrowing real shares or decreasing their short positions in all the companies they were attacking. The stocks that had been under the heaviest naked short attacks saw the biggest gains.

The fact that the abnormal returns of the 19 protected stocks were 3.8% lower than the abnormal returns of other stocks is otherwise meaningless. Investors might rather buy the stocks with higher returns, and in that sense the 59 unprotected stocks are more valuable. But this does not mean that the 19 protected stocks “lost value” during the emergency order. It does not mean that their returns (abnormal or otherwise) worsened. It certainly does not mean that their “prices declined.” Not “compared to their peers.” Not any other way.

Normally, I would be inclined to sympathize with the journalists. Financial statistics are a little bit complicated. Deadlines are tight. And never in history have journalists been more overworked. Often, reporters just don’t have time to do the research, or crunch the numbers themselves.

But the problem here is not just that journalists misread, or chose not to read, a report about a complex issue. No, what horrifies is that an entire pack of journalists failed to make the simplest of all calculations. They failed to compute the difference between good and bad.

Illegal naked short selling is one of the biggest financial swindles of our lifetimes. That is bad.

The SEC took a small step towards preventing this crime. That is good.

Rather than demand that the SEC take a bigger step to protect all of the hundreds of companies affected by illegal naked short selling, a bunch of important financial journalists published a slew of nearly identical stories suggesting that the SEC shouldn’t have acted at all — and their only excuse for writing these stories was that somebody sent them an email misrepresenting a skewed report by some guy in Switzerland named Arturo.