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We killed the bastard! Let’s party….? May 2, 2011

Posted by Sverre in : Human rights, World politics , 2comments

So, Osama bin Laden is dead. The most hated man in the western hemisphere has been brought down. Justice is served. Or is it? If we take a step back from the thrill of the moment and examine the facts, what has really happened here?

United States’ agents have localized and killed a foreign national on foreign soil, then recovered his body. This man is accused of committing serious crimes against humanity, but no attempt was made to capture him alive and put him on trial. The president of the United States has acted as both prosecutor, judge and jury with the US Navy Seals as executioners. Despite this, President Obama freely owns up to his achievement, without even an attempt at explanation as to why the killing was necessary. Official word from the US Government is also that the mission was to kill It also seems that the aim has been to kill him, not a serious attempt to capture. And the rest of the western nations applaude. Including Norway’s prime and foreign ministers. And the people of the United States (and to a lesser degree in Europe as well) celebrate. Celebrate the killing of another human being.

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Obama’s soft power July 25, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : International relations, World politics , add a comment

Some numbers are out from Pew Global Attitudes on how different nations view the United States after the change in the presidency. Dan Drezner has made some comments on them, saying that this is a measure of how Obama’s soft power policy is changing the world’s  attitudes. But the really amazing stuff has been dug up by Kevin Drum at the Mother Jones blog. Just have a look at this table (click it to see the entire table in its original location):

bush_obama_table

These figures are rather amazing. There seems to be only one country where the people don’t think Obama is more likely to do the right thing in international affairs – Israel. And the relationship between Israel and the US can hardly be said to be much like the relationship with any other country…

YouTube: A modern-day propaganda leaflet March 21, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Political economy, World politics , add a comment

Ever since WWI, propaganda leaflets dropped behind enemy lines were an important tool in trying to weaken support for whoever was in charge among the local population. It is believed to be an effective tool, which is why it is still in use in conflicts around the world. One of the defining aspects of Obama’s campaign to become president was how well he was able to exploit the new social internet media to his advantage. And he has apparently taken this with im into the White House.

Yesterday, he released a Youtube video aimed at the Iranian people, obviously in an effort to convince Iranians that the United States hopes for peace and does not want to be enemyof Iran. You can see the three-minute video here:

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Obama and Cicero – what we should learn. December 1, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Uncategorized , 2comments

Although I freely admit I might not be the best practicioner of good rhetoric, I’ve had a keen interest in the theory of rhetorics for years. I’ve read a bit of both Aristotle, Cicero and others and find it all to be extremely fascinating. Tore O. Sandvik’s blog highlights an article by Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian which I recommend to everyone.

obamaciceroShe discusses Barack Obama’s use of classical rhetorical tricks of the trade, linking it among others to the great Marcus Tullius Cicero. One of the points she discusses is the negative association the very word rhetoric has aquired. Rhetoric may indeed be used to cloud a subject and befuddle an audience, but I wonder how much important knowledge has been lost on account of bad rhetoric by scientists. I’m sure I have missed a lot of important insights because articles and lectures were just so damn boring I stopped paying attention.

So scientists of the world – read Higgins’ article, read Cicero, read Aristotle. Reinvigorate your style of writing and make sure your knowledge lives on.

What if the whole world could vote? October 30, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, US Presidential election , 12comments

asks the Economist and tests it. They’ve asked their online readers to vote and constructed a worldwide electoral college. Lo and behold! the world electorate map is shockingly enough painted bright blue. It appears most nations in the world have a distribution in excess of 80-20 in Obama’s favour. Some people (no serious political scientists I hope) take this as evidence that the world supports Obama.

Economist.com voter map screenshot

Economist.com voter map screenshot

The world at large probably prefers Obama, but this “survey” does in no way confirm that. Why not? It’s really quite simple. The survey is conducted at the Economist.com website. And who are going to claim that worldwide readers of the Economist represent a fair approximation to a random distribution of the population? None, I hope. For example, I would expect the Economists’ readers to have vastly higher than average levels of education. This is further accentuated by the fact that not every visitor to the website can vote, just registered Economist.com members. This ensures that even those casual visitors not normally reading the Economist are even less likely to vote.

There is no easier way to prove the bias of the survey than just looking at the scores for the US in this survey. In this survey the US supports Obama by 81-19.

This isn’t even very original. I have seen several such maps made on the basis of different surveys already, and must have read a dozen different online articles on it.

So has the Economist suddenly gone naive and stupid? Of course not. This was never intended as a survey by the Economist, so just don’t make the mistake of treating it like one. What the Economist wanted was more hits to their website, and more registered members on their website. I’d guess this got them hundreds, if not thousands. It worked on me. 😉 (more…)

Has Obama already won? October 19, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : US Presidential election , 3comments

Obama has had a good lead on the polls for a few days now – does this mean he’s won? Here’s a side glance at what the internet thinks.

Yes, say Norwegian newspapers. The reason they all agree is of course because they all quote their favourite expert, professor Ole O. Moen from the University of Oslo. To Dagsavisen, for example, he says he thinks it will now take a real or imagined terror threat for Obama to lose. He doesn’t think Obama is going to make any big enough mistakes.  But with a single expert being quoted across the board I thought I’d look around a bit.

I assumed I could rely on Fox News to bring me predictions that didn’t favour that black yuppie, but their website did little more than confuse me. They were more interested in telling me that the great-great-great-granddaughter of a slave on McCain’s ancestor’s farm is now a psychology professor.

The Washington Post seems to think Obama will win. Among other things, they can tell us how McCain’s got trouble with media as Obama gets all the endorsements and the great maverick himself is starting a fight with the NYT. Just in case the unthinkable should happen and McCain wins, the Post has posted (ha-ha) some emergency help to journalists to help explain it. At least they list possible reasons why things might take an unexpected turn. (more…)

Norwegian media loves Obama, but doesn’t hate McCain September 30, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : US Presidential election , add a comment

As I wrote about some days ago, I’ve been gathering data on the Norwegian media coverage of the US Presidential Election. I’m now up to date with all registering of data, and have taken a little more time to analyze it. With 154 registered articles, the main conclusion still stands: Norwegian media favours Barack Obama both in volume and in positivity of the coverage.

Current numbers (September 30th 2008):
Obama: 106 articles, +29 balance
McCain: 73 articles, -3 balance

It does however seem clear as well that this enthusiasm doesn’t translate into a campaign against McCain. The coverage of McCain’s campaign seems well-balanced, with the number of negatively and positively angled articles roughly balancing each other out. (more…)