Maurizio – Omnologos

Where no subject is left unturned

Archive for September 2008

Iran-caused Hawkish Schizophrenia

leave a comment »

(Letter to the IHT)

Dear Editors

I am quite worried for the weeks to come.

A lame-duck US Presidency unable to convince Congress to pass its financial rescue package, and utterly unpopular around the country, may as well try to use an attack against Iran as a way to bolster its image, and to leave another lasting (and deadly) legacy. We could wake up one morning to hear very bad news indeed.

There is at this moment one question I would really like anti-Iranian hawks to answer.

The Iranian regime is building the Bomb because of perceived threats to its national security, That much will certainly be agreed by all: every country member of the “nuclear weapons club” has entered it because of security (and prestige) concerns.

Also, nuclear weapons are pretty much useless for an offensive strategy, as demonstrated by 63 years without a single atomic attack. Furthermore, even a single botched nuclear explosion, say, in Tel Aviv, would massively increase the risk for the regime, as most certainly followed by a massive atomic retaliation against Tehran.

And yet: commentator Gary Milhollin (“An arms race we’re sure to lose“, IHT, Sep 29) and reader James W. Litsey (“Stopping Iran“, Letters section, IHT, Sep 30) respectively recommend “a credible threat of international economic and diplomatic isolation” and making NATO “soon intervene by whatever means necessary“.

How on earth can they believe the above will make Iran change its mind? To the contrary: by piling up threats, Iran will surely be convinced to accelerate its nuclear program even further.

Shouldn’t we remove threats instead, and go back to old-fashioned diplomacy, thereby destroying the case for a nuclear Iran?

Didn’t that work with Lybia, and perhaps even with North Korea?

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/30 at 12:41:04

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

The Financial Sky Is Not Falling (Yet)

leave a comment »

A great post (in English) from mixed English/Italian blog noisefromAmerika with David K. Levine e Michele Boldrin explaining why it does not look like the world financial system is going to collapse tomorrow.

Unless the Bernanke&Paulson couple is not telling the whole truth…

That would also explain the otherwise absurd sight of politicians declaring an upcoming Armageddon with one hand, and squabbling for petty gains on the other.

As usual, the only thing to fear is fear itself (and a rushed-up solution). At this rate, the best thing that can happen is that nothing substantive is agreed until after the Presidential Elections. It’s only a month to go. If President Bush is really worried about it all, he can always impose a one-month bank-holiday period 😉

Most academic economists – the economists who do not work for companies likely to benefit from the bailout, nor for the President – are opposed to this plan […]

the total value of outstanding mortgages is $11 trillion […] while the value of insurance contracts written on them is about five times as large. Clearly, Mortgage Backed Securities (MBSs), CDOs and so on, were used as collateral for lots of additional borrowing […] That explains why, as the value of those houses is dropping the whole castle of cards threatens to crumble. […]

The problem in banking is the possibility of cascading failures, that the failure of bad banks may drag down the good banks […]

What is the solution? One is for the government to step in and buy securities, as proposed in the bailout plan before Congress.

[If those securities are not properly valued, the government] will only get securities worth less than that with the taxholder responsible for the difference. Notice that the ones who reap the rewards are the holders of bad securities […] In effect in order to keep the bad banks from driving out the good we rescue the bad banks.

There are many alternative schemes to the one proposed by Treasury:

  • Require banks to raise more capital. [In that case] the losses are borne by the good banks rather than the taxpayer
  • Forgive debt in exchange for equity. [It is well known that] debt forgiveness schemes have worked for resolving financial crises in the past.
  • Buy foreclosed houses for the value of the mortgage
  • Force an orderly winding down of the housing based derivative market […]

Yes: there can be cascading bank failures and that is a bad thing. But it does not happen instantly, not tomorrow, not next week, not next month […]

The bottom line, in the immediate future, is this. The Federal Reserve Bank and its sister agencies […] already have strong tools against a cascading failure of the banking system. […] We have not seen good banks fail, nor have we seen cascading failures. We have been given no reason to think anything of the sort is imminent. […]

To debunk the obvious: Washington Mutual failed Thursday night. Washington Mutual ATM cards continue to function as usual. […] The fact that banks are reluctant to lend to each other does not have much impact on their ability to make short term loans to customers. […]

If the Federal Reserve Bank and Treasury in fact have information that things are worse than Bernanke reported they should tell us what it is. Otherwise they should stand up and make it clear that doomsday is not around the corner.

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/29 at 22:37:01

On Abortion, A Perfectly Reasonable Christian Stance

with one comment

Personally I find the following statements bordering on the obvious. For some reason, many people think otherwise, in one sense or another…and unbelievably, abortion is still somehow an issue in US politics.

From the Methodist Church’s “Abortion and Contraception” web page:

  • abortion is always an evil
  • there will be circumstances where the termination of pregnancy may be the lesser of evils

And in particular:

  • the mother should be told clearly of the alternatives to termination
  • abortion should be avoided if at all possible by offering care to single mothers during pregnancy, and the adoption of their children if, at full term, the mother cannot offer a home
  • the result of the coming together of human sperm and ovum is obviously human
  • the right of the embryo to full respect […] increases throughout a pregnancy
  • it would be strongly preferable that, through advances in medical science and social welfare, all abortions should become unnecessary
  • late abortions should be very rare exceptions
  • if abortion were made a criminal offence again, there would be increased risks of ill-health and death as a result of botched ‘back-street’ abortions
  • to refuse to countenance abortion in any circumstances is to condemn some women and their babies to gross suffering and a cruel death in the name of an absolutism which nature itself does not observe

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/28 at 22:11:21

Antarctica, Beyond Any Imagination

with one comment

In this video (got it from the Bad Astronomy blog) a rather clear example of what “Condition 1” is in Antarctica.

It gives the idea of the awfulness of the place, more than the standard definition (“wind speed > 55knots, or visibility less than 30 yards, or wind-chill temperature of -100F”).

Apparently it is forbidden to go anywhere out, under “Condition 1”. It is even forbidden to go rescue anybody.

I guess the penguins just get on with it.

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/27 at 21:04:33

Posted in Environment, Science

Tagged with

Belarus, Just a Tad Less Hopeless

with one comment

Surprisingly upbeat news report on BBC Radio4 tonight about the upcoming elections in Belarus (Sunday 28 Sep).

President/Dictator Aleksander Lukashenko is still the dominating force but his Government is at least pretending to be more democratic than last time around. In all likelihood, these overtures will result in an organized opposition, leading to a new round of repression and/or the end of Lukashenko’s Dictatorship.

ps rumor has it that Belarus is just trying to woo the EU, in order to have a little more weight in its relationship with Russia…

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/26 at 21:48:08

Posted in EU, Europe, Politics

Tagged with , ,

What Has President Nixon Ever Done To Us?

leave a comment »

James Grant is right in pointing out that one root of today’s financial troubles lies in the Nixon administration’s decision, on Aug. 15, 1971, “that the dollar would henceforth be convertible into nothing except small change” (“The buck stopped then“, IHT, Sep 25).

Really, there’s lots of disasters that can be directly linked to the fewer-than-usual days of Richard M. Nixon as President.

Abroad: the bombing of neutral Cambodia and Laos, resulting in 4 students dead at Kent State in Ohio, and the establishment of the genocidal Pol Pot regime; the threat to India with nuclear-powered USS Enterprise in 1971, resulting in India’s and subsequently Pakistan’s nuclear (bomb) programs; the approval of Pinochet’s bloody coup in Chile in 1973, with a dwindling support for US interests by Latin American governments ever since.

Domestically: the end of all human voyages beyond Earth orbit; the ballooning-up of the Federal Government with the establishment of a long list of Government Agencies; the abuse of Presidential powers with their following corrosion for more than a quarter of a century; the “culture wars” between Republicans and Democrats, all trying to despise each other most; Donald Rumsfeld; and of course the original declaration of the “war on drugs” that surely must have been the most inefficient endeavor ever taken by humanity.

Nixon’s Presidency started a little less than forty years ago. Its legacy, who knows when it will end?

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/25 at 22:23:31

Thirty Thousand Attempts to Keep Turkey Out of the EU

with 6 comments

I was attracted at first to UCLA History Professor Perry Anderson’s contribution to the London Review of Books (LRB) in the 11 Sep 2008 issue (“After the Ottomans”, also titled “Kemalism”) by four peculiarities.

First of all the topic: the discussions about letting Turkey in the European Union are obviously helping define what the “European Union” actually is (or is not). The history of modern Turkey occupies an important spot in the debate, and Anderson’s article promised to deal with that in great detail.

In fact (and here lies the second oddity about “After the Ottomans”) it was a very long piece, running to a total of more than 14,000 words.

This is not a good or bad thing per se: but the vast majority of LRB articles are much, much shorter, little more than a couple of pages in print and less than 5,000 words (2,700 words for Rosemary Hill‘s “Making Do and Mending”, 25 Sep 2008; 4,700 words for Sheila Fitzpatrick’s “Like a Thunderbolt”, 11 Sep 2008) .

Longer pieces are not common; for example the 15,000 words for John Upton’s “In the Streets of Londonistan”, 22 Jan 2004). Actually, the fact that authors are given a restricted space to express their opinions, does set the LRB apart from, say, the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker.

Third, LRB articles usually sport very peculiar titles (check the examples above): Anderson’s was very uncharacteristically just a pure statement of fact.

Fourth, as it appeared obvious from the start, Anderson was not going to review any particular book: “After the Ottomans” was an essay in political history, with more than a whiff of polemics about everything Turkey.

Imagine then my surprise (or lack thereof) when the very next issue of the LRB hosted yet another Perry Anderson article on Turkey (“After Kemal”, 25 Sep 2008).

Once again the unimaginative title, the lack of any book to review (rather than simply quote and mostly, summarily dispose of), and the huge amount of paper devoted to it: 10 full pages, 16,000 words, of course mostly with very little of positive to say about Turkey.

So we got all of 30,000+ words on the single topic of post-Ottoman Turkish history: perhaps a record for the LRB, perhaps not. But it was all natural that I started wondering what was behind the LRB Editors’ choice to deluge their readers with enough words to fill up around 15 “standard” articles.

Now, I am not going to dwell into the “truth” of what Anderson has written about, from the end of the Ottoman Empire to today (it would be nice if a counter-article were to appear, perhaps on the LRB itself).

Who am I (who is anybody) to be able to reply to Anderson’s finely detailed history of Turkey, without risking getting buried by hundreds of pieces of information that only a lifelong study of a subject can provide?

And still: the two bits I dare considering myself rather familiar with, the conditions leading to the 1980 coup and the preparations and aftermath of the 1974 invasion of Cyprus, I do not remember them as clear-cut as described by Anderson, with the Turks invariably playing the “baddy” roles.

In truth, “After the Ottomans” and “After Kemal” do not read as works of scholarship as much as political-journalistic polemical essays, like a pamphlet of old, with an underlying “discourse” that keeps both articles together and absolutely consistent throughout. Oh, and all scholars that disagree with Anderson, each single one of them, have sold their souls to the Devil, I mean, the Ankara government.

In Anderson’s Turkish history everything is explained and neatly falls in place within the “narrative”. Even what shouldn’t follow that pattern (like the end of Menderes’ rule after being described as economically and politically strong) is classified as “part of a cycle” common to all centre-right Turkish governments: a cycle whose existence and reasons are however not truly explored.

Therein lies my biggest critique of Anderson’s double anti-Turkish whammy. Readers are being offered a partial and partisan representation of history, dressed up as the one and only truth, with no a single doubt expressed to it.

Turkey, they learn, is invariably on the wrong side of history (Turkish leftist politicians aside, apparently), behaving rather badly and with little in common to the rest of Europe, apart from a relentlessly-pursued (by Anderson) list of all that makes successive Kemalist and post-Kemalist governments in Ankara a sort of heirs to the Nazis.

That may be so: but why devote 30,000 words to it right now? Well, Anderson does actually provide an unwitting explanation to that: ironically, by making a very strong case for Turkish EU membership:

The conventional reasons for which it is pressed within the EU are legion: militarily, a bulwark against terrorism; economically, dynamic entrepreneurs and cheap labour; politically, a model for regional neighbours; diplomatically, a bridge between civilisations; ideologically, the coming of a true multiculturalism in Europe. In the past, what might have been set against these considerations would have been fears that such an elongation of the Union, into such remote terrain, must undermine its institutional cohesion, compromising any chance of federal deepening. But that horse has already bolted. To reject Turkish membership on such a basis would be shutting the door well after there was any point in it. The Union is becoming a vast free range for the factors of production, far from an agora of any collective will, and the addition of one more grazing ground, however large or still relatively untended, will not alter its nature.

In Turkey itself, as in Europe, the major forces working for its entry into the Union are the contemporary incarnations of the party of order: the bourse, the mosque, the barracks and the media. The consensus that stretches across businessmen and officers, preachers and politicians, lights of the press and of television, is not quite a unanimity. Here and there, surly voices of reaction can be heard. But the extent of concord is striking. What, if the term has any application, of the party of movement? It offers the one good reason, among so many crass or spurious ones, for welcoming Turkey into the Union. For the Turkish left, politically marginal but culturally central, the EU represents hope of some release from the twin cults and repressions of Kemal and the Koran; for the Turkish poor, of chances of employment and elements of welfare; for Kurds and Alevis, of some rights for minorities

Is it this then: with his essays, is Anderson trying to weigh in to keep Turkey out the EU unless certain conditions are met, exactly because there is an overwhelming list of reasons for Turkey to be accepted right now? It is telling that the listed “hopes” for the Turkish left, the Kurds, the Alevis form for Anderson some of the reasons for impeding Turkey’s “accession process”: thereby killing those very same “hopes”…

One last point: Anderson has been provided a pulpit by a major publication. Is the LRB in the business of torpedo-ing the chances for a European Turkey?

I do think the LRB Editors should come out honestly about it, explaining their own reasons for allocating a large amount of magazine real estate to…a pamphlet. A pamphlet unlike any other LRB article.

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/24 at 12:24:10

Posted in EU, Europe, Politics

Tagged with , ,

U.S.: Urgent Appeal by the Research Society on Alcoholism

with one comment

Subject: RSA – Mental Health Parity Act – ACT NOW

Dear RSA Members:

You should have received the message below pertaining to the Mental Health Parity Act on Friday afternoon.

We are writing again to reinforce the importance of you contacting your senators and congressmen.

THE TRAIN HAS LEFT THE STATION. A VOTE MAY BE TAKEN THIS AFTERNOON – PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES NOW. TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!

Thank you, Peter

Peter M. Monti, Ph.D. RSA President

“““““““““““““““““““““““““““` RSA E-NEWS:

CALL YOUR SENATORS AND CONGRESSMAN NOW VOTES ON MENTAL HEALTH PARITY NEXT WEEK

September 19, 2008

The Senate and House have reached agreement on mental health parity legislation and the Leadership in both bodies is scheduling votes on the proposal next week. As matters stand now, the Senate intends to include mental health parity in a package of tax extenders which is likely to be taken up next Tuesday. The House is planning a separate vote on mental health parity which may occur as early as Monday afternoon. The legislation is now named “The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act”.

The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that all Americans have access to mental health and addiction treatment. The bill prohibits health insurers from placing discriminatory restrictions on such treatment and bars health plans from charging higher co-payments, coinsurance, deductibles, and maximum out-of-pocket limits and imposing lower day and visit limits on mental health and addiction care.

It is critical that you express your support for the mental health parity bill to your elected officials. Please call or e-mail your Senators and Congressman today. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Senators’ offices and the office of your Congressman. When you reach the office, remember that telephone calls are usually taken by a staff member, not the Member of Congress. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the mental health issue and identify yourself and your profession. Tell the aide you would like to leave a brief message for your Member of Congress: “Please tell Senator or Congressman (Name) that I support the mental health parity legislation and urge him or her to vote in favor of the final legislation when it comes up for a vote.”

If you would like to e-mail your Member of Congress, please go to http://www.senate.gov or http://www.house.gov. and the site will direct you to your Congressman or Senator’s contact information.

THIS LEGISLATION HAS BEEN YEARS IN THE MAKING-ACT NOW TO ENSURE THAT IT BECOMES LAW!

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/23 at 22:53:33

Al Qaeda Kills Muslims

leave a comment »

Just in case there was any doubt about it…given the history of al-Qaeda-inspired activities around the world, and leaving aside 9/11, it is obvious with the Marriott’s bomb of yesterday in Islamabad that that Osama bin Laden and all the people inspired by him have achieved one and only one goal.

Al Qaeda has become the biggest killer of Muslims worldwide.

History is a murderous farce indeed. And those idiots meeting up in Cologne for an anti-Islam rally, should seriously start considering Osama as one of their heroes.

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/21 at 21:18:04

Reply to “How Good Are Internet Sources?”

with one comment

(Blogger “Emily” has mentioned a post in my climate blog as an example of what to look for when deciding to trust an internet source or not. Here’s my reply)

I definitely agree, the only way to measure the truthfulness of a story is by keeping a critical, inquiring mind always turned on, looking first to check if a story is internally consistent, then if it can be verified independently, and finally if it leads to obvious consequences. If somebody says people are living in tents, then one or more organizations helping the homeless must be reporting something about that too.

There is always a limit though, as resources are not…unlimited. In my blog you linked to, there is a language barrier that would need a dedicated professional translator to bridge. In my experience the situation is even worse the other way around, as I often try to convey in Italian, to an Italian audience that is, pieces of interesting information originally written in English.

Or, say, think about the report from Austria on hailstones coming out of a toilet. If you search for it on the Internet, there are pictures of a bathroom covered indeed with what look like tiny clumps of ice. But how can we tell if the pictures themselves are not fake, or even staged?

Fact is, we cannot do that. Or at least, we cannot do it in a universal sense, in a way that we know will be the same for all fellow human beings. At the end of the line, there is always a judgement call, by each individual: and different individuals will look for different “signs” in a story to confirm its truthfulness, they will hold it to different standards, and at the end of the day will (perfectly reasonably) arrive at different conclusions.

Part of living as a human being should be about peacefully handling those differences. Unfortunately, a great deal of us are still convinced “truth” is something that can be beaten into (bombed upon, knifed into, shot into) other people.

All in all, the question perhaps is not “how good are Internet sources?”. Rather, “how good are we in dealing with them?”

ps my own preferred “truthfulness test” is Carl Sagan’s. Extraordinary claims must be backed by extraordinary evidence. People living in tents in perilous economic times? It has happened already -> not an extraordinary claim -> a good article with references, and some minor additional confirmation do suffice to take the story as true.

Human beings changing the planetary temperature by minutely increasing the presence of a trace gas? It has never happened, and CO2 physics says the effect is logarithmic (each additional molecule matters less than the one emitted immediately before it) -> such an extraordinary claim will need something stronger to it than what we have at the moment.

Some people disagree with the above. And that’s fine to me.

ps apologies for any mispelling and grammatical errors…

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/19 at 21:57:41

Posted in Uncategorized

With Columnists Like These, Palin’s Campaign’s Bound To Be A Winner

leave a comment »

Letter to the International Herald Tribune:

Dear Editors

Are you planning to keep subjecting your readers to substantial daily doses of Democratic anti-Palin smugness until the Presidential Elections on Nov 4? One wonders.
 
Just a few examples. Your celebrity columnist Maureen Dowd has dedicated her last six contributions to one and only one topic (Sarah Palin of course). Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame has joined in by pretending to be a liberal roaming around Alaska (“Moose on the loose in Palin Country“, IHT, Sep 18).
 
Even anti-Obamite David Brooks has opined at length about the Governor of Alaska’s preparedness for High Office (“Experience Matters“, IHT, Sep 16).
 
Apparently, the situation for Gov. Palin does not look pretty. Your columnists have described her as a female version of George W Bush for her “inexperience”, “brashness” and “excessive decisiveness”; as a populist, gun-crazied shooter potentially even of a mother and baby moose; as the gay-hating infantile, seductive former mayor of a town smaller than the local Wal-Mart, with intimidation as her preferred political tool; as an anti-intellectual contemporary “My Fair Lady” character hell-bent on getting rid of her enemies.
 
The list could continue for a long long time.
 
Now, am I the only one to think that all the above amounts to (a) free publicity for Palin; and (b) a very good platform to convince “Middle America” to vote for Palin, if only because she’s obviously such a hate figure in the Establishment?
 
In 2008 there are many things pointing towards a success for Barack Obama. However, the Democrats may still lose the Presidential election, for the trivial reason that one will find it very hard to get votes from people one so obviously disdains and look upon condescendingly.
regards
maurizio morabito

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/18 at 22:55:47

Why Lehman Brothers Was Let Go

with one comment

Because Lehman Brothers was not “too big to fail” (*).

All in all, had the US Treasury intervened to save Lehman too, it would have been even more worrying, as it have signalled a green light for further recklessness.

(*) Given what has happened in the past with companies filing for bankruptcy protection in the US, the actual complete demise of Lehman Brothers may be slightly exaggerated

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/15 at 22:45:54

McCain’s Strategist Agrees With Putin

leave a comment »

Political statements do sound truer if they come identical from actual or potential enemies. Is there therefore a high chance that Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia a month ago, has been “encouraged” by people trying to support McCain, as Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin has recently suggested to CNN (Aug 28)?

In an interview in the Black Sea city of Sochi on Thursday, Putin said the U.S. had encouraged Georgia to attack the autonomous region of South Ossetia.

Putin said his defense officials had told him it was done to benefit a presidential candidate — Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are competing to succeed George W. Bush — although he presented no evidence to back it up.

“U.S. citizens were indeed in the area in conflict,” Putin said. “They were acting in implementing those orders doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader.”

Just listen now to Thomas Rath, “leading Republican strategist in the swing state of New Hampshire” according to Bloomberg news and the IHT (Sep 7):

“If in October we’re talking about Russia and national defense and who can manage America in a difficult world, John McCain will be president,” predicts Thomas Rath, the leading Republican strategist in the swing state of New Hampshire. “If we’re talking largely about domestic issues and health care, Barack Obama probably will be president.”

In other words, as explained by article’s author Albert R Hunt:

If Russia invades another country on Oct. 20 or Iran detonates a nuclear weapon, advantage McCain; if there’s another Bear Stearns meltdown, or a stock market crash, put a few points on the Obama side.

A similar point is made rather more forcefully by leftist Tony Wood in the pages of the London Review of Book (Sep 11):

So why would the US approve a military adventure it had no intention of materially supporting? Not every development is part of an infernal neocon conspiracy, but it is nonetheless clear that the White House would make palpable gains from the Georgian crisis, whatever the outcome. If Saakashvili succeeded in retaking South Ossetia, he would have faced down Russia and demonstrated Georgia’s increasing readiness for Nato membership. If, on the other hand, Russia defeated Georgia, it would re-emphasise to Eastern Europe the need for US security guarantees. Sure enough, within two days of the start of fighting in Tskhinvali, Poland and the US finally reached agreement on the missile shield. Georgia itself appears all the more in need of US backing, and several politicians and commentators have suggested that the crisis is grounds for the country’s immediate admission to Nato. It could also justify the US increasing its military presence in Georgia, from a mere 100 Special Forces troops to, say, a long-term base. Moreover, the war has created ample opportunity for ramping up the discourse of a New Cold War – considerably improving the electoral prospects of John McCain, whose foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann worked for Saakashvili until May this year. All this, in exchange for a short war the US didn’t have to fight.

“All this, in exchange for a short war the US didn’t have to fight”.

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/14 at 22:35:00

Posted in Politics, Russia, USA, USA 2008

Tagged with ,

Multi-decadal Single-Party President and Dictator Lectures the World on Human Rights

leave a comment »

It may be good news to see that President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives preoccupies himself with human rights nowadays, just as global warming threatens the islands he has governed for 30 years (“With millions under threat, inaction is unethical“, IHT, Sep 9).

Some people will call his new worry a tad unethical and hypocritical, with him having won six elections as sole Presidential candidate and now trying to get re-elected for a seventh time.

But who knows? Perhaps President Gayoom will reconsider his priorities, and devote himself full time on solving the global warming issue: finally freeing up his people to choose their new, democratic leader. Ah, and to express their opinions unafraid of the State’s repressive policing.

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/10 at 21:19:37

Obama vs. McCain Electoral-College Forecasting

leave a comment »

A list of websites (from Italian blog “noisefromAmerika“) devoted to more serious US election forecasting than the usual, absolutely pointless nationwide polls: for the simple reasons that Presidents are elected via the Electoral College system, not directly.

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/09 at 15:46:11

Fact Checking Is Not What It Used To Be

leave a comment »

Dear Editors of the IHT

It is commendable for William Falk to take upon himself the task of updating the wide world of what has been happening whilst Democrats and Republicans cavorted at their respective national political conventions (”The two weeks you missed”, IHT, Sep 8). However, it would have been even more commendable had Mr Falk checked all his “facts”: otherwise, rather than a news update, his effort will be just another act of disinformation.

In particular:

1- “Hezbollah…has a new base of operations in the Americas: Venezuela” – really? This has been an ongoing accusation for years, with little evidence ever provided. Shouldn’t one be a little bit more skeptical about it then, when the only source of the information are unnamed “Western intelligence officials”? This is a Presidential Election year in the USA, after all, and we all know which candidate stands to benefit if any international crisis explodes (or is concocted)

2- “Some [polar bears] were headed toward the edge of the ice shelf, 400 miles away – far beyond their endurance” – really? All we know is that by chance, a helicopter surveying the Arctic for oil-exploration has spotted nine polar bears swimming. The “400 miles away” detail has been reported not by those on the helicopter, and not even by the WWF that published the original story, but by a journalist at London-based “Daily Mail”, a newspaper that has retracted the story (=deleted from their website) since.

All in all, it looks like Mr Falk himself has been too busy watching Barack Obama, John McCain and assorted “dorky delegates bopping to the Beach Boys and Stevie Wonder”

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/08 at 22:33:29

Greeks Win the Diagram of Diagrams Prize

leave a comment »

The winner of the Diagram of Diagrams Prize has been announced: “Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers“.

That is supposed to be the book with the oddest title in the last 30 years.

My favorites were the “Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual” (who would have thought that was an issue?) from 1990, and “Bombproof Your Horse” from 2004 (another post-9/11 book, one suspects).

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/05 at 18:56:12

The Big Lies of the 2008 US Presidential Election

with one comment

  • John McCain is not as conservative as he tries so hard to make you believe
  • Barack Obama is not as conservative as he tries so hard to make you believe

And no, there’s no typo in the text above…

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/04 at 19:35:57

Polar Bears: Has the Daily Mail Just Pulled a Deceiving Article?

with 5 comments

In my “Maurizio Morabito” blog in Italian, I have been following for the last few days the developing story of drowning polar bears, lost at sea after “the ice float they lived on melted”.

The story (“The heartbreaking picture of the polar bears with 400 miles to swim to the nearest ice “) originated in the pages of the Daily Mail, likely on Saturday Aug 30, and was immediately distributed in Italy by daily La Repubblica.

Trouble is, that story is, shall I dare say this, “not true”. And tonight, it looks like it has been pulled off the Daily Mail website altogether.

===

Actually, the story is based on something that has actually happened, and was reported by the WWF on Aug 22: nine polar bears have been spotted (by chance) swimming near Alaska. One of them was at least 60 miles from land.

But the Daily Mail article, by a Barry Wigmore, “embellished” the original story with so many incorrect details, the end result was abysmally not-true and deceiving.

A couple of days ago the WWF published some clarifying statements. From those it would be easy to spot where Wigmore’s article basically made things up. But as I said, the Daily Mail website has “lost” the page.

Here it is, saved from another website:

So which bits were patently baseless?

  1. 400 miles to swim to the nearest ice” (wrong: the WWF confirms nobody knows where the bears are, and when spotted, none of them was more than 60 miles away from the nearest land or ice)
  2. Struggling against the waves” (wrong: the bear in the picture is simply looking back to the helicopter where the pictures are being taken from, and whose rotors are causing the waves)
  3. polar bear faces almost certain death” (wrong: the WWF makes the point that polar bears are strong animals, and “a polar bear in the water, even one far from land or ice, is not always a polar bear that needs saving”
  4. becoming lost at sea” (made-up: there is no way to know if the bears were or were not just doing what polar bears have done innumerable times in the past)
  5. the creatures’ homing instinct has sent them north” (made-up: the WWF reports nothing on the direction the bears have been heading. Actually, there is no practical way to find any of them)
  6. the World Wide Fund for Nature, said it was considering asking the U.S. government to send a ship” (made-up: the WWF press releases say nothing of the sort)

===

Last night I did send a comment to the Daily Mail urging the article’s author to check his facts.

Anyway: now that the story is not there any longer, conscious that it will linger on for years on many websites, thinking about how many people are needlessly worried by this story sexied-up to the point of not being true any longer, one can only reflect sadly at the sorry status of English and Italian journalism, trying to pass a fiction piece as a real story and/or gobbling it up without bothering to check the original sources.

Finally, since I criticized them in the past, I want to add that I appreciate the fact that the BBC News web site has not fallen for Wigmore’s drowning polar bear fantasy.

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/03 at 22:40:43

Will Grandma Sarah Palin Change Some American Conservatism?

with one comment

Palin’s status as upcoming grandmother is definitely her business but…is it too much to hope the “experience” will make mainstream American Conservatism less fixated on reproductive matters?

Does the world really need to think and think again about abortion and gay rights?

ps Palin’s decision to keep her baby after learning of his Down syndrome is commendable. All more so because it was her decision. How different it would have all been, had there been no choice

Written by omnologos

2008/Sep/02 at 23:23:43