The Political (Party) System

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 25, 2010 by Arne

It seems I rarely agree with Thomas Friedman (NY Times). Whenever I see him on TV or read his columns – I’m old fashioned in that I follow even those editorialists/journalists/pundits with whom I seldomly agree – I find them just slightly naive or platitudinous… What is the right word ? He often seems to either state the obvious but give it a fancy name (the whole flat world concept got real old real quick) or he seems to make unrealistic (utopian) appeals that I can’t take serious. But maybe that’s just me.

I DID like this column here. Take a look, and see if the Alternative Voting concept makes sense to you.

What’s really wrong with America these days is the political system. It’s one thing to say you got the greatest system when you’re comparing it to North Korea or the Congo. But the American system seems sclerotic. It’s just not working. It is inefficient. It’s hamstrung by such ridiculous, arcane things as the filibuster. Getting rid of THAT would be a great start.

What also drives me nuts is all this second guessing how the forefathers might have intended 21st century Americans to read the constitution. There is a document that could use some serious overhaul. I’m all for simplicity. But the US Constitution may be a little too simple for a complicated world as ours.

And then there is the party system. I have been saying for  months now that I don’t think there is a Republican Congressman out there who’s got any sense. Then I was watching Charlie Rose this week and heard Judd Gregg talking about healthcare. Here’s a Republican that I don’t agree with but who’s got sense. Next thing you wonder is how he could agree with any of his fellow party men on anything ?

The problem is the two party system. Friedman talks about the Tea Party of the Center. The problem is that a Centrist Republican has more in common with a Centrist Democrat, than either of them has in common with their party members on the fringes. I don’t know how many Centrist Republicans there are in Congress.  You sure don’t hear much from them. If mainstream America pleads allegiance to Centrist views and policies, then the country doesn’t need a Tea Party on the right and a Coffee Party on the left. What the country needs is a Centrist Party for people who want to fix problems and are able to set aside religious belief and cultural preference to get stuff done.

The rest of the world seems to be doing fine with multi-party systems. You don’t like A nor B, so you vote for C. But actually, right now, maybe most people would vote for C, and then C-politicans – having returned some sense and civility to Washington – could make some serious policy relying on the support of A’s and B’s depending on specific issues.


Medals per Population

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2010 by Arne
Country Medals Population  PopMedalsIndex
Norway 12 4,859,600 24.6933904
Slovenia 2 2,053,610 9.738947512
Austria 8 8,372,930 9.554600361
Switzerland 7 7,779,200 8.998354587
Latvia 2 2,248,400 8.895214375
Estonia 1 1,340,021 7.462569616
Sweden 6 9,340,682 6.423513829
Slovakia 3 5,421,937 5.533077939
Croatia 2 4,435,056 4.509525923
North Korea 9 24,051,706 3.741938306
Netherlands 5 16,591,875 3.013523185
Czech Republic 3 10,512,397 2.853773502
Canada 9 34,010,000 2.646280506
Germany 18 81,757,600 2.201630185
Belarus 2 9,489,000 2.107703657
Finland 1 5,356,100 1.867030115
France 8 65,447,374 1.222356148
Poland 4 38,100,700 1.049849478
Australia 2 22,162,000 0.902445628
USA 24 308,732,000 0.777373256
Italy 4 60,250,535 0.66389452
Kazakhstan 1 15,776,492 0.633854472
Russia 8 141,927,297 0.563668876
Japan 3 127,470,000 0.235349494
(Great) Britain 1 62,041,708 0.161181894
China 5 1,335,980,000 0.03742571

Getting Old…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2010 by Arne

You know you’re getting old when you buy a CD (nope, no ipod, itunes) and it then takes you 9 months to actually listen to it. I bought U2’s “No Line on the Horizon” in May 2009, and didn’t listen to it till last week. Ouch. Yep, must be the age. I did like the record, but – maybe another sign of aging – the song I liked best (#2 – Magnificent) was the one that sounded most like the U2 from 20 years ago . :-;

The Concept of Modularity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 9, 2010 by Arne

It occurred to me the other day how many manufactured products could be improved if they were wholly and entirely modular in design. What started me thinking was the Klean Kanteen. We have four (4) of them at home for our kids, and we initially bought them because all of they BPA hype about toxic plastic, and but at least as much because all the plastic sippy cups were falling apart and leaking every few months.

Klean Kanteen makes an awesome product. It is clean and tough, looks good, and – here goes – is completely modular. You can disassemble it into give parts to rinse and replace them, and you can order all the parts for replacements. They probably cost 4-5 times as much as the plastic junk. But they last, and they can be fixed (you can order replacement parts). What other kind of day-to-day product works like that ? Virtually none. Everything is disposable these days, and if replacements are available, most people probably don’t know and throw the thing away anyway.

What amazes me is that for all its complexity and software headaches, the modern PC is so modular ! You can buy almost any PC (one reason I can’t stand Macs) and then go out and buy almost any off-the-shelf piece of hardware, plug it in, and it works. I recently pulled a 2002 PC from a dumster, and after spending $16.99 on a 512 MB RAM and $24.99 for a hard disk, and installing free Linux, I had a fully functional computer. Talk about modular and recycling. I think that if industry in general were more modular, we could recycle a lot more and waste a lot less.

How come the car industry isn’t like that, or is it ? After all, what car these days is still exclusively made by the brand who logo the end product bears ?

The March of Technology

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 8, 2010 by Arne

Cleaning up the garage last weekend, I stumbled upon this relic – formerly a technology marvel, dated 1989. It still works, and so do the batteries (Energizer!) that have been in it for probably 10 years ( is that even possible?).

I paid big bucks for the Sony back then, and it served me well for almost a decade (granted, I had to help out with some duct tape). These days, I don’t own anything like it, no walkman, no ipod. I prefer music that fills the room, rather than the air between the headphone and my ear. But seeing this unit made me all sentimental. Talk about quality. It’s an all metal case. It weights heavy in your hand. It feels like it was built to last. Tell me what does these days?

You gotta love google

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on November 6, 2009 by Arne


The Keynes Debate

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 24, 2009 by Arne

I don’t know if you readers have been following the debate on Keynes that seems to have started with Paul Krugman’s recent piece in the NY Times. It’s an interesting debate that pits economists from one school of thought against those of another kindergarten of thought. A few days ago, I read Richard Posner’s article in The New Republic “How I Became  A Keynesian“, in which he says he finally read Keynes’ book The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, a tome that apparently has fallen by the wayside in most economics curricula these days. Here, finally, is Krugman’s review in the Guardian of a new book (by Robert Skidelsky) on Keynes.

If you’re at all interested in questions of how the economy works, how government should or should not get involved, how ideology may influence and distort economic decision making, and why you should care about all these things, then this is obligatory reading. In fact, it made me get a book off the shelf last night, where it had been collecting dust, that I had been wanting to read for a long time: The Affluent Society.

And finally, although you may disagree with some of these ideas after reading the above, a short discussion of rational expectations and efficient markets.