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Racism paving the way to government? March 1, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Norwegian politics, Political behavior , add a comment

The so called “long campaign” before the Norwegian parliamentary election is well under way, and once again it appears that immigration will be a central topic. In the aftermath of a controversy over whether or not to allow islamic headdress (hijab) with Norwegian police uniforms, the populist right-wing party Fremskrittspartiet has started campaigning about the so called secret “Islamization” of Norwegian society. If they succeed in keeping this a hot topic throughout the campaign, previous experience shows they might gain  much in terms of votes. (more…)

Norwegian roads and swing voters February 24, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Norwegian politics, Political economy, Public Policy , 2comments

navarseteIn recent weeks, there has been som controversy in Norwegian media over an article by Leif Helland and Rune J. Sørensen of the Norwegian School of Management (BI) about a systemic skew in Norwegian road building. Their research shows that there appears to be systematic self-serving rational choice behavior by Norwegian politicians, as districts with important swing voters tend to get more grants for road building, and that this affects the social efficiency of road building in general. Read the article (link at the bottom) for more on their findings.

This was picked up by Norwegian media when Norwegian parliamentarians met with Swedish counterparts and presented under the heading “Met by laughter in Sweden”. What the Swedes were laughing at was the level of micromanagement in road building that the Norwegian parliament is involved in. In Norway, every road builiding project is a parliament issue, and Helland and Sørensen have proved that this leads to non-optimal distributions of road construction money.

Norwegian Secretary of Transportation Liv Signe Navarsete doesn’t get the most important point:

(more…)

Perak, Malaysia – a constitutional monarchy gone haywire February 7, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia , add a comment

perakAn interesting political conflict is taking place in the state of Perak in Malaysia these days. Things have turned into complete chaos with a government that won’t resign, a monarch that won’t dissolve the parliament and two political alliances trying to steal each other’s representatives with all means necessary. All claim to have the constitution on their side and accuse the others of acting unconstitutionally.

After the 2008 elections, the state parliament is divided almost 50-50 between the opposition alliance PKR and the government alliance BN. Until now, the state had a PKR government who ruled with a 3-member advantage in the parliament. So far pretty straightforward, but then it becomes complicated… (more…)

No change for Malaysia? January 27, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , add a comment

badawianwarThere is a mood of anticipation over the world as Barack H. Obama (as I now understand we should call him) has taken his seat in the Oval Office. This mood of anticipation and great expectation of change is not unlike what had the opposition movement in Malaysia whipped up last year when Anwar Ibrahim made his comeback into Malaysian politics. But did change never come?

September 16 2008, the opposition movement’s new national day, was announced to be the day the roots of the Malaysian establishment would shake and mass defections from the government coalition would be announced. The blogging community and opposition coalition leaks had the tally at more than 30 MPs ready to jump sides, and the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition ready to sweep in and take power. But the day came and went with out much of the announced ruckus. Certainly no mass defections. (more…)

Norway goes Keynesian January 26, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Norwegian politics, Political economy , 1 comment so far

keyneshalvorsenThe ongoing finance crisis has certainly given classic Keynesianism a new boost. And few countries have embraced this as clearly as Norway did today. The center-left government under Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg from Labour (Arbeiderpartiet) and Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen from the Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk Venstreparti) introduced a massive expansion package aimed at combating unemployment.

The package expands the national budget directly with about 2o billion NOK (roughly 2.2 billion € or 2.86 b$), with nearly 17 billions increased expenditure and over 3 billion worth of tax cuts. With secondary effects, the government estimates a total expansive effect of 27 billion NOK, reducing the substantial oil-boosted government surplus. When correcting for petroleum-based offshore income, the government now estimates a government deficit of 119 billion NOK for 2009. This sums up to an expansion of the oil-corrected government budget of 2.3%, substantially higher than the 1.5% goal set by the EU. (more…)

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.

California: Tocqueville’s nightmare come true November 19, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Political Theory, World politics , 2comments

Igayrightsn the euphoria surrounding the presidential election, other events in American politics have been crowded out in media. A darker chapter in American history was written in the presumably liberal state of California. I haven’t heard many (at least outside the US) discuss this, except a few bloggers – among them the authors of one of my favourite blogs, Voting While Intoxicated.

I’m of course talking about the amendment to the Californian constitution to ban gay marriage, which was voted for together with the presidential election. For those who might not be familiar with the American political system, this is quite common – to include propositions to be voted on by the public together with any election. The infamous Proposition 8, named after its number on the ballot, got 52.1 percent of the vote, more than the necessary simple majority for a new state constitution amendment. It reads as follows:

SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

As a strong supporter of gay rights, this has ruined some of my new found belief in America. But aside from my personal feelings, this is the kind of thing that would make influential political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville turn in his grave. (more…)

Who votes for Fremskrittspartiet? October 27, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Norwegian politics, Political behavior , 1 comment so far

Norwegian media today references a survey conducted by Norstat for Norwegian State Broadcasting (NRK) that shows that voters for the Norwegian party Fremskrittspartiet (The Progress Party) are more diverse than voters of other Norwegian parties. This corresponds quite well with a paper I wrote for a class in advanced statistics, analyzing the FrP voter based on data from the European Social Survey (ESS).

I analyzed the FrP voters according to the so-called “FrP code” presented by Norwegian Author Magnus Marsdal in the influential book FrP-koden. He claims that the success of FrP can be explained by the tension between a left-oriented cultural elite and a group of disgruntled voters identifying themselves with working class values. These are perceived to have little education and a low income, to be xenophobic and sceptical to the government and people in power. Marsdal employs mostly univariate analysis and anecdotal evidence to support these claims. I performed a regression analysis, testing these and a few other hypotheses, concluding that both low education, low age, scepticism to government and scepticism to immigration seems to increase probability of voting FrP. However, the tests of statistical reliability indicate that there are groups of voters that are very poorly predicted by these indicators, appraently voting FrP for some other, unexplained reasons. (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…)

10-minute guide to Malaysian Politics: A foreigner’s view October 7, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , 4comments

Malaysian politics are fascinating, but as with any country not easy to understand unless you’ve studied them. I’ve had a keen interest in Malaysia for a few years, so I’ll try to sum up the most important things you need to know to follow what’s going on. This reflects my understanding of things, which I admit may be flawed. Please comment on any mistakes you believe I have made. Also a word of caution: Wikipedia articles on these subjects have occasionally been contaminated by “jokes” or partisan statements and should be used with caution. (more…)