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Wed July 19, 2006
Politics

This Might Cost You a Little...

I just received an invoice from my dentist for 900 SEK (about a 100 EUR) for some unspecified service. I called them and it turned out I was paying 900 SEK for being 15 minutes late. What happened was I over slept and four minutes into the appointment when I was rushing out of my apartment to get on my bike my dentist calls (from Folktandvården, Eastmaninstitutet). I apologize and tell her I can be at her clinic in 7 minutes on my bike. She says nah, I'm not sure it's worth you coming in now that you're late, we better schedule a new time for you. I say ok, given that I didn't seem to have a choice. We book a new time and then at the end of the conversation she mentions that "oh, this might cost you a little" (the exact words in swedish were "det här kommer kanske att kosta lite").

Interesting points of comparison here is that once before when I missed an apointment I paid 300 SEK. My mom says she has never had to pay for missed appointments at her dentist. Last time I visited the dentist and they examined my teeth I paid 500 SEK, which right now seems pretty cheap, especially given that that time they actually performed a service for me.

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Wed January 19, 2005
Politics

[se] Vänsterpartiet överrepresenterat bland journalister

Det är ganska häpnadsväckande hur stor andel av journalister som sympatiserar med vänsterpartiet. Det är ca en tredjedel och trenden är tilltagande, se denna rapport från Göteborgs Universitet.

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Fri January 14, 2005
Politics

[se] Nyhetsrubriker

Det är intressant att jämföra rubrikerna som uppstått när Marita Ulvskog kritiserade kungens uttalanden om Asien katastrofen. DNs rubrik är "Ulvskog till attack mot kungen" medans SvD använder den betydligt korrektare och mer nyanserade rubriken "Ulvskog kritiserar kungligt inlägg". DNs rubrik är närmast på nivå med kvällstidningspressen. Efter att jag skrivit detta kollade jag aftonbladets första sida och kunde konstatera att deras rubrik är identisk med DNs...

Bortsett från rubriken har jag svårt att förstå att Ulvskogs uttalande är dagens huvudnyhet. Förmodligten är det för att monarkins vara eller inte vara blivit ett så hett ämne på sista tiden och naturligtvis för att Asien katastrofen fullständigt dominerar nyhetsbevakningen som om ingenting annat hände i världen.

När sedan Göran Persson blandar sig i debatten om kungens uttalande får vi samma kvalitetsskillnad i rubrikerna. SvD skriver att "Persson tonar ned kritik mot Kungen" medans DN spetsar till det med "Persson distansierar sig från Ulvskog".

Jag skickade min lilla nyhetsrubriksjämförelse till DNs chefredaktör Jan Wifstrand och hans svar var:

"kanske är det bättre att Du skriver till Aftonbladet eller SvD. Vi har inget större intresse av att jämföra oss med dessa båda mycket mera partiintressestyrda publikationer. DN sätter agendan och gör det självständigt."

Det svaret ger mig ännu en anledning att välja SvD framför DN...

En annan skillnad mellan DN och SvD tycks vara att DN (återigen i likhet med kvällstidningspressen) låter händelser som Asien katastrofen dominera nyhetsförmedlingen längre tid än SvD. Idag har SvD som första nyhet domen mot den amerikanska generalen för övergrepp mot irakiska fångar. Detta tycks också vara huvudnyheten generellt i media, i alla fall om news.google.com är någon indikation på detta. DN däremot spekulerar vidare i vem som handlat för sent i samband med Asien katastrofen i en artikel med rubriken "Persson valde att hålla tyst". Själv skulle jag föredra att vänta på kommissionens slutsatser och framförallt få en anaylys av hur en ny krisorganisation ska se ut. Men visst, DNs typ av journalistik säljer säkert för man blir alltid nyfiken när man ser den typen av rubriker. Problemet är bara att vissa läsare, åtminstone jag, ledsnar till slut...

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Thu November 04, 2004
Politics

Moral Values Deciding Factor

The New York Times writes:

Of the people who chose "moral values" as their top issue, 80 percent voted for Mr. Bush. (For people who chose the economy/jobs, 80 percent voted for Mr. Kerry.) Nearly one-quarter of the electorate was made up of white evangelical and born-again Christians, and they voted four to one for Mr. Bush.

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Wed August 18, 2004
Politics

Unfairenheit 9/11

This piece by Christopher Hitchens in the Slate magazine is worth reading. Mr Hitchens has this to say about Michael Moore's journalistic qualities:

"So I know, thanks, before you tell me, that a documentary must have a "POV" or point of view and that it must also impose a narrative line. But if you leave out absolutely everything that might give your "narrative" a problem and throw in any old rubbish that might support it, and you don't even care that one bit of that rubbish flatly contradicts the next bit, and you give no chance to those who might differ, then you have betrayed your craft."

Christopher Hitchens ends his article with this warning to his readers:

"If Michael Moore had had his way, Slobodan Milosevic would still be the big man in a starved and tyrannical Serbia. Bosnia and Kosovo would have been cleansed and annexed. If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD. You might hope that a retrospective awareness of this kind would induce a little modesty. To the contrary, it is employed to pump air into one of the great sagging blimps of our sorry, mediocre, celeb-rotten culture. Rock the vote, indeed."

In Fifty-nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11 Dave Kopel seems to punch holes in the Michael Moore movie even more elaborately and convincingly than Christopher Hitchens did.

It's hilarious that some people are now making a movie about Michael Moore's lies, presumably using the same kind of manipulative one sided journalism that Michael Moore himself uses. Oh well...

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Sat May 29, 2004
Politics

Joel Says it Well

Joel writes:

"That a big contradiction in Denmark: it was early in adopting real women's lib and having adult members of both sexes in the workplace, but retains by law the shop schedule that only works when each household has a homemaker. The only things you can reliably buy outside of the window of M-F 10-5, Sat 11-2 are snack foods, restaurant meals, and alcohol."

I was actually annoyed by the opening hours tyranny myself recently since I know I will have a big car with storage space available to go to Ikea next sunday, only of course, Ikea being open on a sunday is unthinkable in Denmark.

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Wed March 31, 2004
Politics

Europe Catching up with the US on Lowprice Airlines

The Economist writes about the Airline crisis and compares the European lowprice market to the one in the US:

The European market is going the same way, and it is all happening much faster, since deregulation only arrived fully in 1997. Budget carriers such as easyJet, Ryanair and over a dozen smaller start-ups still account for less than a fifth of European air travel, but most analysts expect their market share to grow rapidly. This year the budget airlines will carry more than 50m passengers around Europe. In the past couple of months another six budget airlines got off the ground in Britain, Ireland, Hungary, Germany and Poland.

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Tue March 30, 2004
Politics

Smoking remains constant

I was reading about the smoking ban in Ireland and found this terrible piece of statistics:

"Germany, which has one of the highest rates of smokers along with Spain and Greece, has been criticized for not doing enough to combat nicotine addiction. EU Health Commissioner David Byrnes says the government is too easy-going, considering that an average of 100,000 Germans die of smoking-related diseases each year, and that the number of smokers remains constant, with more and more young people picking up the habit."

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Fri April 18, 2003
Politics

Tax Systems are too Complex

It's April, spring has come to Copenhagen, and to those of us who worked in Sweden last year the privilege has also come to declare our incomes to the swedish tax authorities.

A handful of colorful forms and over sixty pages of instructions have been sent to me. You can really tell that a tremendeous effort has gone into producing these forms and making them so pedagogical that any citizen can fill them in. Still I find myself turning to friends and family in Sweden for advice on how to submit these damn things.

I am one of those people who really isn't all that amused by the idea of reading up on the intricacies of the tax system. I once heard a friend boasting about his ability to do the tax declarations and how he was doing them for his friends and family. It almost seemed like a sport to him and like he was contemplating it as a business.

I once told an austrian friend about the swedish tax system with its yearly income declaration and she gave me a surprised look. It turns out that in many other countries (from my own experience this applies to Austria, Germany, Denmark, and the US) you are informed by the authorities yearly about the taxes deducted and you are free (but not obliged) to make any corrections or objections. This means that by default, and for most people, no action is required.

How much time is invested each year in maintaining and understanding the tax system? The administrative aparatus is naturally enormous, but it's not just that, it's also all the time spent by citizens trying to understand the system. Citizens and companies put significant energy into figuring out how to minimize their taxes.

So what is the value of this tax complexity, surely it must exist for a good reason? I'm not in a position to confidently answer that question. The primary reason I suppose is to collect taxes in a fashion that is deemed fair and in line with the political agenda.

Still I can't help but wonder if we wouldn't all be better off if the tax system was kept really simple. Let's say we for example had a flat salary tax of 40%, and a tax for stock trading of 20%. A simple system like this would save the society billions each year, money that could be funneled into areas adding more value such as education and health care. In addition citizens and companies would better be able to predict and understand which taxes they are paying.

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