James Fallows on the core problem of the USA: its sclerotic government

James Fallows has written a fascinating piece on How America Can Rise Again which turns conventional wisdom on its head. Most people seem to worry about economic competitiveness, global conflict, and social degeneration, and all cling to the unifying principles of the US Constitution (albeit with differing emphases).
Fallows argues that this is a-historical and unnecessarily pessimistic: Americans have always worried about falling short, and have always muddled through. The biggest threat is not that the American people will fail to adapt and innovate, but that the increasingly inflexible and undemocratic nature of their political institutions will make it more difficult to implement the necessary changes:

The Senate’s then-famous “Gang of Six,” which controlled crucial aspects of last year’s proposed health-care legislation, came from states that together held about 3 percent of the total U.S. population; 97 percent of the public lives in states not included in that group. Just to round this out, more than half of all Americans live in the 10 most populous states—which together account for 20 of the Senate’s 100 votes. “The Senate is full of ‘rotten boroughs,’” said James Galbraith, of the University of Texas, referring to the underpopulated constituencies in Parliament before the British reforms of 1832. “We’d be better off with a House of Lords.”

My iPhone apps of 2009

Following Adrian’s example, here are the iPhone apps that I use most often. I’ll skip the basics, like Mail, Calendar, iTunes, and so forth.

  • Travel: Currency, iBART, KTdict-CE (Chinese dictionary), Mandarin Chinese Pro, My Caltrain, TripIt Travel Organizer
  • Games: Bejeweled 2, Dragon Portals, Gem Spinner, Moxie, Rogue Touch, Scrabble
  • Information: Formula 1 2009, NPR News, NY Times, Wikipanion
  • Communications: Facebook, MobileRSS for Google, Skype, Twittelator
  • Other: Amazon Mobile, AppBox Pro, iHandy Level Free, Instant Queue Add for Netflix, Kindle for iPhone, WordPress 2

And the biggest disappointments among my iPhone apps:

  • FAIL: Civilization Revolution, Harbor Master, TweetDeck for iPhone

Aidan on the Noughties

My cousin Aidan (see right) just posted a nice summary of the last decade. I particularly liked his verdict on Tony Blair:

Tony Blair – The pearly-toothed messiah who swept to power on such a wave of promise in 1997 revealed himself as a serial liar and unrepentant war-monger. The supposed socialist became the fawning lapdog of the most right-wing president in US history. The man who promised the resurrection of Labour became instead its executioner.

I have to confess that 12 years ago I was caught up in the collective infatuation over Blair. My brother Stephen despised Blair as an unprincipled liar from day one, but he tends to be a contrarian, so I assumed he was just being a curmudgeon. Mea culpa.

via AidanSemmens: Noughty – but how nice were they?.