Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The fifth freedom...

As all progressives should be aware, a fight is sailing up in the European Court. The fight is between a Latvian company (Laval) and two Swedish blue-collar trade unions (electricians and construction builders). The basic question is how the Swedish model, with collective bargaining in the labor market, goes together with the internal market of the EU. To cut it short, should workers of a different nationality be allowed to dump wages when they work in Sweden?

From my point of view, it is obvious that identical work should be rewarded with roughly the same wages. Why should workers with a different passport get lower pay? The whole idea with a trade union is that no one accepts a lower wage than the others – regardless of passport or what football team you support.

Today, the secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation, John Monks, and the vice president of the Swedish blue collar union LO, Erland Olauson, had a joint press conference in Brussels. The ETUC affirmed its support of the Swedish position, and the decision to support LO was taken unanimously in the ETUC-board. Sometimes some people tend to indicate that a conflict between trade unions in the East and West of the EU exists over this issue. But as I said, the decision was unanimously, and LO has an agreement with its Latvian counterparts. And in Estonia the trade union has encouraged its government to support Sweden.

Conclusion? Sweden should not be forced to change the rules of its labor market just because of the EU, even though adjustments always are necessary when you decide to have a union together. And the workers of the EU will and should travel and work in different countries, but when they do so the laws and wages of the country they work in should be applied. Europe needs more mobility and vibrant growth, but also good working conditions and decent wages, and I tend to think those things go hand in hand.

It is 2006, in Sweden the political right is about to fight an election campaign with a promise to weaken trade unions and lower wages. Therefore I am happy there is still power in the union - increasingly so also on the European level.
(Picture of John Monks).

Monday, January 30, 2006

Finally Tarja got elected!

After a hard, polarized campaign Tarja Halonen is now re-elected. Yes, it became tougher and closer than expected. And I was wrong when I said that they both would get elected on January 15th. But now we have strong, progressive, female presidents in Chile and Finland, a very encouraging sign.

Here you can read why a very good friend of mine, fellow blogger Esa, voted for Tarja (in English). And in order to celebrate, watch this Tarja-rap (surprisingly good, ten Finnish social democratic MPs singing in the beautiful building that hosts the Finnish parliament). To all my Finnish social democratic friends: Congrats, six more years!

The video/rap if the link above does not work:

Och det som alla pratar om...

Jag tycker att Anna låter mycket mer trovärdig än dörrvakten. Och lite oväntat gör DNs Henrik Brors en riktigt nykter (f'låt) analys. Liksom, något mer väntat, Esbati. I övrigt får andra rapportera och spekulera, men när det här har blåst över tror jag att Anna och SSU (aka världens bästa ungdomsförbund) kommer att göra en riktigt stark valrörelse. Stå på dig Anna!

Borgerligheten och biståndet

Det finns fler som oroar sig över om vi ska använda biståndet till att borra brunnar eller bygga bomber. Läs vad Diakonia tycker. Mer svält med Reinfeldt?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

God is back at Anfield!

When Cissé missed an open goal against Man Utd last weekend, I wrote that Robbie Fowler would have scored that goal even if he were asleep in a sleeping bag.

One week later he is back at the club, on a free transfer from Manchester City. Yes, Fowler is older, has had problems with injures, etc. But still: he is only 30, he has scored 171 goals for Liverpool, and we badly need a goalhanger. Why not give it a try?

And most of all, Fowler loves Liverpool FC in a time when football players don’t care for their clubs in the same way anymore. Welcome back Robbie, cannot wait to see you score in a red shirt again.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Soon we can walk the line

Next week (February 3rd) even Swedish cinemas will start showing the film about Johnny Cash’s life, “Walk the line”. As a big fan of Johnny Cash, I have poster of him in front of me at work, I was totally thrilled when I saw the trailer. A prediction: when I have seen the movie, I will promise myself to use my black snakeskin boots more often as soon as the snow goes away. And I will also re-consider my plans to apply for a PhD-program at the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin, Texas.

Somewhat late I have come to realize that all major movies have great websites these days. “Walk the line” is no exception, here you can see the trailer, browse around 50 American states and the Cash family tree. As far as I understand the reviews in the US have been good but somewhat mixed, but I am looking forward to walking the line to the cinema. And then probably run back home to my boots and the records.

Borra brunnar eller bygga bomber?

En krönika om partiskillnaderna i svensk utrikespolitik. Jämtin och Bono, eller Reinfeldt och Bush?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Chords for change to end The West Wing?

Been busy writing two long (forthcoming) articles about how the Swedish “Liberal” party turned right. But through Jocke (thanks) I found an interesting discussion about The West Wing (in Swedish). Apparently Jon Bon Jovi will appear in season seven, which sounds pretty lame compared to the music that has been used previously in the series (“Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits, Jeff Buckley’s amazing versions of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, the concert with Yo-Yo Ma, and James Taylor playing live in the White House).

Since I have been both to John Kerry-rally in Milwaukee where Jon Bon Jovi played (although I missed most of it because of heavy traffic and bad weather), and a Democratic fundraising event in Washington DC where James Taylor played among others, I can say I prefer the latter. But why not ask the other guy from New Jersey to play live in the last-ever episode of The West Wing?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Bad news from Canada, the US, and Holland

My morning did not start that good: the radio told me right away that Canadians elected Tory Party leader Stephen Harper as their next prime minister. His platform: better relations with George W. Bush, tax cuts and more money to the military. He has also said he might have Parliament revisit a previous decision in Canada that allows same-sex marriages. If I lived in Canada, not that of a long shot since they love ice hockey, snow and timber as we Swedes do, he would never get my vote.

The day went on and then I heard Republicans call Supreme Court hopeful Samuel Alito "one of the most qualified nominees ever". Since all ten Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee stand behind this statement, the committee will give him a positive recommendation (there are only eight Democrats on the committee).

And now I just read that the Dutch Minister of migration, a Rita Verdonk of the “liberal" party VVD, has said that only one language shall be spoken on the streets of the Netherlands (and that language is Dutch, of course).

The Minister’s idea is that immigrants should be obliged to pay a fee, in order to then take a compulsory language and culture test. In Amsterdam you have some 173 nationalities and 24 million tourists every year. Are we supposed to have study groups on the Belgian side of the border together?

Monday, January 23, 2006

"The West Wing" ends in May: no season eight

Not too much of a surprise maybe, but I just read that "The West Wing" will end on May 14 (i.e. when the last episode of season seven is shown in the US; there will be no season eight). Quoting Maria Elena Fernandez in LA Times (full article here):

"When President Josiah Bartlet's second term runs out on "The West Wing" this spring, NBC's portrayal of the inside workings of the White House also will draw to a close. The network and the show's executive producer, John Wells, have decided to end the award-winning critical darling after a new president is elected.

One of the last decade's most honored series, with 25 Emmys, including four consecutive wins as best drama from 2000 to 2003, "The West Wing" holds the record for most Emmys won by a series in a single season (nine in its first) and has earned 90 nominations to date. But the series has been losing audience over the last few years and has averaged 8.4 million viewers this year, its lowest audience ever."

Just to assure everyone: I am not devastated. I am not on my way to a bar, I know that all good things must pass. I prefer “The West Wing” to end naturally when Bartlet steps down (not resigns, thanks Mike), which is better than twisting the show over and over again in order to attract new audiences.

Season six, which I thought was very good, starts on Swedish TV tonight, and I am looking forward to watching season seven. And then, all that is left to be said is: thanks for the ride, C.J., Toby, Josh, Donna, Leo, Sam, Charlie, and POTUS of course. We promise to kick some Republican ass in the real world.

Persson, Friedman och Kalifornien...

Vad har Göran Persson, Thomas L. Friedman och Arnold Schwarzenegger gemensamt?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Och du har väl läst söndagens Brännpunkt?

Om inte, läs debattartikeln om Europas framtid här. Jonas Morian har bloggat om artikeln, och uppmärksammar också Rolf Gustafssons senaste artiklar i ämnet (läs här).

Soon running for a political office near you!

Through an interview with Robert F Kennedy Jr, published today in a Swedish newspaper, I found a brilliant op-ed in LA Times. The article, called “America's anti-torture tradition”, is using references from cherished parts American history and slowly turns into a sharp critique of George W. Bush, Guantanamo, etc. You can read the whole article here, but I just have to quote the first and the last paragraph:

"It is nice that the Bush administration has finally been pressured into backing a ban on cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. But what remains shocking about this embarrassing and distasteful national debate is that we had to have it at all. This administration's newfound enthusiasm for torture has not only damaged our international reputation, it has shattered one of our proudest American traditions. […]
Today, our president is again challenged to align the conduct of a war with the values of our nation. America's treatment of its prisoners is a test of our faith in our country and the character of our leaders."

Another article by Robert F Kennedy Jr worth reading is a long and detailed overview of the Bush’s disastrous environmental policy (published in Rolling Stone, a magazine one maybe should start reading more often again!?). You can find the whole article here, and again I quote the first line and the last paragraph:

"George W. Bush will go down in history as America's worst environmental president. […]
Today, George W. Bush and his court are treating our country as a grab bag for the robber barons, doling out the commons to large polluters. Last year, as the calamitous rollbacks multiplied, the corporate-owned TV networks devoted less than four percent of their news minutes to environmental stories. If they knew the truth, most Americans would share my fury that this president is allowing his corporate cronies to steal America from our children."

And, yes, Robert F Kennedy Jr says that he will run for office some day.

Goalhanger needed in the game of life

If there was any justice in the world, Liverpool would have won against Man United today (we lost 1-0). I cannot understand how Cissé could miss an open goal from just a few yards, something that badly underlined that we are very good team - but without a real goalhanger.

When Cissé missed that chance I thought of Robbie Fowler. If Fowler had been drinking (and stuff) all night, and if he then passed out in a sleeping bag in front of the goal at Old Trafford, we could still have woken him up a second before that chance appeared and he would have scored a goal ten times out of ten. Even if he was still the sleeping bag…

As a consolation, I re-read this article about Liverpool FC under coach Rafa Benítez, published in The Guardian yesterday. It did not work, I still think we should have won, and I still think Liverpool needs a real goalhanger who can score goals like Fowler once did. But we have a good coach in Benítez.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Partiledardebatten och 250 miljarder

Störde mig på en sak i partiledardebatten; Reinfeldt kom för billigt undan när han lekte "ny moderat som inte vill sänka skatten så mycket." Födelsedagsbarnet Göran Persson har rätt när han använder siffran 250 miljarder, läs mer här.

Väntar faktiskt på DN!

På söndag ska DN vad jag förstår ha längre intervjuer med såväl Woody Allen som med Robert F Kennedy jr. Det var länge sedan jag såg fram emot att läsa "tidningen som man måste läsa men där ledarsidan nu brer ut sig över hela tidningen och där fotot på Henrik Brors tar mer plats än hans text."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Chat with Wallström, and "The Press Club"

It has already been a year since my favorite EU Commissioner Margot Wallström started her blog. Since then the blog has had over a million hits by some 15 000 visitors and today you can chat with her live from 5 PM (Brussels time, of course).

Personally I cannot join that chat since I will participate in the TV-show “The Press Club” (Pressklubben, SVT24), where a panel consisting of four journalists will discuss actualities in Swedish politics (notably the debate in parliament yesterday, Swedish foreign policy, and when Sweden will get a female PM). You can read more, and later watch the show, here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Good news from Strasbourg!

Two good pieces of news from the European Parliament today:
1. The port services directive was heavily rejected when the MEPs voted in Strasbourg today (read more here).
2. Wolfgang Schüssel, the Austrian conservative PM, addressed the European Parliament. And Dr. Schüssel, of all people, said what a Fred Perry progressive thinks is way too evident: we need to use some smart taxes (on airplane traffic, financial speculation, etc etc) in order to fund the EU budget directly from its citizens, and not through reluctant governments.

The Austrian presidency of the EU might become interesting, after all.

Ur spår! Borgerlig oenighet och snömos!

Borgarna körde ur spår i Sälen.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Rock on Nisha!

Visste inte om det var "officiellt", men läser det hos Maryam: Nisha Besara blir ny ledarskribent på Aftonbladet. Ett perfekt jobb för en av den unga socialdemokratins absolut bästa skribenter och skarpaste hjärnor. Eftersom jag jobbade samtidigt som Nisha på "SSU-expen" kan jag även gratulera Helle, Åsa, Mats och de andra till att ha fått en mycket trevlig och omtänksam arbetskamrat. Lycka till kompis!

“Women can watch the game on TV”

Right now we are having a “soccer-gate” here in Sweden. On Wednesday we will play a friendly against Saudi Arabia, and initially women were not to be allowed to see the game at the Prince Faisal Bin stadium in Riyadh.

Sweden’s deputy head coach, Mr. Roland Andersson, declared that he did not regard this as a problem since women then “can see the game on TV”. After some justified protests and a minor outcry, the Saudi hosts changed their mind. Women are now welcome to see the game.

But one individual who has not changed his mind is Mr. Andersson, who used to be a soccer coach in Saudi Arabia. Now he is saying that we ought to respect traditions that dates back a thousands years.

This of course a stupid statement, why should we accept a form of gender apartheid just because “they always have been doing so”? After reading Sweden’s number one soccer magazine, Offside (#5/2005 pp. 84-90), I thought more highly of Roland Andersson. According to that interview he is an old lefty, and his nick-name for players in the Swedish national team who is always good at supporting others out on the pitch is “Per-Albin” (Sweden’s Social Democratic Prime Minister 1932-1946).

Hopefully Mr. Andersson will understand that his line of reasoning does not hold any water, and I will make a contribution through quoting C.J. Cregg in an epsiode during season three. Yeah, it has been a lot about The West Wing on this blog lately, but I just want to help Mr. Andersson understand why his statments are stupid.

So: Right before a press conference, C.J. learns about a press story saying that some school girls in Saudi Arabi were not allowed to leave a burning school since they were not dressed properly enough for the “religious police” (as often in The West Wing, this is a true story, read more about it here). When C.J. is asked about this during the press briefing she has not checked the official line with the others in the Bartlet administration, but she goes on and speaks her mind in the follwing way:

"Outraged? I'm barely surprised. This is a country where women aren't allowed to drive a car. They're not allowed to be in the company of any man other than a close relative. They're required to adhere to a dress code that would make a Maryknoll nun look like Malibu Barbie. They beheaded 121 people last year for robbery, rape, and drug trafficking. They have no free press, no elected government, no political parties. And the Royal Family allows the Religious Police to travel in groups of six carrying nightsticks and they freely and publicly beat women. But 'Brutus is an honorable man.' 17 schoolgirls were forced to burn alive because they weren't wearing the proper clothing. Am I outraged? No. . . . That is Saudi Arabia, our partners in peace."

This is, of course, the real problem. But when it comes to this "soccer gate", I think Sweden ought to play soccer againt all nations who are members of FIFA and not on the UN boycott list, given that no very special circumstances exist. Soft power and exchanges through sports are important in order to spread the values of democracy and human rights. But if a nation behaves like one thousands year old pigs ALSO when dictating who can watch the game, we ought to protest, and not defend their discriminating old traditions. Better speak your mind, like C.J. did. Don’t you agree, old lefty Mr. Andersson?

Monday, January 16, 2006

One down, one to go...

Sunday night only gave us one progressive victory; Michelle Bachelet will now become Chile’s first female president ever. Congrats! Her Finnish friend in the Socialist/Social Democratic family, Tarja Halonen, will have to fight a second round (just like Bachelet did) which she will win without any problems.

I think that Bachelet’s victory will be very important for the Americas. As the left tide is continuing throughout the continent it is important to remember that a sound, economic policy for sustainable growth is needed when we to the left of center are demanding redistribution and reforms. Here, I think Bachelet can continue in her predecessor Ricardo Lagos’ footsteps.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Och lite helgläsning om Bartlet och Allen!

Drömmen om en god, blå elefant

Under det kalla kriget dominerades världspolitiken av två elefanter; en blå (USA) och en röd (Sovjet). I dag finns bara den ena kvar och världens förhållande till USA är ungefär som om du hade en elefant i vardagsrummet. Det är omöjligt att inte ha en åsikt. Det är omöjligt att inte märka vad elefanten gör.

Fascinationen för elefantens hjärna, Vita Huset på Pennsylvania Avenue i Washington DC, är följaktligen naturlig. Och varför inte göra en TV-serie om en smart och trevlig president som städar upp i vardagsrummet? En president som inte bedriver ett orättfärdiga krig och därmed stökar ned i ditt vardagsrum på riktig. En president som vad djurriket beträffar inte ser ut som en schimpans.

TV-serien "Vita Huset" (The West Wing) var först med att bygga upp en drömvärld baserad på idén om att en annan elefant är möjlig. Serien har blivit omåttligt populär såväl i USA som i Sverige, även utanför cirkeln av en politiskt medveten medelklass som gärna skulle skriva tal som Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) och avväpna frågvisa journalister som CJ Cregg (Allison Janney).

Under hösten har den sjätte säsongen, som av många anses vara den starkaste på länge, visats på SVT24 (hittills har 16 av 22 avsnitt sänts). Tittarsiffrorna har varit minst sagt måttliga, men måndagen den 23 januari klockan 22:00 är det säsongspremiär på ”vanliga” SVT1. AiP, som har tjuvkikat på hela säsong sex, kan utlova många högtidsstunder under våren. Bland annat kallar president Bartlet till överläggningar om Israel-Palestina på Camp David, följt av en stenhård kamp inom såväl det demokratiska partiet som inom Vita Husets stab när en efterträdare till Bartlet ska utses. Primärval i ett snöigt New Hampshire och konfetti under demokraternas konvent utlovas. Samt en gammal favorit som kandidat till vice president.

Men ackompanjerad av en omfattande reklamkampanj har "Vita Huset" nu fått konkurrens av serien "Commander in Chief". Den 9 januari visade TV4 de två första avsnitten av totalt 18, förvånansvärt tätt inpå den amerikanska TV-premiären som skedde den 27 september 2005. Serien har blivit relativt framgångsrik i USA och har en annan vinkel på drömmen om elefantens goda hjärna. Vice presidenten Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis) blir USAs första kvinnliga president när den sittande ”Commander in Chief” (överbefälhavare) får en plötslig hjärnblödning och avlider. Helt plötsligt leds världens kvarvarande supermakt av en kvinna och hennes man blir First Lady och får installera sig i ett rosa arbetsrum.

"Commander in Chief" har framför allt en viktig tillgång: den ifrågasätter vår föreställning om att den absoluta makten tillhör mannen och måste ha maskulina kännetecken för att accepteras. Även om president Allen är partipolitiskt oberoende i serien förs tankarna lätt till Hillary Clinton. I det första avsnittet fanns också en tydlig passning till Clintons familj. När Allen ska hålla sitt första tal som president fungerar inte telepromptern, vilket även drabbade Bill Clinton när han skulle hålla sitt andra tal till nationen 1994. Men såväl Clinton som Allen lyckades hålla ett lysande tal ändå, vilket Hillary Clinton med säkerhet också skulle ha gjort. Och alla vet vi att ett liknande öde skulle innebära en katastrof för George W. Bush.

Jämfört med "Vita Huset" står "Commander in Chief" likväl tydligt i skuggan. "Vita Husets" ”fader” Aaron Sorkin skapade en realistisk nerv i berättelsen och ett persongalleri som via en krävande smart och rapp dialog ännu lämnar konkurrenten långt efter. Kärnan av politiska nördar har redan efter två avsnitt irriterat sig över hur president Allen flyttar hangarfartyg på ett sätt som vore varje riktig president, men även Bartlet, främmande. Vidare är det partipolitiska spelet mellan demokrater och republikaner ännu otydligt och på gränsen till orealistiskt. När relationsproblemen i "Vita Huset" hela tiden har en politisk underton, har "Commander in Chief" presidentfamiljens dagliga bestyr i fokus. Och hur kan president Allen vara politiskt oberoende i ett land där det är lika lätt att välja sida mellan onda och goda som i Star Wars?

Icke desto mindre kan en mindre krävande, mer familjeorienterande framtoning komma att locka en hyfsat bred svensk publik (670 000 såg det första programmet). Det är inte heller rättvist att jämföra två avsnitt med sex hela säsonger. Men om du vill se flera avsnitt i följd när det passar, slippa klantig svensk översättning och irriterande reklamavbrott, så får du vänta. "Commander in Chief" finns inte på dvd ens i USA ännu, medan säsong sex av "Vita Huset" går att köpa i Sverige.

Lösningen? Se säsong sex av "Vita Huset", på SVT eller på dvd. Men varför inte ge "Commander in Chief" en chans. Geena Davis är lysande i rollen som president, och vi behöver alla vänja oss vid att elefantens hjärna gärna får styras av en kvinna.

Eric Sundström
(Artikeln publiceras i Aktuellt i Politiken på måndag, en tidning du gärna får prenumenera på och följa via www.aip.nu)

Liten fredagskrönika...

...om Allen, Halonen och Bachelet (läs här).

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Warmly welcome, Daniel Agger!

Since the transfer window in English football is open now I have been waiting for Liverpool FC to announce some major signings, and now things are happening. First out was Dutch defender Jan Kromkamp, and he was follwed today by Daniel Agger, the Danish central defender of Bröndby IF. I was very happy to hear that Daniel Agger has walked through the Shankly Gates for three reasons:
1. When I started supporting Liverpool FC we had a fantastic Danish player, Jan Mölby. That brings back memories of winning the league, something that has not happened in a looong time.
2. We badly need a good central defender since we are too dependent on the two really good ones we have, Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyppiä.
3. According to Liverpool Sweden, one part of the deal is that now Liverpool has to play a game with its best team against Bröndby. That will be in Denmark, right outside Copenhagen, very close to Sweden. Since one of my best Danish friends (Thomas) is a true Bröndby supporter I can just say: sorry we took Daniel from you, Thomas, but I will buy you a beer and a hot dog if you take me to the game!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Jobben kommer och borgarna är splittrade!

Jag lovar, det är helt ofrivilligt, men läser du bara tidningen så inser du att svensk ekonomi går som tåget, samtidigt som borgarna bråkar. Läs mer på aip.nu; del ett här och del två här.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Lokko och trängselskatt

Via Urban kommer jag på att jag glömde länka till Lokko. Läs!

Promising but not fantastic start, and will it ever be as good as The West Wing?

So, yesterday Swedish channel TV4 showed the two first episodes of Commander in Chief, “the new West Wing”. I had to tape the episodes since I had a late political meeting with my local branch of the Swedish Social Democratic party. When I got home I saw the first episode (the second will have to wait, I play indoor floor bandy at 06:45 on Tuesday’s and needed my beauty sleep...). Anyway, some initial thoughts:

1. Too early to tell if it can match The West Wing, of which I have been enjoying six full seasons… But my first gut reaction was that Commander in Chief will be somewhat more shallow/less nerdy/less party political than the West Wing. Even if we do not know the full background yet, I cannot understand why you should be “Independent” in American politics (story so far: Mackenzie Allen/Geena Davis is the Independent Vice President who – against the will of the dying President – becomes Commander in Chief/President of the US). The only time you can be Independent is if you were a Republican, saw the light, and are soon about to become a Democrat. I want everyone to be as partisan as Toby.

2. Why does TV4 buy the series, spend a fortune on advertising, and then mess up with the subtitles in the first episode? When the key-characters were presented with name and title written in English, the Swedish subtitles with the dialogue covered the English presentations, which were not translated (and thus could not be seen). That was a stupid, annoying mistake that easily could have been avoided.

3. The show seems to be very close to reality. Mackenzie Allen/Geena Davis mentioned Gore and Cheney as predecessors, a portrait of Nancy Reagan was shown, etcetera. The link to Hillary Clinton is thus very apparent, and for a Fred Perry progressive it is great to use a TV-show to pave the way for a female and hopefully very progressive President of the world’s most powerful country. Also: when the teleprompter “did not work” as she addressed the two houses of Congress, I saw a clear flirt with the Clinton years. During one of Bill Clinton’s first major speeches (one of his first SOTUs?), the teleprompter did start, but with the wrong version of the speech. As the story goes, Clinton improvised until George Stephanopoulos had rushed back and forth to the White House to get the right floppy disk. And nobody understood that Clinton was improvising… (Remember the floppy disk by the way? And can you imagine George W Bush improvising an important speech for some 15 minutes? Maybe, but we would all notice and write funny lines down...)

Anyway, not a fantastic but a promising start, and I will for sure continue to watch. The alternative is to wait and watch it on DVD later, but since the premiere in the US was only in September that might take a while. Otherwise I like to watch series like this on DVD; no commercials and you can see a couple of episodes when you have time to relax. But my guess is that I will see the second episodes right when I get home tonight...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Majoritet för vänsterblocket!

Man ska aldrig göra en för stor sak av opinionsundersökningar, men jag missade helt att SKOP (jag vet, men ändå...) i helgen gav regeringen med samarbetspartier en absolut majoritet (50,1 procent). Läs mer här.

Public Radio rocking again!

Had a very nice weekend (birthday, with a fantastic night in a bar on the street where I live with loads of friends), and this morning at work I find myself a present from Swedish Public radio: they have been digging in their archives and have a "memory special" about Olof Palme (yes, soon it is 20 years since he was shot). Read more (and listen) here.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Pat Robertson, Sharon, and God

A stressful job?! Not a perfect diet and overweight?! Too much politics and too little jogging?! Genetics?? Maybe years of smoking?? There are many ways to explain a stroke, but when Pat Robertson (yes, the Christian fundamentalist/extreme right-winger/former presidential candidate) says that Ariel Sharon’s stroke was a punishment from God because he gave parts of God’s land away to the Palestinians, you are just remembered that the US Christian right is crazy.

Tillåter (v) att jag åker på bröllop i LA?

Via Carlas hyfsat nya blogg hittar jag följande knäppa att-satser som avslutar en motion lagd vid vänsterpartiets kongress:
Motion 149 – inför ekonomiska sanktioner mot USA
att svenska staten omgående bryter alla ekonomiska och militära avtal man har med USA.
att Sverige omgående inför ekonomiska sanktioner gentemot USA.
att alla företag och verksamheter med Amerikanska kopplingar förbjuds att verka i Sverige.
att amerikanska medborgare nekas inträde i Sverige och att alla amerikanska medborgare bosatta i Sverige utvisas om de inte avsäger sig sitt amerikanska medborgarskap.
att dessa sanktioner inte hävs förrän USA bett berörda länder samt FN om ursäkt, slutat att bete sig som världspoliser samt hävt sina sanktioner gentemot Kuba.

Om detta skulle genomföras i praktiken har jag ett gäng bekanta som skulle utvisas, svensk ekonomi skulle kollapsa med massarbetslöshet som följd (vilket även skulle drabba motionsskrivaren och kongressombuden, samt vänsterpartiets informationschef som inte längre får gå till det välbetalda konsultjobbet). Och eftersom USA troligtvis skulle svara med samma mynt, och förbjuda svenskar att åka till Amerika, så skulle jag inte kunna åka på Toms bröllop i februari. Ja, ni förstår själva hur knäppt det är.

Motionen är naturlitgtvis närmast ett extremt skämt, men det som är mest problematiskt på riktigt är att partiets vänsterflygel verkar dominera kongressen helt, samtidigt som målet är en koalitionsregering med socialdemokraterna. Detta skulle naturligtvis kräva kompromisser och en mer realpolitisk riktning än den vi kan se i Göteborg just nu. Fortsättning lär följa.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

När bloggarna tar vid

Har precis skrivit en text om vad borgerliga företrädare säger när inte så många lyssnar, men hur allting sprids och inget försvinner i dag, tack vare bloggarna. Läs gärna här.

Tips för politiknördar och kalenderbitare

Vill bara kort tipsa om att kalendariet på aip.nu nu börjar bli riktigt välfyllt. Perfekt nyårstips för dig som vill hålla koll på 2006. Och med hjälp av redaktionskollegan Pentti ser vi till att aip.nu har det mest relevanta kalendariet för dig som vill bevaka politik och samhälle.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Time again: Sweden in Newsweek...

So, it is time again: another major magazine is running an article about the Swedish model (thanks for letting me know, Challe). This time it is Newsweek that publishes a rather well written and accurate story (online here), even if it is too short and somewhat shallow. This article is not as positive as a Polly Toynbee hallelujah, but between the lines Sweden’s choice can be detected:

a) We fine-tune our model, knowing that real jobs, high and sustainable growth and top-class education all are key in order to enable us to get the tax money we need to pay for welfare (choice of a Fred Perry progressive).

b) We lower all the benefit levels in order to press down wages and force all the lazy immigrants living on welfare to take jobs they are now refusing to take. Sweden should also allow fewer refugees to entry the country, unless they managed to get the technology skills we need before they fled killing fields and/or starvation (choice of the Conservative party and Mr. Reinfeldt).

Do you think I am making alternative b) up? No, not at all, the quote below is from the Newsweek article:

”Reinfeldt argues, in particular, that the state encourages immigrants not to work with subsidies that exceed the pay in off-the-books jobs for cleaners, handymen or day laborers. He and other critics also say Sweden undermines its competitiveness by allowing entry more readily to refugees than to immigrants with technical skills that the economy needs.”

This quote is actually really scary, but it makes the political alternatives clear. I agree the Swedish model is far from perfect. But I think it stands on three important pillars: 1. Free trade and market economy (accepted by the Social Democratic party for some 80 years). 2. An understanding that unprofitable companies should be shut down, i.e. structural rationalization (accepted by the Trade Union movement for some 50 years). 3. An acceptance of pillar 1 and 2 because of the generosity of the welfare system (known today as the Swedish model; some people on the far-left tend to forget about the other pillars, especially pillar 1). This last pillar is very important today, as life long learning and frequent moves between jobs have become so important.

These three pillars are not mentioned in the article, even if you can detect a choice between the lines. Either we keep and fine-tune the model we have. Or you believe Reinfeldt’s nice rhetoric, forgiving that he slipped his tongue when he spoke about refugees, and wait for him to slash the benefit levels to 65 percent.

If that happens, I think the acceptance of pillar 1 and 2 will decrease. In that case, I think Reinfeldt’s brownish statement about immigrants and refugees will resonate better, unfortunately, among unemployed workers on a 65 percent benefit. When the workers are in a more exposed situation themselves, they will probably feel more hostile vis-à-vis stuff like globalization, free trade and immigration; three positive things we need badly.

I did not expect Newsweek to finish this whole line of thought as I am doing, but think again. Globalization is not losing pace, but Sweden is still doing fine. Fine-tune our model and keep the levels in the welfare system? Yes. Lower pillar three towards Anglo-Saxon levels, risking the acceptance for free trade and structural rationalization? No. Thanks, Newsweek, for making me think and write about the future of Sweden’s famous model again.

I väntan på förnyelsen

Rensar i pappershögar på redaktionen och hittar Anders Jonssons fina minnesord över s-riksdagsmannen Kenth Högström (Veckans Avslut i VA nr 42/2005, tyvärr inte på nätet, men en annan minneskrönika hittade jag här). Kenth skulle naturligtvis varit med i bloggkrönikan över 2005, han missade aldrig ett tillfälle att uppmuntra mig när vi träffades på olika partiarrangemang under min tid som ordförande för S-studenter. Under hösten fick Kenth ge upp mot leukemin men många unga socialdemokrater kommer att fortsätta kämpa för ökad valfrihet, självförvaltning, egenmakt och folkrörelsetanken. Vi minns och kämpar vidare.

Trots miljöavgifter: himlen föll inte ned!

Efter att ha plockat upp Svenska Dagbladet från hallmattan imorse trodde jag nästan att himlen skulle falla ned. Fullt med ansikten som fick illustrera tidningens hårdnackade motstånd mot en klockren idé: miljöavgifter/smidghetsavgifter/trängselskatt. Det fanns dock plats för en avvikande röst, och jag tror att många kommer att vara positiva till försöket när det blir dags för folkomröstningen den 17 september. Läs gärna vad vi tycker på aip.nu, och missa inte Johan Norbergs krönika på Naturskyddsföreningens kampanjsajt.

Monday, January 02, 2006

All these newsletters...

The Swedish branch of the Union of European Federalists has a newsletter that has improved significantly. Check their website here, and in the latest newsletter I found – for example – this initiated story about why the new Tory leader David Cameron has said that he might want to take the Tories out of its EPP-group in the European Parliament.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The number one New Year’s Day song

Just listened to my old favorite New Year’s Day song, “One good year” with Slaid Cleaves. I found it way too depressing given that I am happy in life and looking forward to 2006, but it is still a great song by an artist who deserves a bigger audience. Read more about Slaid here.