Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Any volunteers?

This photo is not in need of any comments. But on a more serious note: there is a very good article about the up-coming US Congressional elections in The New York Times today. My guess is that we will hear a lot more about Harold E. Ford Jr and the tight race in Tennessee.

Granskningen av Täby fortsätter...

Veckans granskning av Täby i AiP handlar bland annat om bristen på hyresrätter (läs här).

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Good news from Europe, part II

The regional elections in Italy went well for the center-left, with big and clear victories in cities like Rome, Naples, beautiful Siena, and Turin (where Sergio Chiamparino beat the infamous Rocco Buttiglione).

Unfortunately, the Forza Italia candidate won in Berlusconi's hometown of Milan, but you cannot always get everything you want. However, in all it seems like the red tide is still alive and kicking in Italy. And Buttiglione lost.

Good news from Europe, part I

Just read a press release from the PES that I must share:
[The] European social democratic party leaders meeting in Sofia pledged to give their full support for EU membership of all the countries of the Western Balkans – and to take concrete steps to increase regional cooperation through closer links between social democratic parties in the region. […]

PES President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, said “This was not just another meeting but a new start. European social democratic leaders want to be in the forefront of building permanent peace and prosperity in the Balkans. This journey must have EU membership as its goal, although the road will not be easy.
I have written about the soft power of the EU before, and this a perfect example of a declaration full of solidarity, that also will encourage reform in the Balkans.

Well done, Ramussen and the PES.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Det blåser vänstervindar, kamrater

De senaste opinionsmätningarna visar på mycket knapp ledning för det rätta blocket, men en ny mätning visar att svenska folket även tror att vänsterblocket vinner valet. Så var det inte i mars. Läs mer här (AiP) och här (SvD).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Kind of a vacation, actually

I have escaped to the North of Sweden (Lycksele) for a few days, kind of a mini-vacation with my girlfriend, staying with her relatives up here. So: not much time for writing blog posts, but loads of fun histories and photos that I will share later. It is beautiful and very calm up here, folks.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Skyltfönstret: artikelserie om Täby i AiP

Missa inte den artikelserie om Reinfeldts Täby som vi inlett i AiP.

Steven-Steven-Steven Gerrard

Through Peter I found this fantastic little summary of the FA-cup final. Enjoy, and remember: we wouldn't trade Stevie-G for Ronaldhino and Samuel Eto'o.

DN, Brors and the news for ya

For all of us who read Dagens Nyheter just because we used to (or think we have to), read this blog post by Esbati, and don't miss this interview with Gunilla Lundén (press boss at LO).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A fantastic Kurdish wedding – but with a question about a bad moon rising

Last Saturday I attended my fourth Kurdish wedding. The previous three were in Iraq, but this one took place in my native suburb of Järfälla.

I had a great time and felt very emotional. During the last year I have become very close friends with Sukran (the bride) and Shoresh (the groom), and I really enjoyed all the wonderful traditions and the fantastic Kurdish hospitality. [Thanks for the photo Claes]

* * *

It was a great night, and I did not intend to blog about this since it was a nice, private evening. But one conversation I had at the wedding worries me, and made me change my mind. A Kurdish man walked up to me and said: “Are you social democrats ready to handle the Liberal party [folkpartiet] this time? I am sure they will play the race card again and try to get populist votes”.

The history in short: In the election campaign of 2002, folkpartiet put forward a proposal suggesting that foreigners must pass a Swedish language test in order to gain citizenship. A very populist idea, some would say xenophobic, that tripled their share of the votes.

Yesterday, during a televised political debate, the leader of folkpartiet (Lars Leijonborg) got a question from a young man. He asked if his mother, who has been living (and cleaning) in Sweden for some 20 years, must pass a language test in order to gain citizenship.

Mr. Leijonborg said yes, in a roundabout way. That scared me, and I still don’t have an answer to the question I got at the wedding. What do we do when a former Liberal party, like folkpartiet, uses their Liberal credentials to put forward populist proposals that would start dividing people into groups depending on where they are born?

Is a test about Swedish traditions and colonial history their next step? What do we do?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Yes, it was a great night

I really enjoyed yesterday's concert with Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band. I liked the energy, the happiness on stage, the enthusiastic versions of all these old songs, and some of Bruce's old songs as well (like "Open all night").

But most of all I hope this was an eye-opener for quite a few people. The history of American folk music is a very deep well, full of good music and political consciousness. To hear some 8 000 Swedish people scream: "Pay me my money down -- pay me or go to jail -- pay me my money down" was fantastic. Even though not everyone in the audience was aware that they were singing a protest song of black stevedores in Georgia and South Carolina.

Also, to hear Bruce criticize George W. Bush always feels appropriate if you have your heart to the left of center. "We have hard days in the USA", Bruce said.

Everything was not perfect though. I thought that some of the songs carried on too long, and a few versions of the old Bruce-songs were not that exciting ("You can look but you better not touch", for example). And he did not surprise us with an unexpected version of, for example, "Working on the highway" or "Tougher than the rest".

But it an all it was a superb, fun night with political music from the US of A. Since I have liked both Bruce Springsteen and American lefty folk music for quite a few years, this was a night when a few parallel worlds collided: politics, rock'n'roll and folk music. And I'm always happy when things I like make sense and fit together.

[Reviews of the show: Aftonbladet, Expressen, SvD, DN.]

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Working on the highway?

Tonight (Sunday) Bruce Springsteen will play in Stockholm and needless to say I hope it will be a great night. Just spoke to my friend Henrik who has a theory suggesting that Springsteen will play "Working on the highway".

According to his theory, Bruce always plays some special songs when in Sweden. And when Springsteen first started with the Seeger Sessions in the late 1990s he visited the Conan O'Brien show and played... "Working on a highway".

Now I am on my way to meet up Henrik and some other friends before the show, and we will see if Henrik's theory holds. I am still hoping for "Tougher than the rest", but in any case I am sure we are up for a fun night.

Friday, May 19, 2006

På en slags borgerlig träff

I dag har borgerligheten en seminariedag på snygga Rival vid Mariatorget. Jag är där till lunch och bloggar på

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Where have all the Hothouse Flowers gone?

I did not really watch, I promise folks, but "the TV was on" during tonight's qualifying round of the Eurovision Song contest. I like pan-European events, and it was great to see Armenia participate and qualify.

But gosh -- almost all of the songs were really dreadful (our Swedish very religious Carola was ok, but I want to hear Carola speak out in favor of gay-rights before I support her).

The best song I have ever heard at an event like this remains “Don’t go” with Hothouse Flowers. And they were not even participating, but only playing during the intermission during a contest in Dublin the year after Johnny Logan won a second time (I think).

But Bruce is only three days away.

Ingarö, Danielsson och Leijonborg

En av de märkligaste ingredienserna i den här soppan är hur Leijonborg vägrar uttala sig (och att SVT-journalister stoppas när de vill tala med honom).

På ”ballongkonventet” med alliansen så hörde jag själv hur Leijonborg pratade om ”lågvattenmärken i svensk politik” och ”brottsliga metoder” [angående mejlen om Reinfeldt]. Och på DN-debatt skrev Leijonborg att folkpartiets partiaktivister naturligtvis inte ska ”ge spridning åt medvetna lögner om politiska motståndare”.

Brösttoner på leijonklippan blev tystnad i leijonkulan.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Almost too good to be true

Sweden's best daily editorial, I'm talking about Aftonbladet of course, has now started a blog about Europe. Aftonbladet's editorial page is a very important and progressive voice in the debate that is spread to quite a large amount of people. Therefore I was very happy to learn that they will put their "power" behind this cause. You will find the blog here.

The man behind this initiative is Mats Engström, one of Sweden's leading journalists when it comes to European issues. I recently read his new book ("Maktkamp Europa") and I wrote a review of it for the bi-monthly social democratic magazine Tiden. The book is really worth reading and I will publish the review on-line once Tiden is about to be published.

Did you know that today is IDAHO-day?

A newsletter from ECOSY, IUSY and a couple of other organizations reminds me that today marks the International Day Against Homophobia - IDAHO. IUSY Secretary General, Yvonne O'Callaghan, writes:

"It is exactly 16 years since the World Health Organization General Assembly removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, ending medical homophobia. But legal and social discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continues, to a greater or lesser extent, around the world."

Scary, terrible and disgraceful, but true of course. Yvonne is also right when concluding:

"The organization of an official day for the fight against homophobia in each country will allow us to place our struggle within a campaign of solidarity with all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Persons (LGTB) around the world. But it is also a question of placing our struggle within a wider campaign for the defense of human rights."

Hopefully this call will be heard among ECOSY and IUSY member organizations -- it is about celebrating diversity and standing up for very basic human rights.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Åsa in Brussels

[Up-dated] If you did not watch the nine o'clock news yesterday (Sunday), do your homework now. The first minutes are about consumer rights and how producers often try to sell their products with imperfect and tailored (i.e. not accurate) information about the product.

One of my favorite MEPs, Åsa Westlund, is interviewed at length, and this little part of the program shows how the EU can promote cross-border legislation that is important to all of us.

And if you think consumer rights and environmental protection are boring things that can be handled by the market alone, think again. When a mother is breastfeeding her baby, around 300 chemicals will be transmitted to the baby through the milk. Consumer rights and environmental protection, anyone? Or is the "invisible hand" of the market enough?

As a matter of fact, that's what Conservative MEP Christofer Fjellner is arguing ("politicians have nothing to do with what we should eat"). I hope and think that Åsa will respond to his naive article in Aftonbladet tomorrow.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Liverpool will have to stop winning finals like that

I saw yesterday’s FA-cup final in a bar with some friends, and Liverpool FC did it again: a nerve thrilling game ended 3-3, then Liverpool almost lost in extra time, but we survived and won on penalties (match report here). Football is a fantastic game. Especially when Liverpool wins.

Ingeberg, a fanatic Liverpool-supporter who I watched the game with, summed it up: “Steven Gerrard. I would not trade you for Ronaldhino and Samuel Eto’o”. So very true.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A more democratic Union is the way forward

Is a common European public sphere impossible because of the language problems? That question was recently answered with a "yes" in an article published at Sweden's leading debate forum for European politics (Europaportalen).

As y'all can guess, I disagree heavily. I have now written an article arguing that a more democratic EU, involving a functioning public sphere, is the natural dream and goal for the European center-left. And this is a dream we can and must make happen. Read the article here [in Swedish].

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It was a knock out, folks

Tonight we had this year’s first TV-debate between the two main political alternatives in Sweden: Prime Minister Göran Persson vs. the leader of the opposition, Fredrik Reinfeldt.

I am a political nerd and I have seen a lot of debates, but on this level, the winner might never have been clearer. Göran Persson hit a home run, it was a knock out, and he was the only one man on the pitch.

Yes, most often I wear my party political affiliation on my sleeve. But tonight Fredrik Reinfeldt stumbled, did not deliver full sentences, looked sad and worried, mixed up things, never got the last word, seemed to have entered the debate without any arguments. Göran Persson was confident, had loads of important things to say, had fun, and wanted the debate to carry on for another hour.

According to the rumors I have heard from the TV-studio, Reinfeldt’s chief adviser Anders E. Borg admitted that the debate was “a catastrophe” for the right-wing camp.

What the leading newspapers and TV-stations will say? That’s another story, but tonight I was very proud of our guy, the Prime Minister of Sweden. And I think the majority of the people watching felt the same way.

Will Napolitano experience a Pertini?

Finally, Italy has a new president as well: Giorgi Napolitano (looks a little bit like Toby Ziegler in the The West Wing??!). Yes, he is an old man, just like (almost) all politicians in Italy. But still, I like his track record.

Napolitano fought against Mussolini and was thrown into jail (like Gramsci). He was a crucial advocate of a market-oriented social democracy (a riformista) when the Italian communist party was reformed in the early 1990s. He is a federalist and his autobiography is called "From the PCI to European socialism".

The Swedish journalist Olle Svenning has written an excellent article about Napolitano, and I just had to translate the last part:
Napolitano had, like a Pope, to wait until the fourth round until he was elected president. Berlusconi could not accept a person characterized by tradition, the left culture of the people, and a deep belief in Europe.

Moreover, for Berlusconi, with all his TV-armies, equipped with foolish commercialism, Napolitano's literary and cultural education must appear to be frightening.

After the weekend, Prodi will present the new government. The change of government will follow. Italy will be civilized.

Then Italy will win the World Cup. Just like in 1982, when Sandro Pertini, socialist and deported anti-fascist, was head of state.
In conclusion: We won, "berlusconismo" is over, and the World Cup is around the corner. La vita è bella, anyone?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Way to go, Lord Giddens

As requested, here are some reflections after the high-level seminar with Lord Anthony Giddens in Stockholm yesterday.

1. First I’d like to give some cred to the Arena Group for arranging seminars like this. At least we have one active think-tank to the left of center in Sweden.

2. More than 200 people showed up; not bad on a very warm and sunny evening!

3. The seminar is also available as a Podcast (here). Did you know that the Arena Group was that cutting edge when it comes to technology?

4. A lot of left of center people that I respect could be seen in the crowd; Jesper Bengtsson, Olle Svenning, Kenneth Kvist (Left for Europe), Mats Engström, Pernilla Baralt (Global Utmaning), Laila Naraghi, Widar Andersson

5. Content wise, I think Giddens lecture met expectations (but Jesper had a good comment, here). Giddens' list explaining why some social models in Europe are more successful than others was not rocket-science, but still simple and illuminating: be reformist; keep markets open; protect the individual and not the job; invest in children; keep a balanced budget; invest in knowledge and information technology. As you can see, a pretty Scandinavian list.

6. Giddens had some interesting ideas about what is important now and in the near future as well: Europe’s structural problems are not only caused by globalization – internal problems such as demographics are equally important; when it comes to politics we are moving from passive trust (i.e. elections every four years) to active trust (continuous evaluation of politicians and policies); we are moving from negative to positive welfare (i.e. from ‘we help you when you are unemployed’ to ‘we need to invest in you all the time’); patterns of poverty and inequality are changing; life-style issues such as health and over-weight must be addressed; we are not dealing that well with cultural diversity and integration; we really are in the age of energy and environment (i.e. sustainable development must be integrated into the welfare state).

7. Joakim Palme and Göran Färm were smart choices as commentators; one academic and one politician… Annika Ström-Melin was good as moderator, but the question time was disorganized.

8. The following books and reports were referred to during the night: The third way and The new egalitarianism by Anthony Giddens (the latter with Patrick Diamond as co-author); The pro-growth progressive by Gene Sperling; The flight of the creative class by Richard Florida; An Agenda for a Growing Europe by André Sapir; and Happiness by Richard Layard.

9. The buffet dinner at the Arena Group afterwards was nice and laid back, but some of the guests surprised me: was Lars Wohlin looking for books about queer theory? (That was a joke, folks, he is in the rather anti-LesBiGay Christian Democratic party now).

10. At the buffet dinner, Giddens was also asked if it is not right-wing to demand reform all the time in the way he does. Lord Giddens answer sums up why he is worth listening to: “The European Social Models are keeping millions unemployed, it excludes ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, and it is not ecologically sustainable. If you conclude that and don’t demand reform, then you are right-wing and conservative.”

Way to go, Lord Giddens.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Finally and officially: I'm a PES-activist!

It's Europe Day today, and if you are a progressive there is one evident way to celebrate this: become a PES-activist! I am now officially registered, I have paid €10 to our common European Social Democratic Party and yes, I do feel pretty good about it.

The big question is: will this change Europe and the world in any way? Not in the short run of course, but if you believe that the EU:s biggest problem is the lack of transnational democracy and a common European sphere, this might be the beginning.

If you live in Sweden, make sure to join our PES-activist branch in Stockholm, and read about us in different languages here.

Monday, May 08, 2006

None but ourselves can free our minds

Been working with Dagens Stockholm all day, and when it gets too noisy in the office I always listen to the fantastic on-line jukebox provided by Lost Highway Records (the jukebox just goes on and on, playing different songs).

Today, and all of a sudden, I heard Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer sing Redemption Song (one of my favorite Bob Marley songs).

I can just say that it is a fantastic version of the song, and that I must buy "Unearthed" the next time I am in the US.

Danish populism and the race card – Swedish style

Swedish public television is running a series of documentaries about our main political parties. None of them has been especially noteworthy so far – until yesterday. The documentary showed, in a very convincing way, how Sweden’s (no longer) Liberal party (called “folkpartiet”) just has been coping the policies of the Danish populist party Venstre.

The whole idea behind the transformation of the “liberal” parties in Denmark and Sweden is simple; dare to play and use “the race card”. Blame the immigrants for not being well enough integrated into their new societies. That is, stop admitting that immigration is a difficult two-way process, put all the demands on the people who fled to a safe haven far up in northern Europe.

I have written a longer article about the transformation of Sweden’s “liberal” party, but I missed/did not know of the close link between Venstre and folkpartiet. On the other hand I think that the documentary yesterday totally missed the role that Mauricio Rojas has played in this transformation. To use immigrants in order to be harsh against other immigrants is a policy used by (for example) folkpartiet and night-clubs in Stockholm, as the journalist Mustafa Can once concluded.

One thing that my article and the documentary both dealt with at length is the key-role that another person has had in this transformation: the party secretary Johan Jakobsson (called “Sauron” by some people).

You will find the documentary here, my article here, and an op-ed about the documentary here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Every cloud has a silver lining…

OK, the British local elections were terrible for Labour, Tories did reasonably and the BNP doubled its councilors (20 to 44). So my wishes did not come true... But I am still hopeful about one thing: this is the time to lay a solid ground for the future (and a fourth national election victory!!?).

And Blair has already reshuffled his cabinet, and I see some good signs. For the first time, the Labour government now has a woman in the important position as foreign secretary (Margaret Beckett, picture). The positions as chief whip and Labour party chairman will also be held by women (Jacqui Smith and Hazel Blears respectively). And one of my personal favorites, Douglas Alexander (seen as a Brownite), is up-graded to the position as transport secretary. Moreover, Alan Johnson (became education secretary, Blairite, former trade unionist) is supposed to be a rising star.

But the most important discussion is of course the nitty-gritty policy future of the Labour government. It is more important to focus on reform, the third term etc, than when Brown will replace you know who...

As a first step in my own thinking, I will read this document as soon as I can.

Giddens is coming to town

As expected, the local elections in Britain are not looking good, but there is a world outside Verona: Lord (!) Anthony Giddens is coming to Stockholm, thanks to the Arena Group.

This is a prefect opportunity to celebrate "Europe Day" and be left of center on the 9th of May. You can read more about the program etc by clicking on the poster (<---) or here.

Also, note that the Party of European Socialists is launching its "PES @ctivist" initiative the same day. This means that on the 9th of May you can officially become a PES-activist, even if some of us started a bit earlier...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Local elections in Britain

There are local elections all over Britain today, and the BBC has a useful election guide (here). Due to scandals in the cabinet (Prescott’s love affairs, Clarke’s deportee row), mid-term fatigue, and disagreements over school reform the election will be tough for Tony Blair. Labour's three main election messages are:
  • Lower council tax under Labour councils
  • Fighting anti-social behaviour
  • Good education for all, not just a privileged few
According to one figure I heard, the new Tory leader David Cameron should pick up one in every 20 seats in order to have done a reasonably good election. (There are some 4 500 seats at stake). We won’t get the results until tomorrow Friday, but it is not looking good for Labour. One text message I got from a friend in the UK simply said: “Hi Eric. We’re f**ked, particularly in London”.

Anyway, Labour has lost local elections before, but I have a couple of wishes:
1. Hopefully Labour won’t lose too much ground; losing the instruments of reform on the local level is never good.
2. Hopefully the British National Party won’t make any gains.
3. Hopefully the Chameleon won’t beat expectations.
4. Hopefully this will start a fruitful debate about Labour’s third term and the long-term objectives of the party.
5. Hopefully at least a couple of the wishes above will come true...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A fellow social democrat wrote it all down

I went to see a "political movie" last Friday. The taxpayers association in Sweden has financed a film ("1 200 miljarder") in which a political consultant to the far right of center, Martin Borgs, makes fun of what Sweden spends the taxpayers' money on.

Where taxpayers' money ends up, and whether they are used efficiently, is an important question. But when I walked out of the movie theater my main feeling was not in line with the standing ovations the film received. I felt that the film made fun of Sweden and Swedes in a way that lacked basic understanding and empathy for the common good, for interests and ambitions and difficult situations outside Stockholm. Like the film "Masjävlar" but without irony or empathy.

I phoned a fellow social democrat (Janne Sparrman), who I saw in the crowd, and asked what he felt after the film. It turned out that we felt the same way, and Janne has now written a text about the film that you must read. You will find it here [in Swedish].

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Now on the web as well

Just wanted to let y'all know that the four-page newspaper I am also working with, "Dagens Stockholm", now is on the web as well. And the issue that will be distributed in Metro tomorrow Wednesday is already on the web now (Tuesday evening). You can, for example, read a column by my favorite MEP Åsa Westlund.
[Thanks for your help Daniel]

Monday, May 01, 2006

First of May is an important day!

I have had a very nice First of May, which of course is a special day for all social democrats. In the morning I went out to the demonstration/parade in Ekerö where I had the honor to be the main speaker. My speech had three sections:

1. Thanks to globalization, the world is getting better. Wars and bloody conflicts are down by 60 percent since the end of the Cold War. 60 percent of the world's population now lives in (more or less) democratic states. The world average life expectancy is now above 60 years. But the world is still full of injustices and poverty, and I took Africa, the Middle East and Iraq, and Russia as examples.

2. In the EU, political activism and cooperation between social democratic parties and trade unions have shown that the left can score victories in Brussels (I took the conflict in Vaxholm and the services directive as examples). Also, 13 out of the EU:s 25 governments now have governments including social democrats. And on the 9th of May, the PES is launching its PES-activist initiative. A more progressive Europe can and shall be built bottom-up.

3. The election on September 17th is about the Swedish model and the three pillars it is built upon: a sound, market economy; a progressive trade union movement that accepts a flexible labor market; and a generous welfare model. We social democrats want to develop those three pillars; they all fit good together (i.e. market economy works better with progressive trade unions and an active welfare state). The political rights wants to attack all three pillars (250 billion in tax cuts, a war on trade unionism, and lower welfare benefits).

I made a point of not mentioning any other party than the social democrats until the last five minutes of my speech. It is our day I wanted to talk about the state of the world and our ideas!

I hope the speech was interesting, and I say thanks to all of you who came just in order to listen to it (mum, sister, girlfriend, Gunilla, Bitte, Lennart, Tord, and Gudrun).

After that I went to the main demonstration in Stockholm where I listened to speeches held by our "mayor" of Stockholm (Annika Billström), and our party leader and Prime Minister (Göran Persson). I think both their speeches were very good, and you can tell that Göran Persson is ready to fight in this election. I liked his speech, especially the section on sustainable development, even though he did not devote that much time to international issues.

Anyway, a fun and busy day, and I am off to a party now. Why not read Billy Bragg's version of The Internationale and feel proud to be to the left of center!