Thursday, August 31, 2006

Election watch: More important than party politics

The donors’ conference in Stockholm, currently heading BBC News, feels more important than party politics today. The goal is to raise $500m (£263m; 392m euros) to rebuild Lebanon, where damage is put at $3.6bn, affecting 15 000 homes, 80 bridges and 94 roads. Read more here, for example.

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Short note about all the polls: Temo gave us 34,4 percent on the 4th of September 2002, and we got 39,8 percent in the actual election a few weeks later. But we should start getting closer soon (we are currently at 34,7 in Temo).

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The conservative "alliance" has now agreed on a family policy that would not be good at all for gender equality (read more here and here). And Aftonbladet concludes that the Social Democratic policies for families with children are better from an economic point of view (examples here).

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A politician of the Conservative Party, Agneta Östman-Wenger, wrote an angry e-mail to her local newspaper, complaining about the pictures in the paper. Her problem? Too many kids had dark hair, and thus Östman-Wenger requested more pictures with blonde, “true Swedish” kids. A terribly racist, xenophobic point of view, of course. However, I guess that Östman-Wenger is happy with the Conservative candidates to the Riksdag. Among the ones who are likely to end up in the Riksdag, you don’t find a single candidate of foreign background…

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Election watch: Good news and bad news

Good news and bad news this morning: A new poll from Temo shows that we are still somewhat behind: Soc Dems 34,7 (-1,7), Conservatives 26,9 (+0,7), ”Liberals” 11,0 (-0,4), Greens 5,9 (+0,7), Center/Farmers party 5,7 (+0,2), Christian Dems 6,3 (-0,4), Left Party 5,8 (+1,0), various small parties 3,7 (-0,1). Thus, the left block gets 46,4 and the right block 49,9.

More importantly, the National Institute of Economic Research is reporting this morning that “Sweden’s economic upswing is continuing.” And listen to this: “GNP is growing rapidly, and employment will increase by 162 000 persons from 2005 to 2008. For growth to remain high, a larger labour supply will be needed.”

Moreover: “Employment has increased in all sectors and the manufacturing industry has seen a rise in employment for the first time in nearly six years. […] All sectors are relatively optimistic with regard to the next few months.”

Do you want respond to that report by a) cutting Swedish parental leave with four months, b) an attack on trade unionism, c) lower benefits for the sick, elderly and unemployed, and d) giant tax cuts? That’s what this election is about, the Swedish model, and I am glad we still have 18 days to talk to the voters about this.

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NPR has a fine little radio show about one of today’s “super groups”, Golden Smog, and their new album “Another fine day”. Golden Smog is made up of musicians from wonderful bands such as Wilco, the Jayhawks, and Soul Asylum.

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One year since Katrina. Got an e-mail from the Democratic Party, remembering me that almost half of all children in New Orleans lived in poverty. Before Hurricane Katrina.

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And soon it has been five years since 9/11. Oliver Stone has (of course) made a film; “World Trade Center”. The New Republic has an article by Stanley Kauffmann here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Election Watch: Kind of impressed, actually

Tonight the leader of Sweden’s Left Party, Lars Ohly, was questioned on public television (SVT). I was kind of impressed, actually. Ohly was calm and clear, even though he was totally off the mark when the job growth in Sweden was discussed. And I don't agree with him on a lot of the foreign policy stuff. For example, a UN mandate should not be a must in order to stop an on-going genocide.

I also think that the show worked better than last time. Knutson was tough when Ohly’s 200 000 new jobs in the public sector was discussed, but where were the questions about the EU?! In all: it happens every now and then, more often during election campaigns I guess; tonight I agree with Esbati.

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Also discussed Danielsson and Reepalu on Studio 24 earlier tonight.

Election watch, Bruce, Gore and more

You will find my latest editorial about the ongoing election campaign here, and a review of Al Gore’s important film "An Inconvenient Truth" here [both in Swedish]. And don’t miss the latest newsletter from AiP (here).

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A new biography about Bruce Springsteen, also focusing on the E Street band, is being printed as you read this. The author is Robert Santelli, more here.

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After reading this everyone will understand that John "François" Kerry will have an uphill battle if he runs in 2008.

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The four parties to the right of center are now quarreling about a) the real estate tax (still!) and b) how many of the companies still owned (in part) by the Swedish people (i.e. the state) that they want to sell. Please keep on quarreling.

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On Election Day, we will also have referendum on congestion charges in Stockholm. The yes side is ahead 51-40 in a new poll. People are smart and a good proposal like this should win.

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Morning news (SVT) reported that birth rates are up in Sweden, especially in bigger cities. That’s because we have a generous welfare state and stellar parental leave, which allows women to combine working life and having kids. The Conservative party wants to cut parental leave with four (four!!!) months. Don’t vote for them.

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When I rode my bike to work this morning, the air was definitely colder than usual and in Tegnerlunden the grass was being cut, probably for the last time this summer. Autumn, and thus September 17th, is soon here.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Election watch: No problems for Persson

Tonight it was Göran Persson’s turn to be questioned for one hour on public service television (SVT1, more here). I don’t think the format of this program works too good, but Göran Persson was very calm and serious so I hope that folks who watched the show in order to make their minds up got the answers they were hoping for. (Needless to say, I already know how I am going to vote…)

I think that Göran Persson did very well, and it was clearly the experienced statesman we saw, rather than just another smiling politician. He listened well and really tried to answer the questions he got from the audience, and he was very clear from an ideological point of view when discussing real estate tax and the shameless, prevailing existence of poor children in our country.

Sadly enough, the best thing was not the good answers Göran Persson gave, but the fact that he did not mess anything up (like Reinfeldt did on radio). And I wonder how Expressen’s “panel of ordinary voters” will review the debate (read more about why the panel is questionable at

Short election break in Copenhagen

Took a short break from the Swedish election campaign this weekend and went to Copenhagen for a fantastic bachelor’s party. We spent the evening and night at what must be one of Scandinavia’s best nightclubs, and Copenhagen is always wonderful. But one thing bothers me: why is it so difficult to get a taxi at night? Demand was enormous in central Copenhagen, but where was the supply of taxicabs? However, we had a lot of fun and I am glad that Åsa and Claes are getting married the weekend after our national election.

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Read a lot of newspapers on the train back to Stockholm, and today PM Nilsson shows why he is one of Sweden’s best political editors, even if I think that he is understating the differences between left and right in Sweden [article here].

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Since I am a Liverpool E-season ticket holder I could watch Daniel Agger’s splendid goal against West Ham right when I came home to my apartment. I am confident he will be one of Liverpool’s most important players during many years to come.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Election watch: A little bit like Watergate

An interesting morning: Expressen reveals that a candidate to the Riksdag from the Christian Democratic party, who also works close to their party leader Göran Hägglund, has tried to get employed by Social Democratic Youth. In order to spy and get secret information, of course. At the same time it is revealed that a member of Conservative Students infiltrated the Social Democratic campaign in 2002. Bad bad news for everyone, especially for all of us who like hard but fair campaigns, and who wants people to come and vote in large numbers.

Moreover, the former leader of the Christian Democrats (Alf Svensson) and the best MP of the Liberal Party (Birgitta Ohlsson) are attacking Fredrik Reinfeldt’s attempts to slaughter Swedish foreign aid to the world’s poorest. Not a day too early. Read the whole op-ed here.

Personally, I am looking forward to a Social Democratic press conference this morning at 10.00 about our policies regarding modern industries, research and development, new jobs, competitiveness in the world market, etc etc. A new report will be presented and I hope and think it will kick-ass (i.e. show that there are more modern ways to create new jobs than to lower a tax here and a tax there).

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It is not very surprising that Andres Lokko, one of Sweden’s best columnists, devotes his entire column to his dislike of the Notting Hill Carnival in London (not online yet, look out for it here). Apparently, the carnival will pass outside his house, and I am not jealous. I was in London for the carnival in 1998, and it was indeed loud and messy. But also fun; the only time in my life [so far…?] the night included a party hosted by Stella McCartney.

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This also surprised me. Is it really true, Bruce?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Election watch: Here we go!

New poll today (Ruab) shows that this will for sure be a close race: the Social Democrats gets 40,4 percent (+3,2), the Left Party 4,6 (-0,9), and the Greens 4,6 (-1,7). This gives the left block 49,6 percent.

The Conservatives gets 29,1 percent (-1,3), the “Liberals” 8,7 (+0,3), the Center/Farmers Party 5,1 (+0,1), and the Christian Democrats 5,0 (+0,3). This gives the right block 47,9 percent.

Conclusion: All these opinion polls are not too trustworthy, one third of the voters in this poll are still undecided, so just get our there and meet the voters!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Election Watch: Thanks, dear ”alliance”

The four right-wing parties in Swedish politics, also known as the “alliance”, presented their election manifesto today. The press conference was hilarious, especially the Q&A: the leader of the opposition (Reinfeldt) was grumpy, unshaved, wore a strange (checkered) tie, and looked uncomfortable at times. During the Q&A he did not face the journalists in front of him, instead he leaned away in different directions. Why? I don’t know. But I loved it when they got detailed questions about the manifesto, then they just looked at each other until someone pulled out the tables with their proposals.

Except for all them looking funny, this was a good day for the Social Democratic campaign because of the following reasons.

1. Ideology. Now we know that they, in spite of Sweden’s strong economic growth, are promising the voters to cut social security benefits for the sick, the unemployed, the old-age pensioners and people on a disability pension. Here is a huge ideological difference: we don’t want to worsen the conditions for those already in need. And unlike them, we don’t think that lower benefits will create new jobs.

2. The Swedish model. Sure, they are more united than we are used to. But hey, they have lost all elections but three since 1932 so they had to do something. They also pretend to be in favor of the Swedish model, but now we can prove that they are not. They are proposing quite a few reforms that totally will change the Swedish model (lower welfare benefits, weaker trade unions, change the unemployment benefit society, and put a press downwards on wages). Voters won’t like this, and a fight for the Swedish model is always a good fight to take. Especially when you have the trade unions on your side.

3. Economics and ability to govern. Our manifesto is very solid from an economic point of view (read what I think here). And now – all of a sudden – we are the party who are proposing the best deal for house owners. (The conservative "alliance" really messed this one up, but in short: if you don’t want your real estate tax to increase, vote for us). Moreover, a lot of their tax cuts are still unfinanced, which makes them look as irresponsible as ever. And: if you compare the deal for an entrepreneur who wants to hire an unemployed young person, our proposal is better (with our tax proposal, the employer gets a subsidy of 350 kronor per day, their proposal gives 65 kronor per day).

And still: the Conservative party wants to cut parental leave with four months, they want to cut foreign aid to the poorest people in the world, they don’t have any candidates of foreign background in electable positions to the Riksdag, they don’t have an equal representation of women, and their party leader has been flip-flopping for two weeks and recently said that Norway is a member of the EU. He also campaigned for Bush in 2000.

I am fired up, and remember that this is our campaign to win. And more important than the points above is our own campaign. Here is my general advice to the Social Democratic party [in Swedish].

Election watch: Reviewing Swedish Cons

The Social Democrats in Stockholm launch a new site today: “Conservatives against” [moderaterna mot]. The idea is really good; you select among different political topics, then you select a time period and then you can see what reforms the Swedish Conservative party has voted against. You can also read a historical timeline (Gosh! They have been against a lot of stuff, like the abolishment of the death penalty).

Fortunately, focus is on their blocking of progressive reforms the last four years, and all examples seem to come with a reference to a source. A site like this should not only deal with the distant past, but with the immediate past and present. This seems to be the case, and you can also search for reforms the Swedish Conservatives voted against only last month. This site can be a lot of fun, and you can also contribute yourself with less known examples.

I also notice that the Social Democrats in Sigtuna have launched a site where they are looking for the “New Conservatives” we have all heard so much about.

Finally, AiP (the newspaper where I work) now has a newsletter (read it right away). Signing up at is highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Election watch: Record employment numbers

Statistics Sweden: Employment grew by some 70 000 new jobs only in the private sector during the second quarter of 2006. The number of people employed in Sweden right now is the highest this century! Read more on the AiP-blog that is now up-dated daily [in Swedish].

Election watch: Jobs? Yes! Emancipate!!!

I spent last night re-watching the documentary about Clinton’s campaign in 1992, “The War Room”, with a very good friend. Just in order to get fired up and then think about what is going on in the Swedish election campaign right now. It worked. This is what I feel.

Everyone to the right of center, as expected, criticized the Social Democratic Party’s election manifesto heavily. It was criticized to an extent where it almost became ridiculous. Swedish media reflected this criticism, and it is easy to transform what you hear into your own opinion. We end up in a situation in which most people -- even Social Democrats -- agree that the election manifesto totally lacks ideas about the creation of new jobs.

Are you also about to swallow this bait, provided to you by a shoal of big, rich right-wing fish? Before you swallow, and conclude that there are no jobs in the manifesto, read this checklist.

1. Read the manifesto yourself! Maybe you should start there. At least: read an analysis about last week that is tilted leftwards as well (you have mine here and here).

2. At least, read this summary! If you don’t have time to read it, here are some of the job-creating proposals you will find in the manifesto: One percent of GDP to research and development (that’s a world record, folks); more resources to research in small companies, but also to research in relation major industries; a new type of loans and more venture capital to entrepreneurs who are about to start up; a new commitment with the tourist industry; new initiatives to increase exports by local firms around Sweden; promote foreign direct investments in our country; increase the number of students in colleges and universities; increase the number of students in vocational training; invest heavily in all different forms of techniques that will give us green jobs and sustainable development. For example.

And then I haven’t even mentioned all the reforms in the public sector that we won’t start implementing now since the economy is steaming hot and we don’t want to cause inflation. But these reforms will give public sector jobs and come in handy when the economy most probably will slow down in a couple of years. Good thinking, huh?!

3. It's an ideological difference, stupid! Don’t forget that most people are complaining because the manifesto does not contain the only solution they love and believe in: tax cuts. But hey, here is an ideological difference. We don’t believe that lower taxes and worse conditions for the sick, elderly, unemployed and those on parental leave create new jobs. Don’t forget that.

4. And what about their tax cuts? The right-wing alliance proposes more than one hundred billion Swedish kronor in tax cuts, and they have only financed roughly half of that. This would leave Sweden’s state budget in disarray, and then Sweden will have to loan money. Inevitably, interest rates will go up. And then… most people will lose, especially young people in new houses.

5. And what about their "job-creating ideas"? The right-wing alliance wants less generous safety nets, weaker trade unions, and lower compensations when you are unemployed. They also propose a lot of subsidies in order to create low-paying jobs in the service sector. This will put a pressure downwards on wages, which will not only hurt people with small margins in life, but also companies who have Swedes (employed, unemployed, or in-between) as customers. And then… almost all people lose.

Just because we progressives don’t believe lower taxes is the only way to create new jobs, does not mean there are no new jobs in our manifesto. There is an ideological difference here, and the shoal of big, rich right-wing fish is not on our side.

Solution: Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. Do some thinking on your own. None but ourselves can free our minds.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bill, Connecticut, movies and polls

Talking about birthday boy Bill: FT Weekend, this fantastic newspaper I love to buy when I travel to Mom's house on Sundays, had a very good and long article about Bill Clinton and his work against HIV/Aids. Read it here [registration required].

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The New Republic has an insightful article about the race in Connecticut, focusing on Lieberman’s chances as an independent (read it here).

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I have seen three very good films recently:

The Squid and the Whale is yet another fantastic film about a dysfunctional American family (in the tradition of Happiness, The Ice Storm, and American Beauty).

Match Point proves a) Woody Allen is still an amazing director; b) All his stories must not take place in New York; c) He must not act in his own films anymore.

An Inconvenient Truth is a must for any progressive. I will write a review for the next issue of AiP; I will share it with y'all as soon as I can.

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Election Watch: New poll today, we are climbing up to 35 percent but the left block is still around five percentage points behind the right-wing alliance. We are still gaining speed so I am not worried. Yet.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Liverpool drew, Happy Birthday Bill instead!

The Premiership started today and guess what: Liverpool played away in ugly jerseys and drew in a game we should have won. That’s the way we have started the two previous seasons with coach Rafa and 1-1 against Sheffield Utd makes it three lousy starts in a row.

I don’t think Jan Kromkamp and Boudewijn Zenden are good enough to play in the starting eleven for Liverpool and Xabi Alonso was badly missed today. But there are some good signs: Mohamed Sissoko was great and I am looking forward to seeing more of players like Mark González, Fabio Aurelio, and Jermaine Pennant.

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On a happier note, Bill Clinton turns 60 today. Send the ol'man a birthday greeting here, and read a recent Op-Ed here.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Election watch: Il Manifesto is here

You can read my editorial about the last days in Swedish politics here, and a longer analysis here [both in Swedish].

My main argument in the editorial is that opposition leader Reinfeldt really has had a terrible week, and if a leading Social Democratic politician committed all those mistakes in a few days, (s)he would be nailed and fried by Swedish media.

I also argue that since the election manifesto was clear from an ideological standpoint, and not too abundant, Reinfeldt gets more problems since: a) the difference between the political alternatives becomes clearer and b) the opposition’s program is over-reaching and short-sighted (Reinfeldt promises both reforms and tax cuts, and the right-wing opposition only have agreements for the first year).

In the analysis I argue that the manifesto fits well into the broader Social Democratic ideology and political message in this campaign (basically: we have a red ideology about equality, a green vision for the future, a contract for the labor market through the trade unions, a global responsibility for developing countries, and a history of being prudent with the nation’s finances).

Since Reinfeldt had a bad week, the Social Democratic party now has a window of opportunity to get its message across to the voters. The question now is how many voters who will come through that window.

Election watch: Lousy poll, but election manifesto

Busy day today, the Social Democratic party's Party Board will decide on and present the election manifesto so I will be writing about that for the newspaper. More on that later.

The day started with quite a lousy poll, the Social Democratic Party gets 34,8 (-2,0), the Conservative party 28,6. The left block gets 45,2 and the right block 50,1. I don’t mind too much though since I think this will galvanize the work we need to do all around Sweden. That’s no work for a lazy cat expecting victory to come anyway.

(And if you think my analysis of the poll is too optimistic and somewhat naïve; bear with me, I will be an optimist till the day I die. I hope.)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Election watch: With God on our side…

Thanks to one of Sweden’s best blogs, Mats Engström’s blog about European issues, I just read a quote that sent me to heaven:
”In Sweden, they have a system of higher taxes but welfare for everyone. They call it the Swedish model. Well, I could go for a Swedish model right about now.”
The man who said these words on XM Satellite Radio is… Mr. Bob Dylan. During the radio show he is now hosting, Dylan has been playing American music from the 20th century on the theme “rich and poor”. Artists like Woody Guthrie, Louis Armstrong and Little Richard have been telling their stories of social injustices in the US.

According to Mats Engström, Dylan seems to be finding his way back to the political days of the 1960s , even if his voice is more scratchy and his tone more relaxed. And Dylan found… the Swedish model. Can we lose this campaign with God on our side?

And in the Middle East…

I got a question from my friend Esra, asking what I think about the current situation in the Middle East and Lebanon. I have not been blogging about the Middle East in a while, so I will make three short and general contributions to this debate.

1. My main argument is that this conflict is not in need of any more extreme political positions or unnecessarily hard words. My gut instinct, for example when I traveled in Iraq, is to look for individuals/groups/political parties who strive for peace, democracy and who are or can become members of the Socialist International. If that individual is an Israeli or Arab does not matter, and that individual’s religion is equally unimportant. It’s the values, not the background or religion, stupid.

Therefore, I believe that the best I can do is to help the Swedish Social Democratic party to strengthen our friends in the region. I have done that by being part of starting a youth center in the city of Kirkuk in Iraq (it is about to open this Autumn). The next project I aim to help starting will translate books, texts, speeches etc about social democratic ideology and practical policies to a lot of different languages. (This is always requested when I travel and meet new political friends around the world, especially speeches by Olof Palme).

This, I hope, will help strengthening political parties like the Labour Party and Yachad Party in Israel, Fatah in Palestine, the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon, and in a lot of other places where our friends are asking us to help them with basic political work. In this way, I somewhat naively hope and think, the extremism shown both by Hezbollah and the Israeli army will lose – in the long run – to progressive and democratic movements.

2. I think that the recent Swedish initiative, to arrange an international conference on the 31th of August to help rebuilding Lebanon, is a great and perfect example of what a social democratic government in a rich Northern country ought to do.

3. And let’s not forget that we practically have a war in Sri Lanka, that The Horn of Africa is a very problematic part of the world right now (see this week’s issue of The Economist), and that the African Union still looks unable to solve the on-going human catastrophe in Darfur.

It’s a difficult world, Gramsci told us not to be indifferent, and I have chosen to try to do my part through an international political movement I believe in. That’s my answer, Esra!

Two pieces of good news

1. A “new” Bruce Springsteen album, basically “The Seeger Sessions” extended with three new songs, four new concert videos and some extra DVD-material (all cut live) will be released on October 3rd. I am sure the new material will be awesome, but this is also a cheesy way to re-sell the old album. I hope this was Columbia's idea.

2. Liverpool FC just bought Dutch Striker Dirk Kuyt, who scored 91 goals in 135 matches in the Dutch league. Welcome, Dirk, and keep on scoring!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Election watch: Same ol’right

The main problem for the Swedish Conservative Party is their image. They have always been the party for rich, conservative, white males.

As we all know, they are trying to get away from that image now. One thing they forgot, however, is the composition of candidates on the ballot. The Conservative Party still don’t have equal representation of women, and they have no representative with foreign background close to ending up in the Riksdag.

This morning it was revealed that two Conservative top-candidates in Gothenburg have “booked women who will dress lightly, serve drinks, and parade in fashionable underwear and swimming suits” for their election kick-off. Women as entertainment, that is. Both candidates are white males, of course.

The Conservative party leadership in Stockholm is grunting as the same ol’right pops out. This was not according to the plan, they must think. We must pretend to strive for gender equality now, the leadership in Stockholm tells one and all.

To make use of the subordination of women in society to please rich, white, male conservatives during an election kick-off is, unfortunately and surprisingly, still possible in an election campaign in Sweden.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Election Watch: I see a good moon rising

Two things happened today that might be very useful for the Social Democratic campaign.

1. Last Saturday Conservative leader Fredrik Reinfeldt wrote a letter to the three other leaders of the right-wing alliance, suggesting that there is a lot of room for reform during the up-coming four years. Reinfeldt used the figure 100 billion Swedish kronor, and tried to lean against the National Institute of Economic Research.

The National Institute of Economic Research replied today and said that they have never indicated that Sweden’s public finances are ready for that much spending during the next term (2006-2010). To put it simply: Reinfeldt was wrong. False mathematics.

I think and hope that this might be the beginning of a serious debate about whether the right-wing opposition is trustworthy at all. They have promised a lot of new and expensive reforms, and at the same time they promise huge tax cuts. People will realize that this does not make sense: their proposals combined would be a disaster for the Swedish economy.

A Swedish family would never increase their spending every week if the family income was shrinking at the same time. Since Reinfeldt is promising this on a national level, voters will call his bluff.

2. Reinfeldt started the morning today (Tuesday) on public radio, saying that in order to finance the right-wing alliance’s promise to abolish real estate tax, he is considering abolishing the tax deduction you get for your cost of interest. This tax deduction is very important to young people (for example), who just bought a (probably expensive) house.

After the interview Reinfeldt understood what he had said, and I don’t really understand what his position is now, but it seems like he has changed his mind (that is, still abolishing real estate tax, and keeping the tax deductions). Moreover, Reinfeldt is the only Swedish politician getting away when behaving like this. The media would nail any Social Democrat changing his/her mind two times the same day.

This reinforces point one: Reinfeldt promises both reforms and tax cuts, but cannot make ends meet. And he is a true flip-flopper, changing his mind if he happens to say something that did not prove to be popular (like how he aims to pay for his populist economic ideas).

Time to call the bluff.

Monday, August 14, 2006

It’s always great to beat Chelsea

Yesterday’s game between last season’s winners of the Premiership and the FA Cup ended with more silver in the trophy room at Anfield Road. Liverpool beat “Chelski” 2-1 and thus became the Community Shield Champions 2006.

A game like this is nice to watch since you can see how your team’s new players are doing. So far, I really really like Daniel Agger (central defender) and Mark González (midfield, left-wing). Craig Bellamy (forward) has been very good in the two games I have seen him, and hopefully Liverpool has found a player who will convert easy chances into goals, and serve Peter Crouch chances he just cannot miss (like yesterday).

I have to see players like Fabio Aurelio, Gabriel Paletta and Jermaine Pennant play more games before I can make up my mind about them. The good thing is that Liverpool finally seems to have two good players at each position on the pitch. As for now, this is the starting eleven I would prefer:

Finnan – Carragher – Agger – Riise

Gerrard – Alonso – Sissoko – González

Bellamy - Crouch

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I spent Friday evening celebrating the birthday of Emil Högberg, a good friend, skilled politician and fellow blogger. At the party I ended up in discussion about a fantastic blog post that Emil once wrote about the Moroccan long-distance runner Hicham El-Guerrouj. If you haven’t read it, do it now. This is why blogs are great; you learn a lot when your friends share their thoughts.

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And talking about long-distance running: Alan Sillitoe’s “The loneliness of the long-distance runner" is British working-class literature at its best.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Election watch: Thanks, Reinfeldt!

Quite a few people have asked me if I will have the time to blog in English about the Swedish election campaign. I will do my best, and for those of you who understand Swedish I really recommend, the website of the newspaper where I am editor in chief. We have a new editor of, Nina Blomberg, so the website will now be updated daily (again). For the rest of you, stay tuned. I will try to blog about the election campaign in English at least a couple of times a week.

Today, Saturday, the opposition leader Fredrik Reinfeldt gave his annual summer speech in Vaxholm. I was hoping to travel there on a boat with the other Swedish journalists, but according to the Conservative party’s press people, the boat “was full”. This also happened when I was covering the right wing alliance campaigning in southern Sweden. Then the bus for the journalists was at best half full, according to other journalists and the press secretary of Folkpartiet. But according to the press boss of the Conservative party, the bus “was overloaded with people”. Anyway, I was happy to travel by public transport that time, and I did not bother taking the bus to Vaxholm instead. These things only reinforce my belief that all people should be treated the same way, like we to the left of center often say.

Anyway, my analysis of Reinfeldt’s speech today is threefold.

1. Reinfeldt said that everything the Social Democrats will do in order to improve welfare (especially schools and hospitals were mentioned), the Conservatives will do as well. This is indeed very interesting, and a way for them to try to face the voters as less extreme. But I don’t think the voters will be excited about a party that promises to do nothing on their own, but exactly what the ruling party is promising. In that case, why not vote for the real thing?

2. Reinfeldt also promised more tax cuts and to spend more money on different reforms for the elderly, pupils with special demands, and to make it cheaper for companies to hire young people. This might sound as interesting proposals, but if you add things up, who will pay for it? Voters will understand that: a) all the big tax cuts, combined with the reforms, would again create a big, black hole in Sweden’s public finances; b) the conservatives will have to save money somewhere in order not to create that big, black hole right away. And it is old-age pensioners, early retirees, the sick and unemployed, who will finance the policies and tax cuts. Why on earth does Reinfeldt want to save money on those in need, in order to afford big tax cuts?

3. Reinfeldt did not, as usual, refer to a vision or an ideology or a set of common values when he delivered his speech. He was bad-mouthing Sweden’s Prime Minister Göran Persson for ages, he tried to speak about foreign policy but only sounded ill informed and unnecessarily pro-Israeli, and then he delivered his policy proposals. What kind of values is driving his dream about what Sweden and the world should be like in 2020? Two more tax cuts and a bad joke about Göran Persson?

I know, I am very biased, but I was not impressed today. But I am extremely happy that Reinfeldt talked about tax-cuts again (welcome back, you old tax cutting conservatives) and that he still clearly does not have a vision. Thanks, Reinfeldt!

(An analysis of the speech in Swedish by Nina Blomberg will soon be published at

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Music from Down Under

Bernard Fanning, lead singer of the Australian band Powderfinger, is now releasing an album of his own: Tea & Sympathy. I listened to the song “Wish you well” and liked it. Fanning says he is a fan of the album Led Zeppelin II and the 1970s, something you will understand if you visit his website or watch this video.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Could not resist a West Wing test...

The idealistic speechwriter is well-liked by just about everyone. He's known for his excellent writing, sense of humor, and tendency to be clutzy. Although being younger than the rest of the staff, he's often treated as so, much to his dismay.

Just found a fun test thanks to Hoverbike, and could not resist doing it. Some of the questions were somewhat leading, but I had no idea how it would end. Didn't mind, though...

Liberman did lose. And what now?

Joe Lieberman did lose the Democratic Party’s primary in Connecticut (a state where I spent parts of Thanksgiving in 2003). He has already declared that he will run as an independent in the election in November, but since I am a hardliner when it comes to internal democracy in a political party, I generally agree with what the Daily Kos is saying.

Turnout was high, Lieberman lost, and Lamont is now the official candidate of the Democratic Party in Connecticut . Thanks to a lot of bloggers, like the Daily Kos, for example.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Matt Santos for President!

Just spent too much money on Amazon’s UK-site, but for all you European political nerds out there: it is now possible to pre-order season seven of the West Wing. And to all my friends in the US: don't laugh, but season six is just concluding here.

I think season six was the best one in a while and I am looking forward to following Matt Santos bid for the Presidency. Since I couldn't bear myself not to read an article about the last episode of the West Wing in the Washington Post earlier this year, I kind of know how it ends.

But that does not bother me, and don't read this if you don't want to know if Santos will win. I repeat, don't read this if you don't want to know if Santos will win, but do you expect Hollywood to hand over the Presidency to a Republican?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lieberman will lose, they say

Just been talking about Joe Lieberman and the election autumn in the United States with Dick Erixon for the TV-show Studio 24 (watch it here). (If you are not familiar with Lieberman’s race against Lamont, read this article for example).

I made three basic points during the show. First of all, if Lieberman loses it will of course strengthen the “left-anti-war-wing” of the Democratic Party. That will create political turmoil within the party and strengthen demands for bringing the troops back home. But in the long run we must not forget that the voters know that it was George W Bush who started the war in Iraq, and they are generally unhappy about that. The war hurts Bush and the Republican Party as well. This point did not seem to bother Dick Erixon.

Secondly, I think that the Democrats will strengthen their positions in the midterm elections in November. Gubernatorial elections can be a real success, and even if we (I say we on purpose) don’t win back the majority in the House of Representatives (the Senate seems like lost cause), we might get the following scenario: modest gains in 2006, continued opposition and opportunity to criticize Bush, and thus a golden opportunity to win majority in both Houses and the Presidency in 2008.

Thirdly, the Democratic Party needs two wings to fly, as Jesse Jackson famously said. Lieberman’s standpoints might be necessary within the party in order for a Democrat to win the Presidency, but the most important issue for Democrats across the US is to unite around a progressive platform that should be strong but still built on multilateralism. We need some of Lieberman’s positions (for example on free trade), but we also need to show that we are a distinct and very different alternative compared to the current administration.

In the long run, the current situation will force Americans to think twice about their role in the world, the link between war and terror, and oil and climate change. This will benefit the Democratic Party and progressives worldwide. Then the bird can fly again. And maybe the leader of the bird will be called Al Gore.

Working weekend (Pride and Björkvik)

Spent Friday evening moderating another three seminars at the Pride-festival, the topics were the work with hbt-issues in the Swedish parliament, the relation between ethnicity and sexuality, and children and adoptions in hbt-relations.

On Saturday I walked in the fantastic Pride-parade through Stockholm, above you can see fellow blogger (and MP) Maryam handing out roses.

[Read a personal column about the Pride-festival here and an article about it here].

* * *

Sunday meant Björkvik and Sweden’s Prime Minister Göran Persson’s yearly speech there. It was the best speech I have heard Persson deliver at Björkvik, mostly because of the clear international perspective (the turmoil in the Middle East), the long-term perspective and link to sustainable development (through our dependence on oil), and clear ideological focus when talking about reforms (we will keep the economy in order so that we can help those in most need). Not bad, and promising for the election campaign.

[Read more about my thoughts about Björkvik here, and thanks PEG, Anna, Nina and Torbjörn for help and company].

* * *

And how should I interpret this review of myself?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Americana and Pride

I remember when U2 was one of very few bands with a decent website. Today, websites with loads of information and opportunities to download music are much more common, fortunately even for rather small artists in the country-rock tradition also known as Americana.

Therefore I was glad to hear that both Golden Smog and Tim O’Reagan have new websites. And if you haven’t seen Ryan Adams in concert for a long while, check out if he is at least somewhat sober this weekend (at Lollapalooza) here.

* * *

I had a great time at the Stockholm Pride Festival yesterday, moderating three seminars (about Europride 2008 in Stockholm, hate-crimes against LesBiGays, and violence in LesBiGay-relations). Read more about what the Social Democrats are doing during the festival here, and for regular updates and gossip, don’t miss Åsa Petersen’s blog. And now it is time to head back to the Festival in order to moderate three more seminars…

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Who is Fredrik Reinfeldt (really)?

A friend just reminded me of a longer article I wrote about Sweden’s opposition leader, Fredrik Reinfeldt. It was published in Frihet, the magazine of Social Democratic Youth, and can be found here [in Swedish].

I did a lot of research for the article, and read three books about Fredrik Reinfeldt (and more articles than I can remember). I also spoke to quite a few people and my main impression is that Reinfeldt and his “new” party is a machine with power as the overriding goal. Political convictions and ideas seem to be less important, and can be changed when necessary. And behind the polished-election-machine-surface you will find the same old ideas of the political right, even though they try to soften the hard edges in election years.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Pride around the corner

This week Stockholm’s own Pride-festival starts, and that is always a lot of fun. The festival is highlighted in the newspaper I am now editor in chief for, and a lot of our articles this week have LesBiGay-themes. The wonderful picture (←) is the one we use on the cover, and you can read my editorial here [in Swedish].

(In short, my editorial starts by referring to the book “What is the matter with Kansas” by Thomas Frank, and my point is to show how the Republican Party use moral issues to gain votes among the white working class. Then I point out that political debates with moral underpinnings are spreading to Europe; the recent discussion about stem cell research among the EU:s Ministers of Education and Research is one example.

Then I discuss if these issues and the Republican political strategy will end up in Swedish politics, and I point out that the leader of the Swedish Christian Democratic party recently compared homosexual couples to incestuous relations within a family.

I conclude by arguing that when the right confronts the left with moral argument we should be inspired by Spain’s Zapatero: we should not back down, we should stand up for our values and proudly say that everyone should be treated the same way, whoever you happen to fall in love with.)

I will moderate six short seminars in the Pride Park in Tantolunden on Thursday and Friday, and I am sure it will be both fun and interesting. You can read more about social democratic activities during the week here, and information about the whole program and the parade on Saturday can be found here.

Be proud and have fun, y'all.