Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Ryan Adams record, again...

Just learnt that Ryan Adams is about to release a new album, again. The album will be called ”Easy Tiger”, more here.

In the meantime, one can always listen to some of the songs Ryan Adams has played on The Late Show with David Letterman: ”Come pick me up”, ”Let it ride”, ”So alive”, and (of course) ”New York, New York”.

But my favorite song with Ryan Adams is this one.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Italian politics: Another ”decent onto the field”?

And speaking of Italian politics, did we just watch another ”decent onto the field”, just like when Berlusconi entered politics in 1994? From a newsletter The Economist just sent me:

And so, to the front of the grid of challengers roared Mr Montezemolo. In his last big speech as president of Confindustria, the Italian employers' association, the elegant and telegenic Mr Montezemolo appeared to call on Italians to ditch Mr Prodi's shaky old two-wheeler [Prodi likes to ride a bike] and hitch their fortunes to a Formula One thoroughbred [Montezemolo turned Ferrari around].

In what Corriere della Sera on May 25th called a “transparent manifesto”, he outlined a vision of what Italy could be by 2015 if it accepted the liberal reforms he proposed: a meritocracy with a flexible labour market and a sustainable welfare system; a country run by a more efficient, but smaller, government; a nation in which everyone paid taxes, but at a lower rate than now.

He doesn’t have the TV-channels, but as we all know, anything can happen in Italian politics... You will hear of Montezemolo again.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

…and the elections in Italy

Just a short note on the regional and local elections in Italy as well. Obviosuly, Prodi’s coalition did not do too well, but when Berlusconi calls for his resignation we can only laugh. Who lost regional and local elections all the time when he was PM? Berlusconi of course. Here is a summary of the election from FT.
In provincial and local elections on Sunday and Monday Mr Prodi and his allies limited their losses to parts of northern Italy where the opposition had already shown its strength in the 2006 national election.

His centre-left forces won the central city of L'Aquila as well as the Sicilian city of Agrigento from the centre-right, and they also held on to Genoa - perhaps the biggest prize up for grabs.

The centre-right won Verona from the centre-left, and also took the southern city of Reggio Calabria.

Silvio Berlusconi, the opposition leader who was premier from 2001 to 2006, said his forces had done well enough to justify Mr Prodi's resignation as premier.

But Massimo D'Alema, foreign minister, said: ”Berlusconi lost all the local elections he faced when he was in power, and he never resigned, so he's the last person who can talk.”
* * *

As a matter of fact, the current development in the Italian center-left might be even more interesting. To cut a very long extremely short (article in AiP here): Since 1996, Democratici di Sinistra (DS, the reformed Communist party, now a great social democratic party) and Margherita (”Prodi’s party”, a coalition of parties with roots in the old, radical catholic movement) have been cooperating in coalition called Ulivo [photo from Ulivo election rally in Rome 2006 above]. This coalition is supposed to turn into a new party; Partito Democratico (PD), at a congress in October 2007.

However, at a congress in Florence in April, only 75 percent of the members of DS supported the idea of the new party (put forward by the secretary general of DS, Piero Fassino). 15 percent supported Fabio Mussi, who rejects the idea new party. Another 10 percent wants to “wait-and-see”.

One very difficult question for the new party is what party group to join in the European Parliament; DS belongs to the Party of European Socialists, and Margherita to the liberal group ALDE.

In April, Margherita had a congress as well (in Rome) and they approved the new party without problems. However, another party that should think about joining the coalition is SDI – a small Italian socialist party that belongs to the Socialist International, just like DS.

But when SDI
met in Fiuggi last month, they rejected to join the new party PD. After speaking to my friend Fidel Romano in SDI, I understand that they reject the new party mainly because of the rather close ties between Margherita and the Catholic church (think of question such as gay marriage, abortion, insemination, etc).

So, one idea within the SDI is to revive/refound the old Italian Socialist Party, PSI. PSI could then become the home for disappointed members of DS, SDI and their hang arounds, and maybe some other radical groups.

My friend Fidel joked and said that the Italian left is heading towards three blocks: The new party PD, the re-born PSI, and the communists.

Maybe that joke contains a giant grain of truth.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Irish and Spanish Elections 2007

Ireland: Read Graham’s comments below and the Labour website. The latest from Irish Times [i.e. social democracy is not winning in Ireland yet]:
”A third coalition in a row between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, supported by a group of Independents, has emerged as the favoured option of the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.”
Analysis à la The Economist here. Seems like Bertie managed to do what Göran Persson should have done [i.e. ”I am not tired and think of your wallet when you vote”].

A very mixed result, here is a summary from the ”Spanish news site in English”, Typically Spanish. Does anyone know of a progressive (i.e. social democrat) Spanish blogger who writes in English?

* * *

Today was a grey and cold day in Stockholm, and it is Monday as well. After a cold bike ride to work, I found this YouTube clip: Jesse Malin and Bruce Springsteen singing ”Broken Radio”. Warmed me up a bit.

* * *

And this modern age is weird. As I post this my friend Henrik calls me – from a Jesse Malin concert – in Belgium! I think he got me a signed CD.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Irish election 2007

The election in Ireland was completed yesterday and they started counting the votes this morning. The first exit poll was not good for Labour and the alliance FG/Labour/Greens (see below). and are good sites if you want to follow the developments.

EXIT POLL: Margin of error 2.5%

Fianna Fail on 41.6% almost = to 2002

Fine Gael up 4% to 26.3%

Labour 9.9% down 1%

PDs down to 2.6%

Greens at 4.8% up 1%

Sinn Fein 7.3% up1%

Indp 7.5%

So, looks like defeat right now: FF/PD 44% -v- FG/Lab/Green 41%

[Thanks for the photo Rhonda]

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

I fell in love with football…

If y’all wonder, it feels totally shit to lose a final in the Champions League to a team run by a man who has shown some worrying semi-fascist tendencies (yes, I am totally willing to describe Silvio Berlusconi that way, and I don’t use the F-word since I know George Orwell told us to use that word with caution). Needless to say, I think we were the better team tonight, AC Milan was lucky, and it is incredible how much Italian teams can fall to the ground and whine. But we lost since they scored two goals and we one, and overall AC Milan played well and we lost to a very good team. Congrats, AC Milan (a club I also respect in many ways, if you take Berlusconi out). All you can do is to cling on to the legendary quote by Nick Hornby:

“I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with women: suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically, giving no thought to the pain or disruption it would bring with it.”

Anyway, in a somewhat pathetic way I share this pain with a lot of other Liverpool-fans and tonight we all think of the same song. And in the middle of this misery, it is good to laugh. Apparently the image below was briefly shown on the official Liverpool FC-website during the game [thanks Pasquale]. Oh, well, there is always a next season.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Reinfeldt goes to Washington, where the GOP ends up as Godfather IV

As all Swedes know -- guess that no one else noticed -- Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt has visited his fellow IDU-party brother George W. Bush. Here is my take on it (editorial in Aktuellt i Politiken).

My basic argument in the editorial is that these guys are essentially brothers in arms; they belong to the same international of right-wing political parties. Therefore, it might not have been surprising that Reinfeldt did not comment on Iraq, Guantanámo, the Iraqi refugees coming to Sweden. However, that shows a basic shift in Swedish foreign policy, and if Reinfeldt tries to hide behind the environment when implementing this shift, he needs to do a lot better. Besides, Swedish media was in general awfully nice when reporting about this event (blinded by the light and power?). And I cannot help thinking that it could have been Al Gore and Mona Sahlin sitting there...

* * *

And over in Washington DC, the GOP is in a lot of trouble on various fronts. You have hopefully heard of the “Gonzo hearings” (Post coverage here). When you know what it is about, watch this hilarious YouTube-video, have a great laugh, and then look forward to episode V of this Godfather saga (about Paul Wolfowitz).

[Thanks for the link Mike]

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

So, who do you want to see on the Democratic ticket?

During my vacation in the US, I asked the question above to almost all my close friends. Even if this was a highly informal poll, quite a few said something along the lines: “I am tired of all of them, but I hope Gore will run”.

Most people I talked to thinks that Hillary will win the Democratic nomination, easily so if Al Gore doesn’t run (polls here). But it was clear that there is a vague feeling of discomfort when her name is brought up among Democrats; a lot of people just don’t like her (maybe due to years of right-wing smear in the media, or due to something else that most people cannot really explain). Or as one friend put it: “I just think this country needs change, and not another Clinton or Bush”.

Barack Obama and John Edwards are both quite popular, but regarded as too inexperienced -- especially in a time when America is asking and dreaming for steady, experienced leadership.

And as we know this election season has been going on forever already, a recent poll suggested that people are getting tired of the 2008 election. So maybe there is room for a late entry by a skilled and experienced politician?

Anyway, Al Gore will visit Larry King on Tuesday (Wednesday on CNN International) and maybe he has something to tell us. Legendary consultant James Carville once compared running for president with having sex -- if you have had it once, you would like to try it again…

And whom do I want to see on the Democratic ticket? Al Gore, because I think he is the most competent candidate, the most likely to win, and he never voted in favor of invading Iraq (he was opposed to the war all along). As his running mate: Barack Obama, because this time it is time to make history, as we all have seen this man has star quality – and as VP he will get more experience. As Senate majority leader: Hillary Clinton, since she is an enormously talented politician and we need more women in US politics. As speaker of the House: Nancy Pelosi, because it would be awesome if Congress would be run by female politicians.

And if Gore doesn’t run: I think Hillary, because if elected, it would mean so much for gender equality in the world. And personally I like Hillary as well as the Clinton family. But the Democrats need to win 2008, and right now I prefer the scenario above: Gore/Obama, with Clinton/Pelosi running Congress.

As always, a very optimistic scenario. And as always, hey -- this is my blog.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

US vacation 5: Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive

Just one more thing about vacationing in the US: If you ever end up living in Washington DC, or if you are just there for a longer holiday, try to drive down the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. It is not far, it is absolutely gorgeous, and you can combine the drive in the mountains with loads of other activities.

For example, you can do like Jim, Emma and I did: Drive out south from Washington DC on Route 66 and stop by some of the legendary Civil War Memorials in Manassas. Stop for lunch at the classic Frost’s silver diner in Warrenton and continue on 211 into the park. Drive around, make sure to listen to good music (we listened a lot to John Prine and discussed EU politics), stop for a hike here and there, and when you have finished the Skyline Drive, hit the small roads towards Charlottesville and make sure to stop at a vineyard.

Spend the night
in Charlottesville, home of Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia (UVA), and close to his home Monticello. In Charlottesville, there are loads of hotels, but also nice smaller places like the 200 South Street Inn (where we were served a refreshing glass of white wine when checking in – as if you needed one more excuse).

Just a great idea for a weekend trip I wanted to share, and here are some photos as well:


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

US vacation 4: New books from Kramers

There is a fantastic bookstore right by Dupont Circle in Washington DC called Kramers, and as usual I had to spend a buck too many there. This time I bought Everyman by Philip Roth, one of my favorite American authors. I have already read it (yes, it is quite a short novel) and I liked it from the first line (“Around the grave in the rundown cemetery were a few of his former advertising colleagues from New York…”). A winding story about life, death, temptation, illness, and thoughts about why the choices in life ended up the way it did.

I also bought SAIS-professor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s new book Second Chance, which deals with American foreign policy during the most recent three presidents (Bush, Clinton, Bush). As usual, Brzezinski’s analysis is sharp, critical, and he tells us all how things should have been run in a very Brzezinski-esque way. The book is informative, enjoyable, but also sad. US foreign policy and American superpower could have been developed and used so differently since that Wall came down.

Barack Obama’s The audacity of hope also ended up in my suitcase, although I have not yet read his first book Dreams from my father. I will try to read them both and review them in Aktuellt i Politiken. As a start, don’t miss this article about Obama from The New Yorker, I found it very informative. Why cannot articles in Swedish magazines be allowed to carry on like that?

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

US vacation 3: The streets of Baltimore

Nobody has done for my appreciation and almost love for the music also known as Americana, than my friend Jeff from Texas. When we were students at SAIS in Bologna, Jeff gave me my first issue of the magazine No Depression. Every once in a while he brought me a new cassette (this was before the iPod, kids) with music played by bands like Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, and Golden Smog.

Last week, Emma and I visited Jeff and his wife Holly in their wonderful new house outside Baltimore, Maryland (thanks Lukas for the ride up). We had a nice barbeque on their back porch, but before going to sleep Jeff and I had to go down to his basement and listen to music for a few hours. Jeff mixed some tunes on a CD for me and as I listen to the songs now, memories of our journey from Washington DC to his family in Houston, Texas right before Christmas 2002, as well as our most recent session in the basement, come right back. And yes, his dog Hondo (the best dog in the world) was with us both times.

Some of the music I am listening to tonight include songs by The Minus 5, Big Star, The New Pornographers, and the classic band Pavement. Great stuff, thanks Jeff, and we need to talk music again soon. For example, both Golden Smog and Wilco have new albums out this month...

[Photos of Jeff and Lukas; Emma and Holly, and Hondo]

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Friday, May 11, 2007

US-vacation 2: “On Demand” in Sweden, please

One good thing with vacationing in Washington DC is all the nice houses my “no longer in grad school” friends have bought (thanks for having us, Jim, Bob and Kevin; Lukas and Lucrecia; Jeff and Holli). And a great thing that my friend Jim has in his house is “On Demand”; a service that automatically downloads movies and HBO-series to your flat-screen TV. So if you want to see all the latest episodes of The Sopranos, you just grab the remote and then you watch’em. I saw the latest episode of The Sopranos (shown in the US last Sunday) and let me just say that it seems to be as good ever -- but somewhat darker and even more weird.

When is “On Demand” coming to Sweden? It makes life so much easier -- especially for all of us who wants quality (news, documentaries, politics, sports and HBO-series) the few hours one has time to watch TV.

[Photo of Jim with the requested “Welcome home” sign when he picked us up at the airport]

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

US-vacation 1: The Wedding

As I said before, I am currently on holiday for 10 days in the Washington DC. And as my barber in Stockholm said: “Are you going there again?” My barber is right, but the truth is that I have so many friends here and nowadays there is at least one marriage a year I just have to go to. This time, Brian and Mendi (picture) finally got married, and the marriage was an amazing Thursday to Sunday affair; drinks with old friends from grad school/SAIS on Thursday, rehearsal dinner including Bütros Bütros on Friday, ceremony and party and bar and Ben’s Chili Bowl on Saturday, brunch Sunday.

It was an amazing weekend, and for the first time my girlfriend Emma met all my DC-friends. Right now Brian and Mendi are on honeymoon in France, and I would just like to say (once again) big thanks, good luck, and hope to see you again soon.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Royal’s defeat

Just a quick one on Royal’s defeat as well. Here are some obvious reasons why she lost:

1. A normal election in France ends with right winning, just like the social democrats have the natural majority in the Scandinavian countries. Remember, we have only had one socialist President in the Fifth Republic; Mitterrand.

2. Sarkozy did a great job of positioning himself as the candidate if you wanted change, even though he was part of the sitting government earlier this year.

3. Royal’s economic platform was portrayed as too weak and unrealistic; Sarkozy seemed to be the guy who could take care of France’s economic problems.

Moreover, one can discuss if Royal got the backing she deserved in her own party, the fact that she was the first female candidate to become President, the extent to which Sarkozy flirted openly with Le Pen’s voters and used a disgusting populist, anti-immigration rhetoric, etc etc.

However, Sarkozy’s victory also scares me in more than one way:

1. Sarkozy doesn’t think that Turkey belongs in Europe and has promised a referendum on Turkish EU-membership. I would like to see Turkey in the EU, when the Copenhagen criteria are met etc etc, but on this road a major stumbling block just crashed down.

2. Sarkozy doesn’t support the original European Constitution; he prefers a mini-draft, in which a lot of the social and political gains made in the original draft will be dropped. So, by first rejecting the original Constitution and then losing the presidential election, the French left really owes the European left a huge excuse. Why, comrades?

3. Sarkozy’s populist, anti-immigration rhetoric may move the European political climate to the right on issues relating to citizens rights, integration, immigration, migration etc.

4. One of EU:s most important countries, the great country of France, with a unique veto in the UN Security Council, will now continue to be in the hands of the right. Merkel in Germany, Sarkozy in France, Cameron beats Brown in Britain and then the Prodi’s government falls into pieces… That is not a nice scenario for the European left.

5. I have just never trusted the French right.

However, two things might be good.

1. The French Socialist Party might finally have its Bad Godesberg moment and shape up its economic outlook on the world and become a normal, European social democratic party when it comes to economic policy.

2. Sarkozy might implement a few needed economic reforms, which in the end will benefit working people and people desperately looking for jobs.

OK, that’s my take on it, time to hit the streets of Washington DC again.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Labour’s defeat

Just a quick one on what happened in the UK: Obviously Labour took a beating, but I feared it would be even worse. And before you say ”Labour is no longer the biggest party in Scotland”, you have to have more than only one mid-term election to refer to. And the pattern after the election is really mixed.

One rather sound analysis I read was this one in The Telegraph. And don’t miss The Economist’s special on Gordon Brown.

[Photo of Gordon Brown and Pär Nuder, taken in Almedalen 2005, AiBild]

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Defeat, defeat, but vacation

Yeah, I know. Labour got a beating in the UK elections and then Royal lost. But I am on vacation in the US and will blog about this later, time to go to Georgetown for some shopping...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Första maj 2007 i Hudiksvall!

My First of May celebration in Hudiksvall was one of my best ever. We were around 200 happy social democrats in the demonstration and according to the local paper almost 500 people listened to my speech. Before I started, Sara from the local SSU-club delivered a very good speech on climate change.

I started my speech as I always do on the First of May; by quoting a sentence from Olof Palme’s First of May speech in Kramfors in 1964. That quote is about global injustices, which I exemplified with some sad numbers and images (one billion people will go to bed hungry tonight, for example).

I then spoke about how globalization, after all, is improving the lives of many and giving us new possibilities. Then I argued that the Swedish model is one of the best ways I know of in terms of handling globalization and turning it into jobs and greater equality. After that I discussed how the pillars of the Swedish model (an open economy, strong trade unions and generous welfare) is threatened by the Swedish right-wing government. [I always make I point of mentioning our opponents late in the speech; this is our day and I prefer to talk about global injustices and how we want to make the world a better place]. I then concluded with a five point agenda for renewal of our own policies.

I had great fun when delivering the speech, and from what I could tell it was well appreciated. Thanks, all you nice social democrats in Hudiksvall. Days like this make me realize why I love our movement so much.

After the speech, my friends Torbjörn and Henrik (photo below) drove me home in the car we rented. We had a great time in Hudiksvall (and when discussing life and debating politics in the car). I am very happy to have friends like this.

* * *

And when I got home that night, Liverpool beat Chelsea and went to the final of the Champions League. Where we will meet Milan again

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