Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Summer sailing

Summer is here and yours truly really does not feel like blogging too much.
Sailing in the Baltic is so much more fun.(the young whippersnapper with the camera in the foreground is my son Hannes)

Monday, 25 June 2007

What's your name and number?

License tags in Sweden are boring. My Ford Ranger has OTJ 353, and I can tolerate it only because the two first letters correspond with my initials. My new (used) Chevvy pickup has an even worse one: LEC 436 – total nonsense. On top of that, our authorities removed all the interesting four-letter-word-combinations (in the language of heroes and great deeds many are spelled with only three) from the start back in -72.

But the system has it's limits. New tags now begin with X. And even if old combinations from scrapped autos are habitually recycled, only y and z remain.

(Readers of Swedish might be aware of that our alphabet does indeed not end at z, but has the additional å, ä and ö, but htat won't help. Å Ä and Ö was excluded from the start, along with capital i and those three-letter four letter words mentioned earlier suchs as KUK, BÖG, MUS, BUS, DÖD, RÖV, LÖK, CIA, IRS, FBI, NFA, NHL, and so on.)

oh, I'm digressing...

What I was aiming at was the fact that someone told me the other day that Chinese authorities – and regular people – are facing a tremendous name problem. Chinese name-laws are strict and in fact only about 1500 surnames are allowed to be used in the Commie State.

Considering that there are 1 300 000 MILLION chinese these days my less than accurate arithmetic tells me there are on average close to one million chinese to each alloted surname.

And that's a LOT of Andersons, if you ask me. . . .

Getting someone's name in the whitepages in Bejing must be a real drag . . . .

Sunday, 24 June 2007

What? Not our fault!?

Swedish media is right now reporting the astounding news that global warming has not caused the melting of the glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro. It is a pending article in Scientific American that has caused the commotion.

This blogger, who since long have been frustrated by the sycophantic and less-than-critical reporting on the theoretical impact of human CO2 emissions on world climate, feel a little relieved.

Kilimanjaro's rapid glacial decline has, among other, been featured by Al Gore in his film as a Grand Proof of modern society's evil impact on the climate. Now, we learn, it might just be natural processes. Kilimanjaro (and Europes and the Andean) glaciers have been steadily melting since around 1900. One reason is that the so called "little ice age" ended after roughly 250 years in about 1850.

Sadly, it probably will not do very much about the hegemony of the ruling CO2-dogma.
For that to happen we'll have to await a change of the current paradigm, the one that strongly biases research directed at human caused global warming before other theories.

And remember, as long as governments can use the idea of reducing carbon emissions to tax energy, they will not give a hoot about if it's true or not!

EU without a free market?

The near-disastrous top EU meeting in Bruxelles is over. Politicians and commentators rejoice over the fact that the Union in the nick of time managed to get the outline for a new treaty on it's way.

In the end Poland gave up its ridiculous claim that Polands population (and thus voting strength within the organisation) should be added with another 20 million people in compensation for the loss the country suffered in WWII. (Needless to say, other european countries refrained from similar contra-factual claims, even if few but Sweden have gotten through that period of history without major loss of life)

But one wonders if not the french addition to the treaty's preamble is not worse – and sadly by now, even a fact.

By actually having the references to an open and unimpeded market struck from the preamble, France have opened a totally unnessecary ambiguity. And guess what president promised only months ago in the election that he'd "defend" french jobs against the effects of globalisation and foreign competition?

It really does not makes one worry less that an additional protocol was created that states that the free market shall prevail. Why this unnessessary ambiguity?

Well, National self Interest, of course. And the french know that game well. A fact that the CAP (EU:s common agricultural policy) proves tim and again.

Monday, 11 June 2007

The China Syndrome

Chinese president mr Hu Jintao has just finished a three day visit here in Sweden. Among stuff the marxist-leninist head of the larges kommunist state in the world has dined with the king, visited Volvo and had lunch with leading top corporations. Among them Ericsson, that secured a contract worth roughly one billion US dollars.

Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (cons) makes a point tonight in media that critisizing China in detail for its lack of respect for human rights was not "his style".

I would run a great risk if I conveyed medias version of the situation in China without checking it, Reinfeldt defended himself earlier tonight in an interwiev with Swedish national radio.

Of course he should get the facts checked. That's what the whole State Departement and his central policy planning staff is for, after all.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Sharia, swedish model

Police and revolutionary guards crack down hard on women not adhering to islamic dress code in Iranian capital Tehran right now. The tightening of the already strictly moralistic dress code introduced during the Khomeiny revolution three decades ago, Iran-watchers claim, is due to internal power struggle within the ruling class of mullahs and pressures due to growing dissent with social and economic failures of Iranian society. Since 1979, Iran has more than trebled it's population and a large group of teenagers and people in their twenties crave for music, romance and a more relaxed and secular lifestyle.

Here at home everybody are of course abhored by the treatment of women in traditional islamic societies. Yet, female victims of rape are still not receiving a very decorous treatment from police and courts here in the self proclaimed Foremost Welfare State. Writer and colleague Chatarina Wennstam has in two books described how rape victims are systematically degraded and humiliated in the process. "The victim was wearing a blouse, a skirt, a bra, stockings and knickers" is a common fact of female victims attire found in court minutes up to this day, as Wennstam has showed. At the same time a male victim of a mugging is seldom questioned in court why he brandished an expensive wristwatch under the nose of the perpetrators or why he wore expensive looking clothes as he made a short cut through the dark part of the park.

In the 17th C, swedes were subjected to a criminal code deriving from the Old Testament, (you know, the part of the Bible where God is really pissed off at mankind most of the time).
Hence adultery, being a jew or a catholic or even swearing, would lead to the stake or even worse. In fact, during those times Sweden did not only have the largest standing army of Europe, it was an effective Lutheran military dictatorship based on the riches of natural resources such as iron, tar and timber. Not really far from Iran or Saudi Arabia of thoday, really.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

An hour in the White House

It has probably not been very much noticed by the rest of the world, but here at home prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's (conservative) visit to the White House has been today's leading story in large parts of the media.

As usual the left has lambasted the prime minister for sycophancy towards the Great Satan. The conservative press croons with delight, of course. Reinfeldt himself is reported to have commented on feeling the President's "joviality" and Bush have countered by commenting on Reinfeldts "great leadership".
Apart from exchanging niceties the two reportedly discussed climate and CO2-emissions and also a little bit on the gridlocked Doha-talks on world trade.

In other words more or less what can be expected from a short meeting between the leader of the world's only super power and a prime minister from a small nation on the northen rim of the European sub-continent.

On 600 Pennsylvania avenue Reinfeldt's visit will be filed and forgotten by nightfall. Back here, it'll probably get at least a page or two plus a photograph the day he writes his memoirs.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Our Banana Republic

Jan Stenbeck, the now deseased founder of media and communications empire Kinnevik, once said in the 1990:s that since his sister was Secretary of State and that he himself controlled all commercial television outlets, this country might be mistaken for a Banana Republic.

This is even more true today.
Secretary of Defence Michael Odenberg (conservative) is rightly criticised today for having stated that Swedish Cluster Bombs are "harmless to civilians". The same Odenberg have earlier pressed legislation through parliament allowing the Sigint organisation FRA (where I myself once used to be employed) to read and monitor all email and sms getting sent to and from the country. Furthermore, for decades federal agents has been able to access library lendings and other civil atcivities in pursuit of terrorists just like in the US. With the not so subtle difference that here they do not need a court order.
Also, since some years the police are issued with dum-dum bullets, internationally banned in warfare since more than a century. At the same times, alleged bribery linked to international sales of Swedish jet fighter JAS-Gripen are conducted internationally.
Our current foreign minister Carl Bildt (conservative) made millions on stock options in an oil company with strong ties to the Russian market and with interests in the planned russian-german gas pipeline through the Baltic. After taking office.
Further, ousted ex prime minister Göran Persson announced last week that he is becoming a senior adviser for a well known (and with many conservative ties) lobby- and communications group.
And not to mention that officials from the liberal party, currently in government, lately were convicted for having illegally hacked into the social democrat's computer systems during the election campaign last year.

This could be very comical.
Had it not been for the fact that so many of us still believe that Sweden is the most just and democratic of all countries.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Americans for Royalty

Queen Elisabeth's visit to the US stirs little interest in swedish media. But that is not for lack of interest in crowned heads. Our media usually fawns over our own royal family with little or no journalistic ambition. Which is strange – because the royal family holds interesting personal stories. The King, an unambitious slacker with a primary interest in sports and cars, lives on what must be called welfare, albeit rather generous. His wife, an unemployed german/brasilian immigrant who has really never had the chance of learning the language properly. The kids, the oldest with a history of eating disorder due to family pressure, a son with ambiguos sexual orientation, and the youngest one a party-princess of fame. In short, a regular swedish family with problems and challenges in common with many other compatriots.

Being a republican myself, I do wonder how royalty are treated as, well royalty, by the American media. The reports trickling in on the web from last night state dinner and other functions seems to suggest a deep regret of 1776. There's nothing like a true Brittish blue blood to start an American heart throbbing, it seems.
Even President Reagan fell for them. Vanity Fair has some excerpts from his soon to be published diary where The Gipper shudder at the memory of Prince Charles being offered a cup of tea made from a tea bag!
Lord! it must have felt like 1812 all over again . . .

Friday, 4 May 2007

Lysenko Smiles

The UN Panel on Global Warming, IPCC, has a field day in Swedish media.
Reports are filed from Bangkok with Prospects of Doom written all over.

With few exceptions (but for The good old BBC), not much copy is wasted on the fact that the report launched yesterday is the IPCC's Summary for Policymakers. This highly biased cluster of "recommendations" are themself the result of a lengthy bargaining process between IPCC-bureaucrats, politically appointed delegates and the various sponsoring countries. All in all not a very good enviroment for a thriving and independet scientific debate and peer-review.

But the message is heard loud and clear all over the globe: Capitalism and markets are threathening us all. Beware!

Trofim Lysenko was a charlatan scientist in the USSR under Stalin that "proved" that for example plants could "learn" to adapt in a winter climate if you subjected them to cold temperatures as seeds. It all fitted very well with Communist Dogma of enviroment going before heredetary traits.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Mother Russia Stirring

The Good old Soviet times are here. Almost.

The conflict between Estonia and Russia is threattening to escalate. Last week's removal of a WWII monument and adjacent remains of fallen Red Army soldiers precipitated severe riots in the capital Tallinn. After that, pro-Kremlin youth organisations attacked the Estonian embassy in Moscow. By some stroke of unluck, the swedish ambassador was caught in the fray too.

Reports are coming in on several attacks on estonian websites that can be traced to Kremlin-owned Internet adresses. Deliveries of Russian goods to Estonia are also reported subject to infinite delays due to Russian "maintenance". The youth organisations picketing the estonian embassy have also received official permit, something quite hard to come by in the Russian capital on other occations.

As a former Soviet "reublic", Estonia has a russian speaking minority. It is not as large as in Latvia, but Estonia shares it's neighbours rather harsh and excluding wiev on citizenship for the russian speakers.

That does not excuse the Kremlin's arrogant behaviour. The country has undegone great economic change under president Putin, much due to rising energy prices worldwide. Parallel to that, Russia has become more and more opressive and is now but a democracy in name. Ngo's are banned. The media praises it's Great Leader in a sycophantic style remeniscent of old times. Independent journalists die mysteriously and officials whiningly complains about the EU and foreign countries meddling in their "internal affairs". In Kremlin Newspeak of today it's neighbours and former communist satellites are referred to as "The Near Abroad".

The fall of the Soviet Union two decades ago brought great hope. With large parts of the empire now independent states, many of which are democracies, much have come true. But Russia is reverting to old totalitarian traditions with roots that go back centuries.

Surely the way to deal with this great sleeping giant is of course more integration and economic cooperation, not less. Basically the same formula that has totally erased the notion of another war in central Europe and that has made the German re-unification possible.

But as long as Russia's fledgling democratic institutions are weakening in stead of growing, this can not come to pass. In the long run the rospects are bleak. Way too bleak.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Another poll

The ousted Social Democratic Party receives record support in the latest poll.
After ten years in power prime minister Göran Persson lost last fall, and consequently abandoned deck for successor Mona Sahlin, the partys first woman chairperson.

Synovate Temo gauges popular support for her and her party at 46.3. Quite an improvement from election night's 35.0 percent, the worst result since before universal sufferage.

Curiously, the social democrats have done best in the polls during times in opposition during the last quarter century. Olof Palme, assassinated February 28th 1986, received a record 52.5 percent as leader of the opposition in 1982. Ingvar Carlsson scored 51.5 twelve years later.

The social democrats has virtually never held government by a majority purely of their own (it's a bit complicated, up until 1971 we had two houses of parliament and theoretically the s-party received over 50 percent of the popular vote in 1968, but the upper house was not involved in the election). Still, they tend to receive record polls in opposition.

That's some bad news for the ruling righet-liberal-centrist-christian democrat coalition, "The Alliance".

Not only has the social democrats have managed to hold office for 65 of the last 75 years. They have also managed to score top support in the polls OUT of office, and not in.

Reciprocally, the parties to the right of Parliament's (Riksdagen) aisle have failed miserably twice before. Regrettably, the odds seems to be againss them this time too.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Only in Sweden

The swedes (yes, I admit I am one of them) are a funny lot. Ever since we 1994 gingerly agreed to become members of the European Union, the nation has suffered a sort of collective remorse about the whole affair. Thus, support for the European project is generally very low and lots of indigenous political issues and problems are seen as evil Brussels schemes, almost by default.

Therefore it is not a joke that SR, The Swedish National Public Radio, right now leads on it's english language website with the following proud banner:

Record High Swedish EU Support

Normally in, say Belgium, Holland or Italy, record high support would mean a popular percentage of, say, 75-85 percent in favour of the Union. But in our case it is a modest 43% for and 31 % against in the poll the lede refers to.

Amazing ins't it? We swedes truly remain the sceptical Europeans.
Imagine the same sort of headline in let's say The Valley News, West Lebanon, NH:

"Record high support for the Union in New Hampshire"
Had the support been the same 43 percent, I'll guess the headline would have had another angle. Even the word "cecession" might have come to be mentioned somewhere in the copy.

What a preposterous thought...

Time for some common sense

Tonight (at 3.35 PM Pacific) the swedish television audience will get at chance to tune in to some critisism of the prevailing dogma of human caused global warming. The decision of our Channel 4 to air Martin Durkins documentary Great Global Warming Swindle (2007) was, of course, hailed by a clamour of disgust on great parts of the Blogosphere's most PC swedish contributors.

As I myself have been branded as a heretic on the warming issue for the audacity of actually asking for some proof, I feel some understanding for Martin Durkin. Simply by asking in my swedish blog where the empirical facts are, I was branded as a criminal in partity with a Holocaust Denier.

The Durkin film might not be a paragon of objectivity itself. But what documentaries are? And against the background of almost total media bias for the notion that humans have caused drastic climate change, it sure stands out like a handful of sore thumbs.

Still, it has some quite heavy scientific people in it.
And the issues adressed really needs more journalistic legwork, not less.

After all, I find a distinct pattern in the debate and discussion on CO2 emissions:
Stakeholders are deadly sure humans have caused global warning. That is not too surprising. Many enviromentalists, lobbyorganisations, enviromental journalists, politicians and other hang arounds would be out of a job if CO2 caused global warming suddenly turned out to be grossly exagerated, as I personally happen to believe.

On the other hand, very few scientist sound as dead certain. They have, after all, a scientific reputation do maintain.


Swedish national public Radio has two interesting pieces of news this morning. In Georgia, formerly a part of the Soviet Union, conditions in gaols are miserable, to say the least. Inmates sleep in shifts in prisons populated by up to three times the intended amount. Up to 30 prisoners are assigned to cells built for ten.

Later, the correspondent for North America files a report from Camp VI, Guantanamo, Cuba. Conditions does not seem too gay there either, and the grim tone from the anonymous Commandant does really make me shiver.

The point though is that Georgia is a dirt poor former communist country with all those structural problems and shortages. It also receives foreign aid trying to improve it's Stalinistic prison system a bit.

The US on the other hand, is the richest and most powerful of nations. The unlawfully incarcerated prisoners detended at Guantanamo are there on loose assumptions of having threathened American Democracy.

But the fact is that they are treated in ways more resembling methods and the disregard for civil rights of those in a banana dictatorship.

The United States, the Nation that gave us Habeas Corpus, needlessly shames it's proud legacy as a beacon of freedom and justice.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Dark side of the Welfare State

This one is good:
Our lead local story tomorrow is about an aborted spring camp for 30 sixth graders.

Anyway, at Blekeskolan in Ystad the kids were looking forward to the traditional spring camp. Swedes love to (or at least pretend to) go outside and enjoy the forrests and the fields and sixthgraders always spend a couple of days out somewhere at one of many cabin resorts in springtime.

The crux this time is the new EU regulations, prohibiting the accompanying teachers from participating, as they would practically be on 24 hour call. No-one can work more than 11 out of every 24 hours. The regulation was passed last year in Brussels under much fuss, understandably.

Thus the headmaster cancelled the trip due to the new EU directive. Of course some parents volunteered to come along, so the teachers could just go home for the night and their righteous sleep.

But to no avail. "According to governement legal expertise, responsibility for the children at night time can not be transferred to the parents", writes the headmaster in a memo to the parties involved.

I wrote in an earlier blog here below about the benefits of having extended welfare services for tending kids.

But it is seems parts of our governing structure would like to see parents made totally obsolete. And it is still unclear if the headmaster in questions expects the parents to turn over their kids in his charge for safe keeping even when field trips are not on the curriculum.

And for those versed in the language of heroes and great deeds (svenska, alltså), this story will be the theme of our editorial tomorrow: Take a peek here!

Log-rolling still a priority

The liberal-conservative-centrist-christian democrat governing coalition has declared that Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs are it's greatest priority.

But in spite of that, few reforms have been launched. The fenomenal GDP growth and modest rise in jobs we are experiencing right now – not seen since the late 1960's – is mainly due to the international economic cycle, after all.

It is therefore not surprising that one of todays leading political news stories is about the Christian Democrat's pet project: cash subsidies to parents who choose to stay at home with the kids.

The Swedish Welfare State provides virtually free daycare from a very early age. This is financed by the 30 percent tax the local municipality levies on all income (as is also the care, housing and medicare for the elderly).

But in return, every child taken care of, frees lots of productivity as it lets both parents hold a job. Thus, a "dagisfröken" i.e. a woman (or man) working at the local crib is a major player in the relatively high level of productivity of the Swedish economy. That is what I would call Value for the tax-dollar (or Krona, the currency of the Realm).

Thus this "reform" of funding housewives with tax money is hardly liberal, nor adding to the nation's productivity. The only reason it is tolerated by the other governing partners is of course the log-rolling nature of the political decision process in any coalition government. That very same process has also led to legislation allowing taxpayers to deduct costs for low-productivity "domestic services". The long detailed list provided by the government determining what those domestic services really consists of beats many of the ridiculously detalied regulations of our private lives that the ousted social democratic governement used to excel at.

Meanwhile, out there in the wilderness, more than one million swedes still dwell outside the proper labour market. A disproportional part of those are immigrants, young people and women over 50, all who still wait for the nwesly installed gevernment to start doing things.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

David Halberstam in memoriam

A friend in Berkeley just sent me an email bringing the sad news of journalist and author David Halberstam's tragic death in a car wreck Menlo Park earlier today.

I first discovered him through his wonderful "The 1950's" and then went on with "Making of a quagmire" on Vietnam, "War in a time of Peace" on Clinton and the Balkans, "The Powers that Be", his great main' doevre on American modern journalism.

Finally, I had the pleasure of just the other week finally finish his amazing and seminal "The Best and the Brightest" on the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and how they got sucked into Vietnam.

For me he was an iconic writer and historian of great stature and will be greatly missed.

Bying is illegal – but selling is not

Some 20 men in various ages are being indicted right now in the city of Gothenburg. They are charged with accusations of having bought sexual services, mostly from women illegaly trafficked in from Russia.
Ten years ago bying sexual services became illegal in Sweden. Infringements can lead to prison up to six months, but the Gothenburg trial is one of few cases where the public prosecutor insists on a prison term. Critics have from the start claimed that the law from 1996 only will push prostitution underground. With the advent of the Internet, much of those fears also came true.
Supporters of the law often use the once so controversial law against beating children as a reference. Then, in the early 1970's, Sweden was much ridiculed for actually making it illegal for parents to chasten their offspring. Since then, fewer and fewer believes in beating their children as a means of their upbringing.
That does not mean enforcing the law against bying sex has been without difficulties for the judiciary. Very soon after it was legislated, a judge was litterally caught with his pants down in a cemetary in central Stockholm. For some reason he was never brought to the arraignment, and received a modest fine discreetly by mail. Last year another judge at the court of appeals in Malmö was caught as a regular at a solarium cum brothel. This time duly processed along with other customers.

But the most positive thing with the law is that it refrains from criminalising the seller. As prostitution with few exceptions derives from poverty, drug abuse, illegal trafficing ans so forth, it was regarded as inhumane to criminalise its main victim: the women and men forced to sell their own bodies. Sadly enough, the same line of thought is all too vacant with controlled substancens: Being a drug addict in Sweden is illegal and the strictness has caused irreparable damage helping to spread hiv and aids due to difficulties for drug addicts to get hold of clean and legal syringes.

In my view the inconsistency does not lie in a law that forbids bying a sexual service, the same time ignoring the provider of it. It is the lack of aplying the same basic soundness – refraining from further victimising victims –  on other areas such as drug addiction, which on the whole is a far larger problem in this country.

Boris Jeltsin

The first ever elected president of Russia, Boris Nikolaevitj Jeltsin, is dead.
His legacy is mainly one of infamy: Galloping inflation that left great parts of the population paupers, a "privatisation" that led to the creation of mindbogglingly rich oligarks and a new Russian gentry. (Not always so new after all, the criminal Nomenclatura of the Old Order knew how to survive, after all), and foremostly for letting the new semi-tsar and former KGB agent (I think the russian term is "soloviki") Vladimir Putin on stage.

But apart from that – let us not forget that it was Jeltsin who in the summer of 1991 stood firm and averted the comunist coup agains Michail Gorbatjev and his efforts at reform. Interestingly Jelstin thereby accelerated the demise of the Soviet empire, orchestrated the fall of his protector Gorbatjev and rose to power himself – all in one go.

Now he's gone. But Russia remains and is stirring in it's troubled semi-sleep – restlessly dreaming of it's days of Empire.