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.