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.