2005-03-31

Take the I Train!

Daylight savings time is here. Summer is near. Light and hope returns to the north. In fact, the farther north you travel the more light and hope you’ll find.

My beloved
inland railway once again welcomes tourists from near and far. This year I’m excited to hear that the season has been prolonged into September. In my world, nothing beats the sight of autumn colors and the first frost in the wilderness. Every Swede should enjoy Sweden’s longest tourist attraction. At least once. What are you waiting for?

2005-03-28

Footing the bill for football

Kick-off in our top national football league Allsvenskan is just round the corner. The party is on and, as usual in Sweden, the tax payers will have to foot most of the bill.

I don’t know what’s wrong with football but there are plenty of other sports where huge crowds can get together and enjoy a fair game. You can even bring the kids. Not so in top level football. There is verbal and physical violence both on- and off-field. In fact, matches are classified in terms of risk level. A big match requires a huge police effort. I’ve had quite enough of this. Football clubs are commercial organizations and should carry the entire cost for maintaining a reasonable level of security.

2005-03-23

Provocative persistence

Few if any world leaders are being scoffed like the British PM and the US President. Their persistence in pursuing a policy of conviction regardless of recent polls provokes outright hatred. Both are born-again Christians. Is this a coincidence?

2005-03-21

No retirement in sight

We’re entering the Holy Week.

The Pope is back in the Vatican and I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes part in Easter Mass. John Paul II has done great service to the church and to the world. Now he’s old and frail but with no retirement in sight. He’s supposed to die in office. It's a cruel tradition.

Why not send him a greeting?

2005-03-16

Make a difference!

Today is a gift. Yesterday is gone, "updates no longer possible". Tomorrow is not a promise. But today is here and you can make the most of it.

Franz Schubert died at age 31, leaving a lasting footprint in history. Centuries come and go, his music lives on. Surely he had bad days like you and me but he didn't waste his time.

Schubert's talent was unique. So is yours. No one can take your place.
Make a difference in someone's life. Your own, for example. Why not shut off your TV and start today?

2005-03-14

Save the champagne

Oh joy! The opposition has got a majority in our most recent national opinion poll. I hate to ruin the party but someone’s got to.

The center-right opposition looks considerably stronger in this poll than in others. Given the statistical uncertainties it’d be interesting to have this trend confirmed.

The alleged margin is five percentage points, 51-46. Assuming this is true it is still a slim lead. 18 months before the election anything can and will happen. Don’t forget that with a bit of help from our state television drastic shifts in the opinion occurred in the very last days of the 2002 campaign.

Three out of seven parties in the Riksdag are small and risk losing their representation altogether due to the rule that requires at least 4 percent of the national vote. If any of these parties fail to reach 4 percent that would shift the balance drastically and the opposition runs the biggest risk since two of these parties belong to the opposition.

Adding further to the uncertainty, there is a rumor about a new feminist party. This could mean more difficulties for the left but no one knows.

The governing Labor party hasn’t started their campaign. When they do we’ll notice. They’ve got an awesome campaign machinery and thanks to the unholy alliance with the unions they will have by far the largest campaign budget.

Sweden is in desperate need of a regime change and there appears to be a positive trend for the opposition but we’ve got a year and a half of fierce campaigning before us. So save the champagne for now.

2005-03-07

The little train robbery

Springtime, what a lovely season. Don't miss a minute! Shut off your TV, leave the car, take a walk. Unfortunately, there are more signs of spring than birds and tulips. On the commuter trains we can look forward to another season of begging.

Giving is a must; there is no excuse for not giving. Many of us can afford giving a lot. Many of us do. But that's a private issue and
should be kept private.

However, there is every reason to reject our commuting fortune-seekers. Some of them might be honest, many are obviously not and there is no way of knowing. Supporting
a serious, transparent charity is the only way to ensure that your money ends up with those most in need.

Finland shows the way

Once in a while, when I grow tired of the nostalgic gridlock that dominates Swedish (government) politics I look eastwards.

Finland leads by example. Having endured wars in the 20th century and having been paralyzed for decades by the proximity to the threatening Soviet Union this small country has regained strength in no time at all. Not only has their economy recovered. Finland has also repositioned itself to become an important member of the Union.

Finland is pragmatic. For several years the country was governed by a big coalition from left to right. Partisan bickering was set aside and the politicians joined forces to change course after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Finland is realistic. While Sweden wasted decades on a fruitless debate about nuclear power (and has now begun to shut down fully functional power plants) Finland drew the right conclusions from the threat of global warming and is now busy building its fifth reactor. Nuclear power will prove paramount in facing climate change and Sweden used to be a world leader in this field. No more. By now we’re even dependant on importing electric power.

Finland is courageous. They joined the Union at the first opportunity while Sweden, with its relative freedom from the Soviet Union, could have done so a generation earlier. When the monetary union was formed, Finland joined at once. Again, compare with Sweden. Just like Finland we’ve agreed to join the single currency while joining the Union in 1994. Due to lack of leadership we simply haven’t lived up to this promise and by now it’s anybody’s guess how long this will take.

Finland is vigilant. Having learnt from history they know the realities of being a small country next to Russia. While Sweden is moving backwards, dismantling its remaining military power, Finland is already half way into NATO. In an area where Swedish politics offers taboos and invocations about neutrality Finland has a realistic debate.

Finland shows the way.

2005-03-03

Go see!

It was just another wild idea. Together with a friend I made several long rail journeys through Sweden. We were in our twenties and found train-riding to be the ultimate pastime. Solving philosophical problems with a soul-mate, a cup of tea in the restaurant car and this lovely land of ours passing by outside the window. It was just for a winter, then we went different ways but the idea was already forming in my head: go see Sweden! There's so much to enjoy, it's a huge country with very distinct seasons. Take a year, spend some money, do it right.

Eighteen years went by and my idea lay deep in the pile of dreams-never-to-be but somehow I couldn't let go. Finally in October 2003 the time was right. I was on a three-week trip through France and Italy and I was bored stiff. Having the Mediterranean glittering outside the first-class-compartment and a ticket for Sicily in my wallet was just fine, the train-tour had cost a small fortune but I was homesick.

By the time of Christmas I made the decision. I had been saving vacation time without any particular purpose. Now here was my purpose. On New Years Eve I went to Stockholm Central Station and purchased a twelve-month first-class rail-pass. The time had come to go see Sweden 2004.
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