Jacob Christensen

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Archive for March 10th, 2007

Have: Universities. Need: Students

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According to Göteborgs-Posten, the number of people taking Högskoleprovet – Swedish SSAT – on 31 March will decline for the second year running.

Compared with the round of SSATs in the spring of 2005, we are talking about a 14-15% decline.

SSAT is of cause a supplement to ordinary high school exams but previous declines have been followed by an equally large decline in the number of applications for university studies.

University staff may want to consider this when planning their future.

Written by Jacob Christensen

March 10th, 2007 at 10:55 pm

Posted in Political science etc.

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The Blogging Foreign Minister

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Carl Bildt is not your usual Swede: I have yet to see anybody describe the former leader of the Conservative Party (1985-1999) and Prime Minister (1991-1994) and present Foreign Minister as quiet, unassuming and angst-ridden.

On the contrary: Bildt has an ego the size of the Petronas Towers, opinions about lots of things and is not afraid to let the general public know about them. He also has a thing for technology and has been blogging since early 2005.

But is it a problem that a government minister blogs?

The Swedish tabloid Expressen and a former editor of Svenska Dagbladet have criticised Bildt’s blogging with the argument that it blurs the line between personal reflections and government policy. Bertil Thorekull even compared Bildt to the Venezuelan president – and populist – Hugo Chavez. Hardly a comparison, Bildt would approve of.

Bildt’s replies have been fast and furious. If anyone should doubt his love for the gentlemen of the press, these sections should answer that question.

There are several ways of approaching the problem, but the general argument must be that if a government minister makes a statement aimed at the general public, then he or she is also in some way reflecting the government position.

On the other hand, any intelligent observer will know that government positions can be tentative, just as not all statements are meant to lead to the adoption of a policy on a subject.

In the good old days, leading politicians could control some of the reporting through the party-controlled media but since the 1960s we have seen a fight over the control of access to the public arena with the systematic employment of spin doctors as the climax.

Modern technology used in a similar systematic way could also affect the communication strategies as homepages, blogs, podcasting and so on give politicians instruments to circumvent reporting in traditional media.

On the other hand, Lars Nord from Mid-Sweden University made the sensible comment that people who read political blogs tend to read those whose positions they agree with. In a way, political blogs could replace traditional membership journals rather than tv, radio and newspapers.

Finally: Bildt is a controversial person in Swedish politics for a number of reasons – most are related to his work as a consultant and director in the oil industry since he left the post as leader of the Swedish Conservative Party. Attacking Bildt’s blogging could to some degree be a proxy for attacking his business involvements.

Written by Jacob Christensen

March 10th, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , ,

Socio-Cultural Viability of International Intervention in War-Torn Societies: A Case Study of Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Short and sexy. Congratulations to Dzenan “Gino” Sahovic who yesterday successfully defended his PhD-thesis.

And the food wasn’t too shady, either.

Written by Jacob Christensen

March 10th, 2007 at 7:21 pm

Why Can’t a Finn Be Like Us…?

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Dagens Nyheter wouldn’t be Dagens Nyheter if it didn’t bring us a daily dose of Swedocentrism.

Back in 2000, DN made a memorable effort to convince its readers that there was no chance in hell that the conservative (=underdeveloped) Finns would elect an un-married Socialist woman as president. The woman in question was Tarja Halonen. Today, columnist Karin Rebas faced a similar problem. Finnish economic growth is projected to be higher than the Swedish (4,9% against 4,2%) and, believe it or not, Finland’s GDP per capita is higher than Sweden’s (USD 32,900 against USD 31,600). If anything, the Swedes ought to be copying the Finns.

This is of cause a no-no to any progressive Swede and fortunately Rebas was able to find a fatal flaw in Finnish democracy: The turn-out in national elections.

In 1998 and 2002, any enlightened Swede would be agonising endlessly over the low turn-out in national elections. In 1998, the turn-out was 81,4% and in 2002 a measly 80,1%. Disaster was looming. (Things improved in 2006 when turn-out increased to 82%)

But how about Finland? Well, the Finns are less keen to vote as the following table shows:

Party Avg 25/10-10/10 Avg 6/11-10/11
Unity List 2,0 2,0
Socialist Party 12,6 12,7
Social Democrats 25,2 25,5
Social Liberals 6,1 5,5
Christian Democrats 1,0 1,0
New Alliance 5,6 4,5
Liberal Party 25,3 25,7
Conservative Party 9,5 10,4
Danish People's Party 12,6 12,3

(Source: vaalit.fi)

Is this a problem? And if it is: What can be done about this?

Unsurprisingly, Karin Rebas thinks this is a sign of a profound crisis in Finnish democracy and prescribes a Swedish solution: Instead of a three-way contest between the Social Democrats, the Centre Party and the Conservative Party, Finns would be so much better off if they only had the choice between the Social Democrats and… and… and… well, who?

If Rebas had bothered to do her homework instead of projecting Swedish desires on Finland, she would have noted that

  1. turn-out increased in Denmark during the 1990s and early 2000s when it was stagnating or falling in Sweden (hint: The Danish People’s Party mobilises blue-collar voters)
  2. that turn-out in Finland has always been 10-15 percentage points below the level in Sweden
  3. that turn-out in Norway – which is also lower than in either Sweden or Denmark – only rose marginally between 2001 and 2005 when Norwegian voters faced the desired clear choice between left and right – and, finally:
  4. that first-past-the-post systems – which are said to give the clear left-right choice – usually have a far lower turn-out than the Nordic PR systems. Check the British 2005 election for a case in point.

But the idea that Swedes might have one or two lessons to learn from Danes or Finns is of cause unthinkable.

Written by Jacob Christensen

March 10th, 2007 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , , ,

Roast Chicken Power

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Some local news: The local energy company Umeå Energi is considering burning dead hens in one of their plants. This has become news in Sweden.

Written by Jacob Christensen

March 10th, 2007 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Spare time

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