By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

The Lectern: In Sweden, but could I be in the U.S.?

I'm in Sweden this week, June 16-17 attending an academic conference presenting papers on privatization and contracting. I plan to write a column for Federal Computer Week about some of the papers at the conference, which demonstrate a refreshing lack of ideological blinders and some interesting, balanced findings about contracting.

This is the week before most Swedes begin their annual vacations -- Midsummer Night's Eve, this Friday, is, next to Christmas, the biggest holiday in sun-worshipping Sweden, and most Swedes take a month off starting next Monday. This week is usually pretty news-light, but this year the papers and TV are filled with topics that make one believe one could be in the United States.

Yesterday, the business section of one of the two national morning newspapers featured the latest article in a series on Sweden and China. The series has talked about Swedish companies establishing themselves in China (including Volvo) and about Chinese influence in Sweden. Yesterday's article discussed the Chinese IT/telecommunications company Huawei, which has become a bigger and bigger competitor to Cisco. Huawei now has sales of over $3 billion a year in Europe. Even more surprisingly, the company has a research facility outside Stockholm (in a suburb that is a center for Sweden's IT industry) that employs 300 Swedish researchers.

But the big story these last two days has been about a bill that will be voted on in Parliament tomorrow that will allow the Swedish counterpart to the National Security Agency to monitor foreign e-mail, Internet, and text message traffic coming into Sweden. This has been the dominant story on TV news and in the newspapers, with opposition to the proposal in the media pretty universal, and TV shows making only the most minimalist of efforts to allow supporters of the bill to express their views.

This morning, Sweden's leading newspaper's editorial was headlined simply "Vote No!" "For the first time it will in Sweden be legal to monitor people who aren't suspected of any crime. ..We are not talking about Yemen, North Korea or the old East Germany. We're talking about Sweden. Today." The editorial urged a number of specifically named members of Parliament to ignore the normally strong party discipline in Swedish politics and vote against their government's proposal. In an article on the news pages, it was stated that the bill was a bigger topic in Sweden's blogosphere than the European Soccer Cup matches going on now, which is saying a great deal given the national (and Europe-wide) hysteria over these. (FYI: Sweden plays Russia on Wednesday evening.)

This morning's television news also featured a story about the first day of gay marriages in California. There were pictures of a lesbian couple in their eighties who got married. The TV announcer said, after pictures of the couple with a wedding cake were shown, "Congratulations and good luck!"

Posted on Jun 17, 2008 at 12:10 PM


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