The Danish election

June 5 is the Danish Constitution Day, and this year it was also the Danish election.

The Danish election was basically a choice between an environment-focused center-left coalition or a right-libertarian coalition, and there was a lot at stake.

Happily the center-left coalition won.

Nearly as important, the center-left coalition won in a way, which probably will force the major party, the Social Democrats, to tone down their xenophobic tendencies, and help make the country better for immigrants and refugees.

Also nearly as important, a fascist party that had entered the election, didn’t get anyone elected. Unfortunately a far-right, xenophobic party, Ny Borgerlige, got in with 4 mandates. Happily, the existing far-right, xenophobic party, Danish Peoples’ Party, got slaughtered, and is down 21 mandates to 16 mandates.

The Guardian has a good commentary on the election results from Denmark: Europe, take note: in Denmark, the humanitarian left is on the rise

On a more personal note. As I have written before, I supported a specific candidate, Samira Nawa (link in Danish), and I am happy to report that she got elected to the Danish parliament.

The Danish election is approaching

I don’t write much about Danish politics, but I hardly make any secret of the fact that I am not happy with the current Danish political situation, where there is a right-winged coalition government kept in power by a xenophobic far-right party (the Danish Peoples’ Party).

This might change soon, as the next Danish election is approaching fast – the exact date of it is unknown so far, but it has to be held no later than July 17th, and the smart money is that it is going to be held on the same date as the election for the EU parliament, May 26th.

Given the current polls, it looks like the current government and its allies will loose, and the next government will be based on a center-left coalition, led by the Social Democrats. How exactly the government is going to be put together is not clear yet, but it fairly clear that it will probably be the Social Democrats together with the Socialists Peoples’ Party and perhaps with the Danish Social Liberal Party, and with support from the red-green Unity Party and the Alternative, a center party with a green profile, but whose exact political profile is unclear to many of us.

The Social-Democrats have flirted with many of the xenophobic ideas of the current government, even leading some people to suggest that it could form a single-party government, getting support from the right side, especially the Danish Peoples’ Party, when it wants to toughen the already very restrictive Danish laws regarding refugees and immigration, and with the left side, when it wants to make economic policies.

Both the Unity Party and the Danish Social Liberal Party has said that they won’t support a Social-Democratic led government doing that, while the Alternative have indicated that they won’t find it acceptable. The Socialist Peoples’ Party has been very unclear on this subject, but seem to be willing to go along with the Social Democrats, no matter what path they choose.

So, currently, the situation is that there is a real chance of changing the politics in Denmark towards a more humane policy. This is done by vote for one of explicitly anti-xenophobic parties. This is the Unity Party (Enhedslisten) and the Danish Social Liberal Party (Radikale), and perhaps the Alternative (Alternativet) and the Socialist Peoples’ Party (SF).

Given the economic politics of the Unity Party, and the fact that they are officially anti-EU, I am not going to vote for them. Luckily, I have a much better fit in the case of the Danish Social Liberal Party, who have many great politicians and candidates. I don’t agree with them on everything, but I agree on the things that matter, especially their fight against xenophobic and inhumane laws.

The party has some really great candidates in Copenhagen, but I personally endorse Samira Nawa, who is second on the list (after Ida Auken). Samira Nawa runs on a platform of leaving the country a better place for the next generations, and focuses not only on immigration, but also on education, environment, and the treatment of children.

A quick glance at the study profiles of the current Danish government

As a follow up on my last post, I thought I’d better take a look at the current Danish government, and how they spent their youth studying.

There are current 22 members of government. I went through their official CVs, and used Wikipedia to supplement dates where necessary/possible.

Of the 22 members of government, 14 have an University degree, while the rest either have a non-academic degree (journalism, nursery, school teacher) or haven’t any degree at all. Of the 14 people with a university degree, one is a ph.d., 9 have a Masters, and the rest have a Bachelors.

At least two members of government hold multiple degrees at the same educational level (something which new laws will keep others from getting).

It was frequently difficult to get information about when they had started studying at university, so it is hard to say for sure whether many of them had finished their study on time (5 years for a Masters, 3 years for a Bachelors), but of the people where we know when they started, only 2 out of 7 managed (here I have left out one of the people with multiple degrees, as she would count in both groups). Both of those, which finished on time, have a Bachelors degree.

One of the things that the current government is pushing, is that young people should start at their education straight after high school. From the data I’ve got, it seems like at least 12 members of the government didn’t do this (here I count both people going on the university or to a non-academic degree), 4 might have (one of these is very unlikely), and 3 have for sure. I don’t have sufficient data for the last five.

What the data also shows, is that of those people that went straight on to their education, none of them managed to finish it on time. Of the 4 people who might have gone straight on, none of them finished their education on time if that was the case. So, it seems like that there is no member of the current government for which it holds true that they went straight from high school to their education, and managed to finish the education on time.

I wonder why they believe that young people today can do this, when they couldn’t do so themselves?

Restricting the choices of young people in Denmark

A few weeks ago, I went on a bit of a rant on twitter about how the Danish politicians are restricting the education choices of young people, instead of giving them the same opportunities as they themselves had back when they were young.

Since Twitter isn’t the best platform for such a rant, I decided that I’d expand on my rant here. I’ll do that by posting my tweets, and add comments those places where I feel it is necessary.

In Denmark there are two different ways to apply for university – one is through what is called quota 1, which is directly related to your grades in high school. The other one is through what is called quota 2, where one can use relevant experience to add on to your grades. If your grades are high enough to get admitted, you automatic get in through quota 1, even if you apply for quota 2 admissions.

Back when I applied for university, there was a fairly large group of activities that you could use to up-qualify when applying for quota 2. The activities in this group has been reduced through the years, making it harder to get in through quota 2. At the same time, there has been a change in the rules, which means that grades count for more when you use them to apply for university within two years of receiving them – this is done by multiplying the grades with 1.08.

This obviously increases the required grade average to get in, making it harder to get in through quota 2 (and even quota 1, if you wait more than 2 years before applying).

In Denmark, students get a student’s grant, allowing them to focus on studying. This grant is usually not enough to pay the bills, but it allows the student to keep their work hours to a reasonable amount while studying. The rules for getting this grant is that you have to be an active student – at university this includes going to exams, and not fall more than half a year behind. This is more strict than when I was a student, but this is more due to the fact that it wasn’t possible to monitor these things as easily back then, as it is now.

More problematic, is the fact that the Universities kick people out, if they consider them inactive. While the rules are less harsh than the rules for the student grants, it still requires the students to go to exams and pass a certain amount of exams every year.

This doesn’t sound too bad, but this is much stricter than when most of the politicians went to university, where the only requirement was that you passed exams in 3 tries (and you could apply for a dispensation for trying a 4th time). Back then, it frequently happened that students at the university took a break for a year or two, traveling, working, or even studying something else, before returning to the study and finish it. This is no longer possible.

When it comes to writing the Master’s thesis, the rules have also changed significantly. It used to be that students could spend years on writing it, becoming experts on whatever subject they wrote about. Now, they have to finish it with 6 months of (officially) starting it.

This was actually what started the whole rant. It is a brand new law, blocking the possibility for someone to take an education in case they already have an education at an equal level. This means that a nurse (who, in Denmark, has a bachelor degree), cannot decided that they want to upgrade to becoming a doctor, since a doctor degree requires a bachelor degree in medicine.

What makes this worse, is that in recent years, a number of degrees, including the nursing degree, has been upgraded to be a bachelor degree.

I started in 1994 studying Business Management (Almen HA) at CBS. After spending a couple of years doing that, I figured out that it wasn’t for me, and I switched to economics at the University of Copenhagen.

Waking up one morning, realizing that I couldn’t face a career in economics, I dropped out of that study. After spending some time working manual labor (warehouse work), I decided to take a shortish education called Advanced Computer Studies (Datamatiker), which was a course in programming and systems development, which took just over 2 years.

Graduating from that study coincided nicely with the burst of the bubble, meaning that it was hard to get a job. Since the study has showed me that programming and computer science was interesting, and that I was pretty good at it, I decided to go on studying, rather than desperately hunt for a job.

I applied to study Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen. Since I had already been enrolled at two university level studies (business management and economics), I had to submit a motivation for my application and my reasoning for why they should admit me. This was not exactly a triviality, as someone actually was going to evaluate my application based on this, but it wasn’t a very high barrier either.

I got my B.Sc. in Computer Science in 2007, having at that time, worked full time for years.

The thing is, since I started working with IT systems, the stuff I learned while studying business management and economics has come into good use, allowing me to be better at my job, than I could have ever been if I had just gone straight to computer science.

I cannot emphasis this enough. It was not considered a problem back then. It seemed more important that people found something that they liked, than that they finished on time. This definitely doesn’t appear to be the case now.

This is the part I don’t get. Why are the politicians so focused on reducing the opportunities of the youth today. What is it that drives their restrictions? Do they think that the opportunities that we had back then was bad? Or that young people now, somehow doesn’t deserve to get the same chances as we did?

I will correct myself here. I can see that an economic argument could be made for the benefit of people finishing their first study, but I can also make an economic argument for the benefit of people finding the right study, since that will probably increase their job satisfaction in the long run (job satisfaction and productivity is linked).

Back when I started studying, Computer Science existed, but it didn’t show up on my radar. If I hadn’t changed around like I did, I’d never have ended up there. It would have been horrible to find out what I really wanted to study, and then be blocked from studying it.

Also, what is going to happen to the future type-setters. Here I am talking about people working in a field which suddenly becomes obsolete because of the change in technology. It is very possible that a field today, suddenly becomes obsolete tomorrow. By denying the people in such fields the chance to get a new education, they become stuck, and will probably have a hard time getting jobs.

I really don’t see why that is so hard.

Edit: I have written a follow-up post, where I take a look at the CVs of the current government

Saluting people changing Denmark for the better

I think we all know that it is dangerous to make people into heroes, since they often show us their all too human sides. Yet, I also think it is important to acknowledge that there are a lot of people doing heroic work, trying to change society for the better. One of the major reasons why this is important, is because it is hard work to do so, and it can be easy to think that it doesn’t make any difference, and that nobody appreciate the work.

So, in that spirit, I want to acknowledge some amazing people doing great work in Denmark.

In recent months, I have been lucky enough to be at a couple of events where some of these amazing people participated, so I thought I’d share a couple of pictures from these events, and acknowledge the great work these people do.

Politikens Akademi feminist debate

Feminist debate

The picture shows a debate panel of five feminists, which happened on September 26, 2016. The debate was about feminism in the future, and didn’t try to create a false balance between feminists and non-feminists, but instead invited five feminists, so we could skip the whole debate about whether feminism is even necessary.

The participants are:

  • Rasmus Brygger – a libertarian feminist. I have some serious problems with Brygger and the brand of feminism he represents, but I admire him for trying to fight for feminism in a very hostile environment.
  • Emma Holten – well known for her great work fighting for consent and against revenge porn. She has done a lot to change the whole debate on this issue, not only in Denmark, but in all of Europe. On top of that, she does a lot of other great work for feminism and against inequality. I am a huge fan of her and hers work.
  • Natasha Al-Hariri – a Danish-Palestinian feminist. Often involved in debates related to feminism and immigrants, and debates about immigrants and integration in general.
  • Sanne Søndergaard – a comedian who often incorporates feminist themes in her sketches. The comedy scene in Denmark is quite misogynist, and Sanne Søndergaard is often the target of horrible attacks started, or at least cheered on, by her colleagues.
  • Henrik Marstal – musician and self-described gender traitor. One of the few vocal male feminists in Denmark.

I don’t agree with all of these five people on all issues, but they are doing a lot of work trying to make Denmark more feminist, suffering a horrific amount of abuse in the process. Even so, they continue the work. I cannot adequately express my admiration for what they do.



The second picture is from a political meetup, where the subject was what could be done to reduce hatred in Denmark. This came after the Brexit and Trump votes.

The 3 participants were:

  • Tommy Petersen – a liberal member of the city council of Copenhagen for Radikale. He was one of the organizers of the first Copenhagen Pride parade.
  • Natasha Al-Hariri – I described her above, but here she participated due to her work with integration and acceptance of immigrants.
  • Niddal El-Jabri – the husband of Natasha Al-Hariri. Known for creating a peace-ring around the Jewish Synagogue after the attacks on it in February, 2015. He is involved with Mino Danmark, an organization working to help fellowship and a common community between people in Denmark, no matter their background.

There are many people working hard for tolerance, and against the intolerance expressed by xenophobic parties like Dansk Folkeparti, so these three are only a small sample, but the work each individual do is extremely important.

What is also important, is that we do it in different ways.

Since racism and xenophobia is not based upon facts, but rather feelings, it is important that there are people willing to reach out to people on the other side, and try to show them that their fears are irrelevant. This doesn’t mean we all should do that – there is also a need for people to forcefully confront the lies and propaganda spread by xenophobes, and that is certainly the path I have chosen, but it is good that there are people like Natasha Al-Hariri and Niddal El-Jabri trying to create bridges.

Looking at the upcoming Danish government and its platform

Denmark is currently led by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who leads the party Venstre, which currently forms a minority right-winged government. The government is supported by the parties Konservative (the Conservative), Liberal Alliance, and Dansk Folkeparti, who all have a heavy influence on the policies, with the two first parties focusing on tax breaks for the wealthy, while the latter is a xenophobic populist party, fighting against Denmark taking in refugees and immigrants.

In Denmark, the Prime Minister is not elected, but is found through the support of the parties – basically, the person who gets the support from party representing a majority of members of parliament, gets to form the government. For the last twentyfive years, it has been a member of either Venstre or Socialdemokratiet, depending on whether the right-wing parties or the centre-left parties got the majority of votes at the election.

For the last week or so, however, the current PM has tried to expand the government, so it includes more parties – more specifically Konservative and Liberal Alliance. This would still make it a minority government, but a much larger one, meaning that he would have to find less votes outside the government when he wants to get new measures passed.

Unfortunately, it also means that the libertarian policies of especially Liberal Alliance will get a much more prominent position, as it will get a place in the government platform. Due to the continuing reliance on the xenophobic Dansk Folkeparti, it also means that the government platform takes an anti-immigration slant.

The new government platform can be found here – unfortunately it seems like there only is a Danish version.

The title of the platform is “For a freer, richer and more confident Denmark”.

Reading through the platform, I have a hard time seeing the “freer” part – there are mentions of creating new laws about logging of data for the police’s use, about restricting refugees’ access to Denmark, making it harder to get a Danish citizenship, making it harder to reunite families in Denmark, and about putting restrictions on religious preachers (this is aimed at Muslims), but there are nothing that actually makes Denmark freer in my opinion.

The richer part, is a bit better – there are a number of measures aimed at ensuring economic growth and that Denmark is ready for the future. There are, however also some measurements that probably will work the other way, among other the reduction of the top tax bracket.

It is well documented that giving tax breaks to the people who earn the most, is a bad way of creating economic growth. Public spending or funneling the money to the people earning the least, creates a lot more growth. The reason for this is, that public spending goes directly into the economy, as does money funneled to low-income people, since they spend their money on goods. People with higher income, uses the money for paying off debt or for savings, as they usually have their needs covered. Money spend on debt-payment or savings, doesn’t create growth.

The last part of the platform is about confidence – or rather it is about feeling safe (I had a hard time finding the right word). Here there are the usual measures about more police, stricter laws etc. that you would expect from a right-winged government.

All in all, no great surprises in the platform.

Since the government already was dependent upon the two parties, I don’t think the expansion will make any great differences. It will make the Prime Minister’s work slightly easier, as he will have to find fewer votes outside government in order to get things passed, but other than that, I can’t really see how this will create a difference.

The only positive thing I can say, is that the expansion of parties, also creates a bigger group of candidates for government positions. Given how abysmal some of his government members have been, this might be worth something. Unfortunately, some of those candidates are even worse than the current lot of ministers.




A stunning lack of fact-checking in Denmark

Perhaps surprising to people who consider Denmark either a decadent socialist hell-hole or an enlightened welfare state, there is a robust debate about the welfare state in Denmark, its role, its size, and its effectiveness.

The current government, and most of the parties supporting it, is of the opinion that the welfare state in Denmark is too large and expensive, and that the tax rate is too high, especially for the people with the highest incomes – i.e. those paying the top level tax rate.

I profoundly disagree, even though I am one of those who would benefit from the tax rate being reduced. But that is a subject for another post.

Among the parties supporting the government on this issue, is Liberal Alliance, which is a Libertarian party (or ultra-liberal in the European sense).

One of the members of parliament for that party is also the founder of 180 grader (180 degrees) which is a blogging side for libertarians. 180 grader obviously have a lot of blog posts pushing the party line, and demonizing the welfare state.

One of the people writing at 180 grader is Karina Pedersen, who grew up in a poor neighborhood in a fairly small Danish town (population approximately 50,000 people). Karina Pedersen claimed that the welfare state kept people in poverty and unemployment, drawing on her experiences and referring to her family and old class mates as examples.

Given that Karina Pedersen is a rare case of someone from a poor background criticizing the welfare state, she has been given a lot of space in the public debate though numerous interviews and even a book Helt ude i hampen – mails fra underklassen (hard to translate, but approximately Completely far out – mails from the lower class). The book was published a couple of weeks ago.

The book is supposedly based on some mails that Karina Pedersen has sent to a friend, telling about her experiences, claiming that the “lower class” is lazy and cheating, and shouldn’t be helped by the state. She claimed that there were teen mothers living all over her old neighborhood as a result of the welfare state.

The publications of the book has of course given Karina Pedersen and her views more space in the newspapers, which uncritically published her claims about her experiences from her youth.

Then something interesting happened. A journalist decided to do some fact-checking (link in Danish).

As you might have guessed, it turned out that just about everything that Karina Pedersen had said about her childhood was either impossible to document or outright lies. Her claims about her family and classmates being unemployed were completely wrong, and so where the claims about young teenage mothers (something easily refuted by looking at the birth statistics).

In other words, her book and her claims in numerous interviews, were based upon lies, which a minimum of fact-checking would have uncovered.

Most of the many newspapers that have given Karina Pedersen space have admitted that they haven’t done their work properly, and that they should have done fact-checking and not just trust her claims, even if they had been published in a book.

The publisher of her book, Gyldendal, on the other hand, claims that they haven’t done anything wrong in not fact-checking her book, as it is her impression of her childhood and later life, and not meant to be accurate. This is of course bullshit, as the book contains factual claims about other people, all of which have turned out to be lies. This is not acceptable in a non-fiction book. If Gyldendal thinks this is the case, it is clear that it is not possible to trust the content of any of their non-fiction books.

In other words, one should avoid non-fiction by Gyldendal if you want books that are actually verifiable non-fiction.