Day 234 — More sides of Sweden

Some interesting things occurring lately that shed light on this fascinating country.

This is called a Princess Cake and Swedes have been devouring it by the cubic kilometer since yesterday when Princess Victoria had her little girl (now named Estelle, Something, Something, Mary). Mariette has bought into the trend to the degree that she exposed me to it tonight for dessert with strawberries and ice cream, after a fabulous meal of smoked salmon. The story of announcing the baby’s name was the lead on the news tonight, compete with a 42 gun salute in Gothenberg. But this being Sweden, the story inevitably segued into whether there should be an end to the monarchy. Some people say yes, others say no. Obviously, if the royal family were doing things that made them indispensable to the country this conversation would not be happening. They would do well to analyze what they can do to help the country before they find themselves voted out on the street.

Tulips are popular at this time of year and Mariette bought some for the house to brighten it up.

I don’t mean for these sunny pictures to give the impression that spring is coming to the whole country. Sweden is a long narrow land that stretches well beyond the Arctic Circle. These next photos were sent by Mariette’s best friend who lives in the middle of the country and where there is still mucho snow.

This is Mariette’s good friend (and mine), Ackie. She and her two sisters are musicians and competed in Sweden’s Melodifestivalen in the 1980s and came in 3rd place in the competition. Later they were in an all girl cover band and some of their stuff was really, really good. Ackie gave me a tape of several TV shows they did and I got them loaded up onto YouTube. If anyone is interested in watching the Swedish equivalent of the Johnny Carson Show in 1980s Sweden search for Stig Malms Septet on YouTube. A couple of the segments contain some pretty wild stuff other than the band’s performances. As I said, this post is about some other sides of Sweden.

Speaking of which, here is an item that one can use to compare to the political sensibilities here versus America and how much more seriously they take their politics here. At the beginning of the year, the government lowered the sales tax on restaurant food from 25% to 12% with the idea that cutting the tax would lower prices and create more jobs. Well, McDonalds and the local hamburger franchise, Max, were very pleased with the decision. Max was so pleased in fact that they sent a little thank you gift in the form of a coupon to all the legislators that awarded them a free hamburger (and maybe fries and a drink–total value around $15, I think). If the U.S. Congress received such a perk they would likely be insulted at how chintzy the gesture was. But here, it caused an uproar because legislators are not permitted to receive gifts or money of any amount. It’s against the rules here. The left wing party was most upset but no legislator cashed in their coupon. The head of Max was shocked at the uproar and the District Attorney said that no charges would be filed. It created quite a stir.

Imagine the US Congress getting its knickers in a twist over free hamburgers. Imagine any one of them turning down a free anything because it is against the rules. It is inconceivable.

Mariette is often critical about how serious Swedes seem to  take things. She frequently complains about how involved people get in seemingly inconsequential issues and how seriously they take matters. For me, it is interesting to see lawmakers actually take something about their jobs besides fundraising or PR seriously. Politics here seems to be all about issues. Elections in Sweden are publicly financed so the lawmakers don’t have to put attention of fundraising. In other words, they can do their jobs. Very different from the typical US Congressperson whose first thought in the morning is fundraising. No PACs, Super PACs, and endless campaign seasons here. I think the national election campaigns run for about 6 weeks and 85% of the eligible voters voted in the last election. That is more than 20% higher than voted in the 2008 US presidential election which was touted as the most important in recent memory. Holding the election on a weekend I am sure ensures a higher turnout.

There is tons I don’t know about the way politics works here but I am just relaying a couple items that came to my attention today. All this and a baby’s name was the day’s top story.

Tomorrow I am going to discuss the morality of watching a train wreck if you are almost certain one is going to happen. Should one watch or not?



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