Lutheran latte, butter princesses, and lots of politics at the Great Minnesota Get-Together

Lutheran Latte at the Great Minnesota Get-Together — Swedish egg coffee with vanilla ice cream — how can you not love it!

Lutheran LatteBut if you for some reason don’t, you can have a Meatball Sundae, or one of Ole’s Candied Bacon Cannoli and a cup of Swedish coffee – that’s “The breakfast of State Fair champions” for those who don’t know it, or Norwegian lefse with lingonberry jam at Lynne’s, fried pickles, and anything on a stick: corndog, shrimp, chicken, turkey, long dog…Or you could drink Minnesota wine and any number of Minnesota microbrews.

And all this in almost one hundred degree heat this past weekend, when over one hundred thousand people visited the Minnesota State Fair, every day — all part of the twelve days of the “Great Minnesota Get-Together.”

It’s been like this for decades at the end of the summer in Minnesota. I’ve never seen anything like it, never imagining watching a sculpture of Princess Kay of the Milky Way as the winner of the Minnesota Dairy Princess Program is called, being carved in 90 pounds of the best Minnesota butter in a walk-in, glass-walled refrigerator with people surrounding and watching. Each of the twelve finalists gets her own butter sculpture made and she gets to take it home after the Fair. What a show!

Butter QueensAnd it seems that no one wants to miss it. Everyone is there. Every radio and TV station, the environmentalists in the Eco building, the art lovers in the big art exhibit, the friends of the state’s national parks, and, of course, the politicians, lots of politicians, almost all of them…

Al Franken at State FairIn one corner is the Minnesota Democrats’ tent, the Democratic Farmer Labor Party as it is called here, and it is buzzing with activity. DFL runs Minnesota, from Governor Mark Dayton to both houses of the State Legislature and both US senators, and with five of the eight members of the House of Representatives in Washington. And just across the street is the AFL/CIO plaza with numerous union representatives and a big banner calling for higher minimum wage.

Senator Al Franken, who is up for re-election in November 2014 also has his own booth, and so does the other Minnesota senator, Amy Klobuchar. Both are at the Fair, on separate days, this steamy weekend, working the crowd and talking to their constituents.

Franken says he loves coming here because he gets to meet people from all across Minnesota, and he asks for support from the trade unions as well as the faithful in the DFL tent, where voter registration forms in Somali, Hmong, and Spanish reflect the new immigrant groups in Minnesota. He loves to quote the former liberal Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone, whose untimely death in an airplane crash in October 2002 in many ways still haunt Minnesota politics, who said, “we all do better when we all do better,” and Franken launches into a fierce defense of unions, of a higher minimum wage, of investments in infrastructure, of college affordability, of protecting social security and Medicare, and of the importance of the Affordable Care Act – he never used the term “Obamacare” – which brings so many good things to America’s citizens. He ends by asking for help in next year’s re-election, when he hopes to get more than the 312 votes by which he defeated Norm Coleman in 2008 – somewhere, he says, in between that number and what Amy Klobuchar got in 2012 when she was re-elected in a landslide, 58 percent to 38.

Amy KlobucharFor Amy Klobuchar in the brutal heat, it was the first time, she said and laughed, that she wore shorts to the Fair. No speeches. She is not up for re-election until 2018. But there were plenty of one-on-ones with the curious and the well-wishers, and at the end, judging a food contest.

The Republicans are at the State Fair, too, and so are the Minnesota Tea Party, the Libertarians, the Greens, and many others. But in these blue days for Minnesota, they fight a losing battle for attention at the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

It’s “Nordic Cool” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC

Yes, it’s big and Nordic and it kicks off tonight for a whole month with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of the Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo and with Danish soprano Inger Dam-Jensen performing Nordic music by Sibelius, Alfvén, Grieg, Leif and Nielsen.Nordic Cool 2013

Never before, neither in the U.S. nor in Europe, has such a broad Nordic culture initiative taken place, and in this case it was a Kennedy Center’s initiative, with support from the five Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland).

– Yes, it’s really exciting and a great opportunity for the Nordic countries to showcase what is best in Nordic culture, said Swedish Minister of Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth at a press briefing today at the Swedish Embassy, ​​House of Sweden, here in Washington, DC.

All the Nordic countries, plus Greenland and the Faroe Islands, have turned up in full force with all they have to offer in music, theater, film, food, dance, architecture, art and design. From Sweden, except for the Royal Philharmonics, there is the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s production of “Fanny and Alexander”, performances by Anne Sofie von Otter, workshops on Nordic literature, not the least detective novels, and films like Jan Troell’s newest, “The Last Sentence.”

It will be interesting to see how this major Nordic venture is received by the American audiences. In any case, it’s a great chance for them to learn a lot about what makes northern Europe tick, and to tick so successfully.

Cool.

Some good news for Obama in the final campaign days

Ninety dead, including 38 only in New York City, and around 50 billion dollars in damages — Hurricane Sandy could be the costliest hurricane in the United States, ever.

And suddenly, in the last frenetic hours of the presidential election, the environment, climate change, and global warming have become part of the campaign. When New York City’s independent Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, endorsed Obama’s re-election yesterday, he referred particularly to the president’s vision on global warming, a priority issue for Bloomberg, but something that neither Obama nor Romney unfortunately have talked about at all in this campaign.

“Our climate is changing. And while the Increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the danger that it might be – given this week’s devastation – Should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action … . One (Obama) sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet, one (Romney) does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.”

The think tank Center for American Progress writes in a new report about the links between extreme weather and climate change. The report, called Preventing Future ‘Frankenstorms’, states that Sandy is unfortunately just the latest in a long series of extreme weather events over the past two years. These include droughts, heat records, forest fires, floods, tropical storms, hurricanes, winter storms, and they have collectively caused nearly a thousand deaths and over 110 billion dollars in damage.

However, only four days to Election Day, the environment and climate change are unlikely to decide the election. But Hurricane Sandy has given Obama a new wind in his back. According to a new Washington Post/ABC survey 79 percent of the respondents said that Obama did a good job during Sandy. And today, the president got more good news when jobs figures from October pointed to the continued rise — 171,000 new jobs in October – far more than the expected 125,000. Unemployment rose slightly, from 7.8 to 7.9 percent, but that was mainly due to the fact that many more Americans now actively are looking for jobs, another positive signal for the economy and its future.

Not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt has a president been re-elected with an unemployment rate of more than 7.2 percent. It was in 1984 and Ronald Reagan. Roosevelt was re-elected in 1936 as well as in 1940 with unemployment at 16.6 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. When Obama became president in January 2009, unemployment was 7.8 percent. That’s almost exactly like today. Will that be enough to bring Obama four more years? I think so.