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Finland for Thought » 2006 » May | Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & the United States | Blog of an American living in Finland

Finland for Thought
             Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & United States

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10.5.2006

Finland is a seller’s market

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 7:50 pm

I think I’ve mentioned this before – when it comes to used goods, Finland is a seller’s market. Finns buy used stuff at very high prices. Compare that to the U.S. where it’s a buyer’s market for used goods, you can great deals buying used stuff. There’s nothing better or worse about either option, it’s just how things seem to be.

Take buying a car for instance. In the states, you can get great deals on used cars, buying new is kinda stupid. In Finland, it’s the opposite, you save very little money for buying a used cars. I’ve been spending the last few weeks looking at car prices here, people drive their cars 150,000km (roughly half the car’s life) and drop a half, sometimes even just a third off the price (seriously). Now that’s great if you’re selling a car, but not buying a used one. Of course, cars are literally double the price in Finland compared to the U.S.

For the most part, I think Finns buy used cars because they can’t afford a new one while Americans buy used cars to get a good deal.

Small turnout for Bill Clinton in Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:00 pm

790 euros per ticket? That’s nuts. I wonder how many of our public servants were in attendance…

The former President of the United States Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker at the Turning Point seminar held at the Tampere Hall conference venue on Tuesday. Clinton’s speech met all expectations, even though it was delivered to a considerably smaller audience than might have been anticipated.

Tampere Hall can accommodate almost 2,000 people, but only around 700 attended the event. On Tuesday, it was not immediately clear how many of the crowd had actually paid EUR 790 for his or her ticket. Even free and subsidised tickets were handed out.

Activists accuse Finnish police of illegal fines, wiretappping, bogus arrests

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 8:54 am

Compared to many countries, there’s not that much on-the-street activism in Finland. But for the few who are out there, the cops are hounding them hard

Activists feel that the police have also taken a tougher line. Stories circulate about illegal fines, wiretapping, and arrests on trumped-up charges.

“A fine summons that a friend of mine got reads Taking part in a demonstration where a flag of Finland was burned. Flag burning is illegal, but taking part in a demonstration is not.” Photographers of the Security Police (SUPO) are a familiar sight among demonstrators. “Men in black with a funny cap and a fancy camera”, one activist laughs. “When you ask them what newspaper they are from, they grunt and leave.”

One person claims to have received a letter from the Security Police, which states: “We have stopped listening to your telephone”. A third person recalls the recent “gate-crashers’ party” on Independence Day at the Senate Square, where activists protested the Independence Day celebration in the Presidential Palace. “After the event, we sat on the steps of the cathedral thinking about where to go to eat. Suddenly two carloads of men in woolen caps showed up. We were frightened, because we had heard that there were neo-Nazis on the move in the centre of the city.” The men detained two of the youths. The others intervened and asked if the men were police. “Let’s just wait here” was the answer. “Later one of us was charged with violently resisting an official.” The charge did not hold up in court.

Rantanen feels that officials are too eager to link civic activism, demonstrations, and the Finnish turn at the EU Presidency with each other. “They are being used as an excuse to increase surveillance, and impose tougher measures. That does not bode well for the civic society.” However, one activist concedes that no matter how much consideration is shown by the police, it is difficult to put down a disturbance once it has begun. [...]“The worst thing is that these kinds of disturbances are used as an excuse for tougher action on the part of officials, which target a certain section of young people, who start to rebel. And it certainly will not reduce the number of new disagreements.

9.5.2006

Six month healthcare promise in Finland has failed

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:44 pm

Recently, the Finnish government enacted a law that guaranteed all residents a six-month maximum limit for medical treatment. Six months already seems ridiculously long to wait for treatment, but the Finnish state has failed to even meet these lax requirements, they’ve been forced to turn to the [gasp] private sector – wait times in cities like Helsinki have actually increased, and it’s expected to get worse this summer…

Implementation of Finland’s health guarantee promise has so far failed to cut waiting lists for surgical treatment. A lack of qualified staff is the key problem. Under the policy, no-one should have to wait more than six months for treatment after June. Waiting times have shortened in Kuopio, for example, while in Helsinki they have lengthened.

A lack of doctors and nursing staff is at the heart of the problem. The summer holiday period is also expected to worsen implementation of the health guarantee promise. During the summer months from Midsummer to mid-August, hospitals only usual carry out urgent surgical operations.

The article blames the lack of healthcare professionals. Why isn’t there enough? The welfare state doesn’t have the resources to attract the needed labor, funds are wasted on frivolous state programs and projects while essential services suffer. We know that Finnish nurses receive an embarrassing paycheck, they flee to places like England and Norway to make any decent money. While working for The Johns Hopkins University, I had some Finnish doctors as my colleagues. They could have practiced medicine here in Finland but traded that in to be lab rats in the U.S.

Greetings from Helsinki!

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:46 am

Visit the electronic greeting card and click on each of the images…

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Hat Tip to Lassi N. for the link! And before anyone says it, Yes, this may be an old site for many of you :-)

8.5.2006

Find Tim’s car, get 100€

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:35 pm

Fellow blogger-in-Finland, Tim of Helsinki Times, had his car stolen over the weekend. He’s offering a 100€ reward if you locate it.

Between Friday May 5, 15:00, and Saturday May 6, 11:00, This Gold Metallic Mazda 626, Year 1990, Liscense# ZFA-238, was stolen from Haahkatie, Lauttasaari, Helsinki:

[...]Contact the police directly when you spot it! (let Helsinki Times know you found it, too, so you can receive your reward of a minimum of 100 euro’s! You may also call directly to 050-378 7863 to contact the owner by Phone or SMS

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Halonen, tough on crime?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:41 pm

Looks like President Tarja Halonen is “tough on crime“! Although I doubt it, she’s probably just avoiding all the negative press surrounding the clemencies of convicted murderers, the woman has no principles, she only thinks about which decision will get her the most votes. And how does Finnish judicial system feel everytime the President supersedes their life-in-prison sentence?

During Tarja Halonen’s first term as the President of the Republic, prisoners serving life sentences remained incarcerated for an average of three years longer than during the preceding presidencies of Martti Ahtisaari and Mauno Koivisto.

In its Monday issue the Keskisuomalainen daily revealed that Halonen pardoned prisoners after they had served an average of 13.18 years of their sentence. [...]An amendment due to become effective in October will turn over the bulk of the pardon appeal processing from the President to the Helsinki Court of Appeal.

Finnish textbooks: cautious over Soviet Union, critical of United States

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:27 pm

Textbooks can really shape a child’s mind at an early age. No doubt all the anti-communism textbooks we Americans were required to read has something to do with the anti-communist sentiment in the U.S. If Finnish & American schools were more privatized and teachers had more choice over textbooks, could there have been a more critical (or more positive) view of the U.S. and the Soviet Union?

Finnish school textbooks handled the Soviet Union in a very cautious manner in Finland in the 1970s. At the same time the United States was openly criticised over its policy in Vietnam, for instance.

The approach changed in the 1980s, when both great powers were portrayed with equal neutrality. As it was not considered prudent to write in a very critical manner about the Soviet Union, criticism of the United States was also avoided.

[...]Holmén detects a pro-EU slant in today’s schoolbooks. Finnish writers are clearly more upbeat about the ability of the European Union to function than the authors of books used in Swedish and Norwegian schools.

7.5.2006

Listen to Radio Free Finland live tonight!

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 7:18 pm

Listen tonight at 22.00 (3pm EST) when I’ll be joined by Teemu Lahtinen of Suomen Sisu live on Radio Free Finland. Send questions for Teemu to info@radiofreefinland.net or ask them live on the air by dialing +358 (0)9 2316-3876 or by connecting via Skype to the username: radiofreefinland

UPDATE: Many thanks to Teemu for spending some time with us tonight! Here’s the podcast…
Download the show in high quality (28 MB – mp3)
Download the show in normal quality (14 MB – mp3)

Teemu Lahtinen, 29, was one of the founders of Suomen Sisu at age of 21. While completing double degree this IT professional advocates healthy national and cultural self-esteem and every nations rights to exist and to govern themselves. Being head of Suomen Sisu now for 2 years, he was one of three publishers of Mohammad-cartoons on Sisu’s site on February and now under threat of criminal prosecution.

5.5.2006

Makasiinit burning down!

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 9:11 pm

Anyone got any more info? Anyone got more pics or video? The scene of last week’s MayDay riots is again on fire. I wonder how much this saves the state in demolition and restoration costs? And this certainly won’t improve the poor air quality around Helsinki. And how about this quote from the police just two days ago, looks like the police screwed up bigtime…

Liukku says that the storehouses are not now under special surveillance. The demolition of the buildings is to begin on Monday next week.

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A major fire broke out at the old VR railway warehouses in central Helsinki on Friday evening. A column of heavy black smoke from the blaze was visible throughout the downtown area of the city.
Several rescue and fire-fighting crews were on hand shortly after the fire began just before 8 pm.

Half an hour later the southern warehouse building was completely engulfed in flames. According to a YLE TV reporter at the scene, the building seemed likely to burn to the ground.

Authorities were taking steps to prevent the fire from spreading from the warehouse area. The nearest buildings are the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and the Sanoma publishing company headquarters.

Thousands of people gathered nearby to watch the fire, but the mood was peaceful.

maka1.jpeg

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Photos by JUKKA HÄYRINEN of Helsingin Sanomat

A bridge between Finland and Sweden?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:19 pm

HA!! We’ll all have flying cars before the two cash-strapped welfare states could put together enough money for this massive project…

The Kvarken Council, a cross-border cooperation body, on Thursday ordered its transport working group to look into the possibilities of linking the Finnish and Swedish coasts of the Gulf of Bothnia with a bridge or a tunnel.

A study produced by the council at the end of the 1990s argued that the technical prerequisites for such a link existed. Lennart Holmlund, the chairman of the council, said Thursday that the matter concerned the EU as well as Finland and Sweden. At its narrowest point, the Gulf of Bothnia is about 70km wide.

Expensive cars in public housing

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:36 pm

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been looking to buy a car. I’ve test drove a few, haven’t found anything I’m “excited” about yet that’s in my price range. Isn’t it funny how once you get interested in a particular car, you suddenly begin to see that car everywhere on the streets, as if they all magically appeared there one day? It’s spooky.

What’s with all the expensive cars sitting in the parking lot outside public housing projects in Finland? I went to show my buddy this new car I was testing, he lives in public housing, his lot was full of new Mercedes, SUVs, Volvos. And I don’t mean one or two, I mean ALOT. They’re easily paying 600e/month a minimum for that automobile…and living in subsidized housing. Buy a smaller car and suddenly you have enough to support yourself and for a mortgage. (I think I’m finally turning into a Finn after I’m scrutinizing neighors’ cars)

The same phenomenon happens in the U.S. – when I was living in the innercity of Baltimore, you’d see rows and rows of SUVs parked outside houses that should be condemned. Fortunately or unfortunately for them, the banks may not always give you a loan, but car salesman will happily give any fool a loan.

4.5.2006

Major economic problems in Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:40 pm

Not good – two independent studies reveal that Finland’s international competitiveness isn’t close to what we think it is, growth is major problem, investments are below the eurozone average, and Finland doesn’t even rank among the top 30 countries on research and development spending…

Antti Herlin, the chairman of Technology Industries Finland, said Wednesday that the most cited studies appearing to praise Finland’s international competitiveness had looked at the past.

A more recent study on research and development spending carried out by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) suggests, according to Mr Herlin, that Finland does not even rank among the top 30 countries.

Mr Herlin also quoted a Deutsche Bank survey as saying that Finland’s ranking in terms of growth potential was similar to the rating given by Unctad.

“Finland does not appear to be able to procure new research and investment for its area. According to Statistics Finland, the volume of new investment has not only fallen markedly, but investment has mostly focused on maintenance investment at the expense of growth of production capacity,” Mr Herlin said.

Mr Herlin added that Statistics produced by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OSCE) indicated that Finland had already fallen behind the eurozone average in terms of investments.

3.5.2006

Suomen Sisu on Radio Free Finland this Sunday

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:46 pm

Be sure to tune-in this Sunday night at 22.00 (3pm EST) when I’ll interview Teemu Lahtinen of Suomen Sisu live on Radio Free Finland. Send questions for Teemu to info@radiofreefinland.net – Or ask your questions live on the air by dialing +358 (0)9 2316-3876 or by connecting via Skype to the username: radiofreefinland

Teemu Lahtinen, 29, was one of the founders of Suomen Sisu at age of 21. While completing double degree this IT professional advocates healthy national and cultural self-esteem and every nations rights to exist and to govern themselves. Being head of Suomen Sisu now for 2 years, he was one of three publishers of Mohammad-cartoons on Sisu’s site on February and now under threat of criminal prosecution.

Editor of Helsingin Sanomat: “Either speech is free or it is not.”

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:41 pm

Janne Virkkunen, the editor of Finland’s biggest newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, said the decision of PM Matti Vanhanen (shown right) to apologize for the posting of the infamous Mohammed cartoons by the Finnish nationalist group Suomen Sisu was ill-advised…

“The prime minister’s action was simply imprudent,” Mr Virkkunent said, receiving the approval of other representatives of the Finnish press attending the seminar.[...]“Either speech is free or it is not. There are no intermediate forms. Free speech applies equally well to a British rubbish tabloid as it does to the Financial Times.”

And the longtime editor of a popular Finnish culture magazine who got fired over printing cartoons of Mohammed chimed in as well…

Mr Vilkuna said the juxtaposition of the west and Islamic countries appeared to take centrestage in the debate. He went on to ask whether Finland too was in a state of war. “One can in fact suggest that the censorship against Kaltio is a sign of the acceptance of a Bushist analysis of a state of war existing between the European and Islamic worlds,” Mr Vilkuna said.

So why did Vanhanen apologize? Wanted to nip things in the bud before they got bad? Was afraid that Finland was being kept out of the Mohammed cartoons limelight? Thought it would be some good PR for himself?

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