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Finland for Thought » 2006 » September | 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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28.9.2006

Finnish movies getting me down

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:55 pm

I love Finnish movies, I think I subconsciously give them an extra point in my movie ratings simply because they’re Finnish (I just saw Paha Maa, amazing film). It’s really cool to see films set in buildings and on streets that I visit regularly, or set in a very generic Finnish countryside setting which we all know and love very well. How often can you say that about American films? Every once in a while a film will take place in Baltimore, I’ll say, “Oh I know where that is!!”, then they zoom in and it suddenly looks more like Vancouver, Canada.

Finnish movies can be quite depressing and disturbing though, more depressing and disturbing than normal American films. Finnish films always seem to throw in bizarre sex scenes, couples cheating, drunken behavior, depressed people, dismal settings… Normally these things wouldn’t bother me when watching a film, but they do when watching a Finnish film.

At first I thought the directors included these “shocking” scenes because they were on a small budget and didn’t have the special effects or big name actors to “wow” the audience. But now I think I get disturbed because all these scenes take place in neighborhoods I know well, with people that could easily be my neighbors.

When I watch an American film I think, “Oh that’s just some Hollywood nonsense” and it doesn’t relate to me. But Finnish films seem all too real, it’s often more “difficult” to watch a Finnish drama. …Know what I mean? Anyone else feel this way when watching Finnish movies?

But then again, I’m a huge fan of HBO’s “The Wire” which takes place all around Baltimore at locations which I know very well. There’s all sorts of fucked up murders and things that happen on the show thatare VERY true to real life, but it doesn’t affect me.

suomi_on_paha_maa.jpg

27.9.2006

Finland 2nd in global competitiveness, United States 6th

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:45 am

Finland drops from 1st to 2nd, the U.S. drops from 2nd to 6th, but still obviously very impressive for Finland. Although it would be nice to see that 17th place rating in “Market Efficiency” go up a bit. The graph below says Finland’s three most problematic factors for doing business are tax rates, restrictive labour regulations, and tax regulations.

Rounding out the Top 16 countries: #1 Switzerland, #3 Sweden, #4 Denmark, #5 Singapore, #7 Japan, #8 Germany, #9 Netherlands, #10 UK, #11 Hong Kong #12 Norway, #13 China, #14 Iceland, #15 Israel, #16 Canada.

As has been the case in recent years, the Nordic countries hold prominent positions in the rankings this year, with Finland (2), Sweden (3), and Denmark (4) all among the top ten most competitive economies. The Nordic countries have been running budget surpluses and have lower levels of public indebtedness on average than the rest of Europe. Prudent fiscal policies have enabled governments to invest heavily in education, infrastructure and the maintenance of a broad array of social services. Finland, Denmark and Iceland have the best institutions in the world (ranked 1, 2 and 3, respectively) and, together with Sweden and Norway, hold top ten ranks for health and primary education. Finland, Denmark and Sweden also occupy the top three positions in the higher education and training pillar, where Finland’s top ranking is remarkable for its durability over time.

problematic_finland.gif

26.9.2006

Guided tours of the new Mormon church in Espoo

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 9:56 pm

Never in my life have I seen so many people excited and curious about a new church. There’s 4,500 Mormons and they just opened a new church in Espoo. They’re opening their doors to the public for a few weeks only. It has been the ultimate PR stunt making national news in Finland, people are flocking to it like it’s the circus. A good friend of mine visited and told me all about it…

If you think you’ll just drive up to the front and walk around for a bit, you’re wrong. First off, you can’t park anywhere near the place, you park a kilometer away and private cars drive you in. You then queue in a 300m line for a very long time, some turned away because of the huge wait. Finally you make it in and are taken on a one-hour guided tour which includes a video (in both English & Finnish), no cameras allowed anywhere inside. At the end you are offered coffee and cake while a representative sits down and chats with you. Mormons are required to give 10% of their salaries (Christ, I hope it’s net not gross!) to the church, and the impressive insides of the new structure, their money is obviously not going to waste.

Have any of you taken the tour?

finland_moron_temple.jpg

25.9.2006

Halonen rings the closing bell

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 9:02 pm

“Her Excellency Tarja Kaarina Halonen, President of Finland, visits the NYSE and rings The Closing Bell…” LOL!

tarja_halonen_nyse.jpg
Link via Jukka’s Blog

Radio Free Finland – Season 2 starts soon!

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:19 pm

If you look below the Radio Free Finland logo to your right, it says, “To be announced after summer” – and since it was 20 degrees this weekend, I remain true to my word. :-) But summer is just about done so it’s time to begin the next season of Radio Free Finland…and I need your help!!

Last season we had some fantastic guests: Tarja Kantola from Tarja Halonen’s re-election team discusses the campaign, Singer/songwriter and Finland’s 2005 Eurovision song contest winner Steven Stewart, Teemu Lahtinen of Suomen Sisu, Terrorism expert Toby Archer from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, and a whole lot more. We’ve discussed all sorts of interesting topics like marijuana legalization, gay and lesbian rights, music piracy, conscription, anti-Americanism, immigration, liberals, the Mohammed cartoons…

If you enjoy this blog and the Radio Free Finland podcast, you can help out by suggesting some guests via comment/e-mail. I’m looking for individuals or organizations who do something Finland-related and may not make the traditional news outlets like Hesari and YLE. And don’t be shy, suggest yourself as a guest if you have something interesting to talk about!! Seriously, the most difficult thing about doing the podcast is booking the guests, so if you could help out with it, that would be fantastic!

There’ll be some small changes to the show, I’ll write about them in a future post. Hopefully we’ll do the first show next week or the following. Stay tuned!

Tipping – libertarian wet dream, welfare state nightmare

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 1:46 pm

Finns (and the rest of Europe?) hate having to tip, this is one of their biggest complaints about visiting the U.S. It’s totally understandable, you never know when and how much you should tip, and you always need to have a few loose bills in your pocket – but you’ll quickly figure it out.

Back in the states I had many friends working as waiters in the restaurant business. They made enormous incomes off tips considering the little skills, schooling, and experience they had. 40K and 50K a year were typical salaries, I was jealous. I had another friend who made a killing off tips parking cars at a valet. In Baltimroe immigrants fresh off the boat speaking very little English made a decent living driving cabs.

Tipping is every libertarian’s wet dream – people with little or no education and experience doing well, the harder you work the more you get paid, those that are wealthy generally tip more than those who are poor…and the best part is, all this is done in a voluntary fashion. No one is forcing anyone to tip, society and the free market has figured all this out without the need for laws, rules, regulations, cops, politicians, government involvement etc…

Now for a welfare statist, this whole concept of what essentially is “voluntary socialism”, must make their heads go blue screen. Tipping defies every rule of welfare state logic. A successful financial system without laws, rules, regulations, cops, politicians and government involvement that’s all based on volunteerism would essentially deem the welfare state as useless and as a failed experiment. No wonder why so many people in Finland hate tipping! It would be like The Da Vinci Code if the Christians discovered the truth about the Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and lost books in the Bible.

I am in no way saying that the United States has a successful financial system – my point here is that the tipping culture proves that society and the free market can succeed financially without all the laws, rules, regulations, cops, politicians, and government involvement.

New President for Estonia

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 4:20 am

This weekend, a Social-Democratic Member of parliament of the European Union and the former foreign minister of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves beat the incumbent President Arnold Rüütel in the race for the presidency. He won with one vote over the simple majority from a 345-strong Estonian electoral college made up of lawmakers and local officials, with 174 votes against 162 votes for Rüütel.
Ilves said that he will make foreign policy and Estonia’s international representation the main focus of his presidency. He also reaffirmed his strong ties to the European Union, saying of Estonia’s often strained relations with Russia: “The road to Moscow goes through Brussels.” Ilves, who is fluent in English, German and Spanish in addition to his native Estonian — which he speaks with a slight accent — was elected in a landslide victory to the European parliament in 2004.

Critics have said Ilves knows little about the daily problems facing ordinary Estonians. He will need to bridge the gap between his supporters, generally intellectuals in the capital and other cities, and those of Rüütel, in less developed parts of Estonia. Rüütels, who was a high ranking official in the Soviet-era communist party and speaks fluent Russian, supporters also include Russians, who make up around one-third of the population of Estonia.

Ilves was born in Sweden on December 26, 1953, and spent a large part of his life in the United States, where his parents sought refuge after the 1940 Soviet occupation of Estonia. His election to the Estonian presidency means that the heads of state of all three Baltic countries are former exiles who returned home in the 1990s when their countries regained independence from the Soviet Union after nearly 50 years of occupation. Ilves has often pointed as an example to Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga — who spent the Soviet occupation in Germany, French Morocco and Canada — praising her for significantly raising her country’s international profile and making it a bigger player on the world stage than Estonia. President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania lived for more than 50 years in the United States during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania.

22.9.2006

Finnish elections vs. Swedish elections

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:03 pm

Many Finns seem to pride themselves on the fact that coalitions aren’t formed and possible PM’s aren’t decided before the election like what happened in Sweden’s parliamentary elections last week. But Unto Hämäläinen of Helsingin Sanomat has a good point…

Things would be quite different if the parties were to form two alliances according to the Swedish model. Eero Heinäluoma could be the common prime ministerial candidate of the SDP, the Left Alliance, and the Greens. Matti Vanhanen would be an appropriate candidate for the Centre, the National Coalition Party, the Swedish People’s Party, and the Christian Democrats. Then the voters could directly influence who takes the post, and what parties will be in the government coalition.

This is not what will happen in Finland. The parties in the government, and the person who leads it, will be decided in negotiations to be held after the elections. The winner will be the leader of one of the three largest parties – the one who gets a majority of votes from Members of Parliament.

21.9.2006

Learn Finnish from Bastards

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:52 pm

The Finnish language instructional tape your teacher refuses to show you…

First snow in Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:34 pm

September isn’t even exactly early either, sometimes they get the first snow in August..! (anyone got photos of yesterday’s blizzard?)

Northern Lapland has enjoyed this autumn’s first fall of snow. The first snowflakes appeared in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and the fall of snow continued on and off throughout the day. The most snow was received in the far northern municipalities of Enontekiö, Kittilä, Inari, and Utsjoki, and partly the snow cover remained on the ground. Things were fairly local, and for instance the temperature on Wednesday in the provincial capital Rovaniemi was 13 degrees Celsius higher than in Inari.

According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the first snow came early this year. The long-term average for the first sound snow cover in the central and northern parts of Lapland is between October 3 and 14. The snow cover is considered sound when its thickness on the ground is at least one centimetre when measured in the morning. Sometimes the very north of Lapland may receive snow even in August, but then it quickly melts away.

Introducing Höpöhöpö…

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:51 pm

A few of us from FinlandForum got together and started a group blog for those of us learning Finnish as a second language. Foreigners can sign-up and write in the blog, regardless of skill level, beginners and near-fluent speakers are very welcome. Everyone is to write and comment in as much Finnish as much as they can. No one is to make fun of any writer or commenter’s Finnish skills, and no one is to correct/critique anyone’s Finnish language unless they ask for it.

The goal is to get foreigners writing and reading the Finnish language without worrying about writing it perfectly. Often, Finnish students complain that their teachers nit-pick every tiny piece of grammar, so students become afraid to use the language.

Check it out! http://hopohopo.finnishschool.com/

hopohopo_finland.jpg

20.9.2006

Additional healthcare insurance required to play sports in Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 5:18 pm

Healthcare is supposed to be “free” in the welfare state, right? Well then why do I have to pay 25e for healthcare insurance so I can play in a no-contact, flag-football tournament this weekend? This isn’t tackle football or rock-climbing or jumping out of an airplane. And I didn’t see any discounts for students or the poor (but maybe I didn’t read it thoroughly).

I guess the reasoning is that sports are considered dangerous activities and we’re more susceptible to injury. But so are little old ladies walking down the street. So let’s start forcing them to pay an additional health insurance. I played organized sports back in the states and don’t remember having to pay for any extra insurance.

Honestly I think it’s a good idea, people who are more likely to get injured should pay more. All insurances work the same way, if you’re more likely to get in a car accident, you pay more. But the Finnish state doesn’t work that way, that just seem to pick on athletes. How about any of your who play league soccer, do you pay additional health insurance? You better, cause after watching the World Cup this year and watching these supposed “athletes” fall and cry like babies every 3 minutes, it looks to be a dangerous sport!

Overall alcohol consumption dropping in Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:22 pm

Overall alcohol consumption is dropping in Finland…

The sharp rise in the consumption of alcohol which followed the drop in alcohol taxation in 2004 appears to have levelled off in the early part of this year. If the trend continues, overall consumption could actually decrease during the latter part of 2006.

Thanks to the lower alcohol taxes in Finland, Finns no longer travel to Estonia to bring back mountains of booze…

The amount of strong spirits brought back from abroad – especially Estonia – has declined by as much as one third compared with the previous year, and personal imports of beer have also declined significantly. Also, an increasing number of Finns come back from trips abroad without a single bottle of cheap liquor.

The tiny 2.5% increase in domestic consumption is due to the foreigners (Swedes and Norwegians) aimporting more alcohol from Finland and Finns are importing less from abroad – and now consumption is getting back to normal. Remember this when the welfare statists try to raise alcohol taxes again.

The decline is so substantial that it could signify an overall reduction in total alcohol consumption for this year.

19.9.2006

America!

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:36 pm

america_exclaimation.jpg
Taken by me at Dulles International Airport in Washington DC. Photo is a bit blurry because I had my right hand over my heart, singing the national anthem.

Liberal-Right coalition in Finland?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:53 pm

Americans, especially those like me who support a “3rd-party candidate”, are constantly complaining about the U.S.’s two-party duopoly – they’d love to have Sweden or Finland’s multi-party system. Yet, Sweden’s elections on Sunday basically boiled down to a socialist vs. non-socialist fight. And Finland’s recent Presidential election was another polarizing socialist vs. non-socialist battle.

I’m surprised that Finns and the media have been so opinionated about Sweden’s elections because honestly, I don’t think they care that much about ours (but I don’t think they care about anyone but themselves, they’re the “world’s greatest country” for God’s sake :lol: ). But I shouldn’t be surprised, reading Swedish news is like looking into a crystal ball for Finns, we always seem to rip-off their political ideas a couple years later. Maybe they’re like our R&D testing grounds, or maybe we just don’t want to fall too far behind them.

Could we see a liberal-right coalition in Finland 2007? I’m using the term “Liberal-Right coalition” because 3 out of the 4 Swedish Alliance members have their ideology described as “liberalism” while only one is described as “centrism” – In Finland, three parties as well (National Coalition, Centre, and Swedish-speakers) describes themselves as liberal. Swedish parties don’t seem to mind forming these pre-election coalitions, why don’t Finnish parties do this?

swedish_alliance.jpg

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