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Finland for Thought » 2006 » December | 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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Saddam Hussein hanged

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:28 pm

I guess there’s no “death row” in Iraq…



Farmers ship cattle up and down Finland to cash in on aid

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 1:27 pm

Your tax money at work

Finnish beef farmers are transporting hundreds of head of cattle a year from across Finland, including southern parts, to be fattened up in Lapland’s biggest beef farm in Kittilä and then back down south again to be slaughtered, the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) reported Thursday, adding the procedure was motivated by the higher aid paid for each head in Lapland than in provinces like Ostrobothnia and Savo farther south.

The animals may have to endure a round trip of more than 1,000 kilometres, according to YLE. [...]“The industry will supply the calves to places where the cowpens are, be it sensible or not. In any case this is how the EU system works, one simply has to live with it,” Ilkka Nykänen, head of purchasing at AtriaNauta, told YLE.

The subsidy paid for each slaughtered heifer in Lapland is three times greater than in the south. The national subsidy is 447 euros a head, compared with 270 euros a head in Ostrobothnia and Savo.

Get your Christmas tree a month earlier

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:59 pm

The day after Christmas, the Christmas season comes to a grinding halt, it’s almost as if it never happened – it’s kinda spooky how it suddenly stops like that. I’ve already seen people tossing out their Christmas trees. Finland (and alot of other countries) have a tradition of setting up their trees on Christmas Eve, then if you throw it out soon after, you only enjoyed the tree for just a handful of days.

The Americans on the other hand may have their tree up for a month or more (taking it down just after New Years). Growing up I used to work every year at a Christmas tree farm. The weekend after Thanksgiving (Late November) we’d open up and were quite busy, but the second and third weekends before Christmas were our busiest time. I kinda have to agree with the Americans on this one, I love having a Christmas Tree in my house, having it up in your house 2-3 weeks before Christmas Day really puts you in the Christmas spirit.

So what do you think – Would you like to get your Christmas tree a bit earlier?

Finnish beer seat

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:37 pm

Carry three beers (or mineral water?) while never having to sit on the grass again. Available in 13 colors from Studio Helsinki Shop

Hat Tip to Stefan C. for the link


Former U.S. President Gerald Ford dies at 93

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:00 am

The only U.S. President never to be elected, the oldest U.S. Present in history…

Donald Rumsfeld, Gerald Ford, Dick Cheney

Read or listen to Gerald Ford’s 1975 address in Helsinki before the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe…

Mr. Chairman, my distinguished colleagues: May I begin by expressing to the Governments of Finland and Switzerland, which have been, superb hosts for the several phases of this Conference, my gratitude and that of my associates for their efficiency and hospitality.

Particularly to you, President Kekkonen, I must convey to the people of the Republic of Finland, on behalf of the 214 million people of the United States of America, a reaffirmation of the longstanding affection and admiration which all my countrymen hold for your brave and beautiful land.

We are bound together by the most powerful of all ties, our fervent love for freedom and independence, which knows no homeland but the human heart. It is a sentiment as enduring as the granite rock on which this city stands and as moving as the music of Sibelius.

Our visit here, though short, has brought us a deeper appreciation of the pride, industry and friendliness which Americans always associate with the Finnish nation.


Finland’s Eurobarometer results

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:25 pm

The latest Eurobarometer has been released. It shows that Finland is to the extreme top or bottom in many of the survey questions, below are a few of them…

- No one in the EU trusts their own government more than the Finns (64%), yet only 44% of Finns trust the EU (6th lowest in the EU). Only 39% of Finns believes the EU is good for Finland (4th lowest in EU). So Finns loves themselves but are very skeptical of outsiders, this isn’t surprising.

- Finland is known throughout Europe as being rather anti-refugee yet 54% of Finns say that immigrants attribute much to Finnish society (5th highest in EU) – 79% in Sweden. 76% of Finns believe that Finnish government should make decisions on immigration rather than EU (highest in the EU). I think Finns strongly separate “immgrants” from “refugees”.

- Nothing polarizing here but the vast majority of EU citizens believe that “criminals need to be punished more severely as there is too much tolerance nowadays”. The EU average was 85%, Finland was 83%.

- Half of Finns want more equality and justice, even if this means less freedom for the individual (3rd lowest in EU). 50% is a lot but I’m glad to see that we’re the 3rd lowest in the EU. This survey question could show that there already is alot of equality and justice in Finland compared to other EU countries, so there’s less of a need to give up individual freedom. And it’s interesting how “equality and justice” is on the opposite end of the spectrum as “freedom for the individual”.

- 21% of Finns believe religion is too important in society (2nd lowest in EU)

- Only 45% of Finns believe homosexual marriages should be allowed throughout Europe. 44% is EU average, 82% in the Netherlands, 71% in Sweden, and 69% in Denmark. And only 24% of Finns believe homosexuals should be allowed to adopt throughout Europe. 32% is EU average, 69% in the Netherlands, 51% in Sweden, and 44% in Denmark. A shame Finns aren’t more open minded about this, although this survey result could show that Finns don’t like pushing their beliefs onto other countries.

- Now here’s the most disheartening stat from the entire survey – 8% of Finns would legalize cannabis which is the absolute lowest in EU (12% of Finns have admitted to trying cannabis). Compare that to 49% in Netherlands, 26% is EU average, and Sweden is second lowest at 9%.

Finnish Christmas and American Christmas

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:55 am

Merry Christmas everyone!! I hope Santa brought you some nice gifts. Here’s a list from last year

Day of main Christmas celebrations
Christmas Eve
Christmas Day

Solemn, peaceful,

Boisterious, commercial, religious
What to watch?
Announcing the Christmas peace in Turku
Parades on TV?
What to drink?
Egg Nog
When do you get your presents?
Christmas Eve evening
First thing Christmas morning
How to get your presents?
Santa delivers them personally
Santa comes in the night while you’re sleeping and drops them off
How to tell Santa what you want for Christmas?
Write a letter
Sit on Santa’s lap at the mall
What does Santa bring you if you’ve been naughty?
Where does Santa live?
Finland (Korvatunturi, Lapland)
North Pole
Santa has a walking stick?
Flying reindeer?
When to put up the Christmas tree?
Christmas Eve, or day before
Anytime after Thanksgiving
Christmas tree lights
Large, fake or real white candles
Lots and lots of twinkly colored lights
Christmas lights outside the house?
Moderate amount
Must go way overboard
Straw goat, himmeli, lit stars in the window,
Fake Santa in the yard, fake candles in the window, nativity scene
Christmas Dinner
Ham, fish, carrot/rutabaga/potato casserole, rosolli, joulutorttu (Christmas pastries)
Ham and turkey and roast beef, stuffing, cranberry sauce
Day after Christmas?
Boxing Day, national holiday
Back to work, start thinking about Valentine’s Day



Markku’s Christmas Special

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:40 pm

All Finnish men stare at each other’s penises in sauna…

Finnish man becomes governor of Najaf, Iraq

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:21 pm

One of the refugees Minister Rajamäki would loved to have seen never make it in Finland…

The US-led coalition transferred the Iraqi province of Najaf, south of Baghdad, to local control on Wednesday.

In a telephone interview, Asaad al-Taee, the governor of the predominantly Shi’ite province described what he saw “Rauhallinen, ihana, aurinkoinen, kaunis päivä” (a peaceful, wonderful, sunny, beautiful day), he said – in fluent Finnish. Taee has Finnish citizenship; he and his family of seven children fled the rule of Saddam Hussein and came to Finland in 1993.

[...]Taee was elected governor of the province in January 2005. He belongs to one of the most respected Shi’ite families in Najaf. Before fleeing to Finland, Taee was involved in Iraqi politics and was jailed twice for his activities. The nine years that he spent in prison did not prevent Taee from taking part in an uprising against Saddam in 1991.

…interesting how Helsingin Sanomat never calls him “Finnish” or “a Finn” but rather, “Finnish citizen”, even though he has citizenship and speaks Finnish. I guess only white people will ever be able to be “Finnish”.


Does econ make people conservative?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 4:46 am

Harvard University’s economics Professor Greg Mankiw is known for his popularity, especially as he seems to actually enjoy teaching introductory economics courses (while most of his peers tend to favor spending time with advanced, post-graduate students). He even runs a blogsite so that he can keep in touch with his students, now dispersed worldwide.

One student posed a question on that site recently that’s actually quite central to the kind of ideological divide we see in Finnish politics today: does the study of economics make people more conservative (or more classically liberal, in academic terms)?

I believe the answer is, to some degree, yes. My experience is that many students find that their views become somewhat more conservative after studying economics. There are at least three, related reasons.

First, in some cases, students start off with utopian views of public policy, where a benevolent government can fix all problems. One of the first lessons of economics is that life is full of tradeoffs. That insight, completely absorbed, makes many utopian visions less attractive. Once you recognize, for example, that there is a tradeoff between equality and efficiency, as economist Arthur Okun famously noted, many public policy decisions become harder.

Second, some of the striking insights of economics make one more respectful of the market as a mechanism for coordinating a society. Because market participants are motivated by self-interest, a person might naturally be suspect of market-based societies. But after learning about the gains from trade, the invisible hand, and the efficiency of market equilibrium, one starts to approach the market with a degree of admiration and, indeed, awe.

Third, the study of actual public policy makes students recognize that political reality often deviates from their idealistic hopes. Much income redistribution, for example, is aimed not toward the needy but toward those with political clout.

These are lessons certainly lost on Finland, where entrenched socialist ideology sees any challenge to its moral precepts as a threat. In fact, most of Finnish counter-arguments focus on the demonization of any contending models to the welfare-state, even to the extent of employing state-sponsored bigotry to ensure the status quo.


Finns provided intelligence to U.S. nuclear interests during Cold War

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:21 am

This makes me very proud – The U.S. government along with donations from Americans go to assist Finland during, and after wartime. And Finland assists the U.S. during the Cold War

According to the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s digital channel for news and current affairs YLE 24, new information has come to light on intelligence collaboration between Finland and the United States during the Cold War years.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the U.S. recruited several eminent Finnish scientists to assist in clandestine research on nuclear arms and Soviet nuclear testing. Among other tasks, the Finnish scientists monitored the Soviet nuclear test programme, drafted calculations for the flight routes of intercontinental bombers, and plotted trajectories for missiles – ICBMs – aimed at targets inside the Soviet Union.

In a trailer for a report on the subject to be screened later today, YLE 24 noted that in the early 1960s the Department of Seismology at the University of Helsinki was discreetly provided with U.S. equipment to help in monitoring Soviet nuclear tests.

Shortbus and the new genre, “porndramedy”

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:57 am

You’ve heard of this “dramedy” movie genre where they combine drama and comedy, right? Well now there’s “porndramedy” (that’s what I’m calling it) where they combine drama, comedy, and porn. If you want a good movie to see over the holidays, go down to Kinopalatsi and check out “Shortbus“. It’s about these people in NYC facing problems with relationships, sexuality, depression. A sex therapist is trying to get her first orgasm, a gay couple introduces a third to their relationship, a dominatrix has all kind of issues. They all visit this underground club called “Shortbus” where orgies and drugs take place. (“Shortbus” is the name kids give to the short yellow school bus that the mentally disabled kids take to school)

It’s a great indie film if you can get past the graphic gay orgies, ass sucking, and guys masturbating into their own mouths (and they show *everything*) – If you’re a bit skirmish squeamish about seeing gay men kiss, I promise you’ll quickly get over that phobia after seeing one guy sing America’s national anthem into another guy’s asshole.

But what’s so interesting about it is that it’s the first time I’ve heard of combining hardcore porn with an actual movie. Has anyone seen Shortbus? With the rise in independent films, do you think we’ll see more of this genre?


Phil’s last minute gift ideas

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:39 am

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a board game fanatic, and board games make the perfect gift. Here’s a few recommendations for yourself or for gifts…

First off, if you’re in Finland, you should buy all your games from Lautapelit.fi. Their store is located next to the new Kamppi mall, or you can order from their website. They have the best prices and selection in Finland, and their staff are very friendly and speak excellent English.

pigwin.jpg Pingwin – 25,00€ (available in Finnish & English)
This is one of those games that 5-year olds will enjoy and so will hardcore gamers. The whole thing lasts like 10-15 minutes and takes 60 seconds to explain. You control a few penguins who are hunting for fish. On your turn you move one of your penguins along the ice and grab some fish, whomever has the most fish at the end wins. It sounds simple and abstract, and it is, but there’s lots of strategies to it. And it scales well from two to four players.
thurntaxis.jpg Thurn & Taxis – 29,00€ (available in Finnish & English)
The winner of the 2006 German Game of the Year, and my favorite game of this year. You’re driving stagecoaches and delivering mail around Germany, trying to build long and efficient routes. Takes about 45-60 minutes, easy to learn the rules, scales well from two to four players.
carcassonne.jpg Carcassonne – 22,00€ (available in Finnish & English)
Winner of Finnish Game of the Year 2004 (I believe) and German Game of the Year 2001 – this game is guaranteed to get you hooked on board games. Each turn you simply draw a tile, lay a tile, and optionally place one of your "meeples" on that tile. Throughout the game you build this beautiful medieval setting with the tiles. It’s a great game to play with your spouse, takes about 45 minutes, very easy to learn and scales well from two to four players.
for_sale.jpg For Sale – 16,90€ (available in English)
Addictive game where houses (ranging from a cardboard box to mansions) are auctioned off then are sold back for a profit. Takes 30 minutes to play, two minutes to explain, and scales well from three to five players.
samurai.jpg Samurai – 39,00€ (available in Finnish & English)
If you’re looking for something a bit more strategic, Samurai is a modern classic. Players represent families vying for control of Japan, each turn you lay down samurai’s gaining influence of Japanese cities. Takes about 45 minutes, easy to learn, scales well from two to four players.


Amazing Race in Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 7:45 pm

A few weeks ago I mentioned that the Amazing Race came through Finland. Here’s the videos of it in a five part series… (Hat Tip to MP83 for the link!)

Click below for the other videos…

A tale of two drug users

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 1:09 pm

The U.S.’s twisted judicial system is one of the leading problems plaguing the United States today, and any corruption in the judicial system goes virtually unmentioned in the media. Take these two cases

A poor 17-year black teenager in Texas plead guilty to an armed robbery and received ten years probation, while on probation he tested positive for marijuana and was sentenced to life in prison. That same judge gave a white man with connections in the community (his father is pastor of a large church) that same 10-year probationary sentence for murdering a male prostitute. While on probation this man tested positive for cocaine and that same judge gave him no punishment, and even exempted him from future drug tests…

In 1990, Tyrone Brown, then 17 years old, took part in a $2 Dallas stickup in which no one was hurt. He got caught, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery, and received a sentence of 10 years probation. A few weeks later, he was in court again — because a drug test detected the presence of marijuana in his urine. For still unexplained reasons, his sentencing judge, Keith Dean, threw the book at him. The 17-year-old was resentenced to life in prison, where he remains to this day.

[...]Last April, Egerton published a story, “Scales of Justice Can Swing Wildly,” contrasting Judge Dean’s treatment of Brown — a poor, black teenager — and John Alexander Wood — a wealthy, well-connected white man. While Brown got 10-year suspended sentence for the robbery, Wood got a 10-year suspended sentence for murdering a prostitute. When Brown tested positive for pot, Judge Dean sent him to prison for life. When Wood repeatedly tested positive for cocaine and got arrested for cocaine possession, Judge Dean didn’t jail him for life. Instead, he let Wood stay a free man and even exempted him from having to take drug tests or meet a probation officer.

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