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Finland for Thought » 2007 » February | 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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28.2.2007

Breadlines in the welfare state

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 1:51 pm

Hundreds of Finland’s poor stand out in freezing cold temperatures twice a week to get free food from stores that normally would thrown away.

“Number 16″, a male voice calls out, as if it were a game of bingo. People with the number 16 on their cards get to go inside.

Rautala and volunteer worker Sinikka Backman feel that the distribution of food is more like the Lotto than a bingo game: the food that is available is that which the stores have not managed to sell. There is enough bread, prepared foods, vegetables, and sausage for everyone. The lucky ones can get cakes, chicken fillets, turkey slices, Brie cheese, or spaghetti casserole.

[...]“The unemployed cannot afford to buy vegetables”, says Tiina from Pihlajamäki.

Breadlines in the welfare state

breadline_2.jpg

26.2.2007

So many candidates, and just one vote

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:08 pm

In the states, you’re very lucky if you have two candidates to choose from. Most districts are heavily Democrat or Republican, so your realistic choice is basically one. Here in the Uusimaa region of Finland, there’s 340 to choose from!! Seriously, how do you all choose one candidate from 340? That’s quite overwhelming, but it sure beats the hell out of the U.S.’s electoral system! …Choice is good. Except when it comes to socialized healthcare…then only one choice is best.

When I did Helsingin Sanomat’s election machine, a female Centre Party member was my #1 choice – I guess I should vote for her. But, I’m not a big fan of the agrarian Centre Party, and if she loses, my vote goes to help some unknown Centre Party member – That’s good if you like the party, but if you only like the individual, that’s a problem.

There’s four Liberals running in Uusimaa, three of them were in my Top 5 from the election machine. I guess I should vote Liberal. But ooops, I’m not a Finnish citizen, I can’t vote. Hey, here’s an idea (since I always say that Finns are more interested in American politics than Americans), I’ll trade my 2008 U.S. Presidential vote in exchange for a vote in the upcoming Finnish elections! Great idea! Who’s game? Oh wait, there’s a black Homeland Security helicopter flying over house now as I write this, brb…

25.2.2007

Phil’s movie awards for 2006

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:28 pm

I’ve seen 73 movies released in 2006, after I watch each one I rate it on imdb. Here are the winners…

Best Drama
2007_harsh.jpg WinnerHarsh Times – From the director of “Training Day”. Technically from 2005 but everyone agrees it’s a 2006 film. I can’t believe this hasn’t received any sort of recognition, just kept me glued to the screen in anticipation. Christian Bale is fantastic.
2. The Departed – Suprisingly not in my Top 5 from Martin Scorsese, I don’t really like Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Whalberg, or Matt Damon.
3. The Prestige – More greatness from Christian Bale, a movie full of twists and turns every five minutes.
4. The Last King of Scotland – Forrest Whitaker deserves Best Actor.
5. Babel – I’d rate this higher if it didn’t have so many political overtones, when I visit the cinema I like to leave the politics outside the door.

Best Comedy (non-indie)
2007_borat.jpg WinnerBorat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – I laughed so hard I had milk coming out of my nose.

2. Beer League – Not really deservant of it’s #2 spot, I think comedies are nowadays more suited for cable television series than the cinema.
3. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby – I love Will Farrell and Sascha Cohen
4. Grandma’s Boy – More humor like in Beer League.
5. Cars – Best animation I’ve seen in a while.

Best Indie (or movie you may not have heard of)
2007_idi.jpg WinnerIdiocracy – My movie of the year. If you read this blog, you MUST go hunt down this film. From Mike Judge, the director of “Office Space”. It’s about how the U.S. would look like in 500 years, after the entire population gets progressively dumber.
2. Thank You for Smoking – You better have seen this already.
3. Mini’s First Time – A hidden gem of 2006, a dark comedy.
4. Half Nelson – Very happy (and surprised) to see it get the respect it deserves.
5. Little Miss Sunshine – Fresh and funny, but seriously, Best Picture of 2006?!

Best Documentary
2007_rock.jpg WinnerRock the Bells – Saw this at a Helsinki film festival. A promoter puts together a hip-hop concert with Wu-Tang headlining, it’s fantastic.

2. Jesus Camp – The horror film of 2006.
3. Wordplay – Amazing how they make crossword puzzles so interesting.
4. Who Killed the Electric Car? – Quite shocking.

Other movies from 2006 I rate a ’8′ or higher that didn’t make it on the lists above: Blood Diamond, Candy, Children of Men, Crank, The Good Shepherd, The Illusionist, Inside Man, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Lives of Others, Little Children, The Queen, Sherrybaby, and Shortbus.

Finnish candidates not advertising on Finnish blogs

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:19 am

The Finnish parliament elections are less than a month away – candidates are advertising in newspapers, magazines, buses, subway, billboards, across bridges….basically everywhere, everywhere except Finnish blogs. Are there rules/regulations/restrictions against this? Or has the blog medium yet to used? I’ve looked on around on quite many Finnish blogs (excluding corporate blogs like Helsingin Sanomat blogs), and found just one so far. (maybe I need to look harder?)

Ads on blogs are usually quite cheap, and a view of an online ad is valued more than a print ad because the user can click to learn more. For instance this blog, you can get a one week ad for $10 (US), two weeks for $15, one month for $20, and 3 months for $40 – all through the Blogads service. Thousands of people visit here each day, most are from Finland, and the vast majority are interested in politics – ideal readers for Finnish candidates I reckon.

One of the problems I think I run into, is that these blog ads are very America-centric, and since it’s obvious that most readers here aren’t from the states, American companies pass this blog over when buying ad space. The same goes for Finnish companies, they’ll realize that many readers aren’t from Finland and/or don’t speak Finnish.

Looking from the Finnish blogs, few have any blogsads-style service setup, so they’re basically not welcoming any ads. Maybe they don’t want ads, or maybe they don’t think they’d be profitable so they don’t bother. Or maybe a Finnish company needs to create a blogads-style service. Finns read more newspapers and magazines per capita than any other country, so there’s a lot of competition out there for ad space. This print media has their own advertising team out hunting for ads, we bloggers don’t have this luxury, so we’re waiting for the ads to come to us – that’s a huge disadvantage.

Why do you think Finnish candidates have yet to take full advantage of Finnish blogs?

Former Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate Michael Badnarik endorses Congressman Ron Paul for President

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:22 am

The 2004 Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate, Michael Badnarik (I voted for him), has endorsed Republican Congressman, Dr. Ron Paul, for President of the United States in 2008. Ron Paul ran for President in 1988 on the Libertarian Party ticket and later switched to the Republican Party…

Badnarik also urged the Libertarian Party to nominate Ron Paul as well. “I hope the Libertarian Party is smart enough to say, ‘Oh ho, somebody we can trust!’ and nominate Ron Paul as our nominee,” he said. “We should set the Republican, Democrat, Libertarian labels aside, and vote for Ron Paul the person.”

Badnarik said that a large campaign war chest would be required to “scare everything out of the Republicans” vying for the Presidential nomination, especially with the media trying to close Paul out of the race and deny him coverage.

“He may be a Republican, but there’s already a news blackout on Ron Paul,” he said. “We are going to have to get that information out to our friends and neighbors without the media.

The Republican party is split into three groups: The currently dominating “Religious Right”, traditional “Conservatives”, then there’s the libertarians where Ron Paul fits in. This is a difficult situation for the Libertarian Party – Here we have a credible libertarian who has a real chance of winning, probably the closest chances to ever having a “libertarian” reach the Presidency.

But…he’s running as a Republican, and the Libertarian Party *hates* the Republicans. It would be very interesting to see if the Libertarian Party delegates elect Ron Paul or their own candidate (assuming he wins the Republican primaries). If he doesn’t win the primaries, he could still seek the Libertarian Party nomination as a Republican, or even better, switch parties. A few things about Ron Paul…

- Dissenting vote in the No Child Left Behind Act where he was one of three Representatives voting against it

- He voted against the Iraq War Resolution and continues to criticize the US presence in Iraq

- He has also broken with his party by voting against the Patriot Act in 2001 and again in 2005

- His regular votes against almost all proposals for government spending, initiatives, or taxes, and his frequent dissents in otherwise unanimous votes have irritated some of his Republican colleagues and have earned him the nickname “Dr. No”

- He supports the abolition of the income tax, most Cabinet departments and the Federal Reserve.

- He believes that the Constitution does not give Congress the authority to ban or regulate drugs in general.

- In 2006, a “Technology voter guide” by CNET awarded Paul a score of 80%, the highest score out of both houses of Congress.

22.2.2007

Immigrants required to earn high salaries before bringing family to Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:08 pm

Immigrants in Finland must earn a minimum of 2,880 euros per month before they can bring the wife and three kids…

According to Finland’s SOS Center, a support centre for foreigners, immigrants are required to earn an exceptionally high salary in order to be entitled to bring their family to Finland. In a press release on Wednesday, senior expert Lena Bremer from the centre noted that an immigrant in possession of a residence permit is required to earn a minimum of 2,880 euros per month before they are deemed capable of supporting a five-person family.

Such a requirement is surprising, says Ms Bremer, given that a five-person Finnish family is considered able to support itself through income support payments, which would total 1,400 euros per month.

V magazine pulls edition over drug-related article

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:05 pm

The free magazine “V” is censoring themselves over a recent article on drug use… (download the article here, hat tip to Antti for the link!)

The free-distribution magazine V was withdrawn from circulation on Wednesday. “The main article of the issue dealt with drug use in a manner and tone which is not acceptable for a responsible medium”, said Janne Kaijärvi, the magazine’s editor-in-chief.

The article included interviews with young people using drugs, and there were captions stating that the recreational use of drugs is part of everyday partying in Finland. The magazine had been in distrubition for a short time in the centre of Helsinki before Kaijärvi recalled the edition. “As the target readership of the magazine are young city-dwellers, it is not possible to give the impression that the use of drugs is sophisticated, and that there are no risks involved”, he explains.

A shame they want to censor open and honest talk about recreational drug use, cause it appears to be quite common in the Helsinki area…

As many as five per cent of drug tests mandated by employers indicate use of an illegal substance. The most commonly detected drugs are cannabis, amphetamines, and opiates.

I’d love to know what percentage of those positive tests only found marijuana.

Helsingin Sanomat election machine

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 1:22 pm

I threw Helsingin Sanomat’s election machine (from the Uusimaa electoral district) into a machine translator, here’s what it spit out. Use at own risk. When you’re done, be sure to post your results in the comments section!

Click “more” to see the questions and answers: (more…)

21.2.2007

Outi Koski thrown in U.S. jail

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 7:42 pm

Remember Outi Koski? We covered her ad nauseam (here, here, here, here, here, and elsewhere) when I first began this blog a couple years ago. She was married to an American (and has now remarried to another American, LOL!) man and kidnapped her two children, forcing her ex-husband to go through a lengthy battle to see his kids again. Well now she’s sitting in a U.S. prison

The Finnish mother of two boys of dual American-Finnish nationality, Outi Tasciotti (née Koski), has been imprisoned in the USA for contempt of court. In an interview with the Finnish News Agency (STT) on Wednesday, Ms Tasciotti’s solicitor, Ulla-Riitta Harju, stated that the mother of two was sentenced to 30 days imprisonment with immediate effect.

Ms Harju added that the charges were brought against Ms Tasciotti by her former husband, John Rogers.

Following the couple’s separation in 2001, a US court approved a joint custody agreement for the two sons from the marriage. However, two years later Ms Tasciotti failed to return the children to the USA following their visit to Finland.

Ms Harju has stated that everything will now be done to secure the release of Ms Tasciotti.

Ice skating into Guinness

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 7:34 pm

Uhhh… this has to be the easiest Guinness entry I’ve ever heard of…

45 skaters took part in an attempt to create the longest skaters’ chain in the world in Helsinki’s Ice Park on Shrove Tuesday. The record was set on the second attempt and will be submitted to the Guinness Book of Records.

ice_skating_guiness.jpg
Photo from STT

Finns wealthier than thought?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:36 am

A couple months ago a UN research report stated that Finns had the least amount of net worth in all first world countries, joining the ranks of Poland, Mexico, Argentina, and Iran. But here’s some relieving news, Statistics Finland says we’re really not that poor…

Statistics Finland reports that Finns are richer than a United Nations World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER) report suggested in December. However, wealth is distributed unevenly. At the end of 2004, the average Finn had 73,387 euros in net assets, mostly tied up in homes.

According to Statistics Finland, in 2000 wealth per capita was more than 40 percent higher than WIDER estimates. The UN institute reported the average Finn owned 37,171 dollars in net assets.

The Statistics Finland magazine Tieto&trendit reported that Finns are not particularly wealthy, in spite of the new calculations. The new estimates do, however, put Finns in a different category of wealth than citizens in Poland or the Czech Republic.

[...] It reported that the richest top five percent of the population owns about one-quarter of the assets in Finland.

Any news on where the UN went wrong in their calculations? Did they make an error? Or did Statistics Finland use different calculations to come up with their figures? Cause honestly, I trust an independent source like the UN over the state’s hired statisticians, but I reckon Statistics Finland will know their own statistics better than the UN.

finland_poor_as_shit.gif

Ashamed to live in Vantaa

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:24 am

Heating services were returning to residents of the city of Vantaa Wednesday morning after a district heating pipeline burst, causing an outage Tuesday evening. At worst, almost the entire city was without heat – around 150,000 people.

Several thousand people had to make it through the night without heat, and with temperatures plummeting to -20 degrees Celsius.

That sucks. But that’s why God made electric ovens that operate while the door’s open, right?

Hey, here’s a question for you – Whenever I ask someone, “Where do you live?” and they reply “Vantaa”, why do they always do so in shame with their head down? (It’s a rhetorical question) Move to Espoo, we always raise our noses heads high when people ask us where we live.

vantaa_good_place.jpg

20.2.2007

Same attitude found in Finnish business and politics

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:19 pm

This is only the second Finnish parliamentary election I’ve taken an interest in, but Finland appears to be moving closer towards the “American” style of political campaigning

…Jyrki Katainen went on the offensive straight away, accusing the SDP of making irresponsible populist campaign promises. He claims that the SDP would need an additional 2.4 billion euros to implement all of the promises it’s made so far in the campaign.

SDP chair Eero Heinäluoma retorted by saying Katainen is just slinging campaign mud. He added that he missed the old well-mannered National Coalition that concentrated on presenting its own policies rather than defaming others.

Well I’m not sure what Eero Heinäluoma’s problem is, it’s good that political parties are critiquing the campaign promises of their rivals. But I guess this isn’t the norm here in Finland? Political parties traditionally just push their own campaigns while ignoring their rivals? After all, mudslinging can be a slippery muddy slope.

That attitude seems to be present in Finnish businesses as well. My company for instance, does not comment on the products or services of their competitors, they only speak of the benefits of their own. In business, I think this is an excellent policy – while others are duking it out online, on TV, and in the media, my company keeps the atmosphere very mature and very professional, and its obviously paid off.

The same goes for Finnish TV commercials and print advertisements, you rarely if ever see “Our service is better than XYZ company” or “Our products are THIS price while XYZ company has THAT price”. Finnish consumers would frown upon those types of advertisements, it would have an adverse effect. Those types of tactics won’t work here…yet.

One-Third of Finns in Poverty Without Support?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:51 am

Here’s some typical welfare state propaganda for you, from the state broadcasting company YLE…

Nearly one-third of all Finns could be living in poverty if not for state financial support, according to a report by the European Commission released on Monday. The report compares the social inclusion and social protection of EU member states.

Finland has fewer poor people than the EU average. However, without the safety net of income distribution, that number would be higher than the EU average. In Finland, 29 percent of the population would be at risk of living in poverty without income distribution; the EU average poverty risk is just 26 percent.

In Finland young people, many of whom are unemployed and students, are particularly vulnerable to poverty. Institutionalised unemployment and displacement of vulnerable groups are particularly problematic in Finland.

10% of Finns currently live in poverty and without the interference of the welfare state, it could jump to 26%. Finland has some of the highest unemployment in the EU, especially amongst Finland’s youth. This high unemployment is created by welfare state ideology. Yes, the welfare state redistributes the income to the poor who are unemployed – but if they actually had jobs, the money would distribute itself. Would you rather be unemployed collecting welfare or employed and taking care of yourself?

The obscene taxation in the welfare state no doubts keeps people below the poverty line as well. There’s no doubt a large group of the population floating around the poverty line who could pull themselves out of it with some serious tax relief. This story from YLE is a perfect example of “the state breaking your legs then giving you a crutch to fix it.”

18.2.2007

Finland Eurovision 2007 finalist performances on YouTube

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:44 pm

Here’s all (well, 8 of 12) the Finland Eurovision 2007 finalist performances on YouTube. Starting with winner, Hanna Pakarinen… (Lovex and Thunderstone were also in the final three)

Click “more” to view the rest… (more…)

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