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Finland for Thought » 2007 » September | Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & the United States | Blog of an American living in Finland

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

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30.9.2007

Finland may ban some light bulbs

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:56 am

Finland is thinking about banning the sale of incandescent light bulbs

A bill presented before the Finnish parliament on Wednesday envisages a ban on the sale of incandescent light bulbs. [...]Under the terms of the bill, only energy-efficient lighting would be permitted after a three-year transition period ending in 2011.

Welfare Statists are always so quick ban things they don’t like. It’s a simple-minded solution to a complex issue that takes away our smallest freedoms without really educating the public about something as serious as the environment.

Here’s an interesting story (from “Made to Stick“) about how the authorities got companies and individuals off dangerous coconut oil without laws and bans… (mind you, US politicians are just as likely to throw a ban on something, and some local politicians recently have been successful at banning certain types of oils)

The CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) sent bags of movie popcorn from a dozen theaters in three major cities to a lab for nutritional analysis. The results surprised everyone. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that a normal diet contain no more than 20 grams of saturated fat each day. According to the lab results, the typical bag of popcorn had 37 grams.

The culprit was coconut oil, which theaters used to pop their popcorn. Coconut oil had some big advantages over other oils. It game the popcorn a nice, silky texture, and released a more pleasant and natural aroma than the alternative oils.

[...]CSPI called a press conference on September 27, 1992. Here’s the message it presented: “A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings – combined!” The folks at CSPI didn’t neglect the visuals, they laid out the full buffet of greasy food for the television cameras. An entire day’s worth of unhealthy eating, displayed on the table. All that saturated fat – stuffed into a single bag of popcorn.

The story was an immediate sensation, featured on CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN. It made the front pages of USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post’s Style section.

Moviegoers, repulsed by these findings, avoided popcorn in droves. Sales plunged. The service staff at movie houses grew accustomed to fielding questions about whether the popcorn was popped in the “bad oil. Soon after , most of the nation’s biggest theater chains – including United Artists, AMBC, and Loews – announced that they would stop using coconut oil.

Finland the most libertarian & second most leftist in EU?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:21 am

According to PoliticalCompass.org (which offers a great test if you haven’t tried it already), Finland is the most libertarian country in the EU and the second most leftist country in the EU.

I took the test three times (results shown in the blue dots below) – once to represent the current sentiment in Finnish society, once as the sentiment in US society, and once as my own personal opinions…

political_compass.gif

Hat Tip to Thomas K. for the link!

27.9.2007

My pet peeves

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 5:05 pm

I have three big pet peeves…

1. Holding open the door for you – People are just trying to be polite, but when you’re like 20 meters away from a door and someone holds it open for you, so you feel you need to run to the door. I appreciate the gesture but seriously, I can open my own doors, it’s not much trouble.

2. Touching my monitor – A co-worker is leaning over your shoulder as you’re on the computer and places their dirty fingers on your clean monitor to point out something on the screen. GRRR!!! Just point at it!!

3. ABC Gum – I can’t stand the sight of ABC Gum (Already Been Chewed Gum), it grosses me out. It’s my sister’s fault, when we were younger she would place her gum in the freezer to save it for later, and it’s haunted me ever since. When you throw away gum, please wrap it up in a napkin thank you. :-)

…what’s your three big pet peeves?

26.9.2007

Left-wing art scene in Finland punishes right-wing artists

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 1:07 pm

Interesting article in yesterday’s Helsingin Sanomat about the leftist-dominated art scene in Finland. Right-wing artists in Finland are afraid to voice their political opinions for fear of backlash from the community. One artist in the article was too afraid to even use his real name.

“It would be a suicide by self-immolation”, says the startled author on the other end of the phone line. I had called to ask if he would like to speak publicly about his own political convictions as an artist of the political right.

The answer is a resounding no. According to the writer, coming out as a right-winger on Finland’s left-dominated art scene would mean an end to grants, leading to economic problems. Boards and panels would not look kindly on such a move.

Grants? Who gives out grants? Officials, funded by the welfare state? Well, maybe if they’re ideologically against all these grants, they shouldn’t complain about not receiving them. On the other hand, the welfare state makes Finns are the poorest people in Western Europe, they really don’t have the kind of money to be spending on expensive pieces of artwork. They need those wealthy right-wing capitalist pigs to buy their work.

A shame that arts funding is dictated by political ideology like this. In the free market, an artists funding comes from their own talent and success.

There’s no homosexuals in Iran

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:26 am

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says there’s no homosexuals in Iran like there are in the United States – LOL!!

25.9.2007

Anti-union Wal-Mart employee orientation video

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:09 am

I guess this is for real – An anti-union video that all new Wal-Mart employees must see during their orientation… (sorry it’s not on YouTube)

http://www.pfandp.com/videos/superwmart.html

24.9.2007

Finland wins bronze in European divorce statistics

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:45 pm

The Family Federation of Finland is concerned about Finland’s high divorce statistics, the third highest in Europe. Personally I see this as something to be proud of – Finnish women aren’t staying with their sometimes drunken/cheating/abusive/worthless husbands because of cultural or religious reasons…

The Family Federation of Finland is marking the launch of “Home Week” with a call for a national couple relationship programme. The organisation is concerned that Finland is in third place in European divorce statistics, right after Belgium and Sweden.

An estimated 30,000 children a year have to undergo the divorce or separation of their parents, notes Helena Hiila, managing director of the federation.

Split-ups also cause significant economic consequences for society. Hiila estimates that in 2005, about 420 million euros in public assistance was paid out to single parents.

The Family Federation calls for more efforts to prevent such problems. For instance, more couples courses and psychotherapy services are needed.

Another interesting use of public tax records?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 12:57 am

We have already read about how the Finnish government publicizes peoples’ tax records, including those of under-aged minors. Read it for yourself. (note: unofficial translation) Official Finnish version. Now it seems that income of foreign residents is not immune to this either. Now, Teemu Selänne has been in the news lately with his boating accident case, with his “reported” income being thrown around in the news.

A brief English edition of the news article.

Apparently, they want to fine the non-resident Teemu, who works in the United States as an ice hockey player, based on his income there. They want to fine him “20 day fines“. In Iltasanomat from 22-23.9 it said that his fine will not be “astronomical”, because his reported income was only 750,000 dollars, or about half a million Euros. Reported income? Where the heck did they get this “reported income” from. Do they make income from people who live in other countries public as well?

I wonder if Teemu “reported” his income, only to have it publicised by the Finnish government, or did the Finnish government acquire the information on Teemu’s income via official channels? If the latter is the case, then someone is breaking the Exchange-of-Information clause in the USA-Finland tax treaty, which basically says any information exchanged will be treated secretly and handled only by relevant officials. At least Iltalehti and the Finnish public fall outside that scope, I believe.

Fining someone according to their income in a foreign country they reside in – well, I have a funny, nagging feeling about that one. I will be asking some people about that one. Stay tuned.

There would be no news and no case if it was Matti Meikäläinen who sunk his fishing boat, even if there were other people aboard. This also makes one feel hesitant about calling for help when there is an emergency, since it appears that the government will take the opportunity to dip their hand into your pocket when they see it, especially if you are known to have a big pocket. Notice how the whole focus is on Teemu, and not the guy who was actually driving the boat. The Ilta-Sanomat article said that he was a 37 year old male who had 100 or so hours driving experience on Teemu’s boats. Forget him, he doesn’t have any money. Finland seems to have some corruption after all, in ways we like to turn a blind eye to, since it is so entertaining. This whole case stinks from top to bottom.

The lesson: Be careful all you new Russian summer cottage owners. Be careful who you talk about your money matters with. And don’t wreck your boat, and if you do, don’t call for help because they know you have money, at least enough to finance your summer cottage with, and they will want a piece of it.

21.9.2007

Expel stoned Finnish tuba players

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:14 pm

A proposal by Minister of Education Sari Sarkomaa (Nat. Coalition Party) to expel students who have substance abuse problems from social and health care institutions of education has shocked Finnish nursing students. The minister says that schools should be able to expel students whose dependence on intoxicants might endanger patient safety when they are at work.

[...]Under the law, a student in vocational training can lose the right to study if he or she is incapable of working in the profession itself. In practice, this rule is applied only to musicians and air traffic controllers, but Sarkomaa wants to extend the practice.

WTF?? Musicians?? Yes, a stoned tuba player is certainly a serious public safety hazard – thank God these pot smoking tuba players are caught as students, cause they could do some real damage working as a professional.

Actually I think drugs should be a prerequisite for music students. Maybe that’s why the Finnish music scene isn’t as big as it should be, cause they keep kicking out all the potheads. I bet Jari Sillanpää never once tried drugs.

Helsingin Sanomat must have made a typo, maybe they meant “Magicians”. Casting a Level 9 Fireball while smoking Pixie Dust and drinking Dragon Juice can be a deadly combination for you and your loved ones. Below is an example…

beethovens_fifth.gif

Finland has highest quality of life in the world -Reader’s Digest

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:10 pm

Yes, being born in Finland is like winning the lottery! Although I wonder if things privacy, purchasing power, conscription, immigration, xenophobia and racism are factors in this survey?

Nordic countries take the greatest care of their environment and their people, according to a ranking published on Thursday by the publication Reader’s Digest. Finland comes top of the 141-nation list, followed by Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and then Austria, Switzerland, Ireland and Australia.

At the bottom of the list is Ethiopia, preceded by Niger, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and Chad. The United States comes in 23rd, China 84th and India 104th.

The ranking combines environmental factors, such as air and water quality, respect for biodiversity and greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as social factors, such as gross domestic product, access to education, unemployment rate and life expectancy.

The statistical basis is the UN’s Human Development Index and the Environmental Sustainability Index drawn up by Yale and Columbia universities and the World Economic Forum.

Hat Tip to Anja H. for the link!

20.9.2007

One of the last Finnish monopolies “in the wild”.

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 9:03 am

Abloy

An Abloy “Executive” lock on the door of a cleaning closet.

Have you ever been to the hardware store to look for locks? How many brands of door locks did you find on the shelf? I have only ever really seen one brand, Abloy. I went to Bauhaus recently, thinking that since it is a German hardware store chain, I would find a variety of types and brands of door locks. I especially wanted to see some German ones and their pricing and appearance. However, there was only one brand there on the shelf, Abloy. It was an hour’s drive wasted. They have several different toilets and 15 or so different showers, but only one brand of lock, and a very expensive one at that. I also went to a lock shop and asked what different brands of locks they have. The seller looked at me quite blankly and said, “Abloy”. Then I asked him the prices. The tumbler: about 75 EUR. The locking mechanism: 46 EUR. The handle: about 20 EUR: Total, about 141 EUR.At my workplace, I noticed all the cleaning closets have exacly that combination on them, but with an “Executive” lock tumbler, which is even more expensive. Is that expensive a door lock really necessary on a cleaning closet? It certainly isn’t for what I need on my sauna building, where there is at most some used shampoo bottles to steal. But where do I buy a cheaper door lock? Noone has any selection. Even the door manufacturers sell only doors with Abloy locking mechanisms in them.

We can see the Abloy prices are quite expensive in Finland. This is probably due to the near 100% monopoly that Abloy has had over this country in door locks. Many Finnish people will tell you that they would buy no other brand of lock. Well, I have been trying to look for a lock for my sauna building and I don’t think I quite need one that costs 141 EUR. I know at Walmart in the US, I can find a doorlock with knobs, a locking mechanism, deadbolt, etc. for 20-30 dollars. After all, a lock is not going to stop a determined theif, but a good intruder detection system will.

Assa-Abloy is the one of the largest lock manufacturers in the world, if not the largest. The locks have the reputation of being unpickable and the best. That means if a burglar breaks in, there will be signs of intrusion, ie. a broken door, window, or the lock drilled out. But Assa-Abloy needs competition, just like any other business. Abloy owns all the familiar brands of lock you see in Finland: Abloy, Boda, Ving Card (hotels), Assa (Assa-Abloy), Primo (handles), etc. But is the pricing at the level it should be? It seems that Assa-Abloy is very hush-hush about their pricing online. You will find it difficult to find their prices anywhere, and there seems to be no online shops. Even in a lock shop, there are rarely the prices on the shelf.

Since Abloy is part of one of the largest lock manufacturers in the world, they don’t really need charity from the Finnish people, who have serious challenges with buying power otherwise as well. I think the pricing could easily be a fraction of what it currently is in Finland. Why punish the people who put you in business? Loyalty can quickly turn if someone comes up with better technology at a better price. We are rapidly starting to see electronic locks at prices homeowners can afford. Abloy certainly does not have a patent stranglehold on that technlogy, either. And many companies make much better deadbolts than the Abloy ones I have seen. A good electronic lock with a Cisa quadruple deadbolt is more secure than an Abloy any day of the week.

What about the insurance companies? They have a list of approved locks. A few years ago, all the locks on the list were products of one company, Assa-Abloy, with the exception of padlocks and the ones on Crawford Doors. Nowadays, you can see several different brands.
http://www.vakes.fi/asp/system/empty.asp?P=2216&VID=default&SID=634608291972345&S=1&A=closeall&C=23007

Here is a link of a new competitor for Abloy, sold right here in Finland. As you can see, the prices are about one fifth or less of Abloy’s prices. The locks are manufactured in Latvia. This is what I am going to put on my sauna building, probably. http://www.balticindustries.fi

Here is a link to a YouTube video of someone “picking” and Abloy lock, which means using a power drill to drill a hole through the disks.

19.9.2007

Finland no longer suicide capital of the world

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 6:44 pm

Finnish politicians were baffled for decades as to why raising taxes hasn’t lowered the suicide rates. Then it dawned on them, maybe education was the answer

Finland has finally shed a bleak record as one of the world’s suicide capitals after the number of people taking their own lives in this Nordic state has dropped by 40 percent in the past 15 years. Nowadays around 18 out of 100,000 people commit suicide each year in Finland, about the same level as in France and Austria. In 1990, the number was 30 per 100,000.

The decline is attributed largely to better treatment for depression, but even experts cannot really explain why the drop has been so dramatic, admits psychiatrist Jouko Loennqvist, the head of the mental health department of Finland’s National Public Health Institute. “Depression is more often properly recognised, prevented and treated. We have had special projects and campaigns about depression, which is now better recognised and treated. Psychological support and social support are nowadays in better condition,” he said.

Finland’s dire reputation as a nation of suicidals dates back to the 25-year period from 1965 to 1990 when Finland experienced an economic and urban boom. During that period, the suicide rate tripled. By 1991, Finland was the world leader in teen suicides, and among the top three in overall suicides alongside New Zealand and Iceland. Faced with the grim figures, Finnish authorities dramatically increased funding to improve mental health and since 1991 the amount of available psychiatric help has doubled.

[...]Experts meanwhile dismiss the widespread belief that Finland’s dark winters, where the sun doesn’t rise at all in the north for several months, play a role in the suicide rate. “There is a link (between darkness and suicide) but it’s not an important explanation,” Loennqvist said, noting that suicides tend to peak each year at the end of spring when the sun shines late into the day. And experts point out that Norway, located at the same latitude, for a long time had a suicide rate that was half that of Finland.

You see, this blog isn’t ALWAYS so negative and critical…! :-)

Hat Tip to Helsinkian for the link!

Innocents (Idiots?) Abroad – Five US Citizens Seek Asylum in Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 2:48 pm

Oh man. The border guards got a surprise.

Now as these American asylum-seekers came within the Schengen area, according to the Dublin agreement they will be sent back to their entry point in the EU. Which is a bit of a downput from the news perspective, as by all probability the Finnish authorities won’t even make any kind of assessment on their application.

18.9.2007

94% public subsidies for music in Finland go to classical music

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:59 pm

80′s New Wave music is dead, I think the state should invest millions of taxpayer money to keep it alive. Unfortunately, New Wave doesn’t have the same kind of high-powered and wealthy lobbyists in Finland like classical music does…

According to information gathered by Helsingin Sanomat, classical music, and other genres that qualify as art music get about 94 per cent of all public support distributed by the state and local authorities.

Art music gets about EUR 92 million of the key public subsidies distributed each year, while rock, folk music, jazz, and other types of music share a total of less than EUR 6 million in public support.

[...]In 2005 a total of 544 musical artists completed their studies at polytechs, conservatories, and the Sibelius Academy, whereas the number in just five years ago was 239.

About 1,000 musicians with classical training have a full-time job paid for through public finding. Just 25 musicians in other disciplines have an equivalent job.

Only a small proportion of musical education is for rhythmical music. According to a survey conducted a few years ago by the Association of Finnish Music Schools, 94 per cent of training at Finnish music schools involved classical music.

Furthermore, nobody in Finland collects information on how much public funding is made available for music education. Probably more than 90 per cent of all music education funding goes to training in classical music. The greatest amount of public funding goes to music schools – a total of more than EUR 100 million.

17.9.2007

Where is Finland’s entrepreneurial spirit?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:44 pm

Finland has basically just one company, Nokia, and thank God for it because it’s what puts Finland on the map. The country is made up of highly educated individuals, yet companies rarely make it out of Finland, and it seems like they’re not even trying. Finns were major players in the mobile applications and services industry, yet appear to be completely non-existant in the emerging Web 2.0 field, and we know Finland has plenty of engineers and programmers who’d be ideal for this . So where is Finland’s entrepreneurial spirit?

Finland is renowned for its research and development (R&D) but has been much less successful at commercialising its innovations and growing world-beating companies. In this respect Nokia is very much the exception that proves the rule.

“R&D is like an ice hockey club,” says Mauri Pekkarinen, the minister for trade and industry. “If you bring on young players but don’t give them an opportunity to play, you lose them to the US.”

R&D represents 3.5 per cent of Finland’s gross domestic product – of which 70 per cent comes from the private sector, notably Nokia – and Finland is high in the league table of patents per capita. However, many of these innovations are either exploited abroad or the companies that develop them are soon sold to foreign owners.

The lack of a real go-getting US-style entrepreneurial culture is blamed for this state of affairs. Attention is now focused on what can be done to change individual attitudes and the Finnish environment so that more of the knock-on effects of innovation are retained inside the country.

The first problem is that few Finns are entrepreneurs and few want to be. According to a Eurobarometer survey in 2004, 68 per cent of Finns are employees, compared to a European Union average of 50 per cent.

I think Finland’s entrepreneurial problems are two fold – First off, this self-hating, lack of self-confidence, “I shouldn’t ask for too much” Lutheranism found everywhere in Finnish culture is the genetic makeup of a successful entrepreneur. And two, starting your own business is a HUGE risk with a LOT of sacrifice, but in the welfare state, it has little payoff. People only take on these enormous risks if there’s a big enough carrot at the end of that stick, but the welfare state ideology gnaws most of that carrot off through heavy taxation, so the risks are no longer worth it.

Plus, Finns have the lowest net worth in all of the EU15, so few can afford to survive off savings in the company’s early years, and have few options to turn to when looking for investors. And Financial Times agrees

For some critics, the reasons for the lack of an entrepreneurial culture run much deeper and lie in the country’s generous welfare state model. “In this kind of (welfare) society you need to make a special effort to encourage people not just to be very good workers in someone else’s company but to be employers themselves,” says Mr Pekkarinen.

Risk-taking is deterred as the costs of doing so can be severe and the rewards uninspiring. “The balance between returns and risk is not good enough,” says Mr Järventaus.

There is no US-style Chapter 11 bankruptcy, though it is being considered, and until recently an entrepreneur was discriminated against if his company failed and he tried to claim social benefits.

On the return side, income taxes are heavy and dividends are double-taxed (though reform is being considered), so entrepreneurs have to give up much of the gains from their hard work and vision.

Nevertheless, as Finns become wealthier and more self-confident, attitudes to wealth and risk are beginning to change, according to Mr Mäkinen. “People have become wealthier,” he says. “They are prepared to take risks and look for quality of work.”

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