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Finland for Thought » 2007 » October | 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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31.10.2007

Flying to Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:58 pm

The Desperate Housewives are upset at their neighbors’ sculpture which came from Finland…

Tomorrow, credit information on private people in Finland becomes public

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 5:46 pm

By Sirkuspelle

Asiakastieto.fi will launch a new service in Finland tomorrow. Credit information about private people will become public and available. A credit report on a private person will cost between 3-4 Euros. There you can also get credit reports on businesses.

Some people are worried that this information will be used to discriminate against people. In countries where credit information is available about people, the person’s consent is often needed in order to actually use that information, such as in an employment check. (Such right-protection safeguards would be surprising in Finland, where the government allows magazines and cellular services to sell private peoples’ income information from the tax authority, which eventually finds its way into the Internet. Google “Veropörssi” and see what I mean.) I will also be interested to see if the give the “right to object”, and the right to be notified if someone accesses one’s data. They do seem to honour the right to access one’s data. I wonder if they will honour the right to correct wrong data. If they do end up operating in a way that it not in adherence with EU legislation regarding protection of Personal Data, the European Commission will be hearing about it. And it will be interesting to find out what rights and safeguards we actually do have.

At any rate, let’s hope and pray that this does not turn into the present circus that we have with peoples’ tax records, which, by the way, become public again in November. Let’s also keep our eyes open for non-adherence to EU legislation regarding protection of personal data. And let’s hope that this does not turn into exactly what the Swedish government was forced to put a stop to this past summer: Credit checks where you could get someone’s name, birthday, salary, wealth, street address, and municipality. Even the originators of this “openness” with private peoples’ personal information, the Swedes, finally figured out that selling peoples income information, birthdate, address, and so forth (even of underage people) in the Internet is downright stupid.

30.10.2007

Gordon Ramsay credits Finnish food – as utterly disgusting, and talks about carrots and private parts…

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 7:58 pm

By Hank W.

“Some unknown obnoxious limey floated into town peddling his favorite haggis recipes, but got a mouthful of yummy diaperfilling.”

That sums up Gordon Ramseys Helsinki visit. True to his style, the celebrated tv-chef (whatever happened to inebriated tv-chefs?*) ripped a few while visiting Chez Dominique and promoting his new cookbook. Now of course one is awestruck how can even such a renownedly rude twat from the country of boiled intestines say anything against the delicious karjalanpiirakka, let alone call it camel droppings, except when you look at the video. Or rather listen to it. After commenting on the dead lettuce there is a definite “crunch” so I am just shuddering thinking of a sat-in-cafeteria-cling-wrapped-two-days dried up shrivelled industrial exemplary. Yes, and while mämmi is known to be a very contradictive fare, I do wonder if Gordon Ramsays dentures came off after biting into the mummified Karelian pasty as his comment on the “squeaky cheese” leipäjuusto then does beg belief. I don’t much enjoy it with cloudberry as the seeds always get caught in the teeth, but otherwise it is a treat. The MTV3 “morning show” starts with some yabbering, (<= for the stupids: that is called a hyperlink), but the bit on Ramsay’s face when biting into mämmi is worth it. I’d half wished they had given him mustamakkara with lingonberries… and kalakukko of course. Have to explore all the obscure traditional fares with these visiting celebrities now we do. Or don’t we? Could’ve had someone a bit more snappy doing the interview though…

- Do you feed this to donkeys and horses?
- Present company excluded, usually no…

The real treat of the day though is from the Helsingin Sanomat. (<= hey, another hyperlink!) The short video on the page has the sugar at the bottom, Ramsay’s reaction to a question of him not being as attractive as Jamie Oliver is worth it. We can sense the great love for reporters, especially tv-reporters.

Oh well, the Ilta-rags of course extrapolate again on the “issue on Finnish food”. And then they wonder why we have such a low self-esteem. ” What do the foreigners think of us???” Oh who would give a damn? I’m sure that your man making a random visit, you know some generic chav talking of family values and his daughters tits in the same sentence would have washed the yucky taste of the Finnish food from his palate with some rotgut gin, glued his NHS dentures back on and be back sitting happily on the sofa in his carpeted livingroom with his shoes on munching a deep-fried Mars bar belching on the thought of fat Finns that resemble Shrek. So who cares? Of course Celebrity Chefs being of a different category alltogether – I bet you Gordon Ramsay is probably in a five star hotel somewhere preparing for another culinary assault on a nation. Poetical justice if he was in Stockholm getting some surströmming, which I would find immense gratification if they did make him eat that. Then again even the Swedes wouldn’t be that daft, now would they?

Meanwhile Chez Dominique’s chef/owner, Hans Välimäki has sighed in relief. He didn’t get chewed out on his reindeer and other “traditional” delicacies and probably got a few pointers on how to keep the two(!) Michelin Stars. Yes indeed, two – as a surprise to some, even here at the edge of the universe (in an almost-wine-producing-country) there are such restaurants. Not that I would ever go into one, I need to pay for my own, so I am more of an expert on the mummified pasties in the cafeterias. Cling-wrapped dead lettuce isn’t on my favorites list anyway. I am more surprised I recognized who the heck Gordon Ramsay was, I didn’t think I was that much of an old lady as I adamantly *hate* Finnish tv-cooks, but somehow the Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (the original UK version) got me hooked. My favorite ever was the family pub with the cook named Lenin, the poor lad. But otherwise I do watch very little cooking shows, though if I happen to stumble upon Keith Floyd, I tend to watch on. I think one of his more interesting ones was the experience on cooking on a train whistling through France. Now I wonder if they had the crew on the roof and the camera on a dolly as that was one of the most “efficient kitchens” I’ve seen. (Just noticed I publicly admit to watching two cooking shows, maybe I should start quilting. “Iron Chef” doesn’t really count as a cooking show does it???) Ooops…

*Wonder if Floyd ever does Finland, will he be more pickled than the herring?

Traditional American welcoming to Finnish folk band

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:17 pm

Finnish folk band Lännen-Jukka arrived from Amsterdam to the Minneapolis-St.Paul airport for a brief tour of North America. They received the traditional U.S. government welcoming which included hours of: interrogation, screaming, door-slamming, accusations, suspicion of drug smuggling, suspicion of working without a permit, drug dogs, humiliation, strip searching (like in sauna) and of course…no apologies when they were set free…

However the biggest tragedy of the day occurred when they didn’t have time to visit the Minneapolis-St.Paul bathrooms for the traditional gay sex and foot-tapping in the toilets…

…immigration agents at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport subjected them to more than two hours of interrogation that the musicians considered so harsh and demeaning that they filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki.

“It was almost three hours of screaming, door-slamming and accusations, according to the report I received,” said Marianne Wargelin, honorary Finnish consul for the Dakotas and most of Minnesota, which has the second largest Finnish-American population in the nation.

Erkki Maattanen, a filmmaker for Finnish Public Television who accompanied the musicians on the September trip, said his questioners seemed to think the entourage was smuggling drugs or intending to work without a permit. “I kept trying to tell them why we were here, but they’d just yell, ‘Shut up!”‘ he said.

Read the full story for the rest of the gory details, or just wait for the documentary…

Finnish Public Television, which was making a documentary about the trip, and the university paid travel expenses, said Prof. Jukka Savolainen, who was waiting at the airport to meet them.

Teenager received 10 year sentence for oral sex with girl two years younger

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 8:18 am

Sometimes I think Finland’s judicial system is so backwards, but then I’m brought back down to Earth when I read a story like this – Finland ain’t nuttin’ compared to how insane and racist the U.S.’s judicial system is – A 17-kid had consenting oral sex with a 15-year old, and went to jail for 10 years, finally he’s being freed after three years…

A man given 10 years in jail for consensual oral sex with a teenager has been freed after a US court ruled the punishment was cruel and unusual. [...]Wilson, a former high school honours student and star athlete now aged 21, was found guilty by a jury of aggravated child molestation for having oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party in 2003.

At the time, the crime carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and lifetime registration on the state’s sexual offender list. But if Wilson had had sexual intercourse with the girl he would have only been charged with misdemeanour and received a much lighter sentence.

Hat Tip to Helsinkian for the link!

29.10.2007

Opposition in Parliament to Finnish vineyards

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:34 pm

This reminds me of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” – In order for Finnish vineyards to sell their wines, the EU must consider Finland a wine-producing country. However, politicians holding hands with agriculture special interests think vineyards “would give wrong impression on Finnish climate conditions” = Finnish farmers get less EU agricultural subsidies…

Moves have been made in Parliament to put the brakes on a proposal that would make Finland an official wine producer in the European Union. Parliament’s Agriculture and Forestry Committee has proposed that the initiative be cancelled. A statement issued by the committee on Friday states that seeking to become a wine producing country would give the wrong impression on prevailing climate conditions in Finland.

[...]The EU is drafting a new wine statute, and the Finnish government has decided to ask that Finland be granted the status of a wine producing country. If it did not do so, the approximately 20 grape growers in the Åland Islands would not be allowed to sell their wines.

In a recent interview with Helsingin Sanomat, the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Mariann Fischer Boel remarked that things must not be so bad in Finland, considering that it wants to become a wine producing country. Finland is entitled to special agricultural subsidies specifically because of its northern position.


Tjudö Vineyard located on Finland’s Åland Islands

Eleven libels against Susan Ruusunen*

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 11:00 am

By HankW.

(*) =yeah, she changed her name.

While the publisher and the author of the “Prime Minister’s Bride” are facing charges on invasion of privacy by the Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen himself – the very efficient, underworked and overbudgeted Espoo Police has dug up 11 of the 21 posters from various websites who are now facing charges for “defamation of character” stating on various web boards their rude opinions of the book and especially its author. Reportedly none of the people have affiliations to the Centre Party, even though they are middle-aged and live in various parts of the country. Some have stated that they stand by their words while some have denied writing such messages. The district attorney is still deciding on pressing the charges. So, we have not only one but two (or twelve) court cases to keep us entertained during this winter season. (twelve if all the eleven are handled separately.)

Teaches you to stay anonymous on the internet, and to choose a lazy ISP. As according to the article now in the HS International edition (<= for the stupids, that is a link)

In 18 cases the writer remained unknown for one reason or another. There were many reasons, because there are many service providers, and many kinds of keepers of registries. (<= for the stupids, that is a quote.)

And maybe also, if you are someone anonymous not to go into publicity if you can’t face the music. For example the pin-up “Matti is a boring lover” lingerie centerfold act – it sparked a child welfare investigation. ( And an offer from Hustler). Hrm…

I am just wondering how much taxpayers’ resources are yearly wasted in this kind of court charades? What is the gain? Do you need to publicly sue someone to get a legal proof you have a character?

28.10.2007

Bums in San Francisco

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:42 pm

I just returned home from a week in San Francisco, my first time there. I always thought my hometown of Baltimore had a lot of bums walking around, but there’s literally 100x the amount in Frisco. It’s supposed to be the most left-wing big city in the states, so shouldn’t there be the fewest bums thanks to the increased social benefits? Or maybe all the nation’s homeless just flock to San Francisco? Dunno.

Fortunately all the bums seemed relatively friendly, non-intrusive, and often had quite creative ways to earn your spare change – they all don’t just stand with arms out like the recent influx of beggers in Helsinki. The ones that shout random things are the funniest, I had one guy yell to me, “Welcome to Hell. I’ve been here 45 years.” and another ask me, “Got any dinner money for a secret agent?”

Here’s an interesting story – I’m “dining” at the In-and-Out Burger, facing the window to the street. A homeless-looking guy is making and selling animal balloons along the sidewalk. He obviously has a slight cold and every few minutes needed to blow his nose. When he was done, he’d walk 10 meters or so over the trashcan and dispose of his tissue – I watched him do this several times. Upon leaving the burger joint, a wealthy-looking elderly man was walking towards me with (what appeared to be) his young Hispanic nurse assisting him. He too had a cold and I watched as he took his two used snotrags and tossed them into the street without missing a beat. Amazing, a homeless guy has the respect to dispose of his trash while the rich old white man litters – Who’s the fucking “bum” here?!


I’m on San Francisco’s famous crooked Lombard Street wearing my “Stewart/Colbert ’08″ t-shirt

Rolling blackouts may come to Finland this winter

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:55 pm

Just got home from a week in California. The weather was amazing and I wish I could bring it home to Finland with me, but instead I’m bringing California’s rolling blackouts

A cold winter this year might stretch Finland’s energy resources past the breaking point. The country’s power grid operator Fingrid says that power cuts are a possibility. Finland does not produce enough power of its own, especially during peak seasons like Christmas and the usual post-New Year’s cold snap. Imported power from Russia accounts for as much as ten percent of Finland’s energy needs.

Fingrid now says that with Russia turning down its output in order to meet its own power needs, Finland has to prepare for the possibility of power cuts in the event of a cold winter.

“Naturally Fingrid will use all available reserves and agreements with industrial sectors about electricity rationing,” says the managing director of Fingrid, Jukka Ruusunen. “But the worst case scenario is that household power will also have to be rationed.”

[...]The major factor in dwindling power reserves is Russia’s exponential growth. Electricity which was previously reserved for export to Finland is now needed at home. In the past, the Russian government has rationed power to St. Petersburg rather than lose out on the income from selling electricity to Finland, but this is no longer the case.

I understand that trade with one’s neighbors is important, but I’m so tired of hearing our import/export blues being blamed on Russia – relying on them is like depending on a alcoholic uncle.

Crime and lack of punishment

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:43 pm

Punishment handed out by the Finnish courts often makes me laugh. We sometimes hear about the six-figure speeding fines wealthy Finns receive that make international headlines – Then there’s the other extreme…Conservative MP Kimmo Sasi drove his car into oncoming traffic during his hectic election campaign killing the other driver, the sentence…

Conservative Member of Parliament Kimmo Sasi has been convicted by a court of traffic endangerment and involuntary manslaughter stemming from a road accident at Ylöjärvi last March. Sasi has been order to pay fines totally 6,160 euros and to reimburse the State around 1,200 euros in evidence and autopsy costs.

I guess the victim’s family gets nothing? And here’s a Finnish Big Brother contestant who was kicked off the show and convicted of sexual abuse

Mika, 27, a contestant from Helsinki in last autumn’s Big Brother reality-TV show, was fined for sexually abusing a sleeping fellow contestant on Tuesday. The Espoo District Court ordered him to pay 75 day-fines, which amounted to a total of EUR 675.

The judgement resulted from a situation where Mika was seen to take off Sorella’s trousers after she had fallen asleep next to him. He then pulled a blanket over himself and Sorella. The incident was shown on television at the time and was repeated from a DVD in the courtroom. The nocturnal incident was preceded by an evening get-together where they both drank alcohol. They moved to the bed together and caressed each other under the blanket.

675 euros for sexual abuse!? Yes, woman’s rights are strong here in Finland! LOL!! Well, what’s worse – a slap on the wrist for serious crimes, or putting retarded people in the electric chair in the United States?? I’d rather get a slap on the wrist for nearly raping a woman.

Back online!!

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:58 am

Finland for Thought is back online after an unplanned two week hiatus! Sorry for the radio silence, I just returned back from a two-week business trip in London, Baltimore, and San Francisco – on the second day of the trip I discovered my blog’s database got corrupted somehow, which prevented anyone from creating new posts. I haven’t had time to investigate the issue until now. Most things appear to be working except the categories seem to be missing and my username, Phil, isn’t showing up. I’ll fudge around with it more later today.

So again, sorry for disappearing! I’m back online now and have a lot of catching up to do. :-)

13.10.2007

How is Susan Kuronen different than any other biographier or autobiographier?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:19 pm

Please answer me one simple question – Today I was at Crazy Days and I went into Stockmann’s bookstore, and there before my eyes were hundreds of biographies for sale, many of which were labeled “unauthorized”. Shouldn’t all these authors be investigated by the police and possibly prosecuted and/or sued?? How exactly are any of these biographies any different than what Susan Kuronen did in her book about Finland’s Prime Minister?

Many of the biographies I saw were labeled “memoirs”, isn’t Susan’s book simply her memoirs? Aren’t all the biographies I saw invading the privacy of their subjects? Aren’t all the autobiographies I saw invading the privacy of everyone who had a friendship or relationship with the author?

After leaving I took this funny picture of a car that had struck a stop light…
car_light.jpg

Finnish in Star Trek

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 1:24 pm

Wow, actually some real Finnish in a movie! This time it’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home… (BTW, Star Trek is far far superior to Star Wars in every way imaginable)


Hat Tip to MP83 for the link!

Netherlands to ban psychedielic mushrooms

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:08 pm

Bummer, dude…

The Dutch government said Friday that it will ban the sale of hallucinatory mushrooms, rolling back one element of the country’s permissive drug policy after a series of high-profile negative incidents.

[...] Psilocybin, the main active chemical in the mushrooms, has been illegal under international law since 1971. However, mushrooms that are fresh and unprocessed in any way have continued to be sold legally in the Netherlands, on the theory that it was impossible to determine how much of the naturally occurring substance any given mushroom contains.

[...] Murat Kucuksen, whose farm Procare supplies about half the psychedelic mushrooms on the Dutch market, said he stood to lose several million euros invested in setting up his legal growing facilities. He predicted the trade will move underground, prices will rise, and dealers will sell dried mushrooms or LSD as a substitute, with no guidance for tourists. “So you’ll have a rise in incidents but they won’t be recorded as mushroom-related, and the politicians can declare victory,” he said.

EU Fines: Finland is on a collision course.

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 10:09 am

All the EU countries now have the right since about March to send fines to other EU countries for collection. Cooperation, however, has been slow to start up between countries. In France, for example, about 2 million Germans are caught on camera speeding each year. Soon, France will have a reputation as a place where you can drive as fast as you want without any consequences, if they don’t start doing something. There are similar problems elsewhere. Finland is soon to have unique problems of its own.

In the case of Finland, we are on a clear collision course with this new law. With the current legislation, where day fines are liberally applied in all sorts of minor infractions, one of two things can happen:

1. Finland actually succeeds in getting the income information about some high income person from another EU country who was caught speeding here on camera. A fine for a 5 or 6 figure number is sent over. Outrage in the press follows. The fine will probably be ignored or go to court and be overturned or lowered to a normal level (a few hundred Euros). The person may be shocked have his or her income exposed in the international media, probably together with their picture in the expected, tasteless Finnish style. More court cases for privacy invasion may follow in the person’s own country and perhaps even in an international court involving Finland. (Income information is considered very private in the rest of the EU countries.) Investigations may be launched and Finland may be accused of corruption. The case may go to the European Court of Justice or to the European Commission.

Basically, it would achieve a similar result as if Finland fired a missile into that country.

2. Finland will quietly give “normal fines” (meaning fixed fines for a hundred or few hundred Euros) to foreigners caught on camera here and nationally discriminate against its own people, which will also eventually lead to outrage, a press heyday, and possible legal repercussions.

Conclusion 1: The current Day Fine system in Finland is doomed.

What should be done now? For starters, the day fine system needs to be junked ASAP. Day fines should only be used to punish serious offenses that warrant actual jail time as a monetary substitute for the jail time. Then, the holes in the legislation allowing this kind of thing to happen need to be plugged. The current Finnish day fine system is a brainchild of the tax-calendar generation. These are people who have spent a lot of time staring at lists of each others’ incomes and wealth. Someone gets a speeding ticket and wah! wah!, he has so much money, he should pay more, wah!, wah!. It’s not fair, wah!, wah!. And voilà, soon we have this kind of legislation that comes and bites us in the arse later. The tax calendars were stopped because of the amount of complaints and the problems it was causing from a decision in the tax authority in about 1984. So why do we have something like Veropörssi again nowadays? Its like a dog that returns to its own puddle of vomit to eat it – we are in the same place again. The holes in the legislation were not plugged.

The old Swedish custom the Swedish crown used of getting peasant farmers to police each others tax paying is sort of irrelevant nowadays, isn’t it? Or do the people in that tax office use an abacus to count peoples’ taxes? Is it really the neighbour’s business to police my income and tax records? Should our incomes be in Veropörssi, floating around in the Internet?

Conclusion 2: The tax records need to be made private. The only possible exception should be with politicians, only after signing a letter of consent before taking office.

Finnish article in Helsingin Sanomat regarding EU fines, with some interesting discussion. It is all in Finnish, unfortunately for those who don’t speak it.

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