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Finland for Thought » 2008 » 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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30.9.2008

Bush urges and the stock market surges

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 5:30 pm

So there it was, the 700 billion dollar bail-out plan on the table and there it stayed. The House of Representatives vote on the bill was split. Of the 205 votes for there were 65 Republicans and 140 Democrats and of the 228 votes against 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats. The analysts noted that representatives looking for re-election were most likely to vote no for the unpopular bill. Republican house leader John Boehner repotedly described the package as a “crap sandwich” in his floor speech before the vote.

President George W Bush renewed calls for Congress to back the bill stating the obvious: “”We are in an urgent situation and the consequences will grow worse each day if we do not act.” Congress will not meet again until Thursday – after a break for the Jewish New Year – with another vote unlikely before the weekend, by the time an amended version of the bail-out bill will be introduced.

The US stock market reacted to both the bill failing with Dow Jones dropping 770 points as well as Mr. Bush’s speech on Tuesday when the Dow Jones rose by some 200 points. The stock markets around the world followed the wave trend and in Russia the exchange was closed for a while. The subprime mortgage crisis has hit a number of European banks, but the credit crunch is biting hard.

The EU commission released a statement calling for the US to take its responsibility and try to stabilize the markets. The EU parliament is making a formal request to the Commission to propose new legislation to improve regulation of financial markets, in particular regarding hedge funds and private equity investors. They also want measures to deal with some of the causes of the credit crunch.

The governments of Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg agreed to use 11.2 billion euros to save Fortis, and only today the French, Belgian and Luxembourg governments declared another bank Dexia is on the same nationalisation path with 6.4 billion euros being poured in. Meanwhile in Iceland the Glitnir bank was taken over by the government and in the UK mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley was nationalised. No doubt this next week will bring forth other similar news from around the globe.

Meanwhile in the USA there is five weeks left for the presidential elections.

27.9.2008

Finnish Men are the Most Beautiful in the World

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 5:12 pm

So many people lately have written about the macho male culture in Finland. So I have to agree, we have the best looking men as the HS writes

The drag duo Showhat is going to be on tour this autumn. Bring some brutal burlesque into the doom and gloom!

23.9.2008

Bill Maher profiles Finland

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 8:57 pm

Trying to lighten the mood a bit – HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher does a short and lame-attempt-to-be-funny profile on Finland…

Eleven dead at college shooting in Kauhajoki, Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 12:01 pm

There have been reports of shots fired at the vocational education centre campus in Kauhajoki, South Ostrobothnia, Finland. The police reports that a 20-year old student of the college has fired shots and there are casualties. The police are currently evacuating students and staff. Eyewitness reports from the site say that a male student clad in black had fired with a big handgun and that he is still at large in the building, which is on fire.

The Kauhajoki vocational education centre campus has Seinäjoki UAS departments of restaurant and catering as well as Seinäjoki region SEDU vocational school providing a dual degree with a vocational diploma in catering, nursing or tourism as well as an option for joined studies with a high school matriculation diploma, the campus has some 200 students and 30 staff.

UPDATE (from Phil):

News reports are saying the shooter is caught, while others are saying he shot himself. Looks like he’s mimicking the Finnish shooter from last year by posting info on YouTube. Here’s some links, thanks to everyone who’s been sending them in…

His YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/user/Wumpscut86

A gallery of his photos: http://www.kuvalauta.fi/b/src/122215887655.jpg

His singles profile page: Click here

A collection of files: Click here

UPDATE: ( @13:50 & 14:10 Hank W.)
The police have confirmed the suspected shooter is injured severely and is being transported to the Tampere University Hospital. The police have just confirmed the number of casualities as nine – there are two victims in “critical state” other one being the suspect – the school is still filled with smoke from the fire the police confirm was started deliberately.

The police have stated that the shooter was a man in his 20′s. The principle of the college stated that a 2nd year student of the UAS had entered a classroom in the building where some 20 students were taking an exam and started shooting. The janitor of the school stated a man in a commando hood and carrying a large bag entered the school after he heard shots and was shot at by the suspect.

Meanwhile the press conference at the Seinäjoki Central Hospital came to a dramatic end as the adjacent nursing college was evacuated due to a bomb threat.

UPDATE (@15.17 Hank W.)
The Minister of the Interior Anne Holmlund released during the press conferece of the Cabinet that the suspect, Matti Saari born 1986 had been interviewed on Monday by the police in relation to the shooting videos on YouTube he had placed there on Friday. The police had found no reason to withdraw the permit nor remove the guns from his possession. Minister Holmlund said that this process will be looked into.

UPDATE (@18:20 Hank W.)

Victim toll has risen to 10, also the suspect deceased. One person is still in critical condition, and two others injured. The victims haven’t been identified, and the medical personnell say because some of them are badly burned. The chief medical officer says it mis possible that not all of the victims died of gunshot wounds, but suffocated. Apparently Saari had petrol bombs with him which he used to start a number of fires.

Disability Determination

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 3:10 am

More funny Baltimore signs…

“Disabled? Punk, that’s why God gave us two legs, get the fuck out of here. No services for you!”

22.9.2008

Triumph interviews Ralph Nader

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:59 pm

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog interviews Presidential contender, Ralph Nader, and grills him on his efforts to award Bush the victory in 2000 – Funny as hell, one of the best interviews ever, and it’s now obvious that Ralph is a clinically insane (Gravel-esque if you will) old man…

20.9.2008

Weenie World

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 10:46 pm

I’m back home in Baltimore for a few days, hanging out in Eastern Baltimore County with the other white trash. Not sure why I consider this place “home” since I haven’t lived here in six years and probably won’t ever again. But anyways, saw this hot dog shop, had to snap a photo…

18.9.2008

Who do the Ghostbusters Call?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 12:57 pm

A small piece of news struck my eye yesterday and made me thoughtful. Theres been a restructuring of the 112 call centres into a national organization instead of the previous county-run regional units since the 2000′s, and the results have been a bit questionable. The nationalization of the Helsinki emergency centre has been blasted as the restructuring has caused and stated that the safety in the region has come down. Another question is the services in the Swedish-speaking areas.

Basically before you also had the police as well as ambulances or fire departments have their own numbers you could call for “less emergency” so you’d call the “emergency number” when the house was on fire, but the lesser number when the cat was up the tree. But now you deal only with the 112 with all kinds of nonsense. Which isn’t anything peculiar to just Finland.

The new reform into larger units also caused some problems as many villages and towns have similar or the same streetnames, and the 112 operators weren’t necessarily that versed with the area. So in 2002 a “middle aged woman” who worked on the west coast got a warning from the court as she’d directed an ambulance to the wrong city and a man with chest pains died of a heart attack.

The yesterdays piece of news said that the same woman had been fined in court for negligence of duty and stripped of her office, as she had cut approximately a hundred 112 calls that then had redirected to other operators in 2006. She had logged these as missed calls or wrong numbers. Apparently the stress and workload at the 112 centre had overwhelmed her – maybe the first mishap was a cause or a symptom, but the manager of the centre said that of course the “performance is evaluated”… Now I can understand this is a job that does not bring in profit – but now you need to remember that we are talking of peoples lives – so adding insult to injury and stressing the workers out when the job itself is stressful enough sounds they should hire comrade Stahanov.

At the end of the day, who can your stressed out 112 operator call?

Cliff notes: emergency services in emergency

17.9.2008

Clean Helsinki

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 11:58 am

Are graffitis art or vandalism?

paris
The question has been debated in Helsinki as in many other cities. Some ten years ago the city adopted a policy banning any kind of graffiti be it murals or tags and started a no-tolerance policy so that most graffiti is cleaned the same day. They were joined by the public transport providers – VR trains were washed the same day they got painted. A lot of guards were also employed – and if youare caught the financial punishmentsare in the tens of thousands – compare this with the woman who got a hysteroctomy due to misfiled lab test and was compensated 2000 euros – she’d gotten more money if the doctor had a felt tip pen and signed her…

I have a number of photos of graffiti in Paris I took on my trip in May. I travelled from a banlieu to the centre and just took photos of the sometimes quite artistic pieces. Coming back to Helsinki I “noticed” that really the “no tags” policy has made any graffiti – even the artful pieces – just nonexistant. Oh well, the young peoples opinions are definitely not as divided on the issue, there was a counter-demonstration to the anti-graffiti movement’s theme day meeting, and the police was not amused. I guess they were practicing for the riots when the HEX collapses and the Espoo yuppies demonstrate for cheap gas. Another policy being implemented in the city is a definitely more stringent policy against demonstrations.
paris
Meanwhile fear and loathing in the Helsinki City continues while the different city deparments are in each others’ throats over a proposal for a “legal graffiti” area. The situation has escalated into such hostility, a few city council members were denied entry to the city-organized 10-year anniversary of the anti-graffiti campaign. Which bickering really does seem quite silly. I wonder if the upcoming elections will provide the city with new brains.

I can understand both sides’ arguments, but really I don’t have any strong opinions either for or against the issue. On the one hand I do get annoyed some kids scribbled four-letter words in our freshly painted staircase – but then again some of the graffiti I managed to get pictures of in Paris, and murals all over the world do have something else in them than just vandalism.

Cliff notes: overkill over sprayed paint

13.9.2008

Pop go the weasels

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 7:20 pm

(Sorry the article didn’t get all there the first time because of the database hiccups.
Hank W.)

Going once, going twice, gone… and there go the jobs in the paper industry. As the global recession dawns upon us there is going to be more and more “pops” when the weasels take our jobs and run away with the money. And what will the politicians do? Build garden cities. Yes, and meanwhile “Finland needs more workers”… sorry, did someone say “a cheap exploitable labor force”? There is always someone out there desperate enough to be brought in to do the job cheaper.

I always contradict people saying there is a “shortage of nurses”. There is no “shortage of nurses”. There is a “shortage of money and tenures” which results in people not wishing to enter the profession which has created an illusion of a shortage of nurses. Finnish polytechnics churn out about 3000 nurses per year – after 5 years maybe 500 remain in the profession. And why is that? The job is hard, the pay lousy and you have only short-term contracts. So instead of making the profession something people want to do – the answer is to bring in people from someplace where the conditions are if possibly worse and they think they are getting a good deal.

There wouldn’t be all these Finnish nurses working for the NHS in the UK or Norway unless it was the same situation – the Finnish nurses think they get a good deal. While on the one hand economically bringing in foreign nurses is a business decision – we wait 10 years. That nurse has either gone back home after saving enough money for a new house and childrens college, or then the nurse has a family here. She wants a better salary and a continuous job contract, but as the culture of exploitation is there – what is the answer? To bring in some other – cheaper nurse working for peanuts and not complaining of actually having to support a family on those wages. So it continues on and on and on without anyone needing to address the core problems of the system itself.

So I would rather say “Finland needs more jobs” – but theres always the patent answer of creating your own. Oh yes, even back in the days of the big recession of the 1990′s the magical answer was for everyone to put up an enterprise and start selling soap and vitamins. Fixed the statistics greatly but how many people selling soap and vitamins to each other do we need? Does the economy of a village run on everyone selling soap and vitamins to each other? Because the fact is that the production industries are outsourcing and if there is no production there is not much money in the economy after a while. Not that there is a lack of the “enterpreneurial spirit” in Finland. Or would this “make money and become rich” spirit. Now as everyone knows one cannot come rich in Finland with honest work. The welfare state has its hand in your pocket. But as the human animal operates on greed we have now had not only one but two pyramid schemes where someone has gotten the great idea of making a fast buck off peoples greed. The WinCapita system allegedly had 10 000 Finns “invest” hundred million euros into the pyramid… that is quite a mind-boggling sum to think of. Another smaller scheme called GPP has just unraveled selling “pension insurance”… So what does *that* say of the country? We do remember Albania had a revolution in the 1997 due to a pyramid scheme taking all the money out of the system – they were probably high up in the “global competitiveness” figures back then – before the weasels popped the bubble.

It is questionable how far Finland could afford to copy the Nordic Welfare State model with its limited resources in the first place. It has worked so far, but even Sweden has been showing a hiccup… Norway has oil and gas to support their regional policies, but Finland just thinks it has resources. The current political parties – the three largest having equal 21% of the vote at the moment cannot come into consensus of what needs to be done – so everyone does something and the direction… The decisions made back during the big recession of the 1990′s was to “liberalize” the economy have now in 15 years resulted in the liberated industries escaping away. You look at the latest survey on the “hi-tech” Finland and its broadband connections. Even if done by Cisco which has its own interests. The government expects private market forces to take care of the infrastructure – and what is the result? Finland is now in 13th place. Really is this the way to go? We are living interesting times as they say in the Chinese proverb. But Finland isn’t as much alone any more – the rest of the EU is to be considered, but is the direction of the EU any clearer? Surely each country is pulling into its own direction – and is the EU not a giant on clay feet?

So what will Finland be like in 5 or 10 years with the global competition? Weasellandia 2018? Scrapped remains of a welfare state turned into a cut-throat globalized capitalist state with huge income gaps and poverty – a polarized society with ghettos with proles the weasels use as a resource pool of easily exploitable cheap labor that can be popped off when not needed?

The only thing your average Finn can do thinking about this is drink cheap alcohol imported from Estonia and look at how the country is going to hell in a handbasket – and that is my positive outlook of the day.

Cliff Notes: Paha maa

10.9.2008

Something Rotten in Slovenia and in Finland.

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 7:50 pm

The YLE scandal investigative journalism programme MOT broadcasted last week has caused diplomatic strain between Finland and Slovenia, both small EU countries whose populations probably never much were aware of each others existence. The MOT programme revealed the Finnish defence contractor Patria of paying bribes to gain a lucrative deal on ATV’s for the Slovenian armed forces. The police investigation on the case along with an investigation of a previous deal of howitzers to Egypt had started in May, and the CEO of Patria had stood down from his position. Patrias deals before such as that with Poland also raised some questions but no investigations were started. As the Finnish NBI investigations are noted for their rapidity, the case is expected to go to the prosecutor in October and a possible court case to take place sometime next year.

Meanwhile in Slovenia the MOT programme caused an uproar, as the programme suggests that on the receiving end of the bribes was the sitting prime minister Janez Janša, who is along with his party just preparing for a tight parliamentary election. The Slovenian government even produced two diplomatic notes over the MOT programme to the Finnish government demanding proof of the accusations. Despite both YLE and Patria are to some extent government-owned, the Finnish government said that they can not much do anything about the situation at present. Janša has denied any bribery even been suggested to him by Patria, though he said the other party in the tender process did as for meetings. Which seems very interesting indeed.

The can of hairy worms the MOT programme opened is actually an old one, but it does seem to squirm vigorously. The contract was signed in December 2006 and was the biggest arms deal in Slovenia so far and thus a huge issue in Slovenia, basically as the other rejected tender was from a Slovenian company later sold to an American conglomerate. Allegations of bribery started escalating in Slovenia, going deep into the country’s leadership, including politicians and senior civil servants so a parliamentary commission of inquiry was established in March 2007 to investigate the tender process relating to the sales contract. From what I understand the Slovenians were manufacturing the Steyr-Puch Pandur I on a licence and the competition was between the Patria AMV, Piranha and Pandur II with obvious logistical benefits. Now the Slovenian officials interviewed in the MOT programme were politicaly opposing the current government, and some had ties with the Slovenian contractor. Sour grapes maybe? Or then maybe not… in any case the election race in Slovenia got a surprisingly well-timed injection of scandal.

Cliff notes: Lord of War

5.9.2008

Map of Europe according to The Simpsons

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 3:45 pm

LOL!!! Finland is Barney the alcoholic. Russia is Nelson the bully. Sicily has Fat Tony the mobster. And a whole lot more…

Snagged from Riemurasia

2.9.2008

Third Party Candidate may steal support from McCain

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 10:24 am

While we’re waiting for Sarah Palin to resign from the VP candidacy (oh, she will!) – Here’s a third party candidate who will give McCain a run for his money – His healthcare plan simply states, “Flask of whiskey, needle & thread for everyone”…


Old, Grizzled Third Party Candidate May Steal Support From McCain

And if you liked that one…


Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As Step Forward For African Americans

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