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Finland for Thought » 2008 » 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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31.10.2008

Traffic Congestion

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 8:09 pm

Oh wow, wonder why. Lets not build new roads and the problem will just go away. The HS writes:

All the main arterial roads in the Helsinki area threaten to become blocked because of excessive traffic volumes within the next ten years. Blockages threaten at least some sections of every single main highway. The maximum capacity of at least some of the main trunk roads has already been exceeded.

No shit sherlocks. I can see it daily past my office window. Quite used to the traffic noise. And whats the solution? Congestion charges. yeah right.

OK, Phil, start taking a bicycle to work. its all you Espoo yuppies to blame, especially the Westend voters who don’t want the metro to bring in the rif-raf.

29.10.2008

Exit Strategies

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 10:51 am

The Finnish gun control debate got fuel from the recent school shootings that were placed a year apart. A lot of discussion was made about school bullying, alienated youth and the evils of the internet as well as the downsizing and lack of funds in youth mental care. Calls were made for the government to give more funding – of course this being a cosmetic fix as the whole mental health programme has slowly been cheesesliced silly.

Yesterday brought again some news showing that the welfare society isn’t faring that well. Two middle-aged couples were found dead in their homes. In Porvoo a policeman and his wife in their 40′s had both committed suicide by the man’s quite legal hunting weapons leaving a note. They police say both had been depressed also with physical ailments and there has been speculation that the suicide may have been triggered by the social welfare removing three foster children they had been caring for . Meanwhile in Helsinki two schoolage kids were orphaned when their parents were found dead in their home. The police have stated that the neighbours called the police after hearing a row and shots, the man apparently shot the women with an army service weapon and after that himself .

Only last week in Oulu a 43-year old man shot his 39 year old wife and children aged 11 and 9. Both parents were teachers at the local schools, and were living an outwardly happy life. Some financial troubles were looming ahead as they were building a new house just getting finishing touches but their old house they were selling was showing water damage, in what is called a “two home trap”.

So really, I am at loss to even guess as to where the politicians shall point the blame this time over, can’t be the evils of the internet nor school bullying and legal hunting weapons are commonplace not to mention people who professionally have access to firearms. Of course the weather’s been quite horrid and the world finances have toppled, but even as a trigger to melancholia that doesn’t explain what then makes adult, educated, professional people in their late 40′s do such drastic decisions? Financial troubles are usually in the background in a downward spiral but is it a cause or effect or both. The economists say the trends don’t follow a pattern necessarily.

And this isn’t restricted to only one age group. Last July an elderly 88 year old man killed his bedridden wife at the nursing home and shot himself after killing his two handicapped daughters in their 50′s leaving a message he couldn’t cope with it any more. So it isn’t just the one thing but a combination.

I think we are just now starting to reap the seeds of all this privatization and moving towards a competitive economy that was started in the 1990′s. There are services, but there is no outreach, and usually the people in most dire need cannot or won’t seek the help themselves. And even those who do need to take drastic measures – just in the summer a young man in Kerava stabbed an 14-year old girl just picking her random, as a motive he said “he wished treatment”.  Nevermind all the county finances having been cheesesliced to the minimum already so what would you expect the health care, let alone mental healthcare at a bare minimum.

The orthodox chaplain Father Mitro said that it is evident that along with prosperity there has also been the flipside people have been closing their eyes from, and it should be the whole society to take a stand on what is going on. He said that instead of having floral agendas the government should inspire the people and reach out. The former chair of the Mental Health Association Pirkko Lahti says that she is afraid these events will not remain the only ones and fears they might lead to an epidemic as people will see this as a way out of their situation. She says that people should go ask for help and she feels especially sorry for the five orphaned children.

Of course as the international newsvultures haven’t landed to feed on the carrion the government has poked its head into the sand and discusses more relevant and current issues, like political correctness training to the new councils. Probably they’ll allocate funds to some nice brochures showing how happy and joyful place Finland is, after all its positive thinking and prozac that shall save the world. And then they still wonder why the people “voted wrong”.

27.10.2008

“Wrongly Voted” Laments the Pravda

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 11:10 am

I slept happily while the municipal election results were coming in. After all, you can read it in the newspaper in the morning. But there were a lot of people in suspension watching the results. It seems the pre-election polls were not too much off. As expected, the National Coalition took the lead while SDP lost ground continuing the downward spiral from the last Prlaimentary elections. The Centre also took damage even in their traditionally strong areas and with the Kokoomus victory there was no excuses of government ballast. I don’t think anyone expected, not even the True Finns themselves for such a landslide victory from 0,9% to 5,4% in four years. On a national level they passed both the Christian Democrats as well as Swedish Peoples Party, which of course pissed a lot of the flower-hatted-aunties off.

In Helsinki and Vantaa where the National Coalition took a historical lead ahead of SDP, the Greens took headway also pushing past SDP in Espoo.

Helsinki:

National Coalition
26
Greens
21
Social Democrats
16
Left Alliance
7
Swedish Peoples Party
5
True Finns
4
Centre
3
Christian Democrats
2
Communist Party
1

Espoo

National Coalition
26
Greens
11
Social Democrats
9
True Finns
7
Swedish Peoples Party
6
Centre
3
Left Alliance
2
Christian Democrats
2
The Cause of the Poor
1

Vantaa

National Coalition
20
Social Democrats
18
Greens
9
True Finns
6 +1 =7
Left Alliance
5
Centre
4
Swedish Peoples Party
2
Christian Democrats
2
Pro Vantaa ry (independent list)
1 -1 = 0

So it seems theres a lone kook in every council.
UPDATE as of 28.10 recount the Vantaa result has dramatically dropped the 2-term council veteran of Pro Vantaa Ensio Laaksonen and given the seat to True Finns’ Johanna Jurva. Also other Counties have had shuffling. In some counties there needs to be a coin toss. Also the much-awaited electronic election proved to be faulty as people draw their ID cards out before the vote hit the mark and some 200 votes were lost. Before electronic voting is implemented nationwide there should be measures made to prevent premature election withdrawals.

Our friend Francis got some 459 votes, but as the National Coalition index was high he ended up as the 152th… not so bad considering its out of a 995 and a little way still to the 85 (and he beat the smoking fireman by half if thats any consolation). You can go look at the breakdowns in your own municipality say from http://www.yle.fi/vaalit2008/tulospalvelu/

25.10.2008

Smoking fireman for city council

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 12:32 pm

This is funny – The idiot below is running for SDP in Helsinki, this is the photo he used for his ad in today’s Hesari. He’s obviously a fireman, I see the fireman outfit and firetruck in the background – yet I also see he’s puffing on a cigar – smoking, being a leading cause in disastrous fires… LOL!!

24.10.2008

Fear and Loathing in Espoo

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:31 pm

After six years in Finland’s second-largest “city” (“suburb” is the accurate term), I’ve finally comprehended what everyone’s been telling me since I arrived: Espoo sucks.

Like for instance, it’s Friday night and I want to dine somewhere nice – there’s nothing. And I’m not even being facetious, there’s literally nothing. How about something to do on a Friday night? Nada. Yeah I could take the bus downtown, it only takes me 20 minutes, but they’re raising one-way prices to four fucking euros ($5 USD)!! They’re practically encouraging you to drive drunk.

Every morning on my way to work, I navigate my car through the depressed-dad-with-strollers obstacle course. There’s like two dozen 30-somethings out there through rain or shine, cold or freakin’ cold, schlepping their newborns around the Espoo sidewalks. These dudes were obviously sent out there by their wives while counting down the hours till they can make love to what they love in life the most, their 40″ plasma TV. “Lauantai Action” is the only action these guys get anymore on a Saturday night. It’s enough to make me want to perform a vasectomy with my car keys.

I moved to Espoo thinking I’d take advantage of the peace, quiet, and nature that surrounds me. When I say “peace” and “quiet” I mean “graffiti” and “mopeds”, and when I say “nature” what I really mean is “mud” and “muck”, cause that’s pretty much what it is eight months out of the year. I’ve thought about moving to Helsinki, but I just finished a one-year renovation on my house and couldn’t imagine selling it so soon, plus I read the current housing market is causing murderous-type conditions.

Oh, and for all you Helsinki residents around Kehä I and east of Sörnäinen who are saying, “No shit ya big dummy, Espoo sucks! LOL!!”…Northern Helsinki around Kehä I is basically just Espoo II, and East Helsinki is like an poor, alcoholic version of Espoo. (and those in Lohja and Porvoo already know how I feel :-)

23.10.2008

Trains of thought

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 8:35 am

A small storm in the glass. The two highest managers of VR – the national railway operator resigned. Nothing really new in that the government-owned companies have government messing into the business. However I am at a loss as to who came up with this brainfart. As we are in the EU the competition tender process is open. So there is nothing ensuring the Transtech plant would land the contract (*). By all probability we’ll be getting some sighing trains again, this time from Spain, only to be used in summertime.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants a hovercraft – the Finnish Navy has one been sitting for 5 years unused. Cost only 16 million euros and then some brainfart decided it wasn’t such a brilliant idea any more.

(*) of course as we all know there is no corruption in Finland and such…

21.10.2008

Turkish Embassy Firebombed

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 2:34 pm

The Turkish Embassy in Helsinki was subjected to a molotov coctail attack on Monday night around 3am. The door of the embassy was burnt and and a staff member was hospitalized for smoke inhalation, but there wasn’t further damage reported. The police have arrested four youths suspected of the attempted arson. The Finnish security police is investigating the arson along with the Helsinki criminal police, which haven’t released further speculations of the motives.   In their brief statement the police said the youth suspected of arson are Finnish residents, but some have “Kurdish background”. The Turkish Embassy has stated they are suspecting Kurdish PKK as there was a similar incident ath the Turkish Consulate in Salzburg, Austria on Sunday night . There was a demonstration in front of the Embassy the previous day objecting the treatment of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan currently jailed in Turkey. The Finnish minister of foreign affairs Alexander Stubb has condemned the strike and assures Finland is taking further measures to provide safety for embassies and their staff.

17.10.2008

Candidates with English web sites

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 12:10 am

Unfortunately I don’t live in Helsinki and can’t vote for Francis McCarron – So I was looking for a candidate in Espoo who actually cared enough about us fucking foreigners to put up some English web pages (or other languages than English or Swedish). Only found two so far – if you find any more (in any city), please post them in the comments section and I’ll keep a running list…

Godwin Ikegwuonu – Espoo (Kokoomus – National Coalition)
http://www.godwinike.com/

Francis “Frane” McCarron – Helsinki (Kokoomus – National Coalition)
http://frane.fi/

Rodolphe Le Clech – Espoo (Vihreät – Greens)
http://www.vihreatehdokkaat.fi/rodolphe.le.clech/

Zahra Abdulla – Helsinki (Vihreät – Greens)
http://www.zahraabdulla.info/Page7.html

Eric Pollock – Helsinki (Vihreät – Greens)
http://www.vihreatehdokkaat.fi/eric.pollock/

Jyrki J.J. Kasvi – Espoo (Vihreät – Greens)
http://www.kasvi.org/index.php?eng

Kari Tirkkonen - Helsinki (Keskusta – Centre)
English: http://www.karitirkkonen.fi/images/983-Kari-Tirkkonen-HEL_ENG.jpg
Russian: http://www.karitirkkonen.fi/images/983-Kari-Tirkkonen-HEL_RUS.jpg
Chinese: http://www.karitirkkonen.fi/images/983-Kari-Tirkkonen-HEL_CHI.jpg

Amarjit Chugh - Helsinki (Kristillinen liitto – Christian Democrats)
http://amarjitchugh.blogspot.com/

Thomas Wallgren – Helsinki (SDP – Social Democrats)
http://www.wallgren.cyberesco.fi

Paul Carroll – Lahti (Vihreät – Greens)
http://www.vihreatehdokkaat.fi/paul.carroll

Obinna Kelechi Ansel – Helsinki (Kristillinen liitto – Christian Democrats)
http://www.kelechiansel.com/

Anne Kettunen – Helsinki (Keskusta – Centre)
http://www.annekettunen.fi/14

Gebreil Hassan Osman -Lahti (Perussuomalaiset – True Finns)
http://www.kolumbus.fi/hassan.osman/

(no election material as such, but homepage in Finnish, English and Polish)

13.10.2008

Q&A session with Francis “Frane” McCarron, candidate for Helsinki City Council

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 5:57 pm

The Finnish municipal elections are just a few weeks away – I decided this year that I wanted to vote for someone young, with a website in English, and with a foreign background who will properly understand the challenges facing a modern Finland.

So I stumbled across this young guy, Francis “Frane” McCarron – He’s 29-years old, has a MA in politics from the University of Helsinki, and he’s half Finnish, half Irish. Oh, and he agreed to a little Q&A session, and he promised to lurk around the comments section over the next few days, so please feel free to shoot him a question or two..!

Frane, thanks for spending a little time with the readers of Finland for Thought! So, your name, “Francis McCarron” is about as Finnish as apple pie – what’s your story man?

Hey Phil, great to have this chat with you guys!

My story is a typical one: Irish man with jet black hair meets blond blue-eyed Finnish dream girl in Swinging London during the sixties.

The result of that, my sister Charissa and I. Finnish women, eh!

Dad has jet black hair, mom has blond hair, and you somehow have red hair – I bet I could guess the color of the Milkman’s hair. ;-) Looking at your website, you mention that you’ve studied in the states, Ireland, and Finland – maybe you could tell a bit more about your background, and why you got interested in politics…

That’s it Phil, as you mention there I’ve been around and have seen a good few things. I was born in Finland and brought up in a ‘finglish’ environment, waking up every Saturday to BBC World service on the radio. Our family was the first to have cable in our neighborhood, so I always felt a bit more aware of the world than my mates. Just that special feeling, you know?!

Anyway, when I got out of the army here in Finland, I definitely needed a brake from Finland. Well, Derry in Northern Ireland was the easy choice for me. I did my BA in International politics there on whatever time was left over from the craick!

During those years I got a chance to do stint in the US. My mate Paddy and I were offered a place in a historically black university – Tennessee state. I.e. 15000 African Americans and us….

Let’s just say, I definitely lost all my small town redneck manners! I do have to add that the American tour was brilliant! I had my 5,7litre V8 Buick, spring break at the Keys, and a challenging placement at UN with the Libyans. You couldn’t beat it with a stick.

I’ve always been active in different political organizations, but coming to Finland to do my Master’s in Global studies, as they call it these days, Helsinki University offered a brilliant chance for an enthusiastic politics buff.

Kokoomus/National coalition party offered an excellent platform to preach a bit of Anglo-American liberalism to an oddly red university crowd! Most definitely Kokoomus was the right choice for me. I’ve had the opportunity to run the Helsinki section of Tuhatkunta (student Kokoomus), the chance to take part in several nationwide campaigns at different universities and towns. I especially enjoyed the Niinistö presidential campaign, a definite eye opener!

The main thing here is Phil, that I enjoy people’s company. I love the debates, arguments and the great times you can have with good people. It’s all about us, the people!
(more…)

Will we have another tax circus on Nov 1?

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 5:27 pm

November 1 is the day that the tax records become public again, and we start seeing peoples names together with their income, tax percentage, capital income and municipalities listed in various places, like magazines, newspapers and the internet. On the morning of Nov. 1, journalists line up in the lobby of the tax authority to pick up the CD-ROMs of personal data that they ordered so that they can publish it in their newspapers. Pretty much all the local newspapers in Finland publish the top earners lists. Google “verotiedot” and you will come up with lots and lots of pages.

The personal data ends up in magazines and newspapers in one of two ways. The first way is that the tax authority sells the data for about 36 cents a record “officially”. They have an order form that you can fill out listing the records that you want. The tax authority claims that they do abide by privacy protection requests a person has done in the registrar (maistraatti), which has little or no effect because of the other way the personal data ends up in the press I will explain shortly. Journalists line up in one long, chaotic line on the morning of November first to pick up their CD-ROMs of data, so they can speed back to the office and be the first to publish it.

The other way it is published is from the physical folders that are in the local branches of the tax office. Anyone off the street can go and browse tax records at the tax office. There are older (50 something or so) men with briefcases who sit there and browse tax records for hours and hours in Helsinki, according to what Kristian has told me. Veropörssi sends out their people to every tax office branch in Finland to copy those records so that they can compile and publish them. This is the route that has caused a lot of normal, everyday people problems.

I don’t know what is going to happen this year. The tax authority has assimilated all the local tax office branches into one big tax authority. The one big tax authority could suprise us and decide that they will follow 95/46/EC, since Finland has joined the EU and this is among the most basic legislation of the EU, and is legislation the Finnish government has agreed to follow. Or they can continue to make it into a big joke, despite being told by other countries, the European Commission and by people in the European Court of Justice that it is not quite right. An official judgement has not come yet from the court, however.

If the government of Finland can’t decide on its own to do the right thing, there is the impending court case, C 73/07 Satamedia, which will make things clearer. The European Commission is involved and many people have expressed their opinions about this to them as well.

It almost looks as if Satamedia will be able to turn out one more Veropörssi. If you work here in Finland and don’t want your name in it with your income, municipality, tax percentage and capital income, there is one thing you can do. The Finnish government probably won’t provide you any data protection, even if they have agreed to. The thing to do is to request (politely) directly to the publishers that they don’t publish your data. Veropörssi is the main one that ends up floating around in the internet for years. But there is no guarantee that someone else won’t publish your data, especially if your income relatively high. Google Veropörssi and you will find them. How’s that for protecting your rights?

11.10.2008

Kaupthing Bank causing grief in other countries as well

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 10:05 am

The Finnish Financial Authority RATA has closed the Icelandic banks in Finland. It seems like Iceland’s financial heyday is over. One Icelandic person interviewed on TV said that “the international markets have closed for Iceland”. Well, I hope that we keep buying fish from them, so at least they have some income. Much of the local industry there revolves around fishing. They have good, clean fish. (cleaner than the Baltic fish)

Finland, according to this article, has about 210 M EUR in claims against Kaupthing Bank. There is some risk that some Finnish depositors will not get their money back if the Finnish government doesn’t guarantee it. Kaupthing attracted a lot of customers by offering savings accounts at 4% interest, far above the local levels inside the EU. Some other countries are experiencing grief in the billion figures, like the UK. The Netherlands also has a lot of investments. Other Icelandic names we have seen associated with banking are Glitnir, Banki Islands, and of course Kaupthing.

As one says to sick people when they are sick, I say to Iceland, “Get Well Soon”.

10.10.2008

October 10 2008: 60 years of free school food in Finland

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 10:28 pm

I was tipped off that today is the 60th anniversary of free school food in Finland. Sure enough, when I googled “kouluruokaa 60 vuotta”, many newspapers had articles. Most schools have a fairly high standard of quality of food as well. One may wonder, do we really need to have free school food? Why can’t it cost a Euro or two? One teacher friend of mine told me that on Monday morning, some of the students really snarfle up the food, like they would have been starved the whole weekend. And for some, it seems that it is the only real meal they get during the day. It is written into the primary school law that the food is to be free. IMHO, it’s a good thing.

Martti Ahtisaari awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 5:07 pm

Martti Ahtisaari, the 10th president of Finland (1994-2000) has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts”.

Ahtisaari served for a long time in the diplomatic corps and was quite unknown as a public figure before switching to the UN and being appointed as the UN special representative in charge of UNTAG to see through the Namibian independece. As Finland was recovering from the recession he was the perfect “neutral” candidiate for presidency and steered Finland towards the EU. After his presidency Ahtisaari returned to the UN to work as a peace envoy and was involved among other missions with Aceh and Kosovo negotiations.

Of course the Russians occupying his birthtown have expressed their objections to awarding Ahtisaari the Nobel Peace Prize as they’re still cross over Kosovo. The Russian NATO envoy Dmitri Rogozin said that Ahtisaari was a puppet of the USA and got the prize as a reward for sabotaging the Kosovo accord. Yeah, maybe it should have been awarded to Putin instead.

9.10.2008

Happy Aleksis Kivi Day!

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 9:38 am

Here is some Aleksis Kivi poetry sung by Finnish “black metal” band Ensiferum. Aleksis Kivi day is 10 October, for those who didn’t know.

Jo Karjalan kunnailla lehtii puu,
jo Karjalan koivikot tuuhettuu.
Käki kukkuu siellä ja kevät on,
vie sinne mun kaihoni pohjaton.

Ma tunnen vaaras’ ja vuoristovyös’
ja kaskies’ sauhut ja uinuvat yös’
ja synkkäin metsies’ aarniopuut
ja siintävät salmes’ ja vuonojen suut.

Siell’ usein matkani määrätöin
läpi metsien kulki ja näreikköin,
Minä seisoin vaaroilla paljain päin,
missä Karjalan kauniin eessäin näin.

Terve, metsä, terve, vuori,
terve, metsän ruhtinas!
Täs on poikas uljas, nuori;
esiin käy hän, voimaa täys,
kuin tuima tunturin tuuli.

Metsän poika tahdon olla,
sankar jylhän kuusiston,
Tapiolan vainiolla
karhun kanssa painii lyön
ja maailma Unholaan jääköön.

Ihana on täällä rauha,
urhea on taistelo:
myrsky käy ja metsä pauhaa,
tulta iskee pitkäinen
ja kuusi ryskyen kaatuu.

6.10.2008

SNL Vice Presidential Debates

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 12:04 am

You gotta watch this cause it’s what everybody will be buzzing about Monday morning. Tina Fey scores big again as Sarah Palin, just brilliant…

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