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Finland for Thought » Hank W. | 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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15.10.2010

Church is Gay

Tags: Politics,Traditions — Author:   @ 4:55 pm

The Finnish national broadcaster YLE had a tv-debate over Church and gays last Tuesday, aptly named Homoilta (Gay Night), there has been propositions of amending the law for gay marriage, or actually “gender-neutral-marriage” that would replace the current marriage laws and registered partnership laws. The debate went fine – so fine that after listening to the Christian Democrat’s Päivi Räsänen and Evangelic-Lutheran reverend Leena Huovinen and bishop of Tampere Matti Repo voice their opinions, a record of 5500 church members have so far resigned through the free-thinkers’ website www.eroakirkosta.fi in only four days. Update Monday 18.10, the amount has risen to 20 000, normally there is a peak in December as the “church tax” (*) liability depends on the membership at the end of the year. As the average payment of tax per member is 300 euros, its estimated the church has lost about 6 million euros.

(*) To those readers who are unfamiliar with Finland, the Ev-Lut. Church is one of the “State Churches” with taxation rights, to which traditionally 85% of the population belongs – and pays about 2% church tax – how many people actually go to church on a Sunday is maybe 2% of that, most people seldom visit unless its for a baptism, confirmation, wedding or funeral. The church also gets taxes from businesses, which none of them are tax-exempt, so tbe it a halal butcher or a kosher bakery – all pay taxes to the Ev-Lut Church. The church does have obligations, such as maintaining graveyards etc. but most of its historical chores, such as keeping population data has been taken over by the government.

The new archbishop Kari Mäkinen is “bewildered and sorry” of the reaction. He would rather see people would stay as members and voice their opinions within the church, but I guess the old “voting with your feet” and with your purse is a more effective way to convey your message. This might imply, that the conservative opinion within the church and among Finns has seen a rise, but people do then also vote with their feet as for some conservatives the church has had too liberal opinions. Tightrope walking trying to please everyone.

For those who understand Finnish (and can get the feed) http://areena.yle.fi/video/1354542
No doubt it’ll eventually end up in youtube with subtitles.

It is here! Or sorry excuse of snow.

Tags: Weather — Author:   @ 4:27 pm

Promises, promises. The first snow of theis winter was falling today. In Helsinki its more or less a sorry excuse of sleet, but if you go check out say the traffic condition cameras, there is a sprinkling almost across the whole country. It will melt off probably a few times, at least here on the coast.

Actually, I was testing the new layout… do other people have that soldier girl popping up??? Philistine, don’t phuxor a working layout.

21.5.2010

Hail to the Lord

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 12:59 pm

Now this definitely is a “hail storm” that struck Oklaholma City on 16th May. Never seen a boiling swimming pool before.

I am just sort of curious if there are some other phrases than “ahmigaawd” in the American language, as it frankly gets a bit boring after the 15th time?

11.5.2010

Come to Närpes, Salary Herpes.

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 12:55 pm

Just reading the news headlines off the feed this morning, the sorry commie rag “Kansan Uutiset” had a revealing article of the Finnish “need for labor”. Which screams loudly, especially if you question why do we need to bring in foreign labor, even to unskilled jobs, while especially the youth unemployment is skyrocketing. Not to forget the unemployment situation among some resident foreigner groups is high – so what makes the foreign foreigner more employable than a resident foreigner? I think there is an answer to that.

Närpes is a small town in the rural Ostrobothnia, known for being a Swedish-speaking stronghold with a peculiar dialect and greenhouses. Närpes has been paraded as the posterboy for multiculturalism and all kinds of kiva that ensues.

The wicked commies however revealed, that the poor bastards working in the greenhouses hadn’t been paid proper wages, or no wages at all. Now they’ve unionized and lets see how long they will be employed. After a while the greenhouses will be complaining about a “shortage of labour” and apply for permits to bring in people from abroad. I’m seeing a trend here.

Meanwhile a brouhaha was raised regarding “cowboy building companies” from the EU. Due to “freedom of movement” the EU worker can come over to work, for an EU company, and gets “EU wages”, nevermind taxes or social contributions. If the same bloke would go ask work from a Finnish company, there wouldn’t be any work – as the EU companies get all the contracts – or actually the subcontract of a subcontract of a subcontract. Heres a bit of footage of a safety inspector visiting a multicultural worksite, the “site master” gets slightly peeved of such institutionalized racism, what do you mean – in Rome you have to apply Roman safety standards?

The perfect world continues rotating, money prints roll after the Greek financial tragedy, and Iceland has promised more ash to boost the Eurozone economy.

30.3.2010

The Daily Ape – Promoting Finland is Monkey Business

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 3:00 pm

Please note! In real life FISH DO NOT SING in Finland. If they do, immediately contact the Finnish Police, or your psychiatrist.

More “amazing” Finland promo videos for the Shanghai World Fair 2010 from http://www.dailyape.com/

5.11.2009

Three Americans feeling lucky they weren’t in the USA

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 10:24 am

This is the kind of news you read in the newspapers on and off “Three football players accused of rape”. Then you read how the judge threw a book at them. But thats in America, so really…

Wait up now – actually we do have “American football” here and we do get players come in from the US and we had three football players accused of rape.

Well, this is Finland so the judges don’t throw books. As the rape wasn’t aggravated, and the men had been jailed for a significant amount of time (two months), the sentence was guilty on two counts of rape and one assisting, all three men sentenced to 1,8 months probation. Oh and yes theres damages to be paid to the women in question 4500 euros each. Somehow I find it slightly bizzarre if they’d run out of the house and pushed over someone who broke their hip, thats worth 8400 euros.

I somehow have in inkling thought if these guys had been back “at home” they might not have gotten off with 3000 euros and two months in jail.

But then again theres the Finnish guy in Brazil facing 18 years for killing his girlfriend. He should’ve come home to strangle her, might have gotten off with 3000 euros and two months in jail.

4.11.2009

Eat the Rich

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 11:27 am

Ilta-Sanomat and other evening newspapers are at their yearly exposé again:

www.iltasanomat.fi
www.iltasanomat.fi

So do you want to know who is who in Finland? Its all there. Eat the rich.

1.10.2009

Government of Mr. Teflon

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 10:36 pm

I was expecting the outcome of the votes of confidence, but not quite the farce. There were two statements on the floor, the one made by Social Democrats requiring the Prime Minister to resign which was voted out and then another one by Christian Democrats which then both the SD and the Left Alliance abstained from. There were a few colorful speeches though. The Left Alliance’s whip made a speech deriding the Greens giving their unanimous support to the Prime Minister regarding the “pile of planks” and suggested they’re nesting in it. The Prime Minister couldn’t help giggling himself silly but the Green minister was not amused.

The pile of planks revealed by YLE hasn’t caused much laughter otherwise. The Prime Minister is actually quite annoyed about YLE and its timing of the allegations. Meanwhile the Centre party is facing investigations into its foundations. Now its bad when the ombudsman investigates you, worse you get investigated by the police, but total panic when the tax office joins in. And the other parties aren’t immune to whistleblowing either.

The whole campaign funding scandal is more likely to cause people to become even more apathetic, so it might be in the 2011 elections the “sleeping party” will be the winner.

29.9.2009

Will Vanhanen be an old joke by the end of the week?

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 7:08 pm

As I predicted, the election funding scandal has started to get dirtier and dirtier while the government parties are trying to save their respective asses. The prime minister arrived back from the USA quite annoyed and has been giving press monologues – as he does not welcome unprepared questions. However the press and lately YLE have dug up some old shit that while it may not stick, it might be the final thing to draw him under. Meanwhile investigations into the foundations, especially the Nuorisosäätiö have brought forth allegations of corruption in the real estate business and kickbacks of government funding to the Centre party members.

Of course the Centre party leaders are now frantically looking for a way out. All options seem if not bad then worse. As we remember the previous Prime Minister Anneli Jäätteenmäki had to resign in 2003 over the “Irakgate”, so if two Centre party Prime Ministers resign in a row – now that would need some serious image consulting. However as Vanhanen pigheadedly denies any responsibility and generally remains aloof it doesn’t convey any image of a trustworthy politician, rather a squirming worm in a fishook. The old guard such as hard-boiled veteran politician, Minister of Foreign Trade Paavo Väyrynen have kept silent, probably as they have had their share of negative media publicity back in the day.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, the Government will face a vote of confidence over elderly care, and Thursday will be the big show when the government will present its views on the election funding issue and bring forth the new legislation that has been proposed, facing another vote of confidence. Now it will not surprise me at all if the government will get the vote of confidence as the government parties have a majority in Parliament, but if there are enough rebels the scales might dip. Then again the opposition parties, Social Democrats especially, are not in a strong enough position to make it into a coalition government, so even there is a vote of no confidence, the status quo might not necessarily change.

Awaiting more scandals and more squirming.

- UPDATE- The big guns are out 30.9 Vanhanen goes on offensive against YLE over corruption allegations

23.9.2009

When you start to flick turds into the fan everyone gets sprayed

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 8:26 pm

As we all know Finns have been hugely proud of the “low corruption index”, while on the other hand “everyone knew” the political scene was a pile of manure just sitting there in the back of the yard. The old wisdom said “Shit don’t stink unless you go poking it” and now that shit has hit the fan. I don’t know how much the readership of this blog knows about the intricacies of Finnish politics, or the constitutional dependencies of the president, parliament and the cabinet, but mildly put the government right now is in neck deep, and any move they will make means more trouble.

The whole issue is about election funding – the whole stinkpot started bubbling already in May when it came clear that the legislation over party funding and especially its transparency were so full of loopholes that in principle there were no reprecussions for not disclosing where a politician got the money. Different parties came forward wanting to come clean and at the same time started to make all kinds of “privacy” excuses for not revealing their funding sources. Quite showing the slimy nature of politics the Left League was at first vocal demanding all parties open their books, but after the Left League was asked of their own funding the excuse was “the treasurer is on summer holiday”.

Unlike political scandals usually, this all wasn’t forgotten over the holidays. The parties started divulging their sponsors but the bankruptcy of Nova Group investment company started the domino effect. The investment company had channeled several hundred thousand euros towards the Centre party and the bankruptcy court eventually has sued the Centre party to return the monies as misappropriated assets. The Nova Group’s business dealings and municipal zoning started to raise questions of corruption, but more was to follow. As the different sources of money were investigated, centre party politicians were found to be in leading positions in government organizations and foundations that had then channeled money back to the party coffers. Of course the Prime Minister doesn’t see any troube in this kind of funding.

Now the other parties definitely don’t have unblemished reputations either, after all its a well-known fact the Social Democrats get huge funding out of the different unions’ and the Swedish Peoples Party from its rich cultural foundations. Which isn’t technically wrong if the purpose of the foundation or organization in the rules is actually to support political parties. Meanwhile the different opposition parties are starting to demand for the cabinet to resign and even a new early parliamentary election. Which provides an interesting dilemma – the Prime Minister, neck deep in the scandal is highly unlikely to call for a new election as his own party would definitely lose. The President’s powers have been curtailed, so she cannot dissolve the parliament either. And for the parties now in government, their outlooks of getting to form a new government looks slightly bad. The professor of public law from the University of Jyväskylä dryly stated that “in a Western Democracy the government would have resigned already”

The funding issues have caused several government organizations starting from the parliamentary ombudsman to start investigations regarding party funding, and it seems there might be more and more revelations as the weeks pass. So far there has been outrage over the fact that blatant tax evasion creative tax planning seems to be rife, and the secrecy of the funding has raised the question wasn’t the government-paid party support money supposedly put in place so that parties could function without dodgy support. There will be a lot more shit hitting the fan before the politicians can withdraw back to their cabinet schemings, so if the opposition manages to pull off a vote of no confidence we might well be looking for some interesting campaigning already this winter and not have to wait for 2011. Even though the politicians in power are definitely hoping that the shitfan will run out of power next year and the nations’ memory fade any moral outrage by the next. And we all can go sleep again peacefully as “there is no corruption in Finland”.

- UPDATE - The opposition parties made a statement today suggesting the Prime Minister to “make conclusions” over the issue. The Cabinet announced it shall be giving its “Government report to the Parliament” over the election funding issue – after which there shall be a “vote of confidence”. The discussion over the issue is still waiting the PM who is at the moment in the USA attending an United Nations Climate Change Conference.

19.9.2009

Twenty euro fine for public drinking and underage bagchecks

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 11:42 am

New laws being passed. A twenty euro fine for public drinking. Should I say “big fucking deal”? As if that would make any change – a bottle of vodka costs a tenner, a case of beer a bit less than the 20 + you get change from the cans. People who can afford to drink won’t feel the sting and the winos don’t pay their fines anyways. Government wisdom at work once again.

And who will be targetted – of course the youth. The law change now allows the police to do an “investigative” bag check to find alcoholic beverages in the possession of under-18 year olds, and spirits in the possession of under 20-year olds. And then promptly pour it down. Remembering my youth the police seemed to allow weed-smoking hippies to do whatever but your crew-cut army guys on leave got targetted. Which was unfair as those draft-dodging hippies and other cretins not going to the army as it hurts their hair seldom make into productive citizens but we had to pay out of our miserable day allowance.

Now the laws passed are aimed to curtail underage drinking which of course is a good thing. Then again the more draconian laws passed like in the USA – the end result is that kids start using dope as its easier to get. Lets face it – kids want to get messed up, but I rather have them swigging cider than sniffing glue. Its more to do with parents and upbringing and social values and mores than availability in the end.

8.9.2009

Tax force “improving” taxation, means just that

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 8:39 pm

The big “Taxation taskforce” think-tank published a part of its findings yesterday. The HS international edition has a summary.

A working group set up to reform taxation in Finland has set as its goal the establishment of as wide a tax base as possible. In practice this means ending various tax deductions, which allow people to get some types of income tax-free.

Yeah, right, as if I would have seen much tax-free income in my life, let alone deductions.

By expanding the tax base through the elimination of gaps caused by various tax deductions, it is possible to lower the tax rate – the percentage of their income that taxpayers have to pay the state.

Probably by one fraction of a percent. Sounds good but the effects I would like to see.

In addition to eliminating deductions, the working group has agreed that consumption taxes, such as value-added tax, the tax on alcohol, the car tax, the rubbish tax, and the dog tax should be increased.

I’d have a novel idea – instead of rubbish taxes HOW ABOUT CUTTING GOVERNMENT SPENDING?

Dr. Halla-aho convicted of blasphemy

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 12:00 pm

The controversial blogger and Helsinki councilman Dr. Jussi Halla-aho recieved today a conviction of “breaching the sanctity of religion” i.e. blasphemy. He was sentenced by the Helsinki district court to pay 30 day fines amounting to 330 euros. Dr. Halla-aho has stated he will appeal on the verdict.

Dr. Halla-aho’s blog “Scripta – writings from the sinking west” came under scrutiny during his campaign for Helsinki city council as a nonaligned candidate on the True Finns ticket. Especially the women’s organization of the Green party took offence of his acerbic writings of immigration and multiculturalism. However bad taste is not a crime, which the Green Women found out trying in vain to destabilize Halla-ahos candidacy with frivolous police investigations.

The police took Halla-ahos blog under investigation after the state prosecutors office took interest in the case and the State Prosecutor Jorma Kalske raised two charges, one of “breaching the sanctity of religion” and another one “inciting hatered against a population group” of one blog entry appropriately named “A couple of baits for Mika Illman” (Mika Illman being the state prosecutor who had charged a few people over similar cases perviously). Halla-aho has stated he wanted to show the double standards regarding the treatment of different groups by the courts.

Surprisingly the charge on blasphemy stuck, even though that very law had been regarded as a dead letter since the 1960′s. According to the court “facts or logic do not have significance in religious discussion”. Fine by me, I’ll proclaim Charlie Manson as God and anyone claiming he is a deranged hippie will be charged, Helter Skelter.

26.8.2009

VAT rising to 23% next July

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 9:33 pm

The government just managed to get the budget negotiations through. A blast from the past will be the re-introduction of the “candy tax” on sweets and soda. Some fractionally good news is that as of this October the VAT on food is dropping from 17% to 12%. In 2010 however all the VAT will take a 1% hike, so the general VAT is rising to 23%… Could have “gone Nordic” like Sweden where the VAT is 25%. Also in June 2010 the restaurant food VAT will be dropping to 13% being then equal to the percent-added food VAT.

20.5.2009

Shop until you drop

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 10:23 pm

Well it looks like you can start soon forgetting to stock up for the long holidays. The government has gotten through the wrangling over shop opening hours, and the legislation seems to be ending up as follows:
- Shops can be open 12-18 Sundays except on “Holy Days” say like Pentecost.
- Shops smaller than 400 sq.m can be open 24/7 if they so wish.
- However there is also an amendment that small shops in malls may stay closed on Sundays if they so wish.

When the law gets passed and we step into the shopping era is still to be seen… baby steps, still requires a pole vault to be able to buy your Tylenol at 3am at the Siwa.

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