May 18, 2007

JOOST!

Writing about web page https://www.joost.com/

Righty, you had gmail and you had skype, this is the next thing. Tv on your computer, no downloads and its spectacular. And you cleverly even avoid paying for you tv licence. Neat. Go here to find out more how to get invited. http://www.random-good-stuff.com/index.php/2007/05/04/joost-invitations/


March 19, 2007

I'm a Celebrity, Vote me into the Parliament

Writing about web page http://www.eduskunta.fi

Right, after some time of hibernation, a new entry, surprisingly on Finland. I think I need to rename my blog to something that describes my obvious bias a bit more.

Every four years, Finns with a sense of obligation and strong umberellas to challenge the March winds go to their local schools, post offices or what ever is converted into a polling station in their neighbourhoods to cast their votes, largely as in any democracy. On its centennary, the Finnish political system is revered by the voters and generally thought to be unbiased and reliable, as the recent OSCE summary states.

Although pretty on the outside, the Finnish system has a very peculiar shortcoming, comparable to the problems of the UK first-past-the-post system. Although based on the d’Hondt system, the Finnish electoral process tends to force parties to court individuals without much political credibility in order to attract votes from sports affacionados, beauty pagency enthusiasts and listeners of the schlager genre of music (not very young, usually).

In short, every party sets up a list of candidates in respective districts, without a specific order. The votes that individual candidates get determine their ‘ranking’ on the party list. The amount of votes the whole party (or electoral-region specific coalition of parties) gets is then transformed into a candidate-specific numbers with regard to the candidates’ placement on the party-specific list, which are then ranked regionally between all candidates. This means that parties want to get onboard people who voters will recognise from their telly boxes, were they actors, athletes or just lovable eccentrics.

The nuissance for the parties is that sometimes, these candidates tend to score more than the party had envisaged. Where as the nationally minded, a bit extremist, a bit anti-EU, a bit of everything anti-establishment Perussuomalaiset (Basic Finns, sic) had a former WWF boxer with “exit only” tattooed on his buttock and less orthodox comments about imigration on their list and eventually MP-elect four years ago, the more credible parties have seen for example a former Miss Finland rise into parliament, and eventually into governent as Minister of Culture. Minister of Education in the same government was a former olympic pole vaulter, the Minister of Finance failed to complete his BA.

I have always been puzzled what the actual function of the celebrity candidates is in the parliamentary election. Are they mere vote magnets or credible politicians? The captain for the Finnish Curling team that surprisingly won silver in the latest Olympics was courted, secured and elected into the Parliament by the Centre Party. It is a pity that an individual that has been active in politics, and committed time and resources, is surpassed by someone with no previous attachment to a party, and elected because of completely unrelated achievements. Social policy and tossing a stone skilfully on ice cannot be compared (I am avoiding to rank them in any order or admirability). Will this MP become immersed in the politic of the state and the policies of the party he chose to represent, or will it merely become a nice job indoors for the four years ahead?

You might think that candidates like this undermine the confidence and credibility of the Parliament in the eyes of the electorate, but surprisingly, this is not the case. The WWF boxer mentioned before, succeeded in four years to call the President a lesbian, possess illegally a hand gum, amphetamine, growth hormones, and eventually be admitted into a psychiatric ward because of delirium tremens, caused by alcohol. This party now almost doubled its result compared to the elections four years ago. The MP in question now enjoys a contested sickness related early retirement and a steady income from the Treasury.

When politics become so centered around the individual personas, it is hard to say what a credible politician should do with the gladiators and beauty queens that make it into parliament. Media tends to take a very biased stance to these MPs. Athletic champions are not criticised to be incompetent to run a country, where as a beauty queen is shredded in the teeth of the tabloids for every gaffe. If it is a gender bias or if athletes are seen as socially responsible individuals (hey, in a beauty contest you at least need to state saving the world is your primary concern) is obscure.

For example, a skiing hero from years ago who now gained seventh most votes in the whole election, is seen as a basic Finnish man, the stereotype is consolidated by pictures in today’s newspapers of him cutting wood in order to meditate on the result. The athlete in question is seen to embody Finnish rural values by the older proportion of the elctorate, for the young he is a camp icon with a fluffy beard and a skiing hat reading “Suomi”, Finland in Finnish.

Surely anyone who brings in so many votes to a party cannot be overlooked, but should such a person get to the ranks of government just because people know him? I think that in order not to undermine the expertise of a government, they should be undermined, but in order to respect a general vote, they cannot. A conundrum of what to do with these magnets has tended to result in two opposite directions recently, either to try to train them to become politicians, or then to hope that they do not run in the next election. Some of them make it to the government as seen, some of them take a less gracious route to early retirement.

This setting somehow reminds of the Cold War and the threat of mutual extinction. If party A has a magnet, say a skiier, parties B, C and D need to get their beauties, wrestlers and Olympic beasts to attract the votes. Maybe a political SALT should be put into force, and running in elections be limited to people who actually know what it is about, in a spirit of mutual disarmament. Instead, maybe an annual vote for the “Most Useless Celebrity” should be held. I think the aforementioned politicians would make it pretty well in both polls.
The Skiier The Wrestler ...and the Minister of Culture


June 17, 2006

Prostitution

I'm sorry for the entries being so focused on Finland. Or, well, this is only the second real entry. I will try to draw some parallels with the UK aswell.

I am proud to boast that Finland granted women the right to vote (first in Europe) and full political rights (first in the world). Subsequently, 19 women were elected to an assembly of 200 parlamentarians, being them aswell, the first to be given this job anywhere in the world.

A hundred years later, during the jubilee of a ground–breaking decision which envisaged a society of equal individuals in the making, the same Parliament is faced with a debate about outlawing prostitution. If following the neighbours, in this case Sweden, all prostitution would be outlawed. But the Finnish parliament is having some trouble in adopting the Swedish you/are/not/allowed/to/buy/sex/but/selling/it/is/not/implicitly/illegal/either which targets the business without seriously victimising the seller.

Instead, a vague bill outlawing soliciting aka pimping has been accepted. This would mean that it is OK to buy sexual favours from anyone who can be thought as an independent businesswoman/–man. It is thought that a crack–down on pimping would also help in preventing human trafficking and modern slavery in the country. The law here in the UK is quite ambiguous, too, just outlawing kerb crawling (hanging around on the streets looking for business) and brothels Eva Biaudet's blogwith more professionals than three. So the police come, chuck away the red table top lamps and make their way through a brothel. they count the gilrs in skimpy clothing. Three. It's ok, carry on. But if there is four, they are in for trouble. Somehow, neither legistlation seems very feasible or even sane.

What is the problem with prostitution in today's society then? Why do we actively shove it away and make it an underground industry? According to the Finnish parlamentarian Eva Biaudet's blog, male parlamentarians quite openly compared and laughed at each others' experiences with prostitutes. A dual morality seems to exist in this, whilst the same genre of male representatives were staunch supporters of banning fertility treatments to lesbian and single women.

Sweden, as mentioned, has had a ban on buying sexual favours for years. Sweden granted the right to vote to women only 1921 and full political rights to all citizens only in 1945. Nevertheless, the Swedish society has a tendency towards equality and a hawkish attitude towards degrading women. Although Finland made some sweeping reforms back in the day, the Finnish morale is not at all on the same level as our neighbour's.

I think it will be an interesting period, seeing what happens after the wishy–washy piece of legislation is passed. I have my fears that instead of curbing pimpin, it will force it to become an even more underground industry, with a better organised structure and an even more ruthless nature. Also, this bill would indirectly legalise prostitution – not addressing the huge social distresses that drive individuals into these desperate measures. It will become pretty much legal to buy sex from an 18 year old drug addict who has to do it because of his or her addiction. I think that instead of helping the victims of human trafficking, it will do the reverse, making their existance even better hidden and threats if they escape even harsher.

Bottom line is that I am very disappointed in my representatives not being able to come up with anything sane. I would not like to say that the patriarchy is back, but I really feel that if this law was made just with the women and not the laughing middle–aged Finnish male parlamentarians in mind, it would be according to the Swedish model.


April 15, 2006

They never end

I have been counting the days to get back -just like being back in kindergarden.

Five weeks is an inhumanely long time. And I have done nothing. Nulla.

That is what being a fresher is all about, they say. I just calculated that I have more holidays than university. And I have nothing planned for the summer jobwise. It's going to be insjöfiske på landet. Inland waterway fishing at the villa. I am interviewing possible companions at the moment.


April 12, 2006

Thoughts about 'going green'

This week, Finland went green another notch. The state-owned oil refinery industry and gas station chain, Neste/Fortum, announced that there would be added about 5% of biologically sustainable fuel into the 98-octane gas sold at its stations. Interesting indeed, especially when this component is made out of South European wine. This is not the only new reform brought about by the inevitable realignment of fuel policies. The huge forest sector in Finland is starting to pay the forest owners for twigs and branches, which are turned into heating for housing. Also, sugar refineries that are forced to cease their production because of EU regulations cutting government subsidies have started to produce ethanol from domestic crops, mainly sugarbeets and barley. I prefer personally barley to be consumed as a bewerage, although that contains ethanol, too.

I think all of this is a bit problematic. To begin with, how environmentally friendly can it be to transport old wine from the south of Europe to our polar outpost? Other sources of ethanol envisaged by the Finnish petroleum companies are Brazilian sugar cane ethanol (allegedly a new slavery is coming into existance because of this industry) which would have to travel on fossile fuel driven boats over the whole of the Atlantic. My conscience would not be at ease. This all just seems like a way to get a good conscience. But hey, what difference does 5% ethanol in a tank of fuel really make? Especially if the petroleum input into it (harvest, process, transport) halves the benefit?

Sure I agree that we should be able to reduce our consumption of fossile fuels, it is not a very healthy addiction. Waiting for a miracle, we need to look at the options we have at the moment. Nuclear power. Peat. Forests. Reducing consumption. Paying for the damage we cause.

Nuclear power is a curse word for many, although it would not need to be. After Chernobyl, we have been in a very bizarre relationship with nuclear energy. Sweden held a referendum to abolish its nuclear plants – they shut down one and increased the output of the other ones. Now it is again supported by the majority. Less waste. Please, lets build our own instead of buying energy from Chernobyl-era plants in Russia. Oh, yeah, we are building a new one. We are the only ones in western Europe doing that. Risqué.

Peat is the dry stuff that is wet before you take it out of a bog and dry it. According to the Kyoto-treaty, it is not a renewable source of energy, although peat does regenerate, although with a very slow growth rate. Finland is filled with bogs. And lakes. Just step virtually anywhere and you will get your feet wet. If an amount representing the annual growth of peat would be harvested, all of Finlands cars could be driven with peat. Nice one. What is in the way then? Kyoto and European legistation. I think a re-evaluation is needed.

If you take a step anywhere in Finland, you get your feet wet. Or you can walk into a tree. Check the picture, it is very green. We have been making paper etc for years, now we are making trees into ethanol. Fair enough, but in order to provide all Finnish cars with wood ethanol, a third of the forests would be needed. Not nice, we would be barren like, eh, Iceland. We have a summer house and it is warmed with wood. Burning loads of it. In a small sale and for house heating, wood is best. I think pumping oil from a Shell car into the basement of a single detached house to be used for heating in this country is just trying to be special. Or spastic.

The best way to sort things out would be to exchange all cars for bicycles. No waste, clear air, everyone taking care of their health and the roads filled with loads of bums of steel. Would probably be the best alternative. Who made us so addicted to our cars? And why are there 4wds in the city? Who has got a Tesco so far that you need to climb over a hill, drive through a creek and make your way through a gang of elk? This should be punished. I think you should be liable to pay for the plantig of x-amount of trees somewhere on the globe for all the gasoline you use. I think you should not be able to exceed a quota of fuel assigned to you (families get more, the kids need to get to their thingies). Driving and wasting energy is not a freedom we are entitled to, it is a liability we need to pay for.

If you are a neo-liberal, über capitalist piggie reading this, you will disagree. I think a control needs to be imposed. I think a nice neo-liberal, open market system is great, but I would not want to live on a barren Earth trading stones, which in my imagination is where this extravagant consumption and destruction of the environment will take us. Great, we can trade as much as we want, but there might not be anything to trade.

Drawing a parallel between neo-liberal capitalism and the destruction of the environment is of course a crude siplification. I do not think Stalin was a very pro-environment dictator. We just need to stop talking about freedos to do things with froth coming out from the sides of our mouths, and think instead about the damage we cause if we do not take into consideration the framework in which we live. And its frames and boundaries. I think all of this might go topsy-turvy (love that word), and a clean environment will become a commodity worthwhile producing. I am just quite afraid to see how far it needs to go in order for this to be reversed.

Back to beets. Lännen Tehtaat just came out with a notice telling they will start producing ethanol from beets, probably by next year. But is this beetery just to fulfil another goal set forth by a watered-down compromise at an international summit? In whose interest is it? BP does not stand for Beyond petroleum. Shell is not a cute thing that lives in the sea. In this world, we cannot either stive towards an autharcy energywise. But how far should be we able to produce our own energy? The same question prevails in how much of the food we consume should be produced domestically. Let us just burn what we have, make it as environmentally friendly as possible by being innovative and curious, let us discourage the use of oil and give tax breaks and other benefits to whomever uses reneable energy.

But how far should be we able to produce our own energy? The same question prevails in how much of the food we consume should be produced domestically. We should make the best out of what we have and be sure to have good friends. When things go well, we do not bother. When things go bad, we are in a deep pool of peat.


March 31, 2006

First one

Well, I thought I would come into the 21st century and avail myself of this blogging opportunity provided to me by our beloved uni. I shall use this to just regurgitate what swells within me, were it politics, university life, weird neighbours (oh yes), or just ranomness extravaganza. Stay tuned. Might be good or then just one that belongs to the ten-in-a-dozen -category. Yeah. Mum has made me spaghetti. Got to go.

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