Sunday, June 26

Supreme Court Decision - Kelo v City of New London – It’s not over yet

Just like so many others, I am as dismayed by the Supreme Court decision permitting local governments to seize homes simply because someone is willing to pay more property taxes for the land.

Like most things, this is not a simple issue. For starters, these local governments have money problems and these land developments will increase tax revenue, and theoretically solve the revenue issue, and if it does not, they can always seize more homes and replace them with more condos. (None of this addresses the real problem of poor city management.)

Just because the Supreme Court says that this type of activity is allowable, does not make it right. It also does not mean that this is the end of the story, or the lawsuits. First, the Supreme Court mentioned that states can enact laws to prevent this type of use of eminent domain and some already have these laws. That must mean that there are other ways to solve local government funding problems.

None of the stories mentioned why these cities did not simply raise property taxes. That would be a more fair way to solve the problem. If the entire city is suffering from a funding crisis, so the entire city should chip in. There has been some attempt to claim that these areas are blighted, but that is clearly not the case in the New London case, as well other areas that were mentioned in the news coverage over the weekend showcasing other areas where the same type of abuse was occurring.

If the homeowners cannot afford the new taxes, well then they can sell, but this is more fair than telling an entire neighborhood to either sell or they will be evicted.

Also, I do not see any attempt to move these people’s houses. It is not the houses the city and the developers want, it is the property. Most of those being affected refuse to move because of their attachment not only to the land, but also to their house. So why not force the developers to move the houses. They are taking the land, no point in taking everything away. This brings us to the issue of “Fair Compensation” and I bet this will be the subject of the next round of lawsuits. It is here that I believe the courts can look to the Maritime world for some guidance.

In a ship voyage, there are a number of ‘stakeholders’ namely the ship and cargo owners. According to ‘General Average’ all of the stakeholders will proportionally share in the loss when a part of the ship or cargo is sacrificed (thrown over the side or somehow destroyed) in order to save the ship and the remaining cargo. To be fair, those whose cargo was saved, and the owner of the ship are required to compensate those who suffered the loss.

Now lets say that a city is a ship. And lets further say that each homeowner is a stakeholder. In these economic eminent domain cases, the city is sacrificing some of the stakeholders to save the ship. The problem is that the other stakeholders are not compensating those who suffered the loss. Sure they are being compensated, but given a choice, these homeowners would have preferred to stay put. That’s why they are forced out. Now perhaps they did not think the compensation was enough. After all fair compensation does not mean market value. Regardless, the community benefits from their forced sacrifice.

When a ship sacrifices cargo, the ship manages to stay afloat. All the owners are assessed a proportional loss. In these economic eminent domain cases, the other stakeholders currently win added revenues and those whose homes have been sacrificed suffer a complete loss. Applying a sort of General Average law on cities might prevent future abuse of this type of action or make it much more costly to those who benefit and provide much more generous compensation to those who are forced out. If these actions bring in millions more in revenue, it is due to the sacrifices of these few, and perhaps they are due a portion of this new revenue. After all, it is there sacrifice that makes it possible.
Wizbang - Eminent Domain - It's The New Black.
Finland for Thought - "Surprise surprise… it’s the left-wing justice members. Scumbags."

Saturday, June 25

Perverted City Council Priorities in Washington, DC

DC is a crime-ridden city. They say it is not as bad as it used to be, but chances are that you moved here from somewhere else, and no matter where you came from, the crime situation here is a hell of a lot worse that what you are used to.

As has been proven in so many other cities, crime is controllable and even the most crime-ridden cities can be taken back. New York City is a perfect example of the police retaking a city from the criminals. So what is the problem of other cities, and what on earth is wrong with Washington, DC?

For starters, reading in my last post, even the Police Chief is not safe from crime. He had his unmarked car stolen over last weekend. Talk about an embarrassing event! It would be funny, but I also was a victim this last week, having my car broken into. This event netted the criminals less than $50 in old crappy tools and two pairs of worn (but still loved) sunglasses. The cost to me will be about $1,000. The crooks had a good night, as I was one of at least three cars hit on this one block.

This is not a new problem. Cars have been broken into on this street for years and I have complained about this. Not to mention the countless police reports taken on the street. Have I ever seen a policeman there? Only when taking police reports. Does DC have ‘bait’ cars? I am told no. Too bad as an average of 66 cars get stolen every day in the District. Auto crime is just one part of the massive DC crime problem. Do you think the DC government has declared war on crime? No. Instead, they are occupied with the following:

The District of Columbia is the Nation’s Capital. It was placed on what was basically ‘Neutral Territory’ to avoid placing the Capital in any State. After all, that would not be fair to the other states. The other states would think that the Capital itself would unfairly benefit as being the seat of government.

As it was setup, the District has no voting representation. That does not mean that residents have no representation. For starters, many (half?) of DC residents are not American Citizens. For these people, they have basically as much representation here as they would living in any of the states. In addition, DC is the only place in the country that hosts offices for every member of Congress. Not even New York City can claim that! Lets not forget that the President also calls DC home for most of the time. In short there is a lot of smoke being thrown up about the voting issue. More so than any other relevant issue. From my point of view (as one of the disenfranchised) DC has many Bigger problems than worrying about statehood and statehood is not going to solve ANY of DC’s current problems!

I for one, am in favor of DC Statehood. Lets make DC equal with the other states by giving them statehood, then we can more the Capital somewhere nicer. After all, why should the Capital be located in Washington, DC? So be careful what you ask for, you might get it. You just need to be sure what price you will have to pay.

The Taxation without Representation group somehow managed to get their slogan on DC license plates. No, not just for group members, but on ALL DC plates, regardless or the nationality of the car owner. This “Taxation Without Representation” slogan replaced the more upbeat “Celebrate and Discover.” I for one would have preferred “Our National Capital.”

The current slogan is an insult to all Americans and refused to put it on my car. My plates have the DC website instead of the slogan. It is the same plate series that the Secret Service uses. Now, you have to demand these plates and looking around the city, I am the only one to do so, till now.

I would hope that the DC Council would be on top of the crime problem in DC. To tell you the truth, I have never paid much attention to the goings on of the DC City Council. But I think I should pay more attention to what they do because crime does not seem to fit unto their to-do list, looking at what they have been up to lately.

One task they accomplished this week was to introduce a resolution asking Southwest Airlines to put the DC flag on one of their planes, like they have done with the Maryland Flag. I have to say the plane with the MD flag on it looks cool. Of course the resolution calls for the slogan to be put on the plane as well. Councilman Jack Evans, who I bet has never had his car broken into, proposed this measure. Good work Mr. Evans. Good work. Of course, Mr. Evans is not the only Council Member, what might the other members be up to?

Resolution to abolish use of torture introduced to D.C. Council
This brings me to Council Members Sharon Ambrose, and Council Member Kathy Patterson who introduced a resolution

"recognizes the need to abolish the use of torture in all circumstances and therefore recognizes that the District of Columbia shall now be considered a 'Torture Free Zone,' "

The idea is that the US has and does torture prisoners and with DC the Nation’s Capital, there is a real risk of the Government conducting torture inside DC City limits. After all, as the resolution states:

"torture has been conducted on a widespread scale, suggesting a serious failure of governmental policy, if not actual official acceptance."

The DC Council accuses the Federal Government of intentionally using torture. So they are now doing their part to keep it from spreading here. What a load of bull. Too bad the council ladies did not have enough time to also Abolish Murder, Rape, Robbery, Car theft, and Drug related crimes from the Capital. In my eyes, living in high-crime areas is equivalent to being tortured. Living in fear of being a crime victim causes stress and the last time I checked, Liberals would classify that as torture.

I have no hope that the situation in DC will change anytime soon. With these idiotic Council Members spending all of their time on these useless projects of theirs, that have absolutely no impact on the quality of life in DC, there is no drive to solve the problem. Perhaps they are to blame for the crime problem the rest of us have to deal with.

DC Vote

Washington: A torture-free zone? – DC Examiner

Tuesday, June 21

Washington, DC - Criminal paradise

I live in Northwest DC. Cimre is not so bad as it is in Northeast and Southeast, but for a city it is still horrible.

So I was not completely surprised that as I was reading in the mornng paper the story of how the Chief of Police's undercover car was stolen over the weekend, I came upon my car, whih was broken into last night.

The bastard(s) broke into the car by smashing the rear passenger door window. They then opened the rear seat to get into the truck. Inside they found my tackle box full of old tools. He/they then pulled open the locked glovebox and stole my wife's and my sunglasses. that was the worst part of this. It took a while for me to find a nice pair of sunglasses. Nothing special, they were "SUNGEAR" glasses with blue lenses. From what I can tell they do not make that type anymore. They do make the style with brown lenses. Not exactly the same. But I digress. Whoever did this created a lot of destruction to get away with a truly petty haul. Oh yes, the tool box and many of the tools were stenciled with my name. I had nothing in sight in the car so their breakin was a pure gamble.

The police arrived soon thereafter and took a report. They suggested that I bark on another road where two of the city council members live. The other suggestion was to seriously consider moving to Virginia. Coming from a policement, I wonder what he knows.

They did point out that it only takes a minute to do what they did. I agreed. HOWEVER, they did not break into only my car. They also hit two other cars. These guys were in no rush to get out of there. On other occassions they hit multiple cars. This was not a one time strike.

It is outrageous to go out there one morning to see that not only were the criminals out hitting cars, but the DC parking police were out there too hitting cars with out of state license plates.

That's shameful.

this is the second time they got my car. The first time, they had stolen my license plates. The replacements are now welded to the car. Thankfully, they did not take them this time.

I know that crime is down in DC. It is still too high. The courts keep letting all the people back out onto the streets. Minors know that they are not going to get into real trouble, so they steal cars, not for financial game, but for joyriding. In all the places I have lived and visited, this is the worst when it comes to crime.

Police Chief Ramsey needs to be replaced. DC needs new Police blood.

Saturday, June 18

Fighting Illegal Immigration is easier than anyone is willing to admit

We see it on the news night after night. The country is being overrun with illegal immigrants. There are over ten million illegal immigrants living in the US. Eleven percent of all Mexican Citizens are living in the US, half of them illegally.

This situation is insane. I am not exactly sure how the country got itself into this situation, but you can guess that it is a problem that has been slowly growing for years. Now many admit that our borders are broken. Many are resigned that there is nothing that we can do. There are too many to stop. This is a defeatist attitude and wrong. We all can see that there is a serious problem, and it is a problem that needs to be fixed. Are our borders broken? I want to think that they are more leaky and that a couple changes in policy and tactics will do a good deal to stem much of the leaking, and allow the US to control the problem, as it should be doing.

Changes to the system:

First, we will need more immigration agents.
This is the most obvious needed resource and steps have been in the works to address this need. Now there are experts who claim that added reinforcements at the border will not stop the flood of illegal aliens flowing over the border. I agree it probably won’t so this is not the goal of these changes. The goal of these changes is to create a border secure enough to discourage enough people from even trying to cross into the US illegally. Right now there is no deterrent. The following changes in policy would change that.

End 'catch and release' both at the border and anywhere inside the US.
As I just mentioned, there is no deterrent against trying to cross the border. If you get caught the worst that will happen is that you get a free ride home to your home in Mexico. Many who are caught are simply given an appearance ticket to appear in court and are quickly let loose onto the streets of the US. We all know what happens next, they disappear. This needs to stop. These people have committed immigration crimes and need to be put in front of a judge. Every single one of them is a flight risk and should not be let out on bail. Worse yet, none of those who are caught are asked to put up any bail, they are simply let go. They should all be held until a judge decides what to do with them. If we as a nation are not willing to do this, then we need to be ready to deport every illegal alien we catch. This will probably take as big an effort as detaining them until their trial.

Right now at our airports people arriving by plane are put in chains and deported for overstaying their visa limits during a previous visit. In some cases the overstay was only one day. From where are these people coming from? Countries with Visa-waiver status. Countries like Finland, and the United Kingdom. This is overkill. How many immigration agents does it take to deport these isolated cases? The manpower requirements far outweigh the results. Shouldn’t some of these assets be reassigned where they can stop hundreds and even thousands trying to enter the country illegally.

Utilize Local Law Enforcement
Just because you manage to get past the border guards does not give you a free pass to stay in the country. Every day illegal aliens are caught by local police, only to be let go because the police are not in the business of enforcing immigration law. Police in California were being harassed by pro-immigration forces to stop setting up drivers license and DUI checkpoints. In addition to catching drunk drivers they had the added bonus of catching illegal aliens since they are unable to obtain drivers licenses and insurance. The pro-immigration forces defend these people who “otherwise obey the law.” Yes, other than immigration and motorist law. Better yet, the pro-immigration forces attack the check points because they “discriminate against those without licenses.” If that is the case, we will have to disband the police since they discriminate against those who break the law. At least in this case sanity prevailed and the checkpoints were resumed and now unlicensed drivers cars are towed away. The only thing missing now is the need to take the illegal alien who was driving the car away too.

So where do we put all of the illegal aliens that we catch? Well the US has experience in handling hundreds of thousands of prisoners. During WWII many prisoners of war were shipped from Europe back to the US for internment. This mass detaining has been done successfully before and it can be done again. Some of these new border agents the government has been promising can be used for this purpose.

At first, a huge number will be caught, but then it should slow down. Perhaps even suddenly. Some decrease can be expected, simply because those who are caught cannot try again immediately like they do now. Secondly, many others would be deterred from even trying to cross into the US because they are not interested in sitting in an internment camp for six months.

Prosecute all who are caught
Now we would not just intern them, they would be interned awaiting trial. Of course they would have the option of pleading guilty and then being deported with a warning. Penalties for those caught a second time should be harsher. Perhaps they would be incarcerated for a year. Perhaps just another six months to work their way through the system would be enough. The second time you would not be able to simply plead guilty to get out. How many Mexicans would cross the border if they knew there was a reasonable chance that they would be caught and denied income for a half-year? Truly something to think about before deciding to go north.

Families of mixed immigration status should not be exempt
Illegal alien parents of American born should not be exempt from immigration law. Many illegals living here have American-born children. It is not fair to punish the baby and I doubt that it is possible to deport and American-born child. Nor would I want to. But the parents do need to be punished. There are two ways I can think of doing this. One way would be to deport the parents when the child reaches 18 years of age. The other is to give the parents a suspended sentence to be served when the child is no longer a minor.

End the 'We cannot get by without them' Myth
One defense against going against all the illegal aliens is that we cannot get by without them. This is a load of bull. There is room here for a formal guest worker program and one should be instituted. Notice the word ‘formal.’ What we have now is a free for all and all of these workers are outside of our legal economy. How many illegal aliens are unemployed? How many are underemployed? How many pay taxes? All of their employers are contributing nothing to the Social Security and Medicare programs. We are all being cheated by this activity as our contributions (tax and otherwise) then get used to support them.

A guest worker program will do not only the US good but it will also benefit Mexico. It will enable Mexicans in the US to travel back and forth between the US and home and permit the spending of more money in Mexico, helping the economy there. This will also help American firms that do not utilize the illegal workforce compete because heir competitors will lose the cheap labor that they had been utilizing to beat their competition.

Proclamations that the US cannot function with this shadow workforce are insulting. At best, this low-cost workforce is preventing the implementation of more efficient machinery and more productive methods.

I know that much of what I have written will be seen as drastic and I will be dismissed as the work of an extremist. I can assure you that I am not an extremist. As a matter of fact I have lived outside the US and my wife is a foreign national. I am familiar with being an immigrant through living and working overseas. I have been detained in another country and deported. (Long story.) My wife has been detained in the US also.

For three years we have been dealing with immigration on a number of matters. Mis-spelling her name on her green card. Losing her green card when it was returned for correction. Being forced to pay for a replacement card which was then never issued. Being told conflicting information concerning the application process and very simply, being lied too.

The process to come to the US sucks. However, this is not a reason to skip the line and the process. Many others are waiting to come here legally. Some will wait for years and it makes sense to have limits, and ours are very generous. An orderly and planned immigration policy allows immigrants to integrate into society.

I know very well that you get punished for doing things legally. It is expensive to go through the green card process. My wife is prohibited from collecting any government assistance. This includes welfare and unemployment. If she attempts to apply for this aid, I can be prosecuted, even if we get divorced. So I am furious to see all of the federal money go to aiding illegal aliens here. Hundreds of millions of dollars are provided by the Federal Government to treat them in hospitals alone. Dollars that can be better spent policing the border and catching (and holding) those who manage to cross it illegally. The question is when do we seriously start to enforce our immigration laws?

Wednesday, June 15

A Difference Between Men and Women

When a Man finds the woman of his dreams and discovers that she is not interested in him:

He finds a new one.

When a Woman finds the man of her dreams and discovers that he is not interested in her:

She tries harder

Friday, June 10

Finland – The Good, The Bad, and The Stupid

I recently returned from a two plus weeklong vacation to Finland. I wrote a little bit about Finland in my “Before you Move to Canada” piece. As you can imagine, there is much more to Finland, so I thought that I would summarize the Good, the Bad, and the Stupid (the ugly side if Finland.)

The Good

Small Population – In general, I do not like being around people. Too many people are stupid and in general just annoying. The fewer people around, the better. There are less than six million people living in Finland. That is less than the population of New York City. Sure there is no shortage of annoying and stupid people in Finland, it is just easier to avoid them.

Large Country with lots of nature – Finland is much larger than New York City, so the people are spread out. Now they tend to congregate around the city areas, but even in the capital Helsinki, you can still manage to find private space, unless of course you are trying to do something popular, like enjoying a beer on a terrace on a nice sunny day. The countryside creeps past the boarders of the city, so it is possible to take nice walks into the nature right near downtown. True forests are not far away, where you can even go berry and mushroom picking. When driving around the country you might have to watch out for a moose in the road, and in the north encounters with reindeer are entirely possible. There is lots of forest and lakes. In general, the countryside both inland and along the shore, is just great!

Things progress at a slower pace – Nothing seems to move at the pace of business in the US, especially in the Northeast. It is nice to work at a more ‘reasonable’ pace. Another benefit is if you operate at the NY level, you can easily outperform expectations in terms of work output, unless you are a slacker to begin with.

The Chocolate - I love chocolate. My MBA classmates can attest to that. FAZER is Good!

The Language, Finnish – Less than six million people on the planet speak Finnish. It is supposedly a difficult language to learn, compared to others. So why is Finnish in the good column? Well since nobody speaks Finnish, Finns tend to speak English. Most of the popular American shows are on TV. The shows are not dubbed into Finnish, but instead, there is Finnish text on the bottom of the screen. It is slightly more annoying when going to the movies as there is also Swedish text in the movie. (Swedish is the other official language)

The People – Finns are a very nice lot. They are known as not being talkative, and that is fine with me. When they get to know you better, then they open up and there is almost nothing you can do at that point to then try and shut them up! Finns like foreigners and many women do have an interest in foreign European and American men, with interest also in all foreigners, provided that they’re not a refugee.

The Bad
Well there is a lot to complain about concerning Finland, and Finns love to complain. These are some of the things that bother me.

The Euro – Actually I like the Euro. Unfortunately, the switchover to the Euro permitted many to take advantage of the situation and greatly increase the prices of many things.

Salaries – Salaries in Finland for higher-level jobs are generally much lower than in the US. This has been tempered by the appreciation of the Euro, but even that cannot close the gap. There is another nasty aspect of working in Finland, you’ll probably only be paid once a month instead of every other week (or twice a month.) Finns do not complain about this but it bothered the hell out of me. Why in ‘worker-friendly’ Europe do they only pay employees once a month?

Higher income Taxes – So you start with less pay and the government takes a higher percentage of it away from you. It is a graduated scale like in the US. Workers receive a tax card they give to their employer which tells them how much to take out of your pay . It is not the same the whole year through, at first they take little or nothing and then they progressively take more. Don’t think that you can escape taxes if you’re unemployed. You still need to pay taxes on whatever unemployment or welfare payments you receive.

Nine Month Wait to receive your tax refund – Your tax return must be filed by 1 February, but don’t expect your refund until December. Not exactly the most worker-friendly tax system.

Punishment of Working Students – Students pay no college tuition as the government provides for free public education. Students receive monthly support payments while in school, provided they do not work more than a couple hours a month. If they do work too many hours, in addition to paying income tax on their earning, they then need to repay their support payment as well as a penalty. The result of this system is very ‘old’ students with little or no work experience. (Students go to school for 6 years to obtain master’s degrees.)

22% Sales Tax – Now this sucks all the way around. First of all, the government it taking a 22% cut out of your business (we’ll forget for a moment that they’ll still tax any profits you make.) Now if a company came out and said that they intended to make a 22% profit, they would be dragged through public hell for being greedy, but the government has no problem with this. Now for the buyer, this sucks because the government has already reduced your spending ability with high taxes. As we all know, sales taxes are regressive, hurting people more the less they earn.

Unreal Gas Prices – Think $2.50 for a gallon of gas is unreal? Well Finns are paying over $5 a gallon! Add that to the reduced earnings to buy gas with and this really hurts. There used to be signs on the gas pumps that 75% of the price of gas is taxes. Makes you wonder, what do they do with all that tax money?

Smoking – There are chain smokers everywhere in Finland. Since Finland is more public-transport oriented, you are forced to be exposed to these people on the street and while waiting for the busses, trains and trams. They tried to stop the smokers from smoking in the waiting areas, but we all know how considerate smokers can be, so now they only recommend that they refrain from smoking at the stops. Added mobility is not the only advantage of having a car. It also reduces your contact with other people, especially smokers.

Drinking and Drunks – Lets face it, there are lots of alcoholics in Finland. You see people drinking all the time. Six in the morning at the airport, there are lots of vacationers enjoying a morning beers while waiting for their flight. Sitting on terraces mid-day, and even walking the street as the EU outlawed the no open container law. The effect is that public areas are packed with people drinking, especially around weekends and holidays. The drinking age is 18, but there has been talk or reducing the age to 16. Why? Because 16 year-olds are already drinking illegally.

Poor Supervision of Children – “Do you know where your child is?” Many Finnish parents would have to say ‘no’ to that question when asked of their teenager. Another common response would be ‘out drinking with friends.’ Parents let their children move out of the house early and they can do what they want. It is some goofy believe that it is a learning experience. Well let me tell you that there is nothing good a sixteen year old girl can learn at 3am on a weekend drunk, with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other and hitting on guys in their late twenties. Need I say more?

The Stupid

Finland and the Landmine Treaty – Finland is the only EU Country that has not signed the landmine ban treaty (I am not sure about the new EU members.) Finland has the mines in storage ready to deploy them on their eastern boarder to protect them from the Russians. What makes this stupid is that the President of Finland called the Iraq War illegal and that countries should only act militarily with UN approval. This coming from a country acting on its own to keep landmines when the European Union has come out clearly for banning landmines. The irony is that they have the landmines to protect themselves from Russia, which also believes strongly against war without UN approval. Both countries spoke out strongly against US actions against Iraq. That is a great neighbor to have. As both countries have spoken strongly against ‘illegal’ war, why the need to maintain a stockpile of such a primitive and irresponsible weapon of war? Could Finland be suggesting that countries sometimes lie? Now the US has not signed the treaty either, but that is due to the real need for landmines in maintaining the boarder between North and South Korea. What is Finland afraid of? If I were Russian I would be offended. I guess all Europeans should be offended.

Greenpeace and Finnish Forests – Greenpeace is in Finland hugging trees. As my wife says, there are a lot of trees in Finland to hug. According to the Finnish Forest Research Institute:

“Finland is Europe's most forested country - 3/4 of its land area is under forest cover. By international comparison, Finland relies more heavily on its forests than any other country in the world.”

So what on earth is Greenpeace doing in Finland? I think they are losing their backbone for intervening in countries that have nature truly at risk. Why not head down to the German Black Forest and hug trees there. Why not travel to Africa and hug some of the world’s last old-growth forest in Western Africa in Liberia? Why not get more active in Russia and other countries where there is true risk to the nature. Sure they might have a point that some of what is being logged in Finland should be preserved (for the reindeer) but on the scale of things, I bet that Greenpeace can make better use of their resources and make a more substantial impact elsewhere. They are only damaging their reputation (more) by hugging trees in a country covered in trees.

Amnesty International – Greenpeace is not the only NGO operating in Europe. During my trip Amnesty International was conducting a recruiting drive. I was stopped only once and took the opportunity to ask this young, naïve Finnish girl some questions about Amnesty’s work in Finland (they are/were suing the government on behalf of conscientious objectors) and abroad. She quickly admitted that she was unaware of what exactly Amnesty was up to. I will give her credit for the admission.

I told her that the problem with Amnesty International is that they waste too much time persecuting the bad things ‘good countries’ do and ignore the bad things the ‘bad countries’ do to their entire population. Where is Amnesty when it comes to North Korea? Zimbabwe? The Sudan? Nowhere. Instead they are wasting their recent TV time claiming that the US is operating a Gulag in Cuba. What a joke.

Also hassling people for money was UNICEF. They did not bother me which is good, because I would have asked them why was UNICEF wasting money on trying to ban handguns in the US instead of spending that money on children.

Finland’s Green Party – The Greens are supposed to be the one’s who care about protecting nature, so why are they so interested in legalizing marijuana? In fairness, it is not only the Finnish Green Party that appears to have this agenda; Green Parties around the world appear to have this as a common goal. Can they please explain to me how smoking (burning) anything is good for the environment. Or is this something to help you cope with the ransacking of the forest? In general I would like to know why Greenpeace and other environmentalists do not think that smoking (anything) contributes to global warming and air pollution? Why? So for any Greens reading this:

“Cigarette smoke contains carbon dioxide and methane. Smoking worldwide releases about 2.6 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide in the air every year. It also releases about 5.2 billion kilograms of methane every year. Tobacco growing, curing, and smoking all add to the greenhouse effect and global warming.”

So why don’t the Greens tackle smoking? What a great way to put a small dent in global warming and improve the health of the population. While they are at it, I bet those wood fires in all those saunas are contributing to global warming too!

Hatred of the US – Americans used to be told that America was the “Most American Country in Europe.” People do not seem to be claiming that distinction anymore. I think it stopped about the time that President Bush was elected President. This is probably the most controversial item on the stupid list, however this is where is needs to be. Take the case of Anneli Jäättenmäki. During the last parliamentary election she inferred that the then government joined President Bush’s ‘Coalition’ damaging Finland’s longstanding neutrality (I have issues about their ‘neutrality’ too.) Her party had an upset win against the incumbent Social Democrats and this information was seen by many as the tipping point. She was then elected Prime Minister. She had to resign a short a short while later as she was connected to a presidential aide who was convicted of leaking state secrets. After she resigned her position she ran and won a position in the European Parliament. Hmm. At the least there is now a simmering hostility but that is understandable. Finland is one big 'Blue state.'

Correction added on 6/13/05: As the first commentor pointed out, Finland is not one big Blue State. Actually the electoral map of Finland in 2000 mirrored the US results; the cities voted for the Liberal and the countryside was colored red, voting for the conservative candidate.

September 11 Conspiracy – There are a bunch of crazy Finns spreading the word that September 11 was actually a US engineered conspiracy. The site is in Finnish but you can get an idea by looking around. One thing they claim is that it was impossible for the Pentagon to have been hit by an airplane, instead, they claim it was hit by a missile (I do not see in their explanation of what happened to the hijacked airplane if it did not strike the pentagon.)

Now it would be easy to explain away these people as kooks but I was completely floored when a well educated Finn who I am on friendly relations with mentioned exactly this that the Pentagon was struck with a missile. Instead of freaking out I calmly asked him what happened to the plane. He had no valid thought about that, partly because he did not think about it before. He simply wanted to believe that the US Government had somehow engineered this. He did admit at the end of the conversation that he needed to rethink the situation.

As for the plane striking the Pentagon, I agree with the following:

“…if you think about it, common sense tells you their claims are just plain silly. After all, if the passenger jet didn't hit the Pentagon, then where did it go? And since the people behind 9-11 had to get rid of the passenger jet and its contents anyway, there was no reason for them NOT to ram it into the Pentagon. Why risk a swap? Why complicate matters even further?”

Speeding Fines based on Income - (added 6/13/05) – This has to be one of the stupidest oddities of Finland. You might think it strange for a policeman to ask you how much you earn, but he needs to know because your speeding fine will be based on how much you earn. Every once in a while these $100,000 plus fines do make the news in the US. Now, every time I bring this up a completely stupid and unfair, I seem to be alone in this view. The explanation is that these evil rich people will speed like crazy unless there is this stiff penalty. This makes it fair. Sure why would they not speed? The whole idea that being pulled over is a complete hassle eludes the common sense of many Finns. I ask how they would feel if they inherited money one year and happen to get a speeding ticket. Of course this injustice would not apply to them because a smaller fine would ‘hurt’ them. They also do not like my analogy of pricing everything according to how much you make, yet this is ok. Finns also seem to have no knowledge of the point system. You get so many points on your license and then you lose it, no matter how rich you are. If the Government truly wanted to stop speeding, why not mandate a mandatory month or even year in jail.

As far as I can tell this is the only part of the justice system that punishes people according to their economic status. This might actually be a good idea. I can see this being applied to punishment for robbery and theft. The poorer you are, the more likely you would be to commit one of these crimes. So the poorer you are, the longer your jail sentence should be as you are more ‘desperate.’ Poor people need a stronger punishment if you were to do the crime to act as a deterrent against committing these types of crimes. Ridiculous? No more than giving one of the officers of Nokia a $300,000 speeding ticket.

The speeding fine based on income does have loopholes. You see, it is based on Finnish earned income of which I have none. On one winter holiday I drove up to Levi with my Finnish wife, who also has no Finnish income, and a Finnish friend who was working in the UK. Of course he also had no Finnish income. We were all aware that our income was ‘blind’ to the police and that we would receive a minimum fine. As a result, we drove like mad through the night.
One tip: If you happen to get pulled over by the police, it is not the time to demonstrate your knowledge of Finnish. Play dumb and stick to English. Chances are you get off without any ticket, unless you were really burning up the road.

I love living in Finland. I love living in the US, although living in Washington, DC, I can say that there are much better places in the US to live. I have no shortage of complaints about Finland and this is by no means a complete list. I have no shortage of complaints about living in the US too. No place is perfect. Finland is one of the better places, as is the US. There are lots of places that are much worse. That’s why even with all the negative sentiment, people are still risking their lives to get into this country.

It is nice to be able to have the perspective of seeing if the grass truly is greener on the other side of the fence. That is one benefit most Americans have not taken advantage of. Too bad, because perhaps once they see what it is like outside the US, they might be a little more happier back here at home.

My Finland pages

Thursday, June 9

Thanks America - by an Aussie

This is not something that happens everyday. America being thanked by a foreigner and by an Aussie no less.

The piece is well written and as an American it made me wonder, why on earth is the US doing all of these things for the rest of the world for free? Are we really generous or is the rest of the world just plain stingy?

Thank you!

"And then there's all the foreign aid you give. And all the technology you provide. And all the knowledge that is provided for free. And the Mars rover images, also provided for free. And the GPS system also provided for free. Why don't the third world countries thank you for all the stuff they receive from America? I don't know. But let me thank you instead. Thanks America!"

You can read the rest here:

Thanks America

Sunday, June 5

Dumb Drivers and the 2004 Presidential Election

Recently there was a study issued that ranked states on how ‘dumb’ their drivers are. This ranking was based on the results of driving tests given to drivers in the states. I did a quick study by comparing the state rankings in driver ‘dumbness’ and how each state voted for President in the 2004 election. The results are interesting.

I separated the list into the top 25 and the bottom 24 ranked.

In the top 25:

Bush won 18 of the smarter states and Kerry only 7.
Electoral votes for Bush: 143
Electoral votes for Kerry: 62

In the bottom 24:

Both won 12 dumb states.
Electoral votes for Bush: 140
Electoral votes for Kerry: 186

There was lots of talk that Republicans in general and people who voted for Bush are dumb. This quick study would seem to indicate that Democratic Candidate John Kerry benefited more from ‘dumb’ state voters than did President Bush.

I would have loved to add the percentage of votes each candidate received in each state and how that compared to their rankings, but I think I have made my point. I will leave further analysis to the experts.

I hope to post the details in the near future once I convert the spreadsheet into PDF.
Update on 7 June 05:

You can find the state breakdown in the Powerpoint show presentation here:

You can find the state breakdown in the PDF here:
While both Bush and Kerry won an equal number of 'dumb' states, you can clearly see that the smarter of the dumb states went for Bush and Kerry won the eight dumbest of the dumb.
Wow, no comments?