Rockets, guns and stalking-horses

There was a rather tragic shooting incident at the Sello shopping center in Leppävaara, Espoo, near to where I live, as reported by CNN, BBC and others. A man named Ibrahim Shkupolli killed his ex-woman, and four other people related to their affairs (three of them were bosses of his ex-woman), and then himself. All those who were killed were working at the Prisma supermarket at Sello. We go there regularly. I did my grocery shopping there the night before, and my wife and kids were just about to go and get some stuff from the sales, when we spotted the news. So you could say this happened rather close to us.

I'm not much surprised. There are hotheads and idiots about. A friend of mine told me that last fall, he bumped into this very man, Ibrahim Shkupolli, at a swimming pool in Espoo, and Mr. Shkupolli got raving mad, despite earnest and polite apologies. He cooled down later, though.

What saddens me is how this incident is used as a vehicle for various political motives:
  • Gun control. Think about our children! Ban handguns immediately! What you miss, though, is that the gun that was used here was an illegal 9 mm pistol, possibly imported from former Yugoslavia. The shooter had been sentenced for gun possession crimes a couple of times, had convictions for threats, had a restraining order forbidding him to approach premises where his ex-woman was about, and definitely stood no chance of getting a gun license. But what good does it do to ban something that is already banned? Why don't we simply just ban any crime? Wake up.
  • Immigration policy. Throw out all the immigrants right away! Silly. Most immigrants are not so different from the aboriginees here, and some are better in terms of handling interpersonal affairs. It would be sufficient to deport repeating offenders (which BTW Mr. Shkupolli was) if they are non-citizens. (Edit: look, even Jussi Halla-aho agrees that you shouldn't generalize this to all Muslims).
  • Social policies. Throw more money at the welfare state! Think about our children! The issue of psychological services for children and youth was brought up with great haste, but while I am entirely symphathetic towards giving all possible support to any 43-old youths in this country, I think this argument is really a rather cheap pretext for wanting more public money here and there.
  • Taxation. It wasn't difficult to guess that income equality was immediately pointed out as a reason for this tragedy. Force Jorma Ollila and other evil non-compliant (i.e. too rich) people out of country. Sheesh. 
  • Metal detectors into shopping center entrances. Umm.... no. Rather impractical.
  • Armed guards to shopping centers. Umm... no. Rather impractical and dangerous.
  • Allow everyove to carry a hand-gun for self-defence. Umm... no. Just dangerous, because the "everyone" includes hotheads and idiots.
  • Urban sprawl. Someone was very happy that this happened in Espoo, which is known as a well-to-do area of detached houses, instead of "ecological, compact, green city". God forbid, so many people in Espoo (almost as many as in Vantaa...) drive private cars! Therefore this incident is the fault of urban planning, or lack of politically correct urban planning.
    I should point out that the incident also happened in a center which is constructed in the politically correct way: rail connections, lots of blocks of flats, rather high population density. Mr. Shkupolli lived in a council flat in Suvela, a progressive creation of its time (and, although by reputation one of the less attractive areas in Espoo, still a long way from Brixton or Detroit). I don't think the incident had anything to do with urban planning (except for a possible minor impact by the Le Corbusier -inflicted houses in Suvela which are, although clean and architecturally consistent, still rather dull and can indeed depress people.)
All in all, I'd ask people to not care too much about individual incidents, and continue living. We have nutheads amongst us, but if we don't ourselves ruin our lives, they won't be able to, either. Mr. Shkupolli was violent and mentally deranged, but no practical amount of resourcing for the social services could prevent these incidents, because we would need a 5:1 ratio of hand-holders for everyone (three shifts of hand-holding, and don't forget the annual and sick leaves of hand-holders).

And then to fireworks. To protect our nutheads from themselves, the government (here "government" means not only the cabinet and the president, but also the parliament and ministries and other officials) is also clearly moving towards a full ban of all fireworks. We, the people cannot be trusted with such dangerous items. Think about our children! Some types of rockets are illegal after this year, and possessing any firework items requires the person to be 18 years old. This covers even toy torpedos and sparklers ("what we call star-rain sticks").

I have a picture of our son, 3 years old, looking fascinated holding a sparkler. So cute. Now my son is 17, and it is illegal for him to possess a sparkler like that. Let alone to light it. Or even acquire material needed to light it: should he set out on a Boy Scout trip, he could get most equipment (a backpack, clothes and boots, a tent, cooking equipment, and God forbid, an axe and a knife) from a shop with the money he has earned himself. But not a lighter, so he could only make a campfire with the primitive-nation methods taught at Boy Scouts. Because he is a minor, shops will not sell a lighter to him -- lighters are "tobacco smoking equipment". And many shops seem to count matches as "tobacco smoking equipment" as well, even though the law enforcement (so far) explicitly says they're not.


PS. Edit: With all these "extended suicides", couldn't the suicidal person start from himself and then continue to others, if he still feels like it? See how the "violent Finnish culture" impacts even Frenchmen who haven't ever been here: news from Haguenau.


A sensible official

Today's Pravda contains, encouragingly, a comment about the so-called congestion fees.  (Pravda lives at http://hs.fi but this item appears only in the print version, at the bottom of page A12.)

Paavo Tukkimäki writes about Olavi H. Koskimäki of the Finnish Road Administration. Mr. Koskimäki spells out what is obvious to anyone who cares to see: the plan for congestion fees  based on GPS tracking of each individual vehicle is a fool's errand. The proposed system is great if you want to have a mega-Stasi-Big-Brother society, and accept official access to personal data with the mindset "we trust the State".

But if you want to raise money for the state from a fee based on driving in congested traffic, all you need to do is collect fuel tax. The more congestion there is, the higher per km is fuel consumption. Moreover, the link between fuel consumption and the oh-so-modern-evil carbon emissions is 1:1. No need for complex tracking of who is driving what kind of vehicle in what kind of circumstances.

This would be very simple and straightforward. But: for the citizen control industry conglomerate of politicians, officials and information system vendors, such a scheme would be too simple. They want to set up a system where every car is equipped with a mandatory GPS device, and then you can collect fees based on the rating of the vehicle, time of day and various other variables that could be monitored, adjusted, regulated, legislated, et cetera ad infinitum.

And the poor end user someone who just drives a car - here not even a consumer but simply a subject of the administration, "subject" as in a subject of an autocracy - would just foot the bill.

Not if I can help it. The bright, shining, self-righteous hype about the necessity for "congestion" fees, so strongly advocated by our dominant newspaper, has got a dent in it. Thank you for this, Mr. Tukkimäki and Mr. Koskinen. I'm sure Jan Vapaavuori hates your guts, and that alone is worth a commendation.


Could you please make up your mind?

Helsingin Sanomat reports that Abdullah Tammichairman of the Islamic Party of Finland -- formerly a member or spokesman of the National Socialists, the Free Church, the Latter-Day Saints, an informant of the KGB, member of the SMP, the Adventists, the People's Democrats, and the Jehovah's Witnesses -- is resigning, due to differences of opinion about terrorism in his party.

Tammi plans to set up a new party, the Socialist Peace Party. Somehow, I have a hard time believing he'll stick with that ideology until peace and socialism rule in the world.

What's actually the funniest part is that Tammi seems to have been the more moderate one in the Islamic party, as his side in the difference of opinion was that Islamic terrorism should be condemned, and the others wanted to throw in various "buts".


Carbon and VAT carousel

Some fraud-prone industries, such as mobile phone trading or the construction industry, have or are going to have a reverse VAT charging scheme in many countries:

Helsingin Sanomat about construction industry VAT frauds frauds
Channel Register about mobile phone VAT frauds

Now it looks like carbon emission trading is among the very same group of fraud-prone industries, and perhaps even more so:

However, even this VAT reversal doesn't make the fundaments right: emission trading is - particularly in the way it is set up - a pretty dim idea. A simple tax on whatever emissions are deemed harmful would be better, and wouldn't be a simple license to print money for whoever was blowing most CO2 into the atmosphere at a certain moment way back in past.

Likewise, Finland has a rather idiotic scheme regarding the taxation of carbon emissions from vehicle fuel: cars with higher nominal emission ratings have a higher tax percentage. But this system is complex and produces unpredictable results. A simpler and more fair approach would be to just tax the fuels (and not just car fuels, but any fossil fuels - the atmosphere, if it cares about carbon at all, doesn't really know where the carbon came from, right?)

Thus, consuming more fuel would collect more tax, in a foolproof way - instead of relying on rules and ratings and a car tax plus annual vehicle taxes that even the car shops cannot calculate reliably (thus, when you ask the price of a new car, you get an approximation because they can't tell the tax exactly!)


Partnering processes in the underworld

According to our national broadcaster and largest newspaper, there's a new business model in the underworld: someone makes a plan and all the preparations for an armed robbery, but then doesn't execute it. Instead, the plan is sold to someone for execution. The planning party then just collects a commission if the robbery was successful.

Why does someone do the tedious and boring planning, but then lets the actual robbery part for someone else, along with much or most of the profits?

To quote Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo: because it makes good business sense. When you create a robbery plan, you have to attract police attention; if you sell the plan instead of conducting the robbery yourself, an independent agent can execute the plan more safely, while you don't have to take any risks. Work safety first!

In the course of preparation for a major robbery - such as releaving a money transportation company of their heavy burden - you enquire for information and obtain equipment like guns, uniforms (for posing as an employee), explosives (for blowing up things or threatening people), and other stuff. Some of this is difficult to purchase or risky to steal. You may possibly have to bribe some insiders, do rehearsal runs, etc. All this will rise some eyebrows and people will call the police about suspicious activity. The authorities are likely to be tailing you by the time your plan is ready for execution.

But they will not arrest you for the rehearsal rounds, because planning and preparation for a robbery is not an offence in Finland; only an attempt is. And as a recent Finnish court precedent tells us, even a premeditated attempt doesn't count if you abort it when you see the police on your way to the target site.

If some of the equipment you obtain - such as guns - is illegal, they could bust you for that. But the punishment for possessing firearms with intent for violent crime is not really different from any gun possession offence, and will only get you a fine, which is a very minor sum of money if you don't have any taxable income. And since you generally don't pay tax for proceeds of crime, the fines are not a very big threat for professional criminals. So the police will rather wait that they could get you for the real crime you're planning - but they have to get you indisputably in the act, not just staging for it.

Enter the independent party who executes your plan. When your roadmap to money is done, you do a contract with the execution team. They conduct a review of the plan an adjust it according to their taste. Once the date is set, you get a good alibi - or preferably go out of the country - and let the execution team do their part. If they are successful, you get your commission. Like yuor share of the 1.5 million euros that they got from Turku robbery, none of which has been got back.

I call this business thinking. Enterprise world is familiar with this approach - partnering, outsourcing, off/near-shoring, risk management and profit sharing - but if e.g. our public sector could learn from the process capabilities of our more competent criminals, we'd be much better off.

The guys who did the Turku and Lieto heists were rather successful and they have demonstrated good, creative out-of-the-box thinking, and they have shown their capability of adapting to the environment. Could for instance the City of Helsinki hire them to redesign the budget cuts that Mr. Pajunen has been calling for?


A won-won-situation

North Korea is switching currency in order to hit those evil capitalists that still reside within the system. Old won notes lost value overnight, and will be replaced by new won notes with two zeros less in nominal value. Only about €450 per family can be changed, and if you possessed any more cash than that, you're supposed to have lost it.

It's amazing how resilient a tyranny can be. Also, it's amazing how much abuse people tolerate. But then again, in a tyranny they don't have much choice.

Pleased to kill you!

The Finnish language has some aspects that make life hard for foreigners. One of them is the usage of double consonants and vowels in words in ways that change the word entirely. Kuusisaari (a place in Helsinki) is quite different from Kusisaari (Piss Island). And minä tapaan sinut means "I'll meet you", while minä tapan sinut means "I'll kill you."

As found out by a man of foreign origin, who threatened to kill... ummm.. meet a social worker.

Threatening to kill someone is a criminal offence, so the incident was investigated. The prosecutor apparently couldn't decide what to do about it, so in the end he chose to accept that yes, the man said "I'll kill you", but didn't mean it sincerely enough so that there would have been an actual threat, so the charge was dropped.

Soini for President!

Matti Putkonen proposes that the Social Democrats (SDP) should pick Timo Soini as their presidential candidate.

This is rather funny but understandable. The leadership crisis in SDP is severe. Who can SDP choose to run for president? The office of the President of Republic of Finland is an important symbolic position, even if the political power has been mostly taken away and given to the parliament.

Timo Soini is extremely popular among the general population. Choosing him as the candidate for SDP is probably the only way to avoid an extremely embarrassing situation where Soini, leader of a fringe party, would get more votes than the candidate of SDP, the former mighty maker or policy for the whole country.