How to Win Friends and Influence People

As defined by Dale Carnegie in 1936:
Fundamental Techniques in Handling People:
1. Don't criticize, condemn or complain.
2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Now, the deputy prime minister of Greece, Theodoros Pangalos, really sets an example of how not to:

The EU leaders are of "very poor quality". "The people who are managing the fortunes of Europe were not up to the task". Finally, he says that Germany had no right to reproach Greece for anything after it devastated the country under the Nazi occupation.

Now this is a remarkably great strategy for attracting the generous financial help of the Germans, or anyone, for that matter.

Apparently the Greek politics, on the Pangalos's political right and even more on the general-striking left, is in utter denial with how they have forged their statistics and generally messed up their things. Or at least, the top politicians prefer populist rhetoric that enables to stay in power nationally, over admitting where they stand. Perhaps they count on the politicians' heads being so much above the heads of their fellow countrymen that even if most drown, they'll continue to have a good time.

What I like about Greece is the scenery and the tomatoes and other vegetables and food. I don't miss their economic talent.


No, Minister!

In the UK, the founder of an anti-bullying charity and helpline, Christine Pratt, blew the whistle that there is a bullying problem at No. 10 Downing Street, and staff had called her service for help.

Now, how would you expect a British Government respond to that? I would expect the Prime Minister to issue some statement like "we are taking any bullying issues seriously and we have set up a follow-up team to review our guidelines to prevent inappropriate workplace behaviour". Bland and unexciting and politically correct, but that's what any sane employer would do.

I wouldn't expect what minister Phil Woolas did: mock the anti-bullying activist by calling her "prat of a woman".

Remarkable. If I were accused of bullying, particularly in such a sensitive and significant position as a Cabinet minister, how should I respond? Would I really want to resort to the most classic bullying tactics: calling my adversary by names, playing with her name, degrading her?

This kind of behaviour could be expected from the so-called underclass in Britain: people who abuse each other verbally, in a brutal way, because they can't read or write. People who hit you if they don't like the way you look at them or talk to them.

But a minister? I would expect a dull, bureaucratic response, or in the best case, witty, slightly sarcastic but sympathetic phrases like "this so unfortunately misguided lady who is nevertheless working for a good cause which we aspire to support".

It appears that minister Phil Woolas - immigration minister, by chance, so one could assume he is setting a behavioural example to those who are new to Britain and British culture - decided to thoroughly demonstrate how terribly right Mrs. Pratt was when saying there is a bullying problem in the British government.


Lent without iPods?

In Britain, bishops urge people to spend the Lent without iPods. The motivation is to help those suffering from the effects of climate change.

Excuse me? How does this help?

Let's now forget the overall controversy regarding anthropogenic global warming and the not-always-so-scientific approach of the IPCC. I agree that wasting material and energy is generally a bad idea.

But I have a hard time figuring out a modern pastime that would consume less of our planet's resources than listening to iPod or some other MP3 player. There's certainly less physical matter shifted around than when listening to CDs bought from a shop, or when listening to a choir at a church, or when doing... practically anything. The electricity consumption of a player is truly, utterly minimal. The manufacturing cost and resources used do not go away, if you already have the player.

Same goes for eating in candlelight. I don't easily believe that the logistics of using candlelight is in any way less expensive in terms of resources than an incandescent light bulb. Even a light bulb that is, for Heaven's sake, frosted (now banned by the EU).

I would be perfectly fine with bishops urging people to give up listening pop music for Lent, just for the sake of spiritual healing, concentrating in the arrival of Easter, and so on. Concentrating on prayer until Easter would make sense if you want to reduce emissions. Not buying a player and just singing on your own would consume less (although quite minimally). These would be natural advice from the church. But how does it help the planet that you do not listen to an iPod that you anyway already have, or use more romantic but certainly also more wasteful light sources?

Giving so fundamentally misguided advice regarding energy usage and speaking about saving the planet is pretty weird. In fact, it sounds pretty panicky. The church leaders seem to be in such haste in catching the zeitgeist that they completely forget to use their brain.

Speaking of zeitgeist, there's just more snow coming. To the right, our poor little cherry tree, in front of the garden table & bench. The good part is that the snow probably protects the tree from extreme frost.

What's wrong with halal?

In the teacup called France, there's a political storm concerning a fast food chain that offers halal food.

What's the problem here, really? I mean, there are many justified concerns about the islamization in Western societies, but this is not one of them. Who is hurt if a restaurant chain processes its food so that it satisfies Islamic customers? Making meat halal is a largely symbolic act, with no impact to the quality of meat, and if done and monitored properly, also no impact on the well-being of animals (until they are killed, that is, which has an impact on the well-being of animals in every case).

The "Islam tax" impact is also rather insignificant, as the cost-per-head of whispering "Allah" three times to the ear of the cow isn't exactly prohibitive.

I think this is simply down to market economy: a significant part of Quick's customer base likes its food to be halal. If hamburgers were as bad for your health as some of the propaganda says, this could be welcome news to those of us who are concerned about militant Islam: if a person has a body structure resembling Michael Moore, any explosive belts will just fall off. Alas, the way I see it is that hamburgers are about bread, meat, salads and mayonnaise sauces, and with the exception of mayonnaise, these are rather healthy food items.

They're using phrases like "clients are forced because of halal meat to pay a tax to Islamic organizations". Excuse me? Who is forcing anyone to eat at Quick's? If the French are being taken to the restaurants at a gunpoint, then I can understand a concern, and that is a concern whether the meat is halal or not, but that doesn't quite seem to be case yet.

Live and let live. A burqa + niqab may be another thing, because wearing them might not really be voluntary for women - even in France - but fast food is a good way to assure people that in a liberal society, choosing what to eat is your call. Not anyone else's.


Hiding government debt

The headlines have been flaming with Greece's remarkably creative debt hiding procedures, which have been invented by banker firms such as Goldman Sachs.

However, it seems that Greece is not alone here; public sector in other European countries, particularly Italy and Spain, is grinding to a halt due to debt. Here's a good blog entry about this stuff:



A scary ruling

The Finnish Supreme Court has given a ruling that would make my hair stand straight if it weren't already so short that I can't comb it: a drug trafficker used a rental car to transport stuff, so he has to pay the purchase price of the rental car to the state.

Excuse me? I'm not known for being particularly sympathetic to drug dealers, but even with severe crime, punishment should be within reason. 19 000 euros of extra punishment because the dealer happened to take his backpack with 2.8 kilos of amphetamine in a rental car?

What's next?

If you transport drugs in a bus, you have to pay the price of the bus to the state? If you carry the backpack on a Finnair flight to Oulu, and are caught, you need to compensate the state with the price of an MD-82? If you carry drugs on foot, you have to pay for the construction cost of each meter of pavement that you used?

Or is it just that private cars are somehow different from any other transport, and requirement for reasonable punishment does not apply?

This is a scary ruling from the Finnish Supreme Court. It cannot be right.


Do unto others...

Phil Jones, head of the now disreputed climate research unit in East Anglia University, says that he thought of killing himself and is receiving death threats.

Death threats are of course to be disapproved, but when a so-called climate sceptic John L. Daly died, Phil Jones commented that in an odd way, this was "cheering news".

Shouldn't you rather do unto others as you would have them do unto you?

The problem with CRU and IPCC work in general is now that it is making ridiculous the scientific method: not only should you base your science on measured observations, but your measurement data should be open for review by all researchers, and particularly, open also to those who disagree with your conclusions, not only those who agree with you. People speak about science and pretend to do science, but they don't even seem to know what science means.

I don't doubt that man's actions have some impact on the global climate. Whether the impact is such as the IPCC is insisting, is much more doubtful. Whether man's impact is greater than the impact of spontaneous changes in the Sun, for instance, is another matter. The whole circus seems much more about politics, control of a vast bulk of wealth given to the global emission trading system, and generally gaining control of other people's lives, which is always fun.

BTW, somehow I doubt the seriousness of Jones's suicide risk. I mean, he tells us that he considered suicide, but he doesn't tell us that he considered resignation. A PR agency at work, I would say.


More salary to nurses...

Nurses ask for more salary if they start prescribing drugs.

For once, I agree with their trade union (this must be a one-time opportunity). Prescribing drugs requires more training, and what's more, it comes with more responsibility and even personal liability. It is reasonable to compensate for that.

How the councils can afford that, and whether this eats away some of the potential savings that hospitals and clinics wish to achieve by delegating some work from doctors to nurses, is another matter. But what's fair is fair.

Out of shovels

If you plan to buy a snow shovel in Finland... don't bother. The shops have run out of them.

The picture to the right is a table/bench combo in our garden: as you can see, the snow layer is about 60 cm thick. It's not a very huge amount, but it is more than usual for the southern coastline, which often goes with very little snow due to the "heat" from sea. Normally, Helsinki region winter is a season of slush from November to March.

Shops are running out of snow-clearing equipment. Also, the councils are running out of money - not only because of snow though it does make things worse - so they are simply not clearing out as much as they should. The roads are passable, but not in a good driving condition. And some people don't understand that when choosing how fast you drive, you should take into account the road conditions. People talk a lot about faulty Toyota accelerators, but I think that stupid driving is still a thousand times more relevant risk for any Toyota owner.

With the 60 cm layer all about, it's good that our household has three able-bodied men to do the snow-work. I used to hear from inner-city-dwellers how they despise living in a suburban house because you may have to work on the snow, while in the city you can let the 'servants' do it. Well, now it seems, in the city you cannot really have the servants do it for you after all - they are not able to arrange it properly, they don't have the men, they don't have the equipment. Which is why a 4-wheel-drive SUV is particularly suitable for those who live and drive in downtown Helsinki. If you need to drive - and many of us need to - then us suburbanites can do with regular, little cars.


Breaking a law to find out who broke law to find out who broke law...

The German government is pondering whether to purchase information about tax evaders - people who have money in Swiss banks but are not declaring nor paying tax for it in Germany -  and pay 2,5 million € for the CD with personal information of some 1500 people. (Reported e.g. by Business Week.)

The interesting part here is that the information has been stolen by the person who tries to sell it. One would think that at least in common law countries (US, UK), using illegally obtained information would not stick in court so it couldn't be enforced - but on the other hand, even there, what does not stick in criminal justice system may still very well stick with the tax collector because for the state, tax revenue is a much more important thing than a due process as applied in courts of justice. Is it okay that a government purchases the proceeds of a crime, even if these proceeds can then be used to discover and prosecute other crimes?

And then an even more interesting question. Will the person who stole this information from a Swiss bank (apparently in Geneva) declare the purchase price in his/her personal income declaration? He/she is likely a Swiss resident.

If yes, the Swiss will have him/her; he or she could probably be prosecuted under some kind of data protection crime or at least misdemeanor, and proceeds of this crime could be confiscated.

If not, he'll be a tax evader and Swiss law enforcement should be entirely justified to require the person's details from the German government who is paying him/her. If the German government refuses, they are themselves protecting a tax evader. Hardly a justifiable position.

Perhaps someone could then sell the information to the Swiss? Whether that is a crime depends on the way the information was acquired, of course... we have a nice recursive crime.

Studying French culture

"I am interested in French culture and I think it is fascinating to get to work at Disneyland."

This is what a student, 20, says in today's Pravda. She's planning to work in Disneyland Paris next summer.

OK, I admit, the idea is not quite as silly as it sounds.  It's still Le Disney in Paris that she speaks about, and when working there, you no doubt are exposed to French work culture, and on your free time you can explore other parts of greater Paris area and perhaps even the rest of France - or you can explore Disneyland.


Disobedient Hamburgers?

Headline: "Despite appeals, disobedient hamburgers rushed to the ice".

Upon reading this, I really thought that some McDonald's products were ignoring the orders of well-meaning activists. Alas, it was about the people of Hamburg.

If I didn't need to consider my diet, I would now consume a coffee and some strictly compliant Berliners who don't flee disobediently.

Obscure euro mathematics

Prav... sorry, Helsingin Sanomat has yet another article about how poor immigrants are. "An immigrant woman's euro is 20 cents".

Sure, people on social benefits don't get hugely rich. The urban legends about asylum seekers' benefits have been rather inflated. But what is wrong here, if anything?

I think it is quite natural that we can't arrange a good or even an average personal income for people who may be

  • unable to speak local languages
  • often illiterate (in Finland, literacy a basic requirement for any job whatsoever, in this sense there are no "entry level jobs")
  • unable to leave home due to cultural restrictions and traditions
  • even if able to leave home and able to speak local languages, unable to communicate with persons of opposite sex who are not family members, due to cultural restrictions and traditions
What is the income injustice - or actually any relevant newsworthiness - here?

We can't fix this by increasing benefits. We may be able to do something to it by offering language and other training, and by rescuing those who are kept as house-slaves against their will or who are otherwise exploited. And to do that, we'd need to drop some politically correct assumptions about who is oppressing who. A hint: this time, the oppressor isn't the white male and his alleged violent culture.