Burmese lessons

YLE reported - just before the election day last weekend -  that the civil servants in Lapland met a challenge on a Burmese language lesson. They even learned that a sentence like "I love you" could be rather indiscreet in Burmese culture.

It might be news for them that the situation is same in Finnish culture: Finns don't use the l-word so carelessly. But that is perhaps beside the point.

The point is: somehow, to me this piece of news has very similar echoes to the fate of Hiroo Onoda, who kept fighting the Second World War, on the remote Philippine island of Lubang, until March 1972. He just did not know that the war had ended almost 30 years earlier.

I bet the Finnish civil servants will also go on with Burmese lessons - at least as long as someone signs the paycheck.


A trebuchet

Trebuchets are every boy's favourite toys. Watch the ad video.

What they don't mention is that there is only one type of projectile that is really fit for firing your miniature trebuchet: Brussels sprouts.


Swedish democracy

Expressen writes that "Don't let Soini into power, 80 % did not vote for him!"

The Swedes appear to have a weird idea of democracy. How come can you exclude some - but only one - party if it did not achieve a majority? Are you seriously saying that the election result, a considerable victory by one party, should be ignored? What you mean is that the only way to change policies in a country is through a violent revolution. The normal thing in a democracy is that if someone wins the election, then they get to try out with their ideas. Right or wrong, that's the way it works.

Let the Elementary Finns attempt to create a coalition with the others. If they succeed, fine - though I doubt it: populist movements typically have a hard time when they have to take positions of responsibility. If they don't succeed, they'll meet their fate at the next elections.

But if you keep them forcefully out of democratic process, then the only possibility to throw out the current power-that-be is having your kind hanging from the lampposts.

Don't be so stupid, Expressen.

Car insurances are up, who's ripping us off?

Answer: no one is ripping us off, except perhaps the state (in taxes).

The Telegraph complains that car insurance prices are up and this is due to frivolous legal costs. The no-win no-fee lawyers in some countries, like Britain, may have some impact. But the problem of raising insurance costs is visible also in countries that do not have no-win no-fee lawyers. There's another thing that people often don't appreciate nearly enough. It's the change in cars and their safety that we've seen over the last decades.

Modern cars are designed so that they contain the impact energy in accidents: the front of the car compresses in a controlled way, but the passenger cabin maintains form and protects people. The cars also have airbags - up to a dozen of them. And there are explosive cartridges that tighten the safety belt in an accidents. There are also many other features that help people survive crashes but which increase the manufacturing and repairing costs of cars. This is the main reason for having fewer people die in traffic accidents - the number of accidents is not going down so much, but the cars help people to survive more and more dramatic crashes.

This does have a cost. In the old times, your Mini or Opel Kadett C or Toyota Corolla could kill you if had a medium crash. Nowadays your Hyunday Getz, Opel Astra or Toyota Auris deforms itself, but you just walk away. But if you have a small crash - and there are many more of those than there are medium or big, fatal crashes - the car is totalled. Large parts of the fuselage need to be replaced, as well as the airbags, the parts of interior destroyed by the exploding airbag cartridge, etc. Often the car looks more or less intact on the outside, but it's written off, because it is so deformed that the doors won't close any more. It's not feasible to fix it any more.

If you have a small crash, but just big enough to launch the airbags, the car has to be recycled and replaced. This has a big cost for the insurance companies.

Look at the bright side: the injuries people get are diminishing. The cost to the health system is smaller. But car insurers pay this in cars that are written off, and that increases the insurance prices.


BBC joins the front

The BBC has joined the progressive front in Finnish election battle, for the little that it is worth.

The Beeb is often accused of leftist ("liberal") bias, and here one can see some grounds for that, because the story has more inaccuracies than you would expect.

You could start with the name that this report gives to the populist party Perussuomalaiset. They're called True Finns, although the party itself does not use that English name, and the Finnish name does not really translate like that. A better translation would be Basic Finns, or as I mentioned before, Elementary Finns. Or Little People's Party.

Beeb also says but the True Finns' nationalism has no room for Swedish. It excludes Swedish as something unfamiliar to Finnish culture. Polls suggest that most Finns share that view and want to stop the teaching of Swedish in Finnish schools.

That's not quite  true, either. What Finns mostly want is to stop mandatory teaching of Swedish in Finnish schools. This is not a change to the constitutional position of Swedish in Finland; it would merely revert - from language politics point of view - to the situation prior to the school reform of 1970's when Swedish was made mandatory to everyone. Those days Swedish was doing a lot better than now when it's slowly fading to obscurity.

I have not seen that Perussuomalaiset would have said they'd want to stop teaching of Swedish in schools. That would be absurd.

Then the BBC writes Instead, young women should study less and spend more time giving birth to pure Finnish children. That is like a faint echo of Nazi ideology.

This is pure rubbish. I wonder who the Beeb has been listening to? Obviously, they don't have a correspondent in the country who'd have any idea of the local politics, so they're relying on someone who they think is ideologically reliable. And the Beeb is either naive or then it insist on following its suspected bias.

Anyway, the election result appears to shake the Finnish politics really deeply. It will be very interesting to see what kind of a government coalition will be formed, but none of the old bases will be workable, because they won't have a majority. And with Perussuomalaiset raising from next to nothing to perhaps the second-highest number of MPs, they have a good case to insist their point of view is taken into account. Listen to the voice of the people.

One possibility is that the largest party and nominal winner, center-right-eurominded Kokoomus, will not be able head a coalition, and the new cabinet will be formed by eurosceptics: left-populist Perussuomalaiset, center-left-populist SDP and center-right-agrarian Keskusta. That would give a big  - and well deserved - headache to Brussels, because it would mean that Finland stops being the nice model pupil of the new brave Europe, implementing every directive obediently and to the point and paying up every cent whenever someone asks.

In four years, Perussuomalaiset will have lost much of the momentum they now have, and I expect their bubble will burst, but the next couple of years will be interesting.


The Church, afraid of martyrs

The bishops of the Swedish church are advising their pastors that they should not baptise asylum-seekers who have converted to Christianity, because if these people are repatriated, there is a risk of persecution - in practise, being killed for apostasy.

I find the lack of religion in Swedish church rather strange. The Christian church used to celebrate people who die as martyrs for their faith, from St. Stephan to St. Paul to St. Lucia, and hundreds or thousands of others. So now they are actually saying "don't do what we've been saying is a good thing for the past 2000 years". Because it's bad for your 'elf and safety, and who knows about the afterlife.

What use do we have for such a church?