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"Form follows Planning Permission"

by Sven Triloqvist Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 02:02:23 AM EST

Finland is getting closer to understanding how the `Cathedrals of Crap' (aka box malls) are polluting society - including, or rather especially, politics.

In the diary title, I misuse US architect Louis Sullivan's 1896 dictum "Form ever follows function"

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,

Of all things physical and metaphysical,

Of all things human and all things super-human,

Of all true manifestations of the head,

Of the heart, of the soul,

That the life is recognizable in its expression,

That form ever follows function.
This is the law.

This is also the spark that ignited Modernism.

I misuse it because `architecture' is at the root of Finland's long-running political donations scandal. The story so far was outlined on ET recently in the diary Good people, why pay more?

These cathedrals of crap are not unique to Finland. I imagine the political shenanigans they engender are not unique either. But the fallout is perhaps more visible here in Suomi - at the moment.

The Finnish saga began in May 2008 with an investigation into the leader of the Centre Party parliamentary group, Timo Kalli's campaign financing. At first Kalli refused to disclose the source of his large donations. Media pressure finally forced him to reveal that a shady organization called "Kehittyvien maakuntien Suomi" (KMS; in English, "The Finland of Developing Provinces") was funding him. It then transpired that KMS was also funding a lot of other politicians - not all of them Center Party.

KMS is a cabal of mall developers, builders and the operators of the crap shops within them. Behind these small-minded crap vendors, in the shadowy recesses, are two very rich Finnish investors (who I will not name here for a couple of google search reasons). These two both live abroad. They do not pay Finnish taxes. They also have powerful media interests in Finland.

Getting hold of the globalized crap to sell was no problem for the cabal - Asia was happy to supply, and where products came from Finland, they were made in areas that received EU funding as `underprivileged'. The tried and tested Ikea method of giving small factories big orders and then squeezing them every year to cut prices or go bust also came in handy.

Getting the Finnish consumers to drive to these malls was no problem. Shopping `experiences' fill up the lifestyle space when there are no programs on TV.

The problem was to get planning permission to build these malls and to get local communities to pay for the required green field infrastructure i.e roads and services to the middle of formerly agricultural land.

This ongoing scandal of donations and influence is all about getting planning permission and also retaining special tax status.

The Finnish PM Matti Vanhanen (Centre Party) has already resigned as party chairman and will leave this summer. He knows that there is a lot more shit to hit the fan. His political career is over. His resignation means he will be replaced as PM. How he is replaced will strain the coalition he heads. The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions will also have their say.

This saga still has a long way to go. But meantime there are almost daily developments:

  Vanhanen thanked Merisalo for assistance soon after 2007 election

Centre Party leader, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen thanked Nova Group businessman Arto Merisalo for the financial assistance that he provided the party in the 2007 Parliamentary elections.

      The gratitude was expressed soon after the election in an e-mail in which Vanhanen responded to a previous message from Merisalo. The exchange of messages is part of the police investigation material acquired by Helsingin Sanomat concerning the activities of Kehittyvien Maakuntien Suomi (KMS), an organisation set up by a group of businessmen for the purpose of raising funds for political candidates of their liking.

      Police suspect Merisalo and Tapani Yli-Saunamäki, along with others involved in KMS, of making a false entry into an official registry, as well as bookkeeping crime. The matter is now under consideration by prosecutors.

In his message to Vanhanen, Merisalo congratulates him for the good election result "on behalf of the whole KMS team", which comprised "Kyösti Kakkonen and Seppo Saastamoinen of Tokmanni, Masku's Topi Sukari, Motonet's Lauri Juntunen and the Toivanens of Suomi-Soffa, as well as Palmberg's [Risto] Bono, and us from Nova". The last is a reference to Merisalo himself and Yli-Saunamäki.

      The list of names is significant, in that so far, Vanhanen has claimed that he did not know of any other contributors behind KMS except for Tapani Yli-Saunamäki. Vanhanen himself received an election campaign contribution of EUR 10,000 for the 2007 election.

(Note: 10.000 € may seem like peanuts, but when average candidate campaign spending in Finnish national elections is 43.000 €, the sum is significant)

Hopefully this story will lead, in the end, to a confrontation on crap. And the key question here: what is crap, why is it crap, and how do we get rid of crap?

What is Crap?

Crap is indefinable, but you know it when you experience it.

Why is it crap?

I stink therefore I am.

How do we get rid of crap?

We can't: but we can use it as fertiliser.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 06:11:36 AM EST
Yle: Centre Party Secretary Korhonen under pressure in campaign finance furore

With less than a year to go before the next Parliamentary elections, there is increasing concern within the Parliamentary group of the Centre Party over develoments in the furore over funding for the previous election campaign. The party's MPs are discussing the issue on Thursday at a group meeting.

On Wednesday, voices in the group laid the blame largely on the party's central office and specifically on Party Secretary Jarmo Korhonen. Words like "unsustainable" were used to describe Korhonen's situation, as sentiment was rising in favour of his departure.

It looks as if the PM will leave even before his due departure date in the summer. And thugee Korhonen will be gone too, soon. If there's a spider in this web of deceit, it's Korhonen. He connects all the characters in the diaries I have written.

And in not entirely unrelated news, Mr Big in Finnish investment, Kaj Mäkelä, is being probed for some alleged fiddle.

From what I hear, this is far from over - there's a lot more to come. And amazingly the Finnish media are actually doing some investigating and publishing leaked documents from these investigations. Methinks the Centre Party is doomed. Even Super-Mauri can't save it, though I'd hate to think his energy and environment initiatives will suffer.

OTOH SDP is also weak at the moment - which leaves us with the National Coalition party. There is not a great deal of talent in Parliament at the moment, in spite of the constant salary raises they are giving themselves.

All we need now is...oooh wait a minute, SDP's 'Dr' Kimmo Kiljunen (divorced) just came back from an official visit to Asia. There was a conference in Bangkok. It finished, but Kiljunen exchanged his business return ticket for coach, and then flew to Burma and Bhutan before coming back to Finland. He was accompanied in his skivery by a 30ish female sex researcher with no connection to parliamentary business. Nothing wrong with a bit of hanky-panky - good luck to him - but unfortunately he broke some fairly serious rules according to the media.

Lovely. All we need now is President Tarja Halonen spliffed up in the Palace yard opposite the harbour pretending she's Moominmamma.  If only Marja Tiura could play Little My.

Incidentally, 'Moominpappa at Sea' will be playing in Shanghai at the Expo as part of the Finnish Culture Day events. And Tarja will be there ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 11:38:25 AM EST
Thanks for another interesting post (and comment), Sven! It's good to see the Finnish media holding these folks' feet to the fire, for a change. Hope they keep it up.

What has been truly amazing to me is the sheer volume of crap that's available . . . it goes on and on forever, depicted in the endless stream of ads that hit my mailbox day after day, month after month. And every year it's the same old, same old. The crap they have on offer never changes. Where is the quality? Why aren't more people interested in quality I ask myself?

As for 'big box' stores, plastic crap is mostly what they specialize in. Never liked the concept in the US, don't like it here either. Ugliness personified.

by sgr2 on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 07:31:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like a few others here, I was born into a rather different and fortunate world, where broken stuff was repaired or taken down for parts. My father had a garage full of labelled boxes of bits. My mother made our clothes (trained as seamstress) and knitted relentlessly ;-) DIY was not about having fancy tools, but making practical stuff - including our own entertainment.

I don't know what the answer is, but the failings must be in education.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 08:08:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
use it up,
wear it out,
make it do, or
do without.

I'm not sure it has to do with lack of education, more so lack of values and the endless need to 'keep up with the Joneses,' and always having to have the next best thing.

I was very encouraged recently though. Our neighborhood has an excellent recycling center nearby and I saw someone actually retrieve a used sewing machine, part by part. If she only knew how smart I thought she was being! It would be very nice if some Finnish entrepreneur could start a recycling business selling excess materials left over from building projects, or otherwise giving recyclables a new life. I'm pretty pleased with myself, having just scored a very nice quality Suomalainen (vintage) takki from the local thrift store . . . my personal favorite local place to shop.

by sgr2 on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 10:16:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where are values instilled and analysed? At educational establishments.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 11:27:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say those values are instilled in the home.  I was taught to avoid debt.  Not because assuming debt was "Bad" but because it was stupid.  It was frittering money away.  Living with less than your means, so you could save, was pounded in through example and precept.

As a result, even today, I experience a slight twinge of guilt when using a credit card ... even tho' it will be paid off by the end of the month, avoiding any interest payment.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 11:50:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But how do those values get into the home? ;-)

The problem with education is that it's a 2 or 3 generation payoff. Politicians don't think like that.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 12:26:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my case it was a heritage from hundreds of years of American, German and Swedish ancestors who never got a dollar, mark, or krone they didn't immediately want to take to bed.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 12:33:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Krone? I thought you said crone.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 12:39:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 01:33:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 03:38:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a "-" strikeout through the "e" but it's hard to see.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Apr 16th, 2010 at 06:46:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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