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?