Monday, November 26, 2007

Moderate (looking) Nazis

I've written a bit about far right parties in Europe recently, mainly about ones that are trying to change their image. But the BBC's "Crossing Continents" has an excellent programme on the NPD in Germany, a party that isn't running from its historical ancestors in the slightest. Very interesting and worrying listening. Download it whilst you can because I think it might only be available for a few more days.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Depressing work but someone has to do it...

Myself and a mate at work have been digging through the writings of, and commentary on the foreign policies of the leading Presidential election candidates for 2008, thinking about trying to write something on it. We drew lots on who was going to read which of the candidates' major foreign policy papers that have been published this year in Foreign Affairs. I got Rudy, Mitt and Hilary. Charly is reading Barack, Edwards, and McCain. You can read them all for free here if you really can't think of something more important you should be doing, like defrosting the freezer or similar.

But anyway George Packer has done at least my work for me in summing up the Republicans in the latest New Yorker magazine. Read it, weep and buy a "vote Hilary/Barack" badge even if you can't:
As the tide goes out on President Bush’s foreign policy, the mass of flotsam left behind includes a Republican Party that no longer knows how to be reasonable. Whenever its leading Presidential candidates appear before partisan audiences, they try to outdo one another in pledging loyalty oaths to the use of force, pandering to the war lobby as if they were Democrats addressing the teachers’ union.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

First ice of the season

First ice of the winter

Did the first ice routes of the season on Saturday at the old faithful Kauhala, where the ice seems to always form first and melt last. It was very thin and slightly slushy still but enough to gently tiptoe and tap up on a top rope.

Warning! Thin Ice

We did a couple of lines, including one nicknamed the "Headless Fall" where a distinct flow of ice springs from a horizontal crack a metre or so below the top of the crag. It's a fun and slightly bizarre move as you get your tools in the top of the ice and then try to mantle them in some way allowing you to span past the blank rock and placement over the top. I found a rather thin torque out in the crack which helped with that, and allowed me to work my front points high enough so that with the other tool I could just reach and get a stick in the frozen moss on the top of the cliff. All good fun on a top rope, but currently unleadable unless you fancy soloing moves as tenuous as that 15 or so metres up!

Little Toni tiptoes up a very skinny "Headless Fall"

I was meant to go out again this morning, but having been out helping last night to celebrate the Christening of my godson on Saturday afternoon, my physical state wasn't quite up for the necessary early start. Toni and Jody went to Nuuksionpää and reported good ice, although everything was beginning to drip as a warm front moved it. The temperature is still above freezing even now its dark, and it looks like the thaw will carry on this week, so it was good to get out whilst it lasted.

Water flowing behind the ice.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Oh yeah.

I think it's that time of year again.

The view of Töölölahti in central Helsinki on my ride to work this morning.

Time to find these from the back of the shed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Keep Finland Tidy

I always used to think that Finns were good at not littering. Helsinki is definitely much better in terms of litter than a comparable sized British city. But then I moved to the edge of the city, and cycling around the area I've started noticing huge amounts of fly tipping goes on. There are loads of recycling places all over the city where you can take your junk, so presumably some people just enjoy driving out to the first bit of countryside they get to, finding a track to drive down and then chucking their crap out into the woods.

Need a new TV anyone?

Or perhaps an oven?

Time for an oil change!


So to all flytippers out there, a friendly message just for you. Fuck you, you scummy bastards.

And then here's my attempt at self filming mountain biking. Cycling one handed down a bumpy track whilst trying to film with camera-phone wasn't the greatest success.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On serial killers and hypocrisy

I quite like watching Dexter, the series about the serial-killing-police-technician. It’s not on a level with great shows like the Wire, the Sopranos or Deadwood, all the cop characters are straight out of the ‘dummies guide to American TV cop clichés’, but it passes an hour in the evening when you want your brain to rest. So I sat down on Thursday night to watch it, only to find it had been pulled from the schedule and replaced with nature documentary. Clearly the management of Finland’s Nelonen TV channel thought that showing a series about a serial killer the day after a school massacre was in bad taste. But isn’t serial killing as entertainment always in bad taste? Last week’s edition of the superb This American Life was called “How to Rest in Peace”, and listening to it the day after the shooting in Jokela and just before sitting down, in vain as it was to turn out, to watch Dexter was one of those slightly spooky coincidences. This American Life interviewed a number of people who had had close family members murdered. The first woman whose father had been killed and the murderer never found, said that most normal people don’t realise what a huge amount of popular culture is based around murdering people. Not just television shows and movies, but books and even games like Cluedo. She pointed out that people even go to murder-mystery dinners where someone gets killed and then all the participants have to detect ‘whodunnit’. She fairly points out that we wouldn’t go to a rape-mystery dinner where the evening’s entertainment is sleuthing-out who the rapist is. That would be sick. So why is murder OK?

So, back to my missing episode of Dexter. If it was OK for me to watch a witty and righteous serial killer set against Miami’s pastel shades and beautiful people last week, why not this week? Pekka-Eric listed lots of films and music he liked, but no TV programmes. So no one is trying to blame Dexter for seven dead innocent Finns, indeed Auvinen even helpfully wrote in his ‘manifesto’: “Don’t blame the movies I see, the music I hear, the games I play or the books I read. No, they had nothing to do with this.” It would be nice, like after Columbine, to again blame Marilyn Manson because - quite frankly - his music is shit and his dress sense ridiculous. Getting kids to dress as Goths should be illegal, but it’s not and his lyrics about killing and suffering and death did not put a gun in Auvinen’s hand.

I watched another TV show on friday, Law and Order, that makes entertainment out of rape AND murder. The amusing thing is that one of the lead cops, ever ready to dish out justice to street punks, is played by Ice-T. One needs to be of a certain age and musical inclination to remember that Ice-T was once public enemy no.1. After his band Body Count released Cop-Killer, he was more of a public enemy than Public Enemy – that’s clearly pretty bad; or cool depending on your perspective. If I remember right the President Bush at the time denounced the song, and gansta rap generally, as a threat to national security. And now Ice-T is in Law and Order, the same show that Fred Thompson – running in the republican primaries for the presidential nomination for 2008 – also appears. Postmodern or just the American Dream?

So this brings me, from laughing along with serial killers, via rapping about killing cops, finally to rhyming couplets about chopping off heads. Amina Malik – who wanted to be known as the ‘Lyrical Terrorist’ – was found guilty in London this week of “possessing records [and I don’t think they meant Ice-T LPs] likely to be used for terrorism”. All the media has gone big on the poetry which included ditties such as: "Let us make Jihad/ Move to the front line/ To chop chop head of kuffar swine". Nice. But, thank God, we’re not yet imprisoning people for bad poetry. Yet. She was found innocent of charges of possessing an article for terrorism purposes, but found guilty of a lesser charge of having articles that could be useful for terrorism purposes. The law seems horribly illiberal, as surely many people will have some articles that could be useful for terrorism somewhere. I hate to think what the Met would be able to charge me with if they went through my office bookshelves and lever-arch files. Luckily my office does not come under UK law, but I haven’t heard of them raiding the offices of university department, think-tanks, and research institutes in London where my fellow terrorism researchers do their work, to seize their files. So rather it seems that Malik’s bad poetry and professed love for the Mujahideen is what made it a bad thing for her to possess such written material, there being no suggestion that she was actually planning violence or knew anyone who was. That sounds like a thought crime. It might be amusing if the police raided the houses of every far-right activist known to them to see if they have copies of the Turner Diaries next to Mein Kampf on their bookshelves, then arrest them. But it would also be illiberal and immoral. If the Malik case does suggest one thing, that is that Britain has sensible gun control laws. She possibly is or was crazy enough to kill people had she had the opportunity. But unlike Finland where it is easier to get a gun license than a driver's license, and unlike Pekka-Eric Auvinen, she didn’t get a gun and instead kept writing bad poetry on the back of till receipts. So we act shocked, tut at news, think what a terrible person she is and what an awful person he must have been, then flip the channel and settle down to enjoy and hour of being entertained by a serial killing.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pekka-Eric Auvinen - not so special

I posted last night that much of the international media has claimed that Finland is virtually a stranger to violent crime, and therefore Pekka-Eric Auvinen's shooting rampage is something of a freak occurrence. It's not. Finland is a very safe place to live as there is very little random violence aimed at strangers; so as long as you pick your friends and family sensibly, it is safe. But get those latter factors wrong, and you actually face much higher chances of being a victim of violence - particularly gun crime - than you do in the UK for example.

In the time that I have lived in Finland there have been two other attacks by crazed individuals that have resulted in multiple deaths:
Additionally a mentally ill man killed another passanger on the Helsinki metro with an axe in 2004; you wonder whether he would have killed more if he had had access to a pistol like Auvinen. A similar random murder happened this summer when a mentally ill man in Porvoo, a little east of Helsinki, murdered a Dutch tourist with a knife.

The multiple, random killings get more media attention but there have also been too numerous cases of multiple killing in families, where a parent kills their children and partner first, then commits suicide. When it is the father, guns have often been involved. The other common situation is for one friend to kill another, normally after heavy drinking. I remember reading somewhere that the standard profile of both Finnish murderers and victims are middle-aged, divorced men who abuse alcohol.

I feel far more at ease walking in Helsinki late at night than I do in many British towns and cities, but that isn't because overall Finland is safer, but rather because crime has a different profile here. The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Finnish Tourist Board can be proud today that the rest of the world seems so shocked. Their image of Finland as a cosy, homely, northern nirvana has clearly been received.

Other related mutterings of mine on this subject here, here, here and here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

If you want global notoriety...

...focus on the international media market, and ignore the local. The 18 year old boy who killed seven of his school mates and one of his teachers today, before failing to shoot himself properly in the head, left his message to the world in English. It's not bad English either, he obviously paid attention in class. You can read it here, although don't expect more than adolescent rage mixed with a decent reading list. In fact the t-shirt he wearing in the photo below kind of sums it up.

Two side points, the international press is doing the "even in Finland!" surprised line. There hasn't been a school shooting like this before, but in 2003 an equally messed up kid made a bomb that killed himself and six others in Helsinki area shopping centre, and actually gun crime is in Finland is rather high; much, much more than the UK for example.

And secondly, failing to kill yourself by shooting yourself in the head isn't as uncommon as one might expect.

Update: the shooter died during the night, and I was sort of wrong saying this was the first school shooting in Finland. There hasn't been an incident on this scale before but in 1989 in Rauma a boy shot and killed two fellow students.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I'm shocked! Shocked I tell you!

I dived back into the rightwing blogosphere tonight to see how things were shakin' down in the Littlegreenfootballs vs. Brussels Journal smack down that I mentioned a couple of days ago. I'm not sure who's winning, although reading more Brussels Journals articles than I have for a long time has reminded me of what a downright, strange political philosophy Paul Belien has (along with facial hair). It's easy to shout fascist as LGF has been doing a bit, but it more seems to be some form of ultra-reactionary conservative Catholicism. Of course there were plenty of links between the Catholic church and fascism in Franco-era Spain, and in Italy under Mussolini, but its a very different type of politics from your standard, racist, bully-boy, skinhead sort of European far rightism of the British BNP or the French Front National.

But what is amusing is the shock that some American conservatives are expressing on discovering their anti-Islam allies in Europe are actually, well, racist thugs. Have a look at the quote below from the delightfully named blog "THE OUTRAGED SPLEEN OF ZION" (slightly angry capitalization in the original), on their discovery of the "true nature" of Belgium's Vlaams Belang party, and its leader Filip Dewinter.

The White Power Neo Nazi movement needs to use people fighting jihad like us as political cover, they desperately need us to be the beard.
DeWinter is a major player in that world.
This is an international terrorist movement, just like jihad.

The White Power movement has risen on the ashes of 9/11 , it is rising concurrent to the rise of Jihad. It is a genuine, serious, international worldwide movement.
It is very organized.

DeWinter is in the thick of it and he happens to be a very major player with very major aspirations. He is a very ambitious boy.

They are intentionally planning to use your poor useful idiot ass as political cover.
Their sponsoring of the CounterJihad Europa conference was all about this.

They are in the process of BRANDING

If you told me this 13 days ago I would have laughed in your face.
I openly challenged everyone on LGF on it at the outset and did not want to believe it myself.

A list of codewords for what these MFers are now calling themselves worldwide is edifying and necessary, I have seen these words used plenty over the last 6 years never knowing what the hidden meaning behind most of them was:

  • Movements calling themselves "Nationalist"
  • Movements using the word "Sovereignty"
  • Movements calling themselves "Christian Identity" and other "Identity" parties and groups
  • Movements going by this title: [insert country name here] FIRST!
  • White Nationalism (also they use WN alot)
  • Paleoconservative (which is why they are obsessed with the word NEOCON)
  • Paleolibertarian (yes we can get to Ron Paul in 3 degrees)
  • The Patriotic Movement
  • Homogeneous Ethnic Communities
  • "Traditionalist" movements
  • "America [or insert country here] Renaissance" movements
  • The "New Right"
  • Populist
  • "Defensive Racism" movements
  • White Renaissance
I'm sorry Ms. Outraged Spleen?! You what?! You didn't know what the "hidden meaning" was behind an organisation that calls itself "White nationalist"?! What did you think it might mean? A particular interior decoration style in one country? And Mr DeWinter might be many things, an arse in particular, but he wasn't an international terrorist last time I looked.

And just an aside, my last post on this subject I was going to call "a fascist in a suit is still a fascist", but then realised that half the post was about the True Finns, who although suit wearing and populist rightwingers, aren't fascists, so I changed the title. But the pic below, from the Blokwatch site, made me laugh. Yep, that's our old friend Mr. DeWinter in the middle.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

First snow of the winter

This time last year I was doing the first ice climbs of the winter, although after a fortnight everything melted and stayed that way until mid-January. Hopefully this winter will be less exceptional and we'll get some longer lasting cold weather and snow. It's sunny now so the snow not in the shade is melting.

Yesterday I swapped the summer tyres for winter tyres on the car. The first couple of times I found this novel and sort of exciting, like I was becoming a real Finn. Now its just another dull (and mucky) job that has to be done. I must be getting old and jaded. I still can't bring myself to pay someone else to do it though, as many others do. What I really want to do is find a way to fit the relevant sized socket-spanner on to my power drill, Formula 1 pit-stop style. Then it would be fun, as all jobs involving power tools tend to be.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Notes from the Northern Right

I noticed an interesting little story the other day about the True Finns party, Finland's populist rightwing party, or far rightwing party, depending on who you ask. Their leader, Timo Soini MP, had banned the party's youth wing from cooperating with the youth wings of far right parties from Denmark and Sweden. It doesn't name those parties and even though I've done a bit of sniffing around the story I haven't yet been able to confirm which they are, but presumably it is the Danish Peoples Party and the Sweden Democrats. These two parties are relatively bog standard European far rightists, not totally fascist perhaps, but definitely in that neighbourhood. The Sweden Democrats in particular have extensive historical links to the neo-Nazi movement in that country. The True Finns, whilst definitely not my political cup of tea (and clearly benefiting from and playing to a racist subsection of the Finnish electorate), are not cut of the same cloth. Soini in particular makes it clear that he is not a Finnish Jorg Haider or Jean Marie Le Penn, and if you can put politics aside, is generally reckoned to be a 'decent bloke' by people I know who have met him (although being a Millwall supporter will always be a bit sus to Brits of a certain age!). The True Finns come out of a tradition of rural populism and although that has always had an isolationist and xenophobic tinge to it, the Rural Party under Veikko Vennamo was in the 1960s and 70s one of the few parties that was not under Kekkonen's spell - Finland's all powerful president of 25 years, and a man for whom democracy was was expendable if it was to get in the way of his idea of what the national interest was. The Rural party might have been an uncouth voice of the angry countryside, but it was willing to go against the political status quo at a time when precious few others would in Finland.

I'm not certain why exactly Soini took the decision that he did, but presumably he wants to keep the party more in that tradition than going down the road that the Sweden Democrats have taken, the road as someone put it of a 197os British fashion and 1930 Germans politics.

All this take place at an interesting time, because the Sweden Democrats are at the centre of another storm. A "Civil War" (their term not mine) has broken out on the rightwing blogosphere and the Sweden Democrats were the cause. A conference was held in Brussels to launch the "Counter Jihad" movement, to defend Europe from its "Eurabian" fate where we are all going to be ruled by Osma bin Laden and his minions. What appears to have happened is that the ever strident Little Green Footballs blog pointed out the blatantly-obvious-to-every- one-else fact that a number of the people involved, notably from the Sweden Democrats and from the Flemish secessionist/supremacist party Vlaams Belang, are basically smartly dressed fascists. The accused hotly contested this saying that they are totally cool with Jews these days, and they only spread conspiracy theories about Muslims now. Some in the middle (and remember that's the middle of the hard right) said, "Ok, so they used to be Jew-hating Neo Nazis but they haven't been that for at least five years, so can't we all just get along?" The cynical out there might wonder whether the President of Iran might be allowed to join their little gang in five years time if tomorrow he states: "I was wrong! The holocaust did happen, and actually I really dig Israel! Can we just all go and kick some Sunni ass now? Please..."? One suspects not. Anyway, if Little Green Footballs realises the Sweden Democrats are dodgy, Mr. Soini's decision looks a wise one indeed.

It's a funny ole' world when I'm nice about the True Finns and LGF in one post. Keep on rockin' in the free world folks.