teisipäev, veebruar 28, 2006

Järgmine President?

A couple posts ago, while discussing parliamentary politics, the '06 presidential race (well it's not really a race, but, nevermind) came up. Nobody knows if "Meie" Arnold Rüütel will opt for another five years of luncheons with his counterparts abroad, but the truth is things have changed in the five years since he moved into Kadriorg. The dominant parties in the Riigikogu are Res Publica and the Center party, and, though I doubt Rüütel has done much to piss either of them off, it would be in both parties' best interest to elect a president of their faction in 2006 to give them extra momentum heading into the 2007 parliamentary elections.

Of this mix, the most obvious choice for Res Publica (tips to Andry)is Riigikogu esinaine Ene Ergma (see photo). Res Publica is also in greater need to secure a president from its faction because, as mentioned below, it's popularity rate is abysmal. It is currently polling at 3 percent, and having a popular president from the faction could bring voters back into the fold.

From KESK's side I only see Edgar Savisaar waiting in the wings. Surely the man who has been prime minister and mayor of Tallinn would like to be president. But KESK only has 24 votes in the Riigikogu, and Savisaar's political enemies, from SDE to Isamaaliit, proably agree that they don't want him to be president.

Does that mean that other factions will support the candidacy of Ene Ergma from Res Publica if she signals she wants to be president? Maybe. Anyway I am interested in learning more about presidential politics. Estonia is still wrapped up in Olympic euphoria, so there's little news in the presidential department.

Tiny Estonia

I just thought I'd put all of these together for your enjoyment.

From SportsNetwork:

Italian speedskater Enrico Fabris thrilled the home crowd with three medals, while Canadian speedskater Cindy Klassen won five. German biathlete Michael Greis won three gold medals and Kristina Smigun of tiny Estonia took a pair of cross country golds, while Croatia's Janica Kostelic became the most decorated Winter Olympic alpine woman skier.

From the Mail and Guardian:

Tiny Estonia cherished a third Olympic triumph and Canada celebrated a top-two sweep but the United States, who lead the hunt for gold medals, were giving them away in Turin on Friday.

and from Mainichi Daily News:

For tiny Estonia, the day carried no jinx.

Cross-country veteran Andrus Veerpalu plowed through fresh snow to retain his Olympic title in the 15-kilometer classical race and bring Estonia its third gold of the games. Kristina Smigun won the women's 10km classical race and 15km pursuit.

Congratulations. Tiny. Estonia.

esmaspäev, veebruar 27, 2006

Sextonia and Funny Letters

So I have been reading some letters to the editor over at The Baltic Times.

They are really good in an entertaining sort of way. I forget how emotional things are over there. I guess things are emotional everywhere. I do believe that the emotional coverage of the Baltic Times, stems from the fact that it comes out of Riga, which Aleks over at All About Latvia says is quite an emotional place.

Anyway, it's provoked some emotional responses, like this one from Ben in Russia.

It is sad to see but… [your] newspaper is full of aggression to Russia. Do you really think that relaxed Western readers want to see how the Baltic states are trying to shout about some “rising Russian menace?”

Your newspaper is useless for providing a positive look for the Baltics. Nobody in the civilized world wants to know about the crap you write about Russia.

I wonder if he sweated over that one. As Richard Pryor would say, no. Nevermind what Richard Pryor would say. Anyway the next one is even better, from John Slade in Tallinn:

Why should anybody ever think that Estonia would ever stop the only source of income it has? Take away the prostitution, and what’s left? Nothing is made/produced – the transit trade will end shortly. Tourism is based on prostitution. Break down the numbers of tourists into age groups, and even the EU can work that out. Sex tourism keeps Estonia afloat with its black economy. Being a member of the EU for Estonia means they pick and choose what they want and screw anybody who thinks otherwise.

When I freelanced for BT, I was wholly unaware that prostitution was paying my salary. I thought it was all real estate money that was buying those ads. There were a few sketchy "call this number for a good time" ads, but they were in Vilnius! And I had no idea that the boat loads of Italians I met in Raekoja Plats in the summer of 2003 were so chipper because they had all gotten laid by Estonian prostitutes. I should have known.

I have, however, had my run-ins with sex tourists. I recall hearing American English being spoken near Stockman and welcoming some guys from New York to my home town. They were on a trip through the Baltics. How nice. But then as one guy reached to shake my hand, a whole pack of rubbers fell out of his pocket onto the ground.

There was an awkward silence. Then they left. Yeah, sex is nice and the women in Estonia do like to wear high heels, but come on dudes. Don't you understand that the moment you purchase sex your manhood diminishes a whole order? You have just entered into the group of guys who are so untalented in conversation/hygiene that you must pay for sex. In other words, you are undesirable.

Estonians don't want Russians to own their railroads, no matter how good the Russian money is. Why should Estonians want to have their hometown barfed and orgasmed on by a parade of West European subhumans in search of vagina as a commodity and cheap Gin Long Drinks?

Eestimaa is shrinking in population size. Over the past 60 years the country saw a bizarre and backward economic system try to turn the country into a manufacturing, military, and transit hub for the USSR. But that economic system died, and all the workers brought in for that accident now live in Narva or Sillamäe and are unemployed and perhaps mad at the Young Republicans who run the Estonian state for not doing enough and ... well you get the picture.

Look at the other Nordic economies. Look at them. There is your future Estonian state. What does Iceland produce? Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland? They are just like Estonia - small in size with good Winter Olympics athletes and superior technological prowess. They are just like them as they are in a northern part of the world where few people live and few people visit. These are all marginal countries. Sure, Sweden has Ikea, Denmark has Legos, Finland has Nokia, and yeah, Estonia has Skype. But they are remote, even for Europeans.

One other thing about the northern countries. They all use to be havens for hoes, gentlemen. Watch some films about Finland or Iceland in the years after World War II. You'll see the same thing. American GIs show up with a pack full of rubbers and a smile and think they are in easy sex territory where the women all are blonde and their diets subsist of fish, potatoes, and the esteem-boost they get from assholes who find them desirable. That's the way it's been.

Before Anu got her mobile phone and Hesburger in Helsinki, her grandma may have been living in a hut in the countryside taking a sauna and beating on her reindeer skin drum. Before Magga accessed wireless Internet in Reykjavik, great grandma was cutting up fish and burying whalemeat. Bottom line, those modern utopias got a major makeover. And Estonia is in the midst of such a makeover.

So sex tourists, enjoy it while it lasts. Because your days of paying for pleasure are probably numbered.

teisipäev, veebruar 21, 2006

Back to Politics

So those are the latest numbers from TNS Emor. You can read the breakdown here, but the general picture is that Keskerakond has 22 percent, Reform 16 percent, Isamaa has 11 percent, Rahvaliit has 6 percent, SDE has 5 percent, and Res Publica has 3 percent. The 2007 election is one year away.

The big shocker here is the poor performance of Res Publica. You may remember their entry by the giant signs requesting Estonians to "vali kord" - choose order - in the 2003 elections. Res Publica went on to form the new government with 24.6 percent of the popular vote, which fell apart in April 2005 following a series of resignations and sackings of ministers.

The funny thing though is although Res Publica has the least support of the Estonian people, they still have 28 seats in parliament. This means that 2007 could be a real watershed election for Estonia. I am not sure what Res Publica stands for, although they seem to be something of a younger, cooler version of the Reform Party. But, as I have said a couple of times, why does Estonia need two right wing parties splitting the right wing vote and handing possible future elections to the Center Party? It doesn't seem to make sense politically.

As for the other parties, the SDE has climbed significantly since 2003, when it got less than 1 percent of the vote. In Estonia, SDE is led by Ivari Padar, but I get most of my information on their stances by reading the commentery of European MP Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Rahvaliit may have suffered a set back due to criticism over Villu Reiljan's handling of the recent oil spill off the Estonian coast. Anyway, with one year away from the election, I don't get the sense that Estonians are particularly enthused about any particular party or candidate. Edgar Savisaar seems to be the "devil we know," rather than an emerging, new leader.

As for president, things have been quiet on the Rüütel front. Anybody else got any hot tips on the presidency?

reede, veebruar 17, 2006

"The Baltic state near Finland"

Congratulations Estonians. You are no longer a "former Soviet Republic," but a "Baltic state near Finland." Lapin Kulta anyone?

TURIN, Italy (AFP) - Tiny Estonia leaped into the top five of the Olympics gold medal hunt as Andrus Veerpalu defended his men's 15km cross country crown and alpine skiers awaited clearing to start the women's combined.

Veerpalu's 2002 victory brought the Baltic state near Finland its first
Winter Olympics gold. This triumph followed two biathlon golds from Kristina Smigun and left only US, German and Russian teams with more gold at Turin.

Estonia, a nation of 1.33 million people measuring 45,225 square km (28,102 square miles), sent 46 athletes to Italy but only eight outside biathlon and cross country.

"We're a very small country, so it's a great day for the country," Veerpalu said on Friday.

teisipäev, veebruar 14, 2006

Plotting a Move to Cross Country...

For my entire life I have been a downhill skiier. Not that I have been skiing much. It is quite possible that I haven't been on skiis since the 1990s, or six years ago. The reality is that once Daddy's generosity ran dry in the skiing department, I was on my own, and, at least in the US, skiing is a very expensive hobby to have. So I haven't been on skiis for awhile and I do feel that I have been missing part of myself.

When you go downhill, it's a bit chaotic. At first you realize that you could crash into a tree ala Sonny Bono and die, but soon you rationalize away these legitimate fears and spend your days turning your leg muscle to butter as you propel down the mountain side, stopping at moments to refill on coffee and chili in ski lodges which, outside of a resort, would be humid, dingy places, but at a ski resort have the best food ever made.

Cross country skiing on the other hand seemed like a sport for truly confused. Here was downhill skiing minus the thrill of danger with 10 times the amount of work. I recall skiing with a friend's parents about 10 years ago, and they were cross country skiiers, ie. chickens in my book.

Now it appears that my youthful vigor may be tiring. Alas I cannot afford downhill, but I want to get back to sliding around and exploring nature via ski. I also want to have the opportunity to dress as a skiier, wearing goggles, therefore greatly enhancing my coolness.

So I have decided that once we get back to Estonia, cross country skiing should be in my cards, as they have no mountains, and I have no money. The place to cross country ski in Estonia is Otepää. This is the small area on Estonia's topographical map that actually has hills, rather than bogs and fields. Politically, Otepää is in the nether region of Valgamaa, which I am sure is nice, but I haven't been to, and seems to lack the same immediate charm as Tartumaa, Hiiumaa, Võrumaa, etc.

The goal is to get me, preferably with family, on skiis, on a track, in Otepää for as little money as possible with a camera nearby at all times to record the fact that I am now starting my cross country skiing career. I like the idea of using skiis all the time too. Like to get the mail, go to the laundromat, buy groceries, that kind of thing.

Just so you know, I have always been nuts. My goal after watching the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics was to become a member of the US Olympic Luge Team. In fact they were recruiting at that time, with a number you could call, 1-800-USA-LUGE. They were doing this because our Luge team sucked so bad. I even tried "training" for the luge, by greasing the bottom of my sleigh. But I wasn't very good at it. Plus even at the age of 15, I was over 6 feet tall, and most Lugers are the Winter sports equivalent of jockeys. They want little round cannonballs not gangly oak trees on their Luge courses. Anyway, that dream died, and there was no wild night of drinking saki at the Olympic village in Nagano, Japan in 1998. But I think cross country is more doable. Don't you agree?

pühapäev, veebruar 12, 2006

There's Nothing Like a Little Olympic Gold...

I have a feeling people will be talking about this 'til unleast Eurolaul, from Reuters Canada:

Estonia won their first women's cross-country skiing Olympic medal on Sunday when Kristina Šmigun clinched the 15-km pursuit at the Turin Games.

The former world champion swept past veteran Katerina Neumannova of the Czech Republic in the skate to the finish to claim her country's first medal of the 2006 Olympics, in the opening race of the cross-country program.

Something tells me that this feels better than a win at Eurolaul would too.

reede, veebruar 10, 2006

Those Sexy Finns...

Phil at Finland for Thought has a great post up about Miss Suomi 2006 plus a great link to the photos of the candidates.

Most of the gents perusing the site went with #2, but I'd have to go with #1 or #4. The Jormas in Finland chose #4, a woman that goes by the name Ninni Laaksonen. I don't really know why. I enjoy the nationalist bikini though. There is some sort of unspoken yet widely understood "fact" in Estonia that Finnish women are all ugly. But Finnish women remind me of this sort of gray area between ugly and attractive. Just like the followers of Green philosophies and readers of Ayn Rand tend to agree to an odd extent about a lot of stuff,and exist in that weird zone between leftist and rightist political ideologies, so do the women of Finland inhabit that odd gray zone between gross and beguilingly attractive.

I've been told that the women of Finland don't care what the women of Estonia think, which is probably true. They probably care more about what the women of Sweden think.;) Anyway, there's also a Miss Estonia contest which probably doesn't feature nationalist bikinis and includes girls with more make-up, expensive nails, tacky clothing, and fat male judges with mullets. Plus eurodisco. There must be eurodisco.

You can look at that website here. The contest for Proua Eesti 2006 will be on March 8. However, Miss Tallinn 2006 has already been announced. And no, she was just chosen for her looks. According to her profile on Nexus, Helen Randmäe enjoys eating tatrapuder (porridge), drinking keefir (fermented milk), and enjoys romantic comedies "Romantiline komöödia, kus saab nutta ja naerda." (where you can cry and laugh). Her idol is Benny Hill, who I am sure would have had her on his show, and like me, her least favorite place on Earth is the Balti Jaama Troll. A true Estonian.

kolmapäev, veebruar 01, 2006

Sporti Müts

Since about 1997 I have been wearing a certain style of hat - perhaps most similar to that worn by Elmer Fudd in Bugs Bunny cartoons. I recall wearing my very American hat in Tallinn and getting weird looks, but I sort of enjoyed the idea that I may look like someone that freqents the wild in search of rabbits and/or ducks, depending on what season it is.

However, after looking at some Eesti Sportlased, I have determined that there is a new hat I would like to keep me warm this winter. The Estonian Olympic Ski Team hat. My question is - are the Olympic ski hats for sale, and, if so, where can I buy one? Tahaks osta olümpia müts, sõbrad! Kus ma saan seda leida?

Also, they are apparently available in black or sober, Estonian blue too, which may suit my wardrobe better.