esmaspäev, veebruar 11, 2008

the nordic model

Estonians are frequently asked by their nordic compatriots something along the lines of, "Why didn't your country adopt the Nordic model when it was reconstituting the state in 1991-1992?" The line of questioning today also leads us to, "Will Estonia adopt the Nordic model in the future?"

President Ilves was recently asked this in an interview with the City Paper, the question and reply:
Estonia, it is commonly claimed, wants to be regarded a Nordic country. Still there are obvious and profound differences between Estonian and e.g. Norwegian welfare policies. To what extent does the President consider the Scandinavian/Nordic welfare state a good model for Estonia?

I am sorry to see that such outdated clichés are still spreading. I recommend a little homework in the future, or an examination of what is happening in Estonia – Estonian and Nordic welfare policies are not so different, actually they are increasingly similar. The primary question is money.
Money, yes, but also history and, very importantly, contemporary history. You get the sense reading nordic impressions of Estonia that they a) do not know Estonia, and b) do not know themselves.

Estonia in the past has been criticized as being sort of an imaginary West. Anatol Lieven warns us in the updated version of The Baltic Revolution to not be fooled by the Scandinavian-looking airports. You may feel that you are in the West, but you are not really in the West.

It's the "imitation" West, fake like those "Scandinavian sweaters" old Russophone ladies sell in Tallinn's Old Town. It may look and feel like a real Scandinavian sweater, but since it was knitted by Eva Ivanova and not Bo Svensson, it's not the real thing, even if Bo Svensson pays the Chinese to make them while he tans himself aboard his yacht in the Adriatic.

I would argue that if Estonia had copied the "Nordic model" in the 1990s it would have arrived at even more of a precarious position as a "fake West." The first reality is that the modern Nordic welfare state was formed by primarily social democratic parties over the past century. The model was designed by consensus over time. It was not something that could be translated into Estonian by talented researchers at the Ministry of Social Affairs and then force-fed to the Riigikogu.

Estonia organically chose other models. It chose a flat tax, partially because it was easy to implement and partially to attract investment in what was then a very poor country. Estonia since has chosen policies though that do copy the Nordic model.

A classic example is the Mother's Salary, implemented in 2004, that provides state financial assistance to mothers of newborns so that they can support their growing families -- and the fattening of the citizenship rolls -- while retaining their jobs. That's a policy that all the flat tax advocates in the world should ignore when they talk of the "Estonian model". President Bush admires Estonian taxation policy. I have a feeling he wouldn't admire the mother's salary.

So, organically, Estonia is embracing policies that mirror its neighbors. Partially because Finland and Sweden have positive birth rates, and Estonia has a negative one, some geniuses came to the conclusion that this kind of social support policy might help to raise the birth rate in Estonia. and, wouldn't you know, the birth rate has risen in Estonia since that policy was introduced. So, organically, Estonia came to adopt part of the Nordic Model, not because it was told to, but because it found out the hard way that it works.

This is what the other Nordic countries do not understand about Estonia. Estonia is still a country in transition. It is likely that in the future, as Estonia accrues more wealth, it may adopt more of these classic Nordic welfare policies, not because they want to buy the whole model, but because the policies are shown to work in countries similar to Estonia. So the idea that Estonia would copy the "Nordic Model" because it likes the way "Nordic" sounds is silly. Estonia will arrive at those policies organically if they are indeed as good as the Norwegians make them out to be.

But, amidst this backdrop, we have to admit that the era of the Nordic Passport Union is behind us. The social democratic parties that built social democracy in the nordic countries in the 1950s and 1960s have given way to the government of Fredrik Reinfeldt in Sweden, who supported Bush in both the 2000 and 2004 elections; the government of Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Denmark, who advocates limiting immigration and lowering taxes; and even across the Gulf of Finland, it is the National Coalition Party of Sauli Niinistö that has the popular momentum.

Is this the 'Nordic Model' they were talking about? It is certainly the "Nordic environment" that Estonia is surrounded by, an environment of tax-freezing, immigration-limiting governments run by economists and bankers, rather than career civil servants. In this way, Estonia fits in quite nicely.

And what of Nordic cooperation with supranational organizations? Denmark, Norway, and Iceland are in NATO, while Finland and Sweden are not. Finland, Sweden, and Denmark are in the European Union, while Norway and Iceland are not. Finland has adopted the euro as a currency, while Sweden and Denmark remain skeptical of the European Monetary Union. This diversity begs the question, is there a model here to follow?

And, of course, linguistic policies. Estonia has been urged by some to adopt the "Nordic Model" when it comes to languages, but proponents of such are usually referring to the Finnish model. The model of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark is actually to grant municipalities extensive rights in determining their working languages. Hence, Danish is the official language of Denmark, and is co-official in the Faroe Islands, but Faroese is not an official language in Copenhagen. So again, which model to follow?

My only prediction is that if there is a Nordic policy that works well and makes sense for Estonia to adopt it, then it will be adopted. To merely adopt a model at the bequest of a traveling bureaucrat would be more in tune with the model of "imitation West" than the real thing. Estonia, like the Nordic countries, will continue to develop and create policies where it sees fit. It may also happen that the traditional Nordic countries might borrow a policy from Estonia in the future, if they find it to be in their best interests.

99 kommentaari:

stockholm slender ütles ...

I don't know, I had thought it quite self-evident that Estonia was not in the position to adopt a Nordic model, and that basically nobody whether inside or outside of Estonia seriously advocated that it should have done so. What seems to worry many people is however whether Estonia is at all aiming to devolope into a Nordic type of society. Which, accidentally, does not really resemble the horror images of the Anglo-American conservatives as it does combine a dynamic economy and high social mobility (based on excellent, free and universal education) with high quality safety nets and income redistribution. See, it is not impossible... It is moreover a wildly popular model in all of these countries and no mainstream party advocates its abandonement as that would be an immediate electoral suicide.

Flasher T ütles ...

provides state financial assistance to mother's of newborns

The sound you hear is City Paper's copy editor being taken out back and shot.

Giustino ütles ...

The sound you hear is City Paper's copy editor being taken out back and shot.

You know, I do write these things with babies crying, children begging me to assist them on the toilet, that sort of thing.

Let me give it a run through and see what other spelling and grammatical catastrophes we can find!

plasma-jack ütles ...

mother's salary

the politically correct term woould be parent's remuneration or something - admittedly "vanemahüvitis" sounds more Nordic than "emapalk". My opinion is, though, that this system is fundamentally flawed.
You could argue, of caourse, that more well-off parents deserve larger remuneration because they have paid more taxes than socially less fortunate ones. But then you ought to consider that people in parental age possibly couldn't have paid that many taxes anyway, so the cash still comes out from somebody else's pockets, it's not like the young parent is "getting even" with the republic. So it is a public endowment and there's nothing wrong with that - but the sums paid should be equal.

Doris ütles ...

you could also argue that people with relatively larger income before having children are probably going to also have a relatively larger income after having children and thus pay more taxes in the future. And so "earn back" what was spent on them...

Kes ei t66ta see ei s66!

Compared to the "famously socialist" Dutch system, in the whole childcare thing, Estonia is a paradise. The Dutch are legally bound to only 3 months of leave from work and no compensation. After that it's between the employer and the employee. I understand that this was implemented to stop all the immigrants from breeding like rabbits...

plasma-jack ütles ...

you could also argue that people with relatively larger income before having children are probably going to also have a relatively larger income after having children and thus pay more taxes in the future.

probably, yes. But the overwhelming majority of taxpayers have not benefitted from the measure, mind you, so the differences between the salaries of those who have are irrelevant.

And - what if I have a child but my salary is smaller than my parents' salary?
And what if I additionally had three childless brothers, each of whom earns twice my salary? In that case and in the current system, most of that portion of their tax-money benefits somebody else's siblings. Where's the fairness in that?

plasma-jack ütles ...

But I must admit that the system works, as flawed as it is, especially if yopu live in Tallinn, where they pay additional benefits. It's really possible your children alone that way. It's the "Kes ei tööta, see ei söö" attitude that irritates me. since it translates to "Children of poor people deserve shitty life, smaller public benefits, worse schools, worse healthcare etc"

plasma-jack ütles ...

(pardon my outburst, I'm not one of those no-good teachers and firefighters myself, I'm earning decent salary for little effort and not going to have any children in near future so basically I should be disinterested in the subject)

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, I think it is pretty essential that children can compete fairly based on their own abilities and not on their parents' or foreparents' success or luck or lack of them. If anything the various aristocratic and semi-aristcratic systems in history have proved that abilities are not often at all inherited by the following generations. It is of course natural and understandable for any elites to try to close the door behind them and to prevent a level playing field. Here we need strong public structures to provide a counterforce for this instinctive tendency to ossify class boundaries. The Nordic model is far from perfect, but it does lead to high social mobility as society is not so closed from competition.

Doris ütles ...

I on the other hand get irritated at a Scandinavian youth who immediately after graduationg High School registers themselves as Unemployed and then spends the rest of their life that way. Because they can.

There are people in every society who would if they could just slouch off the others, and unfortunately there are societies that enable this. the problem is finding a middle road between supporting the genuinely voulnerable - the disabled, the elderly, the children - and making people pull their weight.

I also have a pet peeve with University-parents. You know the type: accidentally pregnant at the age of 22. Now that's just irresponsible and completely unnecessary in this day and age! But on the other hand here the Mother's salary comes in handy - it allows the young people some manouvering room for finishing their education and in the future hopefully being smarter and buying the damn condom.

Maria. ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Maria. ütles ...

i once asked Andrus Ansip what he would like to change the most in our country. he answered, that Estonia has made such progress in the last 17 years, that there is little left to wish for. He said also that in his oppinion the most important thing is not to let this progress fade... He said nothing about adopting any models. i think what he wanted to say was that Estonia should keep its own model and develop it so that maybe one day some other countries choose to adopt ours... and ofcourse, createing a model of our own certainly involves lending functioning ideas from other countries but that does not mean we "take over the nordic model". I personaly think that our policy shoud stay focused on developing our own "Eesti asi"...

my wiews might seem foolish to you, as i am still attendig school. And yet in my years of education i have developed a great love towards our country and seeing the youth growing around me i must note, that if we don't do anything estonian as a nationality will be lost because the youth wants to adobt the western lifestyle and move away. so if the government also decides to make our country funktion like someone else the unique Estonia will stop existing the way we know it...

i must also apologize for my bad english...as i said, im still at school.

Giustino ütles ...

i once asked Andrus Ansip what he would like to change the most in our country. he answered, that Estonia has made such progress in the last 17 years, that there is little left to wish for.

Here's a few ideas:

1) I think the health care system needs a serious cash infusion. The hospitals are in need of more up-to-date equipment and structural renovation. Despite this being an IT country, many medical records are piled away in filing cabinets. Call it the Estonian way or the Nordic way, but health care could be better.

2) Some of Estonia's developing sectors, like IT or biotech, need more talent. Yet companies that need to hire people from India or wherever complain about red tape. They should make it easier for them to bring people into Estonia to do this kind of work.

3) Soviet monstrosities -- that is condemned buildings that cannot be renovated, should be dismantled. All over this country there are sites that are fire hazards -- as we have seen in Tallinn recently, or in general sources of pollution and hazardous to the public, not to mention *ugly*, that should be demolished.

So it's a half ecological/half-beautification project. Tear the old crap that nobody uses and is shedding possibly poisonous paint chips down.

Any other ideas?

Kristopher ütles ...

2) Some of Estonia's developing sectors, like IT or biotech, need more talent. Yet companies that need to hire people from India or wherever complain about red tape. They should make it easier for them to bring people into Estonia to do this kind of work.

Why would a programmer need to be physically in Estonia?

I know people who haven't been to an office in years who make six figures.

About the only thing you can't do over the Internet is maybe play live music with other people in real-time, because speed of light issues...

Not saying virtual communication is always preferable, I just don't see this one as a real problem. When there's a will and a good ideas, there's always a way.

These days, South Asians have a difficult time entering many countries carrying laptops; Estonia is by no means the most strict in this regard.

Giustino ütles ...

So you agree the hospitals need more money?

Andres ütles ...

Why would a programmer need to be physically in Estonia?

They don't always need to be there but in order to run a successful business you often need a lot of face time between employees. Both to create a cohesive company and to move projects along.

This wouldn't be a huge problem if it wasn't so damn hard for people from SE Asia to even get a short visa to visit Estonia for a couple of weeks here and there but current rules make it a nightmare

Instructor ütles ...

So you agree the hospitals need more money?

I roll with one of the brain surgeons in Tallinn, so I've had discussions about this issue with he and his doctor friends.

His contention is that where Estonian health care is in most need of overall is not in primary care. You have a heart attack, there are good chest-crackers, and good tech to do so.

Where Estonia is lacking is in prevention and rehabilitation services for people that need them.

As to adopting a "Scandinavian model", my impression that the overt adoption of such a system won't have popular support for quite awhile. Estonians had 50 years of communal services, and that was enough, thankyouverymuch. Similar to how Portugal and Spain are nominally leftist countries now as a snap-back reaction to decades of right-wing military rule.

Flasher T ütles ...

"My opinion is, though, that this system is fundamentally flawed."

Because people who earn more get more? The connection to taxes paid is tangential. Fixed payment would not only cause potential abuses like welfare moms, but is against the spirit of this country's social net: you're protected as long as you're contributing. We've managed the impressive trick of having both low, flat taxes and universal healthcare through demanding contribution from everyone - which is why unemployment benefits are a)time-limited, b)meager, and c)paid out of an insurance fund you contribute to while working. The mother's salary is perceived not as welfare, but as exactly what it says on the tin: you can keep the benefits of your job while in baby mode. It's an exception necessitated by the negative birth rate.

It may be flawed, but it's the best way to get the benefit without undermining the system.

Flasher T ütles ...

"But the overwhelming majority of taxpayers have not benefitted from the measure"

In the sense that the overwhelming majority of taxpayers don't have children? :'(

Welfare systems only work when the payer sees the benefit of the extra contribution. There's a general consensus among the population that more babies is a Good Thing(tm), and besides, most of them expect to have children at some point, or expect their children to have children.

I'm single, and I don't mind my taxes being spent on more Estonian babies.

"It's the "Kes ei tööta, see ei söö" attitude that irritates me. since it translates to "Children of poor people deserve shitty life, smaller public benefits, worse schools, worse healthcare etc""

Except, in this case, it doesn't...

Flasher T ütles ...

"Well, I think it is pretty essential that children can compete fairly based on their own abilities and not on their parents' or foreparents' success or luck or lack of them."

This I disagree with as well. It's not egalitarian, but the sort of ideology that made communism such a crap proposition in reality. Everyone deserves as much of an advantage in life as they can get their hands on. And certainly it's not the business of any central authority to regulate that. (I do admire Warren Buffet's idea of leaving his children enough money to do anything, but not enough to do nothing. FWIW, people who get resources without skill tend not to end well anyway.)

Flasher T ütles ...

"Why would a programmer need to be physically in Estonia?"

Yeah, everyone keeps thinking that, but somehow it never works out that way.

"I know people who haven't been to an office in years who make six figures."

How many? One? Two? The industry can't run on amCharts, the industry has to run on Skype and Playtech.

Giustino ütles ...

The photo, by the way, is of Fredrik Reinfeldt's wife, Filippa Reinfeldt. She did a Christmas photo shoot for a Swedish magazine that was criticized as being "Christmas porn" for being too Christmassy.

The Reinfeldts really like Christmas, I guess.

Kristopher ütles ...

OK, to be honest, I know two such people. One designs databases for banks, and knows the other guy.

My gut feeling is, just because a company doesn't meet some organizational psychology ideal of people meeting and following social rituals, that is not going to doom an idea, or prevent ideas from meeting and creating sparks.

There are projects like restoring an Old Town where there is no substitute for experts on the ground. If you need a Polish stonemason who is in his 70s and doesn't have a computer...

But IT?

Anyway, I don't know of any case of anyone being denied entry to Estonia on legitimate business. I'd love to hear of any. I often hear this mooted against Estonia, and I don't see it as very fair.

Kristopher ütles ...

And it's not enough to say it doesn't seem to work that way.

I mean, I like my print newspaper over coffee -- and for a while it seemed I absorbed more info from it than from a laptop, but I make an effort to move away from paper.

In this age of CSR, we shouldn't have any more people jetsetting all over the globe for facetime.

Giustino ütles ...

Anyway, I don't know of any case of anyone being denied entry to Estonia on legitimate business. I'd love to hear of any. I often hear this mooted against Estonia, and I don't see it as very fair.

I did an article for BT last Spring. I was told by sources in industry and academia that a) they need to bring in more external talent to train local talent; and b) they need to raise more local talent by investing more in local academic programs.

There is actually a pretty active IT business community here in Tartu, and it keeps growing. I am just repeating what I was told by those in the knows. Don't shoot the blog, er, messenger.

Giustino ütles ...

See, it is not impossible... It is moreover a wildly popular model in all of these countries and no mainstream party advocates its abandonement as that would be an immediate electoral suicide.

I don't think any mainstream party advocates its full adoption in Estonia. Not even the Social Democrats. However, I have sometimes wondered what is next after the current policies lose their charm.

In parliamentary democracies you sometimes have a swing between right and left every decade or so. At some point this country is due for a swing in the other direction.

Karla ütles ...

Perhaps what Estos might benefit from even more immediately than outright adoption of Nordic models might be emulation of Nordic attitudes in terms of 'the common good,' as opposed to our ingrained 'Andres-vs-Pearu' one-upmanship and the neo-Thatcherite self-interest which led to the widely deplored social stratification ('kihistumine') of the early-mid 1990s. Getting away from what Brits characterize as an 'I'm all right Jack' mentality is going to take time, though. Those who oppose any sort of social benefits for the less fortunate in any society like to point to real or possible abuses of the system without recognizing the overall advantages in terms of quality of life, by asking, in Flasher's terms, if a proposed policy is 'A Good Thing' for the nation collectively. That's the real strength of the Scandos, IMHO...

Juhan ütles ...

I have a friend working in the Ministry of Education who says that Estonia is small enough so it is actually possible for the state to find every single talented child in the country wherever and whatever conditions he/she is living in and give all the education he/she is willing to pursue. Free of charge. That's something I'd like to see.

Alex ütles ...

President Ilves was recently asked this in an interview with the City Paper...

Probably the last interview the writer is gonna get with Ilves. That Tonnessen got schooled at the end.

Estonia is small enough so it is actually possible for the state to find every single talented child in the country...

Why can't the find them on Eesti Otsib Superstaari?

Kristopher ütles ...

I am just repeating what I was told by those in the knows. Don't shoot the blog, er, messenger.

Heck no. And definitely not editors.

But I might have heard the same story -- I don't pretend to any kind of omniscience or even the level of clued-inness of the blog, but crumbs do fall on me. Pakistani software whiz, If I remember. But dunno the grounds for refusal.

stockholm slender ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
stockholm slender ütles ...

Ok, a new attempt...

flasher t: I don't really get your point. What I would like to have is a level playing field meaning in practice a universal access to good quality education based on own your intellectual abilities and not your ability to pay for it. In addition there is a need for universal health care system and some essential safety nets to protect citizens from the somewhat random nature of economic fluctuations. I wouldn't forbid personal inheritance, private property or impose war communism, but I would have significant taxation and some redistribution of wealth to make it sure that even those children whose parents or foreparents did not have the good luck or abilities to give them a financial headstart in life would still have a fair chance to compete.

If you have very bad primary and secondary schools for significant part of the age class, expensive good quality higher education, very unequal or non-universal health care, then this will mean that far too many children won't have a fair chance and both success and non-success would be increasingly inherited in the society and class boundaries would get more and more rigid. I don't really see anything communist, or even very socialist, in wanting to see as open social competition as possible. Where do you specifically disagree?

Doris ütles ...

Stockholm slender, you can't solve the problem of education for poorer children by throwing money at it. The biggest disadvantage as well as advantage for children are tehir parents. If the parents, no matter their income level, pay attention to the child's progress in school and help along, then it does not matter (in Estonia, at least because of the state-demanded levels of education) which school the child attends. Having gone through a school usually considered "elite" myself, I can honestly say that the teachers were not that much better there and the books are exactly same as well. This is why the e-kool is so useful - it involves the parents more to the progress but also the problems of their child at school.

I'm not saying that teachers shouldn't be paid more because they should. Teachers are not only literally those who teach a certain subject, they also teach certain norms of conduction and keep an eye on the psychological development of the children. And that should be adequately rewarded. But the point is that just by giving schools money so that teachers would get paid and all schools could have a personal laptop for every 1st-grader doesn't solve the problem of education.

Doris ütles ...

I need more coffee. norms of conduct, obviously, as well as some other typing ang grammar errors.

also, thinking back, some of my teachers in the "elite" school were much too sure of their own "eliteness" which is never a good idea.

Kristopher ütles ...

1) I think the health care system needs a serious cash infusion. The hospitals are in need of more up-to-date equipment and structural renovation. Despite this being an IT country, many medical records are piled away in filing cabinets. Call it the Estonian way or the Nordic way, but health care could be better.

Yes. This is an area where we should be as socialist as possible. Doctors here should live as well as the London doctor in Sicko -- so they would not be tempted to take a job in London. Right now our GP commutes to Western Karelia, Finland for a weekend once a month, she gets 50,000 kroons for pulling duty there for a couple days. I'm all for freedom of movement, but that doesn't strike me as a very efficient setup.

Every cent of the money we currently spend on sending Estonian troops on foreign missions should be reallocated, primarily to the medical sector -- except for the money needed to administer the programmes for emotional rehabilitation of returning personnel.

I don't know if records in filing cabinets is all that bad -- first there has to be legislation to insure that electronic records are safe and private for ever,.

Giustino ütles ...

I'm not saying that teachers shouldn't be paid more because they should.

I have never met a teacher in Estonia who wasn't hoping for a salary increase.

stockholm slender ütles ...

No, I'm not saying that you can solve everything with money, but with reasonable investment of money and resources you sure can establish an excellent and universal educational system that enables fair competition based on individual abilities and inclinations. This is not impossible to do however difficult it is to get all these cultural factors fixed that can be embedded in inherited poverty. But I think it is a bit disingenous to say that we should not invest into universally open and high quality educational system just because some poor families will not even so use their opportunities to get ahead...

Doris ütles ...

we already HAVE a free education system, one that is rather unique for most of Europe/World: it is possible to attend University without paying a dime and with the Univeristy paying YOU. You just have to be smart enough. Even language isn't an issue any more, what with the new Katariina college for Russian-speaking Estonians.

Now, granted, Univeristy students are probably the poorest part of the social spectrum seeing as they usually live on their own with no full time job and the money they get from the state is a fraction of what the elderly get (and we all know how they whine... but then, they spend most of their money on medication instead of beer so they are allowed to whine). But it's even worse almost everywhere else.

if a person isn't smart enough to get in to Juridicum free then they shouldn't whine about the price their mamma and papa have to pay. Or they should opt for physics instead, there's always free spots in the Physics department.

stockholm slender ütles ...

No, of course most systems will have grants for exceptionally gifted poor students. But that in itself is not enough to guarantee a level playing field. You should have competitive entrance examinations, excellent quality universal primary and secondary education and a system where anyone can whether trough grants or loans easily afford to study at a university. We should not have a situation where you can in effect buy yourself a study place when students who score higher than you (but maybe not exceptionally high) can't do that because they come from a poor family. That would mean that you can't fairly compete with your own intelligence and hard work.

Giustino ütles ...

Even language isn't an issue any more, what with the new Katariina college for Russian-speaking Estonians.

Is that a done deal? I thought the Sotsid and IRL were still fighting over it.

Doris ütles ...

yes, it was decided yesterday, saw it in the news.

It's moving in the direction of uniform entrance exams. I saw somewhere just recently that some of the most prestigeous High Schools in Tallinn are having a common entrance exam this year so that the students don't have to take similar tests over and over again. that does have a down side too though: if you happen to have a small cold on the day of the Big Exam, for example...

and there's the whole "l2vendip6hine vastuv6tt" which gives everyone who scores high enough in their High School final exams entrance regardless of whether the state actually has something to do with 400 psychologists or not.

Flasher T ütles ...

"My gut feeling is, just because a company doesn't meet some organizational psychology ideal of people meeting and following social rituals, that is not going to doom an idea, or prevent ideas from meeting and creating sparks."

That's the instinctive feeling that a lot of people have, but in practice, somehow that just doesn't scale. It's not about CSR, not about design or sales: the grunt work of building IT cannot be adequately managed without having rooms full of code monkeys. (It's tragic that the rooms are often not very good ones, but there you go.)

"I don't know of any case of anyone being denied entry to Estonia on legitimate business."

I do. Send a self-addressed stamped email for details...

"Why can't the find them on Eesti Otsib Superstaari?"

Because the purpose of the format is to find good TV, which is indeed the exact opposite of good talent.

Flasher T ütles ...

"Where do you specifically disagree?"

Not with that expanded description, no. :) Just have been talking to some stunning left-wing nutters recently, including one who favours a 100% inheritance tax (as in, the government takes everything you own when you die) to force the youth to make their own way in life.

Flasher T ütles ...

"If the parents, no matter their income level, pay attention to the child's progress in school and help along, then it does not matter (in Estonia, at least because of the state-demanded levels of education) which school the child attends."

True, to an extent. My university class had some real thickos from posh Tallinn schools, and some very bright sparks from Ida-Virumaa (and more of the latter, so no claims of only the very best of Narva competing with the dregs of Tiskre). But in Tartu, most of the remarkable locals can be traced back to MHG.

Flasher T ütles ...

"Every cent of the money we currently spend on sending Estonian troops on foreign missions should be reallocated, primarily to the medical sector -- except for the money needed to administer the programmes for emotional rehabilitation of returning personnel."

Disagree. Foreign missions are exclusively the preserve of contract troops, not conscripts. Not only does it make the man-child in the White House like us, but it has the fortunate side-effect of taking the violent sociopaths, removing them to the other side of the planet and giving them Iraqi suicide bombers to shoot at. Worth every penny.

Flasher T ütles ...

"I have never met a teacher in Estonia who wasn't hoping for a salary increase."

Curiously enough, I don't think they're doing that badly any more. Certainly they are worth more to society than they are paid, but compared to the fire rescue crews on 5000eek/month, the teachers are surviving.

Flasher T ütles ...

"Even language isn't an issue any more, what with the new Katariina college for Russian-speaking Estonians."

Can haz trainwreck? I have friends in Russian-language "colleges". Not much use out of that, and the Katariina thing won't be an improvement.

(Full disclosure: my mother tongue is Russian, and my degree is TÜ.)

Kristopher ütles ...

I'm reminded of the grandmaster who moves around the room playing 20 chess games. :)

Pressing on futilely with my argument, another example from personal history: I used to work for a firm that employed a staff of four people who scanned, OCR'd, verified classics of philosophy, then inserted special characters. Then they found they could do it cheaper by hiring a roomful, as you say, in Bangalore. I don't think the guy in the States met the boss in Bangalore but once. And he went to India, not the other way around. Saw the ghats, too. It was a good trip.

Kristopher ütles ...

Does the man-child in the White House like the Solomon Islands? No, he doesn't even know if they are in Micro- or Polynesia. I ask, because that's about all that's left of the Coalition of the Willing, anyway: microstates. Estonia, and a bunch of sinking atolls. I don't exaggerate by much.

The fact that it's pros we send there, not conscripts, only increases the price tag for the state. Those pros may be lunatics to begin with -- people unlike you and me -- but they're relatively latent. After they see the horror of war first-hand, they tend to see life as a violent video game.

Giustino ütles ...

Can haz trainwreck? I have friends in Russian-language "colleges". Not much use out of that, and the Katariina thing won't be an improvement.

Ah, but if people have the right to choose, don't they also have the right to fail?

Curiously enough, I don't think [teachers] are doing that badly any more.

There was a hint of irony in my comment.

Not with that expanded description, no. :) Just have been talking to some stunning left-wing nutters recently

I feel like I am really missing something in life, because I think that both wings are filled with nutters.

Pressing on futilely with my argument, another example from personal history:

I have worked in the office and remotely. I do most of my work remotely, but office visits do help.

Personal relationships allow people to work well together, even if work is often done remotely. Ie. a face to face now and then does help.

Doris ütles ...

I went to MHG :P so there! However, I think that the main reason such "elite" schools produce better results is that they take talented children who are willing to learn at a very young age (in my case 7) and put them together with other children of the similar disposition/abilities. Of course that's easier to manage and teach than a group of normal children! and there you go, the secret of "elite schools". Drop in a few kids of rich parents who then "sponsor" the school and in return get kids who have had to study because they don't have anyone to be mischevious with...

By TU do you mean the monstrosity that is Tallinn University or the good old Alma Mater?

But anyway, whining is bad but without it we'd probably still be stuck under the Communist fist...

Also, Giustino, I think the Estonian society has already started the swing towards socialism, I mean, the President is a Socialist and the Socialist party is in the coalition. It's small but it's in. that would have been out of the question 5 years ago. Especially named as they are now, "Socialist party".

Kristopher ütles ...

I hope no one is using TU or TÜ for Tallinn (TLU)

This brings up an interesting question: anyone know what's up with www.tu.ee? If you type it in, it looks like it's registered by Tallinn, but not in use. Cease and desist order from Tartu?

Giustino ütles ...

I went to MHG :P so there!

What is MHG? Millard Harrison Garfield High School?

Also, Giustino, I think the Estonian society has already started the swing towards socialism

There is no basis yet for a left-wing coalition. Perhaps in 2011, but the stars have yet to align. Do you see Keskerakond, SDE, and Rohelised ever forming a government?

Alex ütles ...

The hospitals are in need of more up-to-date equipment and structural renovation.

I can't speak for all hospitals or even all areas of the hospitals, but the Ida-Tallinna Keskhaigla Naistekliinik is freshly renovated. The labor rooms, mother/child rooms and family rooms are all quite nice. All full of new shiny equipment and furniture. They also have a state-of-the-art 4D ultrasound machine. The ICU had all new LCD heart/oxygen monitors. Far better than the aging equipment in many run down US hospitals.

Magdalena haigla has a brand new entrance and fully renovated reception/lobby. Still a long way to go inside some of the wings but it's getting there.

Giustino ütles ...

Most things in Tallinn are nice. The hospital in Viljandi could use some work, though.

Andres ütles ...

MHG is Miina Härma Gümnaasium and it's one of the Elite Schools (tm) in Estonia.

stockholm slender ütles ...

I guess I'm being old fashioned when I see socialism as meaning the public ownership of the means of production. In that sense no Nordic country is even remotely socialist and you would not even have a socialist party in the Finnish parliament after the Left Alliance said goodbye to all that. What we have instead is social democracy and this is true for all the Western countries to varying degrees, even the USA with its significant Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid structures does not have a pure market economy in the classical Victorian sense.

For the welfare society to function there has to be a growing and dynamic market economy - that was the historical compromise in all of the West after the Great Depression and the totalitarian challenges to capitalist liberal democracy. Welfare structures balance the unpredictable and often unstable market economy and shield the population from the worst effects - but on the other hand the existence of the welfare state is based on the effectively functioning market that will create wealth and surplus.

Birchmob ütles ...

Tallinn University is allegedly squatting on the tu.ee domain. Tartu University apparently has enough clout with EEnet so that the domain is not being used.

Andres ütles ...

Hmm.. the WHOIS on zone.ee's site says that tu.ee is free at the moment. So quickly, somebody register it and upload a Tallinna Ülikool fan page there for a laugh.

Flasher T ütles ...

Ah, but if people have the right to choose, don't they also have the right to fail?

This lot has plenty of opportunities to fail on their own, no sense in encouraging them.

This brings up an interesting question: anyone know what's up with www.tu.ee? If you type it in, it looks like it's registered by Tallinn, but not in use. Cease and desist order from Tartu?

I vaguely recall this actually being the case, yes.

And you can't register tu.ee - Estonia, for all its IT savvy, has a curious TLD policy whereby .ee domains are free, but you can only register one if you're a legal entity (a corporation, or at the very least a FIE).

Also, as the testament to the state of Estonian politics, our Social Democratic party actually appears center-right in policy. [grin]

Jim Hass ütles ...

Surely Estonians can look over the bay and decide what they do and don't like in those"Nordic Model" countries. It is a democratic society after all.

A few caveats: just because a country has heavy inheritance, profit and income taxes does not eliminate a self-perpetuating elite. Estos old enough to remember the soviet era surely remember the nomenclatura.

Favoritism and social stratification are nothing new, and personal preference is a natural and human thing; also greed, stupidity, dishonesty, bigotry, interest group politics, social envy etc.....

The tendency of states is to self-agrandisement and
self perpetuation. Interest groups try to use the state in rent seeking behaviour. Once spending programs start, they are hard to reverse.

Part of the luck of Estonia is that most of the rent seeking was put at bay while the state was broke. People could think about what they wanted in a government, they could decide their priorities based on the economic emergency.

The state itself knew that it could not run everything, because it was overwhelmed. They were in a hurry to get to a "normal society".

No state that spends 35-40 percent of GDP can pretend to not have been influenced by socialist/ social democratic or christian democratic parties of the last century.

Isamaa politicians used to talk about reducing the size of government and the role of the state. Is that line of thinking dead now in Estonia?

plasma-jack ütles ...

the monstrosity that is Tallinn University

Could you Tartu guys elaborate on the monstrosity on TLU? I'm no specialist of Estonian university education, but that kind of remarks make me want to know more.

Flasher T ütles ...

TLU was created by merging several universities - the Pedagogical, the Polytechnic, and I think might have been an art school thrown in for good measure.

plasma-jack ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Andres ütles ...

TLU does not have a polytechnical uni in it. It's purely humanitarian.

stockholm slender ütles ...

I think by far the best situation is where there is a healthy open and dynamic economy balanced by a state strong enough to keep the playing field reasonably level. Without checks and balances any monopoly on power will close down the society speedily. That is beyond any doubt by now: we are now familiar enough with the human nature and how it works in organizations. Social mobility is a very good measure of the openness of a particular society: the better your parents' position predicts their children's status the closer a society is towards aristocratic waste of human potential. And on this measurement the Nordic countries do in fact excel.

Giustino ütles ...

But is it really possible to "copy" the Nordic model? I know Estonia is perhaps in the best position to do this because of geographic and cultural proximity, but it seems to me like the nordic countries are undergoing a process of reforming the model as I type.

Giustino ütles ...

This lot has plenty of opportunities to fail on their own, no sense in encouraging them.

I don't know what is more encouraging, going to an Estonian-language college because Juhan Parts told me so, or going to an Estonian-language college because one friend went to Tartu and got a nice job at Playtech and the other went to Katariina and is working at Hesburger.

Karla ütles ...

Working for Hesburger, despite corporate affiliation, is arguably a less Nordic thing to do, at least on the cosmetic plane.
;-)

Karla ütles ...

I have a mild quibble with Flasher's characterization of professional soldiers as 'sociopaths' and Kristopher's description of same as 'lunatics.'

In my more than three decades' close professional association with the military (only five in uniform myself) both in Canada and Estonia, I have known SEVERAL who fit into neither category, and lots who were simply obsessive-compulsive or the teensiest bit neurotic.
;))

Juhan ütles ...

I have found that not many people are interested in new ideas at the workplace, because it really does upset the applecart. The people running the show at my workplace have always knocked back any free ideas with which I have come forward, and generally there is quite a noticeable lack of intellectual integration. Too many people feel threatened, and I don't think it applies only at my workplace. It just seems as though a lot of Estonians fear cosmopolitanism and it inroads into established power bases wherever they exist.

Karla ütles ...

Perhaps such resistance to - and fear of - change is not unique to Estonians. I encounterd it in almost all my jobs in Canada as well. Acceptance of new ideas seemed to be most forthcoming in the corporate world, and I expected a high degree of resistance to change among the military, where 'tradition,' doing things 'by numbers' and hierarchical structures are sacrosanct. I found bloody-minded conservatism most irritating amongst teachers and academics, who are supposed by definition to foster curiosity, independent thinking and innovation amongst students, but who too often fear having their 'authority' diminished or their vested interests (in the form of their own publications) threatened.

"One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.
-Sir Walter Bagehot"

stockholm slender ütles ...

Giustino: I don't really advocate any specific measures for Estonia. The "Nordic model" is in some ways a fiction - these structures are based on particulal historical/cultural background and experience - and you certainly can't really easily export a historical past. It would be quite an American style of mistake to think so... I still believe that it would make a worthy goal, but actual policies will always be subject to particular circumstances. Well, I nevertheless do believe that Communism has poisoned overly much of any even only vaguely leftish ideology for Estonians. It should perhaps be remembered that Social Democrats used to be actually the worst enemies of Communism...

erueestlane ütles ...

The gene pool — before and beyond time — froths and sloshes. What flops up onto the temporal shores is a matter of chance, a product of the waves' whims. At some point this teeming reservoir of DNA spumes forth a saturnine gene, a double helix destined to produce melancholy dispositions. From this instant onward what we know as human history begins: that striving, seemingly endless, toward an ungraspable perfection, that tragic effort to reach what exceeds the grasp, to fail magnificently. This gene, this melancholy gene, has proved the code for innovation. It has produced over the centuries our resplendent towers, yearning heavenward. It has created our great epics, god-hungry. It has concocted our memorable symphonies, as tumultuously beautiful as the first ocean. Without this sorrowful genome, these sublimities would have remained in the netherworld of nonexistence. Indeed, without this genetic information, sullen and ambitious, what we see as culture in general, that empyreal realm of straining ideas, might have never arisen from the mere quest for survival, from simple killing and eating.

We can picture this in the primitive world. While the healthy bodies of the tribe were out mindlessly hacking beasts or other humans, the melancholy soul remained behind brooding in a cave or under a tree. There he imagined new structures, oval and amber, or fresh verbal rhythms, sacred summonings, or songs superior to even those of the birds. Envisioning these things, and more, this melancholy malingerer became just as useful for his culture as did the hunters and the gatherers for theirs. He pushed his world ahead. He moved it forward. He dwelled always in the insecure realm of the avant-garde.

This primitive visionary was the first of many such avant-garde melancholics. Of course not all innovators are melancholy, and not all melancholy souls are innovative. However, the scientifically proved relationship between genius and depression, between gloom and greatness suggests that the majority of our cultural innovators, ranging from the ancient dreamer in the bush to the more recent Dadaist in the city, have grounded their originality in the melancholy mood. We can of course by now understand why.

Melancholia pushes against the easy "either/or" of the status quo. It thrives in unexplored middle ground between oppositions, in the "both/and." It fosters fresh insights into relationships between oppositions, especially that great polarity life and death. It encourages new ways of conceiving and naming the mysterious connections between antinomies. It returns us to innocence, to irony, that ability, temporary, to play in potential without being constrained to the actual. Such respites from causality refresh our relationship to the world, grant us beautiful vistas, energize our hearts and our minds.

Indeed, the world is much of the time boring, controlled as it is by staid habits. It seems overly familiar, tired, repetitious. Then along comes what Keats calls the melancholy fit, and suddenly the planet again turns interesting. The veil of familiarity falls away. There before us flare bracing possibilities. We are called to forge untested links to our environments. We are summoned to be creative.

Given these virtues of melancholia, why are thousands of psychiatrists and psychologists attempting to "cure" depression as if it were a terrible disease? Obviously, those suffering severe depression, suicidal and bordering on psychosis, require serious medications. But what of those millions of people who possess mild to moderate depression? Should these potential visionaries also be asked to eradicate their melancholia with the help of a pill? Should these possible innovators relinquish what might well be their greatest muse, their demons giving birth to angels?

Right now, if the statistics are correct, about 15 percent of Americans are not happy. Soon, perhaps, with the help of psychopharmaceuticals, we shall have no more unhappy people in our country. Melancholics will become unknown.

This would be an unparalleled tragedy, equivalent in scope to the annihilation of the sperm whale or the golden eagle. With no more melancholics, we would live in a world in which everyone simply accepted the status quo, in which everyone would simply be content with the given. This would constitute a dystopia of ubiquitous placid grins, a nightmare worthy of Philip K. Dick, a police state of Pollyannas, a flatland that offers nothing new under the sun. Why are we pushing toward such a hellish condition?

The answer is simple: fear. Most hide behind the smile because they are afraid of facing the world's complexity, its vagueness, its terrible beauties. If they stay safely ensconced behind their painted grins, then they won't have to encounter the insecurities attendant upon dwelling in possibility, those anxious moments when one doesn't know this from that, when one could suddenly become almost anything at all. Even though this anxiety, usually over death, is in the end exhilarating, a call to be creative, it is in the beginning rather horrifying, a feeling of hovering in an unpredictable abyss. Most immediately flee from this situation. They try to lose themselves in the laughing masses, hoping the anxiety will never again visit them. They don inauthenticity as a mask, a disguise protecting them from the abyss.

To foster a society of total happiness is to concoct a culture of fear. Do we really want to give away our courage for mere mirth? Are we ready to relinquish our most essential hearts for a good night's sleep, a season of contentment? We must ignore the seductions of our blissed-out culture and somehow hold to our sadness. We must find a way, difficult though it is, to be who we are, sullenness and all.

Suffering the gloom, inevitable as breath, we must further accept this fact that the world hates: we are forever incomplete, but fragments of some ungraspable whole. Our unfinished natures — we are never pure actualities but always vague potentials — make life a constant struggle, a bout with the persistent unknown. But this extension into the abyss is also our salvation. To be but a fragment is always to strive for something beyond oneself, something transcendent — an unexplored possibility, an unmapped avenue. This striving is always an act of freedom, of choosing one road instead of another. Though this labor is arduous — it requires constant attention to our mysterious and shifting interiors — it is also ecstatic, an almost infinite sounding of the exquisite riddles of Being.

To be against happiness, to avert contentment, is to be close to joy, to embrace ecstasy. Incompleteness is the call to life. Fragmentation is freedom. The exhilaration of never knowing anything fully is that you can perpetually imagine sublimities beyond reason. On the margins of the known is the agile edge of existence. This is the elation of circumference. This is the rapture, burning slow, of finishing a book that can never be completed, a flawed and conflicted text, vexed as twilight.

Excerpted from Against Happiness by Eric G. Wilson. Copyright © 2008 by Eric G. Wilson. Published in January 2008

plasma-jack ütles ...

Arni Alandi, an ETV journalist, writes in his blog about Estonian soldiers in Kosovo:
http://afrodisiax.wordpress.com/2008/02/05/mediterranea-xv-ehk-restoraniasjandusest-ja-eesti-soduri-oilsusest/
and about Italians:
http://afrodisiax.wordpress.com/2008/02/01/mediterranea-xiii-ehk-juuksezelee-itaalia-soduri-relv/

In Estonian, worth read. Keep in mind that Alandi is a left-winged pacifist, yet he utters no bad words about Estonian military people.

But still, what else's wrong with TLU except they have the Dracula castle and Darth Vader's Deathstar incorporated to it?

Doris ütles ...

The Tallinn University vs University of Tartu (Universitas Tartuensis) and the TU/UT thing is confusing because both towns begin with a T and in Estonian it's the name of the town first and then the University attached. But in English it's usually the University of... except for some very old and venerated universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. And usually it's not called a university unless it teaches all of the following: medicine, law, theology and humanities. so the Tallinn thing is an institution of higher education but it is NOT a university.

Karla ütles ...

plasma_jack,

Aitäh viidete eest. Need on mõnusad, sisukad lood...

Karla ütles ...

I like Doris' terms "monstrosity" and "Tallinn thing" in view of Flasher's explanation that "TLU was created by merging several universities - the Pedagogical, the Polytechnic, and I think might have been an art school thrown in for good measure."
Did the rationale of the amalgamators include "bigger is better" and "we'll save a pile on administrative costs" by any chance?
Well, the camel is an animal designed by a committee, and no doubt there was a fine committee of empire-builders present at the conception of the TLU mega-whatever. :)

andres ütles ...

karla,

In my more than three decades' close professional association with the military (only five in uniform myself) both in Canada and Estonia,

I am curious what your military designation or rank was in your five years in uniform? Was it in Estonia or Canada that you served in uniform, and when and where?

Kristopher ütles ...

Karla, what I said is that if there are lunatics in the armed forces, they are latent ones. But witnessing/participating something like the Highway of Death at age 18 will separate the crazymen from the boys.

Karla ütles ...

I heard you, Kris, and hoped that my 'quibble' in its wording, and complete with emoticon, signalled my humorous intent.

I have known SEVERAL who fit into neither category, and lots who were simply obsessive-compulsive or the teensiest bit neurotic.
;))

The 'SEVERAL' non-Rambos was comedic hyperbole.

On the other hand, as one who as a 'kid' bulled boots, blanco-ed web belts and spats, Brasso-ed buckles and badges, made and remade beds so that the corporal could literally bounce a coin off the taut blanket, scoured toilets with a toothbrush, stomped my feet and learned to utter semi-articulate cries at just the right pitch and with the right tone of hysteria -- well, I must admit there was a grain of truth in my allusion to the OC and neurotic element, which is fostered by a culture that glories in seemingly trivial minutiae, albeit with a quirky sort of "method in madness" behind it.
Not for naught do the more enlightened among the military enjoy the old joke:
Q: What's the difference between the military and the Boy Scouts?
A: Boy Scouts are not allowed to use deadly force and are usually under adult supervision.

Tom Lehrer - who, when not writing satiric songs, taught maths at Harvard, MIT, and Wellesley, worked as a researcher at Los Alamos and as an analyst for the NSA...and even served in the US Army - captured the military ethos well in one of his songs:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdZpnTX-ibg

erueestlane ütles ...

This is really related to the earlier topic on babe culture and female beauty. Here's Mark Ames and the gang riffing off the recent Anne Applebaum's editorial in Wash. Post about the beauty of rooskie wimmin. http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=16477&IBLOCK_ID=35&PAGE=1

Golden Mouth Joe ütles ...

Unless I am wrong, that article by Anne Applebaum appeared in slate.com. This is really off topic. Ames and gang are misogynistic and juvenile.

Why don't you try to do something right for once in your life, like get a single fucking fact right. The name of the goddam piece of shit publication is most often located in or on the fucking masthead. I fucking hate it when those goddam grandstanders at the piece of shitty Post get all the credit and all the classy dames. I fucking goddamed resent to for perpetuating their myth of quality journalism by giving them credit where it's not due.

I'll accept your apology tomorrow. Thanks a fucking lot for ruining my morning.

Karla ütles ...

andres ütles...
karla,
I am curious what your military designation or rank was in your five years in uniform? Was it in Estonia or Canada that you served in uniform, and when and where?


Curious question. Full CV and resumé demanded, over a comedic aside, even beyond what a POW is required to give? Warum? Es ist nicht sehr wichtig. Haff I any relatifs in Zhermany? Or perhaps you are work for Canada Revenue Agency? ;-)

Well, less than Holmesian deduction required to surmise that "uniform" stuff generally happens earlier rather than later in life. And at least some of the laborious housekeeping tasks I alluded to above have been relieved somewhat by the use of synthetic materials (white plastic dress belts; coated alloy buckles, buttons and badges). I don't think they call it 'bulling' any more, and regulations specifically forbid SPITTING while shining boots - on hygienic grounds. But I do know spitting is still practised, furtively, as part of...the military's oral tradition. We carried Lee Enfield No.4 Mk 1, Cal .303 rifles. Bolt action. And cleaned them endlessly. And learned to field-strip and fire the Bren LMG. (The FN C1, Cal 7.62 NATO and its variants didn't reach even the regulars till 1958, if memory serves. And the current CF infantry rifle, the C7/C8, cal 5.56 in all its variants, arrived in the 1990s. Well, well, after my time...

On parade, wore the McMartin and then the Macdonell of Glengarry tartan. Khaki battledress in the field. With trousers. My old Esto dad gave me a hard time over the kilt, though: Jumal, ainukene poeg, ja tuleb koju seelikus, and all that. In fun, of course.

That should establish era and area, eh? ;-)

We had boy scouts then, but playing with things that went bang seemed like more fun. It was (cadets, then militia - now called 'reserves' and in the US the National Guard) was a common rite of passage in Eastern Ontario in the 1950s. We didn't have computers, TV was b&w snow on about two channels, and in the militia one went for summer training (paid) and to the town Armouries two nights a week (also paid). Attained the grand rank of ... corporal!

It was OK. At that time, our NCOs and officers were all WW2 vets, still young men. My CSM Doug Eastwood, who then seemed to be a leathery old sweat, was in fact all of 30 or 31. He had falsified his age to join up at 15, had shipped overseas to England in 1942, and gone ashore at Normandy on D-Day as a 17-year-old platoon sergeant. Besides the spit and polish and musketry, we learned a great deal from such men.

Grew up. Went off to university. Worked in the private sector: marketing and sales promotion in group life. Nothing sexy. This 'communications' background led to teaching 'communications' at a community college.

Then worked for DND (Department of National Defence to non-Canucks). Civilian specialists aplenty there, are usually assigned Civilian Equivalent Rank as 'senior officer' major or above ('field grade' in US Army, 'field rank' in British Army parlance) as a courtesy so that one's students up to and including rank of captain have to say "sir" to one and one can feed off damask linen and nicer china at the officers' mess. Pay scale was Public Service Commission grid, so better than military. Didn't have to wear quaint costumes, stamp my feet, drop down or shower or urinate on command. Wrote three text-books, piddled with a computer biz on the side, raised three kids.

Estonia declared independence. Life changed. Scots wife said I had developed a thousand-yard stare, and we should go over and try to be useful. Both pulled early retirement, with commensurate penalties to pension. Sold the house. Two kids were still at university, one doing a year in Germany. Expensive time. Filed our resumés at CESO and were accepted as Volunteer Advisors (read: unpaid) to be shipped over on Her Majesty's dime.


Just when I thought I was out they dragged me back in."

CESO's computer must have picked keywords "languages," "teaching," "computers," "military," or some such. We were assigned to ERA, Eesti Riigikaitse Akadeemia, which was long ago renamed Sisekaitse Akadeemia. At that time the Sõjakool constituted one of the five colleges at ERA. (I believe it was transferred an put under the aegis of the Kaitseväe Ühendatud Õppeasutused in 1998 or 1999: a proper move IMHO.)

Our assignment was to create and compile NATO Standard STANAG 6001 ~3333 TEFL English tests, although Estonia's NATO membership seemed a remote hope at the time. Nonetheless, we fulfilled our task. Lots of work, involved coordinating tests in all listening, speaking, reading and writing skill areas with those used by other NATO countries, and of course we taught classes in order to familiarize ourselves with the students' levels and to vet and validate our tests.

It was an exciting and optimistic time, the young men and women we worked with were splendid, and hopefully the pile of material (the STANAGs) we compiled have been of some use. I've been told the tests have been applied elsewhere in the Estonian public service too, but I really can't confirm that. Occasionally, when we're in Estonia for a couple of months, we run into former students (sometimes literally, as happens in Tallinn), many of whom now hold substantive ranks in the Republic's service and we're in email contact with several. Once, in Tammsaare park, a very tall young man dressed in civvies circled us for several minutes before making his approach. We'd noticed him and wondered what he was about, until he finally made a frontal approach and addressed us by name.

Oh, certainly my familiarity with all the terminology of weapons systems and the arcane idiom and acronyms endemic to Military English were indispensable to our task. As were the decades living with and immersed in the culture of the military. But I never play martial music or salute myself in the mirror. . . . Well, hardly ever.... And now I'm too lame of leg to march and too dim of eye to shoot. It's OK being an old fart: you get to see more of the Big Movie....

End of long dull story. Andres made me do it. . . OK? ;-)

Giustino ütles ...

Here's Mark Ames and the gang riffing off the recent Anne Applebaum's editorial in Wash. Post about the beauty of rooskie wimmin.

Why do we even care about what people in Moscow think, Americans or otherwise?

I'm supposed to hang on Putin's every word, yet somehow I find him an irrelevant clown. The same goes for the Ames gang.

Doris ütles ...

heh, don't get me wrong - I'm sure that the Tallinn conglomeration has some good parts (Institute of Humanities is quite good, I hear), and it's possible to learn things in Tallinn that are not possible in Tartu (mainly the engineering and architecture bits) but it just irks so much to have to call that... thing... a University.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Tough luck. Tallinlasena olen poliitiliselt piisavalt korrektne, et Tartut linnaks kutsuda ;-)
Noh, ta ongi linn, eksole.

plasma-jack ütles ...

ent kui on olemas linnad ilma trollide ja trammideta, siis ehk võib ka meditsiiniteaduskonnata õppeasutust ülikooliks hüüda? eriti kui seadusandlus ja entsüklopeediad seda definitsiooni toetavad.

andres ütles ...

karla,

End of long dull story. Andres made me do it. . . OK? ;-)

I did not make you do it! You had your own free-will! :)) It is a interesting life story in answer to my question. Yes thank you Sir!Do you have German background also or did your kids come to Estonia with you or presently?

Kristopher ütles ...

Jack, the X layout of the two, I mean four tram lines of Tallinn is ingenious, and the trolleys get the job done, but I don't know if that's what makes it more of a "city" than Tartu...

ARK ütles ...

Why do we even care about what people in Moscow think, Americans or otherwise?

I'm supposed to hang on Putin's every word, yet somehow I find him an irrelevant clown. The same goes for the Ames gang.


I gather you're going grrr! into the blogosphere, G, but I'll be annoyingly literal anyway.

Hanging on Pooty-Poot's every word would either drive us into constant rage or anxiety or both. To me, he's plainly a pol (with a Napoleon complex) leading an imperialist power (with a host of pathologies), and much from him could be simply posturing.

But "irrelevant clown"? I wish it were only so.

The matter of paying close attention to Volodya reminds me of the debate around the time of Castro's meeting with Pope John Paul II, which happened to coincide with Bill Clinton's splooge stain. Some critics said it was dippy of the media to turn their attention away from papal Fidel and over to presidential fellatio. A few others maintained that almost anything involving the US president is newsworthy, and often above the fold.

Alas, I fear that Putin and Russia, and which way popular Yankee and Russky winds blow, will always matter more than all three Baltic states combined. I guess that's why all too many discussions lead to Russia.

Damn. You know, when I recall covering these stories in the Baltic some years ago, I can feel dismayed that so many of the danger themes are still live ones. I guess I was a bit naive, somehow hoping that NATO and EU memberships -- once seemingly unattainable Holy Grails -- would help to resolve, or at least quiet, some of those ethnopolitical and geopolitical issues that made the 1990s nervous at times.

At least, as you and others have pointed up, some issues, like citizenship/statelessness, are moving toward resolution.

As for Ames and the eXile crew... Well, I confess to having laughed a few times at some of their gags and rags, especially when Taibbi was there. (Taibbi is probably among the very few who could rightly, and complimentarily, be called gonzo.) But they always have seemed Russophile, beyond sexist, ultra-crude and friendly with the National Bolsheviks (who put me off, after seeing them in Baltic action several years ago) -- open-and-shut case, as they say.

erueestlane ütles ...

Ark, you're dead-on. By the way, it was fun to see G get a little irritated. :-)

I was wondering when will his cabin fever kick in. I've lived in Tartu, I know how it begins. Muah-ah-ah.

And , yeah right - like Moscow doesn't matter. Like New York does not matter. Like Washington does not matter. Yea, let us continue poking the navel of this Esto-scandia kiddie-politics and pretend like this esoterica really means something.

Giustino ütles ...

But "irrelevant clown"? I wish it were only so.

What's the difference between reading an article about Putin and not reading it?

All of his statements and actions -- "we'll aim our nukes at Ukraine" -- are part of his shadow boxing match with Washington.

Everyone sits around jerking themselves off about his Munich speech and what does it all mean. They're still trying to figure it out. Well, hint hint, you're not going to figure it out.

So why not, I don't know, go do something more productive?

Alas, I fear that Putin and Russia, and which way popular Yankee and Russky winds blow, will always matter more than all three Baltic states combined.

Exactly, which is why we can watch the weather, put on the right clothes, but we can't control the weather.

Yea, let us continue poking the navel of this Esto-scandia kiddie-politics and pretend like this esoterica really means something.

There are things one can influence and things one cannot influence. I personally cannot change the way Russians think about Estonia, nor do I care to work some magic voodoo to make their "fascist blues" go away.

It's like that drunk crazy person you would pass on the way to work in New York. Do you really think you can help them sober up and find logic? Or will you just keep on walking by, even if they throw up on the sidewalk once in awhile.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Jack, the X layout of the two, I mean four tram lines of Tallinn is ingenious, and the trolleys get the job done, but I don't know if that's what makes it more of a "city" than Tartu...

That's why I spoke in Estonian ;-) Tallinn surely is linn, but it's definitely town in English.

Kristopher ütles ...

I did get it (unlike Karla's irony)!

But to me, "town" suggests an alev if I don't know anything about a place.

I personally draw the dividing line after Pärnu and before Viljandi -- Tallinn, Tartu, Narva and K-J and Pärnu being cities, mainly due to population. Viljandi needs a "City" district on the lakeshore and 10,000 more people -- I think I'll be happy if it stays a town.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Finally we start to debate about the riots in Tallinn in 2007 at our blog again. We know there are angry Russians and russian Estonians. But, you know, things happens as well in Sweden:
http://www.tubecodes.com/watch=pWAD47CEwdA

Martin-Éric ütles ...

Estonia already implemented most of those Nordic socialist measures, such as maternity leave compensation.

The journalist's question points at something else:

Estonia brilliantly refuses to implement the strangling taxation model of Nordic countries, instead opting for a liberal taxation policy with a fixed taxation rate.

If you ask me, it should be Finland and the other Nordic nanny states that should switch to the Estonian model, not the other way around.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Ja, Estonia as model. My pointing at the riots: Could any Nordic state solve the immigration, minority and language problems when the number is around 30%.

Giustino ütles ...

Ja, Estonia as model. My pointing at the riots: Could any Nordic state solve the immigration, minority and language problems when the number is around 30%.

I think it is very Scandinavian to think one can "solve" something like that by passing a few laws or changing a few signs.

I mean look at the Serbs in Kosovo. They made Serbian a state language, give them full autonomy, and the Kosovar Serbs say they do not recognize the central government.

So much for official doo-doo.