neljapäev, september 29, 2011

el yunque hellhound

Dear readers. I am writing to you from my friend's bungalow in Sonoma County. California is a joy. Grassy hills loom like green and blue ghosts. Strangers wave to you or ask you directions in relaxed, friendly, undemanding tones. In the afternoon I consumed zebra tomatoes and Chubby Hubby. For dinner we had tamales and taquitos. Tomorrow, my friend promised to restock his medicinal marijuana supply at the Peace in Medicine shop. "They sell it in stores here?" I asked. "Yes," he replied, "welcome to civilization" …

Almost everyone is speaking English here. I say this as someone who accidentally said, "ei" instead of "no" when the server at a café asked me if I wanted any organic "mesclun," which I unfortunately by that time heard as "mescaline," but actually is a green salad of French origin lacking hallucinogenic properties. In addition to mesclun, one can purchase crystals at the crystal shop downtown, or stock up on patchouli oil at the equivalent of a hippie five-and-ten nearby. Walking the sun-kissed streets, we ponder the significance of recent events, such as the moment that Maria Shriver began to wonder about the identity of the father of the family maid's son.

"Maybe he was lifting heavy furniture," my friend suggests. "Or maybe the kid started speaking with an Austrian accent …"

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is also a topic of discussion. As it was revealed earlier this week, Putin will reassume his position as president once Dmitri Medvedev's term ends next year. No one in the West openly believes in the charade of Russian "democracy" anymore, but now it's clear that that country's leadership doesn't really care either. I wonder who the "opponents" are that Putin will "defeat."

Estonians are once again chattering what the return of Putin will mean for their country. During the Medvedev years, the Estonian president had several meetings with his Russian counterpart, one that ended with him walking out of a conference and another that saw him praised for managing to sit through a Victory Day parade. There were even slight murmurs of hope among the more optimistic that the Medvedev thaw could continue, following the painful era of the border treaty debacle, in which the Russians used a magic diplomatic eraser to remove their signature from said agreement, and the Bronze Soldier affair, which saw the redeployment of noxious Stalinist and Third Reich propaganda, consumed with enthusiasm by local idiots.

Few in the US are interested in this. They would like to hear more rambling Rick Perry sound bites, blather on about baseball, or watch VH1's top hip hop jams of all time. In the meantime I am still trying to figure out what to do with my deposit in an eco hotel in the El Yunque rain forest in Puerto Rico. We were supposed to go last year, but were unable to do so. It was unfortunate because it is a goddamn beautiful place. When I inquired about swimming pools, I was informed that we could bathe in slow-moving natural waterfalls nearby.

The hotel promised to hold the deposit for a year, ending in Jan. 2012, and we initially planned to return, but now, with three kids and plenty of responsibilities, it is looking more and more impossible. How I wish someone would finally invent a method to "beam" me to different geographies for a limited fee a la Star Trek. Sadly, technology still lags the imaginations of 1960s Hollywood screenwriters. The deposit at the oasis in the jungle, called the Casa Cubuy Ecolodge, is $480. We are trying to hand it off to an interested party as soon as possible for as little as $300. You can contact me directly for this one time offer.

11 kommentaari:

Lingüista ütles ...

And what's your personal expectation for the return of el Putinisimo to the steering wheel, Giustino? Since I don't think he ever really left it, I don't expect any big changes.

The Euro crisis is probably a bigger concern for Estonia right now. (What's Estonia's position on What Should Be Done To Save The Euro? Does this whole mess make Estonians think they were a bit hasty in adopting the European common currency?)

Giustino ütles ...

I think that Putin is terribly vain and is doing something extremely bad for his country. A state built around one man is doomed to experience nasty political conflicts once that one man is gone. When Lenin died, a lot of other people were marked with him. There was no smooth transition to Stalinism. All the old Bolsheviks were systematically murdered. Even Trotsky, in Mexico of all places! And when Stalin died, they put Beria on trial and killed him too. Transitions of power in authoritarian societies don't usually turn out well.

Putin is just a man. He could die or be incapacitated any day. And then what? If Obama died, then Biden would become president. Then there would be an election. That's the law. If Putin dies, who will lead Russia? Medvedev? Well, he didn't get Kudrin's vote of confidence, did he? When Putin goes, all of those egos will go up against each other ... and other egos too. Putin is not a savior of his country. He's just another Berlusconi: a crook who is in love with himself and addicted to power.
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Estonians have swallowed economic pain many times before in the name of "becoming more European." This goes back to the very revolution that brought about a reprise of the Estonian state. The idea that it's better over there, and we could have it too, if we only tried ourselves. Pain or no pain, Estonians have gotten wealthier as part of its inclusion in the European project, and their politicians remind them of that.

But there is also a dilemma for the Estonians. Since the early 1990s, they have set out to be "good boys" who do everything that the EU and NATO and the OECD say, driven in part by fear of lapsing back into the dreaded "former Soviet" zone. It's like there have been two choices, the euro way or the United Russia way. There is no way to be both European and euroskeptic. But now that the country is part of those institutions, it should also play a critical role. I am not saying that the riigikogu is just a rubber stamp for EU decisions, but I can't imagine the Estonians going it alone to say 'no' to anything of importance.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Yep, there will be purges in Estonia should the EU and NATO dissolve and Estonia fall back in the arms of the Russian bear. No doubt about it. That is why estonian elites keep their bank accounts in distant countries. Ready for the change at a moment's notice.

As for rubber stamping, I find it funny that EU overlords did not allow Estonians with their little stamper to the common stamping table. I wonder do estonians feel that they were gamed or not?

Lingüista ütles ...

I tend to agree with you with respect to Putin, except for one thing: Putin is clearly smarter than Berlusconi. He knows how to make things work the way he wants them. Whereas Berlusconi has this I-don't-even-care attitude whenever yet another scandal linking him to underage prostitutes hits the fan, Putin gets sexy girls singing "I want a man like Putin" and this somehow makes him look more presidential.

He knows how to play his cards, this one. He's one to watch.

But I think you're totally right about what happens once Papa Bear kicks the bucket. Except maybe Putin has thought about it himself and has some plan? He's vain, but he's also smart. He may have given the post-Putin future some thought. Who knows, maybe he's looking for, or preparing, some decent heir for the throne that will at least have his capacities. There are other people like him (Andropov supposedly was very similar) who could dominate the ego show in the Kremlin.

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I'm curious about this Euro-way-or-the-highway thought process. I mean, some ex-communist countries have managed to sound remarkably euroskeptic sometimes (e.g., the Czech republic). I can see that, given local geopolitics, Estonia does have to go European to escape the "near abroad", but Europe tends to be able to absorb quite a lot of criticism without disintegrating or kicking you out.

I mean, shouldn't the Estonians be at least afraid of what might happen if the euro gets de-valued? And then question whether or not it was a good idea to get on the euroboat so sooon? Does this really have to sound so anti-European that Estonians would fear they'd be left alone facing their big neighbor to the East?

I suppose the most likely scene is that Germany will eventually reconcile itself with the idea of bailing Greece out, and maybe Europe will move towards tigher financial integration. But there is a danger that this might not happen, with consequent big defaults, the euro going down, and a considerable downsizing in the economies of even the core members of the group. After having just gone through a very serious economic downturn, doesn't this perspective worry the Estonians and their leaders? What's their attitude going to be -- "we can't do anything about that, it's in the hands of the gods in Brussels, all we can do is sit and take stoichally whatever comes"?

Temesta ütles ...

Italy is still a democracy (with flaws) with freedom of speech. Berlusconi doesn't have the power to ban parties from participating in elections, he cannot throw political opponents in jail. He faces genuine political opposition, also from within his own party and coalition. Berlusconi can be voted out of office in the next elections, but you need some kind of revolution to remove Putin and his clique from power.

saket ütles ...
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Spawnie ütles ...

Lingüista ütles...
I'm curious about this Euro-way-or-the-highway thought process. I mean, some ex-communist countries have managed to sound remarkably euroskeptic sometimes (e.g., the Czech republic).

There's a huge difference there, the Czech Republic was never part of the Soviet Union.

What's their attitude going to be -- "we can't do anything about that, it's in the hands of the gods in Brussels, all we can do is sit and take stoichally whatever comes"?

From my point of view, this has pretty much been their attitude throughout history.

Raj ütles ...
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sandy ütles ...
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Jones ütles ...
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Steve Hairry ütles ...

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