Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Th!nk3, and Gadgetry

Over at Th!nk About It, taxes on financial transactions and impressions of corporate governance in Russia. You can see all of my Th!nk3 blog posts here.

Closer to home, my preciousssss:

There's a long post that I've been meaning to write about the comparative merits of this spring's new gadgets, and why I want to buy an iPad, but won't. But my blogging energy is pretty much devoted to Th!nk3 for now, and I'll be doing it until the end of August, so in the meantime I'll just say that my choice of HTC Legend over all the competitors has been very well-considered, and I genuinely believe it is the best device I could buy right now.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Layman's Take on the Robin Hood Tax

Over at Th!nk About It. Disabling comments here - I'd love to have a discussion with you over on the th!nk3 platform.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Th!nk & Laugh

Spent a couple days in the capital of the confederation this week, for the kickoff of the third Think About It! competition. Over the next five months, me and another hundred or so bloggers from Europe and around the world will be writing about the developing world, and how Europe can help. You can find all my articles here, including the first one that I posted yesterday, and I will be putting links up on AnTyx. As usual, I would prefer if you commented over there, on the Th!nk site.

The other big news is that yours truly will be performing as part of a standup comedy show, during Student Days in Tartu and Tallinn. The Tartu shows are on the 27th and 28th of April, at the Vilde restaurant; we're in Tallinn on the 29th, at Drink Baar. The show will feature the best in English comedy from all around the Nordic countries, including local talent! The promo video is below, check out the website, and expect to see our posters & flyers around town soon. Share the news on your Facebook, Orkut, Twitter, etc., tell all your friends, and definitely, definitely be there!

Friday, March 19, 2010

March Mailbag of Curious Incidents

A few interesting points about events at home and abroad today.


Over at The Economist's website, outstanding Euroblogger Charlemagne has an article about Greece. Now, I'll recommend it for the great insight into how Greece got this way, but there is a curious assertion there. Charlemagne asks us to not discount Greece as an infantile, irresponsible nation that simply spent all its money without regard to the future - and immediately proceeds to underscore that point by explaining that Greece needs to have a tremendously bloated public sector, without any real expectation of competence applied to public servants, because if the government doesn't keep up the appeasement of tribal leaders using money borrowed against the credibility of Germany and France, greeks will actually start killing each other. I agree that the avoidance of bloodshed is the first priority, but I cannot abide by the notion that this makes Greece a grown-up country that should be treated as such.

Europe is, first and foremost, about civilization. I don't mean to get overly imperial - this isn't about noblesse oblige, it's about self-perception, what we can contribute to humanity, and what we can be proud about in ourselves. If a European nation, moreso an EU member, and for damn sure a member of the Eurozone, is incapable of exercising common sense, seeing the big picture, and doing what is necessary, then it is most definitely a nation that ought to be treated as a spoiled, unreasonable child. Now, I'm sure Charlemagne has a far more detailed understanding of the intricacies of the Greece bailout than me, but taking his blog post at face value, we're one diplomatic misstep away from having to deploy EU troops and turn Greece into a Kosovo-style dominion.

If the prime minister of Hungary can go on public record saying "we fucked up" and his nation can learn to accept it, why should Greece be different?


I was somewhat surprised to see blog chatter about Toomas Hendrik Ilves travelling to Moscow for the WWII victory parade in May. From what I gather, THI originally didn't fancy going, and explained it away by saying that he wasn't actually invited; then Russia turned around and actually issued him a personal invitation. And most observers thought this is a great coup for Russia's foreign policy, and that Estonia's diplomatic corps had been outsmarted.

Look, that's what we have a President for: to do things that are unpopular, but necessary. For one, at this point in history the public at large does not seem to give a flying fuck about whether THI attends the parade or not. Estonia is busy with an all-encompassing national project. Successfully adopting the Euro is a far bigger step in ensuring Estonia's future security than any foreign policy troll-bait being catapulted in the Kremlin's general direction. Since we appear to have gotten under the wire on all the actual numbers, the only reason we could be kept out of the Eurozone is if the governments get together and decide they just don't want us in. There is, apparently, some measure of personal discretion involved. Yes, the big boys are currently pissed off at Greece, but we can keep emphasizing the fact that Estonia is the exact opposite of Greece in terms of fiscal responsibility, and our reps need to stay on-message in Brussels. The last thing we need is another fruitless spat with Russia about intractable old grievances.

Furthermore, that same blog chatter reminds us that it was Arnold Rüütel - the previous president, former head of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic and as pro-Russian a political figure as you can get without using a tube of red face paint to scrawl a hammer and sickle on Edgar Savisaar's buttcheeks - who refused to attend the last major international circle jerk in Moscow. Like I said, the president is there to do what's necessary - even at the risk of damage to his political image.

Only Nixon could have gone to China.

Speaking of Russia, there's a giggle-worthy bit of news reported by The article is in Russian; the gist of it is that an affiliate of YUKOS, the oil company that was owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has successfully sued the Russian state oil exporter Rosneft for damages to be collected against any payments due in the UK and US. has a copy of a US court order, I've re-uploaded it just in case, which instructs the US Marshals to extract 419 million USD out of Rosneft in the state of New York - including any payments by third parties owed to Rosneft for purchased oil. Obviously this is a legal battle with very little clarity to be hoped for, but the experts quoted by imply that Rosneft's entire export business, worth $3.8 billion per month.

Happy Schadenfriday!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Extent of Freedom, Revisited

When I wrote this article, I was perfectly aware that it was a huge troll. I do stand by what I said, but I knew that for but a few exceptions (most of whom are zealots to a degree I find counter-productive, even if I'm on the same side of the fence as them), people would disagree strongly. The default mentality is that freedom of expression should be secured to the broadest extent possible. Even if I thought I found an exception with the minaret referendum - based on Switzerland's unique circumstance of demonstrable democracy - I can't argue against the rule itself.

Then recently, something triggered an odd thought.

What I was reading was a report on (in)tolerance in Estonia, prepared by ECRI - the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. It's a consultative organ of the Council of Europe, itself a very suggestive and non-binding kind of organization. I have a natural distrust for entities of the caliber that the ECRI purports to be, but the report's findings were reported in the local press, so I went to look at the source.
Before going into my main point, let me just take a second to address the obvious issue with any report on social equality in Estonia: the ECRI report, while somewhat poking the government with a stick on integration, actually recommends outright that Russian schools be closed and all students made to do their studies in Estonian - something that the government has been doing very slowly over the last twenty years, and still isn't close to accomplishing, for fear of being labelled intolerant and discriminative. Which is, well, ironic.
The quote that tripped me up comes from page 8 of the ECRI report:

The provisions of the Criminal Code regarding racism are still very rarely implemented, primarily due to Article 151 which criminalises activities which publicly incite hatred, violence or discrimination on the basis of, among others, nationality, race, colour, language, origin or religion, only if they result in danger to the life, health or property of a person. Therefore, the ECRI considers that the Criminal Code does not, in fact, punish hate speech independently of specific consequences as recommended in its General Policy Recommendation No. 7 on national legislation to combat racism and racial discrimination.

Let that sink in for a second. The European Commission on Racism and Intolerance, part of the Council of Europe, advocates that hate speech be banned - criminalized - outright, even in circumstances where there is no demonstrable harm.

The obvious point is that this is not tantamount to banning minarets. Hate speech is not the same as religious self-expression. The point I tried to convey in the Switzerland article was that any broad-reaching humanitarian policy is only meant to be applied in situations where no clear picture can be established, and that if we encounter a uniquely unambiguous situation where the double majority of a community decides of its own free will to impose a restriction on itself, that decision must be respected - to undermine it would be to defy the very concepts of both liberty and common sense.

Let me be clear: Hate speech does not merit the same treatment.

Let me also be clear that I am not an unequivocal zealot of free speech. Obviously. But my writings here on AnTyx and elsewhere are personal; I am not affiliated with any political party, and while I do occasionally contribute to the media, I have not gotten paid for it in half a decade. My opinions are purely my own; I would like others to agree, but don't realistically expect it.

In other words, I am not the Council of Europe.

Is it really acceptable for a body that is, in its own words, "composed of independent and impartial members, who are appointed on the basis of their moral authority", to publically advocate and recommend that states adopt legislation that limits free speech, even when it causes no demonstrable harm? Yes, the state's obligation to protect its people from direct harm is unequivocal and trumps all other considerations. Yes, hate speech is probable cause for investigation, even if it's not an inevitable precursor of hate crime (one should never underestimate people's inclination to say extremely dumb shit out loud, and yes, I am well aware of the irony of this statement in blog).

Given all that, can a moral authority really recommend a limitation of free speech?

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Estonians are at their funniest when they take the piss out of themselves. In the words of DJBB, "no other people on this planet quite as proud of all its pain".

Anyway, this is almost as good as Wabariik.


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