Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bank's Advice: Entrepreneurs Must Collude

In an interview with the newspaper "Biznes&Baltija", Andris Miernieks, senior economist at "SEB banka", urges all Latvian entrepreneurs to stop quarreling. "It is the time to stop quarrels and start cooperating," he said. "This can be done through forming clusters or in some other way, like by collusion, by building great big human pyramids, or maybe blindfolding each other and you don’t let the other guy bump into a wall. Cause quarreling gets you nowhere, man,” said Miernieks.
“But, collusion; that's the best method,” he said. “Look at SEB and Swedbank. We've found over time that following each other around in circles is a cost effective way to feign the competence we lack.” Miernieks explained that the bank hires people lacking initiative, and has them follow whatever is being done over at Swedbank. "And Swedbank does the same!" he said cheerily. “See, if other banks are doing the same thing you do, then business people will think whatever it is you’re doing you’re supposed to be doing, cause like the other guy's doing it too, you know? We call it the lemming strategy. It's simple, it's cheap, and it’s worked for us for years," he said. "Well, at least it did until recently."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lithuanian Parliament Warms to Homosexuals

The Lithuanian parliament, in a 58-4 vote, approved amendments to legislation which had sparked criticism from gay rights groups when it was passed in July. The law bars the "public dissemination" of information favorable to homosexuality, claiming it could harm the mental health of minors. The legislation also covered foul language and bad eating habits. The amendments allow advertising on behalf of fashion designers, curtain manufacturers, and 'anyone speaking with an audible lisp,' but stopped short of allowing men who carry purses or tiny rat dogs to publicly express their beliefs, whatever those might be.
Over a lunch of cepelini in rendered fat, with chicken jello and vodka, the MP who authored the original bill, Alvirdas Sigonvicius said, "We are modern Europeans, but homosexuality, foul language, and bad eating habits are destroying our society." Asked if better education and paying closer attention to mother at the dinner table might assuage these problems, he said through a mouthful of food, "No, goddamn it! We've modeled our law on the most forward thinking legislation being carried out internationally, such as in Uganda. They don't like faggots neither," and blew his nose in the linen napkin.

Tiger Woods to Relocate to Estonia

Tiger Woods, the American golf celebrity surrounded in scandal, has announced he will relocate to Estonia. "I want to live in a place where I can walk into a restaurant and the shitty service I get has nothing to do with who I am," the Wall Street Journal quoted Woods. Woods' publicist said the golfer would move to Estonia as early as February, provided the country's immigration authority would issue a residence permit to a black man who is half Thai.
With this move, Woods will join a host of other celebrities living incognito in the northern European country, including Paris Hilton, Madonna, and Canadian John Candy.

Russia's New Year's Invasion

Last year at this time, 10,000 Russian tourists were awaited in Estonia. 15,000 showed up. "Isn't that just like the Russians?" said Feliks Fubar, director of Estonia's 2009/2010 Just Visiting campaign to attract Russian tourists. "You invite one, he brings three friends."
Fubar says his group's slogan is "based on that joke where a Russian tourist entering Estonia leaves a line blank on his entry form and the Estonian border guard asks him 'Occupation?' The Russian replies 'No, just visiting.' We decided to build a campaign on that."
Fubar has received praise internationally for his bold slogan. In addition to winning a Gold Lion at the Cannes Advertising Awards competition, the Kremlin has also praised the Estonians. "Finally, Estonia stopped taking themselves so seriously with that ironic 'Welcome' slogan," said Vladimir Rasribetrov, the Kremlin's communications liaison, "and Russians feel once again at home in Estonia." Rasribetrov said Russians were especially eager to spit sunflower seeds on the cobblestone sidewalks of Tallinn's Old Town and blow their noses in napkins and tablecloths of the city's fine restaurants.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Americans Survive Thanks to Balts

In a nation where everyone's a hero, everyone is also a survivor. According to American newspapers, those who endured heavy snows and loss of electricity in the American state of Rhode Island survived thanks to Estonia and Latvia. In order to cope with the heavy snowfall, the United Nations quickly dispatched Estonian and Latvian military troops to America's east coast.
"This has all been one big geography lesson for me," said survivor Twila Tuttweiler of Providence, Rhode Island. "Did you know there's a country which is the same size as our state?" Estonian Private First Class Jüri Öö showed Tuttweiler which end of the shovel should touch the snow and allowed her to fire his Galil ARM 5.56mm assault rifle into the air, while Latvian troops taught Rhode Islanders the basics of their national sport, Buzkashi.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pope Performs In Front of Thousands

On December 24, 25, 26 and 27, nothing interesting happened in the Baltic states. As a result, as this paper has done for over 300 years, the Livonian Chronicle reports holiday news from the Vatican.
EWTN, The Global Catholic Network, reports that on 24 December, while entering St. Peter's Basilica to celebrate the christmas vigil Mass, the Pope was attacked by a 25 year old Swiss-Italian woman. After a brief interlude on the ground with the woman, the Pope got back onto his feet, to the cheers of the thousands who had gathered in the basilica. The Pope gave no direct comment on the incident, but during his Midnight Mass homily, he spoke, hands raised above his head in victory, and said "today's events prove that God hears the prayers of old men." A spokesman for the Vatican denies rumors that the Pontiff has since taken up smoking.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Santa Wounded in Rescue Effort

An angry and bitter Santa Claus was rescued by NATO quick-response forces in the early hours of Christmas Eve, when troops stormed the kitchen of the Lido restaurant and extracted Claus by force. Shots were fired, and several Lido dishwashers suffered wounds. The kidnappers fled on foot, leaving Santa Claus dazed and blinded from a head wound inflicted by an errant gas grenade.
"I can't see a goddamned thing," Claus said as he was taken from the restaurant in a stretcher, "and I can tell you if I have anything to say no single Latvian child will receive gifts this year." Claus vowed never to return to Latvia and suggested the "goddamned IMF" handle any gift giving in Latvia since they, in Claus' words, "seemed to have buggered the whole thing anyway."
Film footage recorded from international press helicopters showed Latvian police hot on the kidnappers' trail, until they were enticed to enter an Old Town strip club. "They've had a long day," said a spokesman for the city. "It's time to relax and take up the chase another day."

Santa Held Hostage in Lido Restaurant

NATO forces have located Santa Claus in Riga, Latvia, where he has been held at knifepoint for the last eighteen hours and forced to make blood sausage in the kitchen of a Lido restaurant. Police report that Santa is tired but unhurt, and the previous reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. NATO forces have blockaded the restaurant and allowed no holiday customers to enter. "As soon as Lido counts their midday turnover, we're pretty sure they'll release Santa," said Edgars Pukvitis, a police spokesman. "Since the IMF took over Latvia, Lido is about the only business still operating in this entire country."
Whether Lido management was behind the kidnapping, authorities refused to speculate, though they noted they were "generally suspicious of buffet-type operations."

Latvians Kidnap, Murder Santa Claus

In what is being called a follow-up to the "crater coup," Latvians are believed to have kidnapped and murdered Santa Claus in order to gain attention on the world stage. As of noon yesterday, Finnish officials reported Santa missing from his regular post in the northern city of Rovaniemi. A search uncovered a note in Baltic English from kidnappers identifying themselves as Latvian: We take fater Kristmas. Talk about Latvija in world press or we burn down Disneyland next.
Reached by authorities at the cell phone number the kidnappers provided, the Latvians claimed that Santa had been raped, tortured, blinded with a hot poker, and then dispatched with eight grams to the back of the head. NATO quick response teams have been dispatched to Latvia and the search for the King of Christmas is underway.

Santa's True Identity Revealed

He's adored by millions of children worldwide, but Santa Claus been accused of acting in ways that could "damage millions of lives," writes the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Dr Nathan Grills from Australia's Monash University, said Santa's "rotund sedentary image" had the effect of making "obesity synonymous with cheerfulness and joviality" around the world. In a paper published by the British Medical Journal, he also noted that children are encouraged to leave out hard liquor such as Brandy for a man who has a lot of travel to do in one night.
This has gotten the attention of the United Nations(UN), and at the UN General Assembly, delegates have debated Santa’s nationality, in order to pass a resolution for the world to later ignore. During the debate, the Latvian delegate said, “look at the way he drinks; he’s Russian.” The Estonian delegate disagreed. “If he was Russian, his Moskvich sleigh would break down. Then he would drink a lot, eat the reindeer, and fall asleep on a rooftop in Nizhny Novgorod.” The representative from Bangladesh then took the floor and said “Mr. Chairman, just look at the size of him; he is huge. He must be American.” But the UN delegate from Canada disagreed. “He can’t be American, or he wouldn’t be able to find any country outside of the U.S. to deliver toys to - other than London and Paris.” After 3 days of debate, the General Assembly reached accord and passed a resolution stating that Santa is really former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Estonian Hunters Declare Christmas Ceasefire

Estonian Hunters Society will declare a Christmas peace, during which animals will not be hunted, National Broadcasting reports. The ceasefire, lasting from 24-26 December, will be declared by the society’s president Margus Puust, following a tradition started in 1993. During the Christmas peace, hunters wont hunt animals, instead they go to forests with their families and bring the animals food. Tiit Kulmrelv, a hunter from Laane-Virumaa said “it’s a time when we can show our humanity to the animals of our forest. It feels really great, and you can always shoot a few more of them later on to make up for it.” Juhan Pikknuga, the hunter’s society spokesman agreed. “I live in Tartu, and every year on the 24th I go to the city park and feed the ducks. They are cold in the Winter, so I like to bring one or two home to warm up in my oven. God bless us everyone.”

Estonians put off death

Statistics show that the economic decline has not brought an increase in the mortality rate this year Postimees writes. “The total expected number of deaths is 16,140 this year, which is 600 smaller than last year,” said population research Professor Margit Tulika. She said "this is remarkable, since economic declines normally boost mortality rate,”
But according to one professional, Estonians can’t afford to die. "Death is expensive,” said Juhu Surnukeha, director of Laibamagi Funeral Home. Postimees conducted man-on-the-street interviews with Estonians who support this theory. Said Juhu Peaaegu, “I was going to die a month ago, but I just can’t afford it, so I’ve decided to put it off until the economy improves.” Tallinn resident Kairit Kalmistu agreed. “I've been needing to die for years now, but Mayor Savisaar’s death tax makes it impossible for me to do so, cause I don’t 'qualify.' It’s an embarrassment – just look at me,” said the 147 year old woman. “I’m a prune!”

Foul Mouthed Riga Mayor

The Riga City Council's opposition parties said in a joint statement on Monday that they would demand resignation of Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs on December 23. The opposition made the decision after Usakovs used profanities during the December 17 emergency city council meeting. City Council member Viktors Molotovs, in a press briefing said “The Riga City Council demands respect. There is no room in the hallowed halls of Riga’s City Council for the kind of profane language Mayor Usakovs has used.” When asked what words mayor had said that had offended them, Molotovs responded “ ‘transparency,’ ‘ethics,’ ‘responsibility.’ He wouldn’t stop I tell you. I even heard him say ‘pay cut,’ ‘civic pride,’ and ‘prosecution,’ if you’ll excuse my language. Does he kiss his mother with that mouth?”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The End of Latvia?

University of Latvia professor Leons Taivans said in an interview with Latvijas Avize that he "does not believe in the future of Latvia" and that "immigrants, Turks and Chinese, will occupy the country's empty fields." Taivans says the "beginning of the end is already in sight."
Ismet Inönü, reached for comment on the porch of his Latvian manor home, said he thought Taivans concerns were exaggerated. Inönü said the Turks had nothing against the Latvians and would continue to employ them--"such as my manservant Varis who makes excellent gin and tonics"--in some capacity. Inönü said Taivans himself should not worry. "I will personally guarantee that Latvian remains at least a breakfast-table language in this country."
Latvijas Avize conducted man-on-the-street interviews with Latvians who seemed unworried about Taivans' concerns. "Ever been to a Latvian restaurant?" asked Edgars from Riga. "The food is so bland. I welcome the Turks."

Latvia to get World’s Best Library

Transparency International Latvia urges the Ministry of Culture to re-examine the costs for the national library construction project "Gaismas pils". The signed contracts require LVL 135.3 million, which exceeds allocated funding for the project by LVL 18.8 million, not including a line item of LVL 60 million for “miscellaneous expenses”. “We’ve examined the costs, and they’re spot on,” said Ministry of Culture spokesman Janis Krapnieks by phone, from his villa in Costa Brava. “Soon, world's best library will be found in Latvia, and our people should be proud of that fact.” Asked on what basis the Latvian National Library could be judged the world’s best, Krapnieks replied “by cost of course. Ours will be the most expensive, therefore also the best.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

Perfect Unemployment

According to data from Estonia's unemployment insurance fund, there are close to 90,000 registered unemployed in Estonia. "This is 13.2 percent of the employable workforce," said a ministry spokesman who also noted that Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar had pledged to employ 70,000 of them as reisisaatjad [bus attendants, -ed.] on the city's public transportation. The remaining 20,000 will be assigned to clean snow and ice from the walk in front of city hall. "John Maynard Keynes wrote that six percent unemployment was 'perfect,'" the mayor said to cheering crowds. "But I say the man never lived in Estonia." The mayor then encouraged Estonians to be proud of their accomplishments. "The EU says we're number two in alcoholism, but let's work together to show them who's number one in unemployment!"

Safe as Springfield

Lithuania's Ignalina plant with its Fissionator 1952 Slow-Fission Reactor will halt operations on December 31 with no disruption in Baltic energy supply. According to Latvenergo's spokesman Andris Siksnis, Ignalina's plant superintendent Homer Simpson will oversee safe shutdown operations and then be transferred to Estonia where he will supervise oil shale production.
Ignalina representatives have downplayed the possible risks of cooling the reactor noting that "Simpson has more experience than anyone in the country." Recently, a public relations campaign with the slogan Safe as Springfield was launched in Lithuania to reassure the nation's citizens.

Friday, December 18, 2009

SEB and Swedbank decrease staff

In 2009, SEB Estonia decreased its staff by 73 employees writes Postimees Online. “Most of the fall in staff numbers comes from not replacing those who have left,” said the communications director of SEB Estonia Tiit Vohandu. Swedbank, on the other hand, has lost 9000 employees. Swedbank press spokesman Juhan Siilimagi said “I want to say that this wholesale exodus of our entire Baltic staff did not happen because Swedbank is a ‘rotten awful place to work with an inexperienced and brain dead local management team who have been neutered by the Swedes because they have proven unable to manage their way out of a wet paper bag without the guidance of someone who has the unfettered use of a cerebral cortex,” he said, referring to a joint letter signed by 8,920 of the 9000 departing employees.
It’s also not because ‘the bank has taken leave of its senses and turned on its good customers to cannibalize their businesses with punitive fees in a desperate effort of the bank to survive,’” he said in reference to a joint letter signed by 50 of the bank’s largest corporate customers. “And I believe it has nothing to do with the fact that the Swedish government has had to guarantee our corporate debt because we made such a balls up of our Baltic lending business. No,” said Siilimagi, "I think the reason we have lost all our employees is that they are fed up with having to wear those ‘ridiculous orange and blue polyester neckties at work every damn day,’ he said, referring to an email dated today and signed by himself. “Now if you’ll excuse me,” he said, “I’m leaving. Please close the door behind you on your way out.”

Ansip accused Pihl of employing KGB methods

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip responded to the accusations leveled against him by the chairman of Social Democrats Jüri Pihl, stating that they were “repulsive and depressing.” Ansip said “It is sad that a political leader no longer wants to deal with solving the problems facing Estonia and is instead using KGB-like methods to achieve political success.” When asked for specifics, he continued “we had a meeting scheduled. Suddenly, someone slaps a hood over my head, throws me in a van, flies me to a Lithuanian horse farm, beats the bottom of my feet with a horse whip and accuses me of being a pashtuni jihadist,” apparently confusing KGB with CIA methodology. When this correspondent pointed this out to him, Ansip replied “oh yeah. Never mind.”

Latvian World Expo Pavilion Revealed

Remove Formatting from selectionLatvia is the last country to reveal its pavilion for participation at World Expo 2010 that will take place in Shanghai. The company Aerodium who was to build the Latvian pavilion for World Expo 2010, “totally forgot about it until last night,” said Aerodium board member Martins ‘DudzPetersons, “So,” he said, “like overnight we came up with this radical concept, which the Latvian World Expo finance committee totally approved.” Dudz explained the detail of the pavilion, saying “it’s symbolic. It represents what Latvia is today, and where we’re headed. It’s about nature, and solitude. It represents a ritualistic cleansing. More than anything else, it represents our political system, its unity, and the special essence it creates that our society needs in order to grow.” Asked about his opinion of the pavilion, Janis Ozolins, a Vidzeme dairy farmer, said “I think it’s shit.”

Latvia may be in ‘recession’

In a surprise announcement today, Dienas Bizness (DB) concluded that there are signs of a recession in Latvia. DB cites findings of experts, who surmise that the ‘property bubble’ and ‘excessive spending’ may have had a negative effect on the Latvian economy. As a result, Latvia's gross domestic product decreased more than 23 percent this year, and the economy has fallen to the level of 1937. "This means that Latvia is undergoing what we economists call a ‘recession,’" Teodors Mulkigins, a Swedbank economist explains.
“In a ‘recession,’" he said, "your neighbor loses his job, your driver takes a pay cut, and Swedbank gets your Porsche Cayenne. Then, your driver becomes your gardener, your neighbor becomes your driver, and you get his Cayenne. It has to do with macroeconomics, regression analysis and other big words. But thank goodness it's not a 'depression.'" he said. "Because in a 'depression,' you lose your job, your house, and your other house. You move into your uncle’s barn and become his driver. He has a Moskvich. You eat mostly dirt and pig ears, and eventually vote for Andris Skele, who promises to privatize everything he doesn’t already own. You see the difference?” Mulkigins asked, “in a recession, you don’t have to vote for Skele.”

A revolutionary new plan for Estonian Air

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said that the Estonian state does not intend to remain the sole owner of Estonian Air after talks conclude with current partner SAS, but wants to find a strategic investor for the aviation company, National Broadcasting reports.
The state’s aim is to guarantee that Estonia’s flight connections are preserved and the aviation company’s development is guaranteed. He said that the competition at the European aviation market is very tough. “Which is why we’ve come up with an entirely new strategy – that Estonian Air should have a strategic partner,” said Ansip, adding that “our analysts have poured over spreadsheets and business plans for two weeks, and we are confident that our new plan will pave the way to a successful future for Estonian Air.” Asked who that partner might be, a spokesman for the Prime Minister, on the condition of anonymity said “our leading candidate is SAS.”

Lithuanian fish cheese

Lithuanian Seimas MP Haraldis Jonkovicius demands to know why Lithuanian seamen are discriminated against when traveling to the United States. The MP does not understand why Lithuanian seamen are required visas even though Lithuanian tourists enjoy visa free travel to the US. "This causes serious inconvenience and financial costs," said Jonkovicius, “and it’s not fair.” In response, a U.S. Customs official who wished to remain anonymous said “It’s the smell when those fellows come off the boat. Like old cheese, on the wharf. Like fish cheese. Hey, that might play in the old world, but over here in America we believe in processed cheese products. So we make them get visas. And a shower."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Latvia’s Best Export?

For the fifth year, Latvia’s Ministry of Economy has given awards to the most successful exporters in Latvia. The title of “Export Champion 2009” was given to the entire Cabinet of the previous governments of Ivars Godmanis and Aigars Kalvitis. Ministry of Economy State Secretary Janis Sausgravis gave out the awards. An excerpt of his speech follows:
“We doff our hats to the previous governments of Latvia, whose foresight and vision have created our new best export. Today, the export of Latvians is robust, and showing signs of further growth. Like the Ireland of old, we now lead the world in the export of our own citizens. Latvians are leaving in droves; each one a little ‘made-in-Latvia’ export. The Kalvitis and Godmanis governments were accused of being populist, of being amateurish, of suffering from acute East European thick headitis. But no. The truth is that these good men, against the advice of the IMF, the ECB, bank analysts, advisors, investors, economists and their own countrymen, remained single minded in the pursuit of their spendthrift ideals. And because of this, we are today sharing ever more of our Latvians with the wider world. The world is grateful, and so are we.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Balts to Continue Using Upper-case "Y" in You

At this year's Speakee Anglish Eastern European Way Conference (sic) in the Lithuanian resort town of Nida, delegations from all Baltic states agreed to continue capitalizing the "Y" in You, regardless of where the word appears in a sentence. Mariliin Mõttetu, Estonian linguist and her country's Deputy Minister of Education, confirmed that all recognized the practice was "some goofy eastern European thing" but noted that "we're all so used to doing it we just decided to continue."
Other agreements at the conference include the pronunciation of the "L" in "salmon," as well as preservation of the phrase, "We wait you," which was considered essential for Baltic business communication. "Language is a living thing," said Ms. Mõttetu, "and with our help Baltish will survive well into the 21st century."

Savisaar Bests Latvian Prison Scheme

"That is nothing," said Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar when confronted with the news that Riga would be receiving hundreds of Bosnian criminals. "We've just inked a deal to bring 102,000 Avtovaz workers to Tallinn."
Avotvaz, Russia's largest carmaker, is suffering from major mismanagement, and can no longer afford to operate in the city of Tolyatti on the Volga river. Recently, the carmaker reported 7,500 automobiles "missing" from its dealer network. "Tallinn welcomes the Avotvaz workers," Mr. Savisaar said yesterday at a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Tallinn neighborhood of Lasnamäe. While no new apartments will be built to house the workers, Savisaar said the workers would simply move in with "host families" in the Lasnamäe district. "Russians like living sixteen people to a small room," noted Savisaar. "They always want to know who's making soup, who's got a fresh bottle. They're a wonderfully gregarious and social people."
Savisaar said negotiations to construct a car factory were underway, but until that is formalized, all 102,000 workers would be employed as reisisaatjad (bus attendants) on Tallinn public transportation.

Hotel Occupancy Problem Solved

"In one cell block," reported the Financial Times this week, "50 to 60 men share a single wash-basin and four toilets." Bosnia-Herzegovina's prison system is under strain, and it's Latvia to the rescue. "To borrow an airline expression, 'They have asses, we have seats,'" said Riga Mayor Janis Birks of his decision to force hotels in Riga which are operating below 85 percent occupancy to house prison inmates. "The governor of Zenica prison has agreed to pay several lats per night for the housing and feeding of his excess prisoner population." Thousand of criminals walk the streets of Bosnia-Herzegovina, including 420 in Sarajevo alone. "Can you imagine if we could get just half of those?" said Birks. "What a difference it might make for Riga!"
The city plans for the prisoners, when not sleeping and dining in Riga's five-star hotels, to work hand in hand with the tourism police squad. "This will add even more languages to our arsenal and allow the city to help even more of the foreigners who frequent the clubs we patrol," said the squad's spokesman, Arnis Pulvakis. "In Riga, we're all about helping. And who doesn't like to be helped?"

Riga to build new container terminal in Kundzinsala

All obstacles have finally been removed for the construction of a large cargo container terminal in Riga's Kundzinsala, which could increase Latvia's container cargo turnover figures significantly. Asked what the biggest obstacles in this decade long process were, Port Authority spokesman Helmuts Laivins said “large rocks, mostly. I mean some really big ones. And some beer bottles, a scuttled Russian trawler, and 4000 copies of the collected works of V.I. Lenin.” Pressed for a forecast of when construction will begin, Laivins said “Right away. Well, just as soon as we find 200 million Euros. Got any money?”

Clubby EU Slights New Members

In a Monday interview with the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, noted that of 158 European embassies only one is headed by a diplomat from a new member state (the EU's Norway delegation headed by Hungarian Herman Janos). "But there are others," said Ilves, "who also do not chew with their mouths open, who hold the fork in the correct hand, who know that napkins are to be put in the lap, and who wear neither ridiculous designer bling nor the boxy, flammable commie-era suits." Asked whether Eastern Europeans' choice of unshined, pointy-toed shoes and sometimes bizarre brand of English might be barriers to reaching top EU positions, he remarked that Indrek Tarand, one of Estonia's representatives to the EU, had just last week purchased a new pair of black suede shoes.
Contacted by the Livonian Chronicle, EU President Herman Van Rompuy called Ilves' claims "baseless." "Mr. Ilves should know," said Van Rompuy, "that over ninety percent of the cleaning staff working EU buildings is eastern European. I don't know what the president of Estonia is complaining about. Next he'll want to get them all golf memberships at Augusta Country Club."

Climate Talks Diary

The Livonian Chronicle has been attending the climate talks this week, mostly standing in lines waiting for badges and certifications to attend meetings which are going on (and breaking down) without much help from us. Sadly, we've seen no sign of our Baltic colleagues (other than EU rep Indrek Tarand in an airport with a new pair of black suede shoes), though they're here somewhere. We've seen plenty of Americans, however. It's hard to miss them. Actual lines heard uttered at climate talks: American woman to black person: "Are you from Africa? Oh, you're from Sweden! Amazing! But you were born in Africa, right?" Mother to child on Copenhagen street: "No honey, I don't know what that sign says. It's in Swedish. We speak American."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Beyond Turkey Plucking

The chairman of the construction company Re&Re Ainars Paunins said in an interview with Dienas Bizness that Latvian construction has opportunities abroad. Latvia's Building Association president Edgars Lazo confirmed that indeed Latvian-quality construction could find a natural home abroad in markets such as UN refugee camps in sub-Saharan Africa which already use exacting Latvian standards. "The skills of Latvians definitely goes well beyond just plucking turkeys and picking strawberries," said Lazo in a prepared statement. "We can build wooden cages for those turkeys and boxes to transport those strawberries."

Black Must Stand Aside in Estonia

The Estonian Shoe Retailers Association announced plans this morning to sell shoes in colors other than black as soon as 2015. "We have examined the market, and see that there may be room for more diverse offerings, primarily darker shades of brown and cordovan which can stand in for black," said ESRA's spokesman Nils Nahkhiir.

In women's shoes, however, Nahkhiir saw no pause in the considerable demand for high heels. "Fuck-me pumps, as they're known in the industry, are everyday wear for women in Estonia," he said, "and they have sold consistently well regardless of the economy's condition. Nahkhiir added that ethnic Russian women were particularly adept at running long distances wearing heels as high as 30 centimeters.

Freedom Monument Shines, At Last, Kinda Sorta

Estonia's 100-million kroon Freedom Monument, the lighting system which has been broken since shortly after its summer christening, is now working. Sort of. "We've got a soldier at the top with a candle," said the project's champion, Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo, "and he stands a two-hour watch until he's relieved. The flame of freedom does indeed burn in Estonia."

True to the minister's word, there was a faint light visible near the top of the monument, though critics claim to have seen no soldiers. "It's just as likely a city employee is lighting up a spliff," said St. John's church janitor Janno Jumal whose church is located 25 meters from the monument.

Pope Furious with Lithuanian Catholics

"The Lithuanians show zero respect toward Joseph, Mary, and Jesus," said a Holy See spokesman for Pope Benedict XVI. "This kind of portrayal is unforgivable." Old Town Vilnius, which has attracted throngs of tourists by boasting of having the greatest number of nativity scenes in eastern Europe, has created papier-mâché likenesses of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus as if the trio were Mongol horsemen. "Vatican policy clearly states that the three must be crafted with Anglo-Saxon features with eyes never larger than an American 25-cent piece," said the spokesman.
The Vatican has recalled Lithuania's Cardinal and privately confirmed that revocation of Lithuania's Catholic Operating License was under consideration. Lithuania's Ministry of Education has moved quickly to discipline the children involved in the project, calling upon the Pope to excommunicate children and teachers involved.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Husky Murders Nativity-scene Lamb

Catholics reeled in horror as a local Siberian husky fled his dogsled exhibit at the Old Town Vilnius petting zoo and nativity scene and tore into a lamb standing next to Baby Jesus. A local photographer captured the first few frames of the attack (above). Within a fraction of a second the husky had severed the lamb's artery and blood spewed throughout the nativity scene, covering Joseph, Mary, as well as the Baby Jesus. "We had to change outfits there was so much blood," said Arturas Kornkavicius, who played Joseph. Magda Prutaviciene, a veteran player of Mary, called it "traumatic." The crowd was unsympathetic, however, and many cheered as the husky devoured the lamb. "Joseph, Mary, and Jesus do nothing but stand there and get paid for it," remarked witness Mikas Pintalavicius, who added that often the actors observe pickpockets work the crowd but remain quiet and stationery.
Services for the lamb, a member of Local 272 of the Screen Actors Guild, will be held Tuesday morning in Vilnius.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dutch Brothels Seek Slutty Baltic Weather Girls

Estonia's Channel 2 weather girl has attracted the attention in the Dutch sex industry for the provocative outfits she wears on air. A recent outfit (pictured), featured extra-long, striptease gloves and a burlesque show dress. "Does she want to be a weather girl or a sex worker? Because she is very pretty and I can find work for her which pays better than weather," said Joort van Hoevenforskin, a representative of the Amsterdam brothel Moulin Spouge. "She could continue to wear those floozy dresses in my business. Many American guests request the western saloon-girl theme." Van Hoevenforskin thought also that he might develop an act for her where she continues to present the weather. "It is a fact," he noted, "that many Finnish clients are sexually aroused by rain and snow."

Friday, December 11, 2009

ECB threatens to impose new crisis in the Baltics

The Baltic states risk being sucked into a second debt-fuelled crisis if their governments fail to impose austerity measures that support their euro pegs, the European Central Bank (ECB) said. The Baltics suffered a deeper economic slump than the rest of the EU because tight euro pegs led to asset bubbles, the ECB said in a confidential document obtained by ''Bloomberg News''. “But really, we created the last crisis, and we can do it again if we want,” said an ECB spokesman, Jacques van der Fuffle. He explained “we enforced the Maastricht Criteria on those silly Balts, so they use the Euro as a de facto currency, and their central bankers have to sit and watch, cause we control the money supply, not them!" he said, "and the funny part is that the other EU member states completely ignore the Maastrich Criteria, and we do too!”
“Oh, Jean-Claude is a real practical joker,” said van der Fuffle, referring to the ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet. “He and I were sitting around the bar in Brussels pounding lambics the other day and he says to me ‘Jacques, I’m bored. Whaddya say let’s threaten the Balts with another crisis, unless they close a bunch of their bad old Baltic hospitals, fire teachers, lay off cops, cancel unemployment benefits, and jack up taxes.’ And then I said ‘wait, and stop paying pensioners!’ Boy did he laugh at that.” Asked if fiscal discipline should be a primary goal of any member state, van der Fuffle replied “Hell no! This is the EU you’re talking about. You know the average deficit among the EU member states today is 6.9%, and here we are bellowing at the Balts. And they don’t even get it! Don’t those people read the papers? I love this job. Want a beer?” he asked.

Tallinn's Unemployment Tax

The growth of number of new jobless continued in Estonia in November reaching 84,178, or 12.8% of workforce Postimees Online reports. According to Liina Laisk, spokesperson for Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar, this is good news. “This will boost the city’s revenue, thanks to the new unemployment tax Mayor Savisaar has imposed,” she said. “Now every one of those layabouts will now have to pay the city for their time on the dole.”
Responding to accusations cold hearted taxation, Laisk said “Cold hearted? That’s nothing. We’re taxing baby food, babies, mothers, breast milk, and smiles,” she said with a straight face. “This is merely the last in a line of new taxes. Under Mayor Savisaar, Tallinn city’s new policy is ‘if it moves, tax it.’ But we have made an exception for the unemployed. Our tax will reach them right where they lay parked on the couch.”

Estonians Grieve: No Mention of Them in Nobel Speech

Obama disappointed slightly under 1.5 million people yesterday when he failed to mention the Republic of Estonia in his speech. Afghanistan, Somalia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Dhaka and Kigali were mentioned, but not Estonia, though research showed many viewers believed Dhaka and Kigali to be Estonian resort towns.
"They took all the lines out about Estonia!" said Jaan Jelp, who had gathered outside the American embassy to protest the speech revisions. "Obama was going to mention us!" A copy of Obama's Nobel acceptance speech which was leaked to the press yesterday, clearly showed Obama's plans to mention the small country of 1.3 million people.
A spokesman for Estonia's Ministry of Culture said thought Estonia should develop its own prize to compete with the Nobel, but reserve it for eastern Europeans only. "That way we'd win something other than a music prize now and again," he snipped. American Ambassador to Estonia, Michael ("call me Mihkel") Polt, suggested Estonians should not be bent out of shape by Obama not mentioning them. "You will have your day in the sun," Polt said in a formal statement. "Although I haven't seen it in the sky since my arrival last week."

Millionth Estonian Publishes Personal Memoir

"How can I explain it? We like to read!" said Estonian Writers' Union president Peeter Pastakas. This week, Estonia celebrated the millionth personal memoir published this year. The author: 12-year-old Marta Moosinägu published her book, Marta 1-12. "Marta's book is a breakthrough," announced Pastakas to a roomful of fans and journalists. "She has truly broken new ground with her shocking descriptions of being forced to eat vegetables she dislikes. I'd say this book is as good or better than the 999,999 books written this year, and those were authored by celebrities!" Moosinägu next plans appearances on all of Estonia's 427 reality television shows.
Moosinägu is already at work on her next book, which she says will be released on her thirteenth birthday. "Girls from other countries dream of ponies," she said. "Estonian girls dream of writing books and touring in bad rock bands popular in Japan and Germany."

Buy Baltic. Why?

Baltic governments are scrambling in these times of crisis to get consumers to buy local. But why should they, other from some abiding sense or patriotism? We wondered and stuck our crack team of investigative reporters on the job.
The cloudberry jam on the left is Estonian, and it's priced at 0.2 EEK per gram. The cloudberry jam on the right is Finnish, and it's priced at 0.16 EEK per gram. Hmm, thought we, and so put the question to Estonia's tarbijakaitseamet, the would-be Ralph Naders of Estonia. They confirmed that, indeed, our math is correct: the Finnish jam is less expensive, even though it comes from farther away. Same with Finnish chocolate. Same with Finnish...
"It's not dumping so don't you say it is," said Pekka Kuoppakehtilimpi, Executive Director of Finland Forever, the quasi-government institution charged with marketing Finnish products abroad. "The Estonians are just plain screwing their own countrymen. It's their modus operandi and should surprise no one." Kuoppakehtilimpi, who noted that his name has never once been correctly spelled by a foreign journalist, said that Estonians must "get used to the fact that Finland is good and Estonia is bad. It's really that simple," he said, stuffing his fat face with a handful of Finnish-made marzipan treats.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Obama to Mention Estonia in Nobel Speech

An advance copy of Obama's Nobel acceptance speech has been leaked and journalists around the world shocked by its contents. Much of the speech focuses on Estonia. "Estonia is a small country," reads the text, "but it is technologically advanced and the creator of Skype." Aides say Obama has been heavily influenced by tourism brochures about Estonia which he keeps by his bedside. He apparently has already spoken with First Lady Michelle about the possibility of educating his daughters there. "Today, as I accept this award, Estonia--which is only an overnight ferry ride from Stockholm--is on my mind with its 1.3 mobile phones per capita and unspoiled nature," reads another passage from Obama's speech.
Aides said now that the speech had been leaked it would likely be changed before delivery to the his Norwegian audience. Whether the Estonia-related passages would remain aides could not say.

Vote for me. Eat Well.

The daily Dienas Bizness has analyzed performance of Latvia's largest agricultural enterprises, such as Sabiedriba Marupe and Agrofirma Tervete. Altogether, Latvia's 100 largest agricultural enterprises did LVL 146.27 million turnover in 2008. By remarkable coincidence, every one of the 100 largest agricultural businesses belong to Andris Skele, Latvia’s former Minister of Agriculture, to his wife, daughter, son, dentist, or the family dog Rexs. Spokesmen for all of the 100 top agricultural businesses were unavailable for comment. But asked for a brief comment, Skele himself said “What I did for Latvian agriculture, I will do for the entire economy in this great country. Turn me loose and watch me work.”

Medvedev Makes Nice

Relations between Russia and the Baltic states must "step over their previous ideological stereotypes, which were created before us," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said at the Europe-Asia media forum in Moscow on Wednesday. "I would like for relations between the Baltic states and Russia to improve. There was a golden era of relations we must struggle to return to,” he said. “We were in harmony you and us, moving towards the future, hand in hand. And I pledge to you that I will do all in my power to see to it that we return to that peaceful era before 1990, when we enjoyed mutual respect, prosperity, and you knew when to shut up and do as you’re told. And our foot was on your neck. Yes.”

Norway UFO a Latvian Hoax

NBC News ran video footage of a strange, spiraling pinwheel-like object in the sky, which has captivated the world since its appearance. Some speculated it is CIA technology deployed in relation to Barack Obama's Oslo visit to receive the Nobel Prize. Further investigation revealed the pinwheel to be part two of a Latvian hoax. "First they dug the crater," said Oslo police spokesman Thor Torstenfœøörgen, "and now this." Two Latvian men were discovered behind a onion truck with a powerful flashlight, its beam projected skyward through an empty vodka bottle. "Well," slurred Latvian Ainars Lazo, "you can't project these things through a full vodka bottle, can you?"

EU President hopes Estonia gets the euro, and quick

European Council president Herman Van Rompelstiltskin said that he hopes that Estonia can join the euro area as soon as possible, National Broadcasting reports. “The whole of Europe was impressed by Estonia’s economic growth in the preceding years and I am too,” Rompelstiltskin said at a press conference in Tallinn on Wednesday. “And the sooner we are rid of the fiddly Estonian kroon the better. The metal coins aren’t metal, and the notes are littered with scowling people with bad hair. On the 2 EEK note Karl Ernst von Baer looks at me like I just fell out of a dog’s bottom. I burn those whenever I find them. It’s frightening I tell you.”

Baltic Kremlinologists Analyze Medvedev

Immediately, following Medvedev's Moscow speech about improved Baltic relations, the Baltic states engaged their kremlinologists to determine the meaning behind Medvedev's words.
"He was careful to use the word 'paper,'" noted Latvian analyst Aldis Arbeit. "If you take away one 'P' then paper is an anagram for 'rape'." Estonian analysts were particularly interested in Medvedev's choice of media. "I observed that he did not use Skype," said analyst Jaak Juust. "I must think more about the greater significance of not using e-communication." Lithuanians, their airlines bankrupt at the moment, were not present for the Moscow meeting.

Just Don't Get No Respect

Ott Licht would like just a modicum of respect. The chairman of the brewery Viru Õlu isn't happy about PM Andrus Ansip saying Estonia has only one brewery (not his) and President Ilves saying Latvian ice cream tasted better than Estonian ice cream. A column by Meelis Kubits in the weekly Eesti Ekspress recently explored the issue of the Estonian government's distaste for businessmen.
At last year's independence day presidential reception, businessmen were not seated in the main ballroom but were assigned to an anteroom next to the lavatory with a TV brought in for them to view the festivities. Instead of catered food, they were served Estonian Air coach-class meals in blue plastic boxes and charged for their drinks.

Velcro Airline Announces Expansion

"Air carriers announce news," wrote Baltic Standby News to break the story that Lithuania's Star1 Airlines [the Velcro People™] will increase flights to London. The velcro flights have proved so popular that the airline's regular passengers have purchased their own colorful velcro suits. "Many are tired of basic velcro black," noted Star1 Communications Manager Ausra Tursiene, "so these frequent fliers had their own suits made in brighter tones like blaze and periwinkle." Tursiene said Star1 rigorously checks all custom suits of their passengers to ensure they meet EU safety requirements. "After all, we're the Velcro People-trademark pending!" added Tursiene.

Baltic Standby's Čas Goes Deep Undercover

Born the fifth child of Norwegian bakers, Latvian tourism squad leader Eliots Ness, carried out his first raid yesterday. Along for the ride was Čas of Baltic Standby News. Eliots's squad visited six bars and nightclubs, according to Čas, "collecting a decent amount of various breaches and misdemeanours."
"Only the best municipality police persons can candidate for the tourism police post," wrote Čas, "and one of the preconditions is a good command of a foreign language."
Candidating for Latvia's police may be only elite few police persons with command foreign languages, but if your English isn't up to that, the Baltic Standby New may have a career waiting for you. Begin your life as an intrepid journalist here: Operators are standing by.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Medal Rental Business Booms

Ordenirent's showroom has everything from medals to swords
"This time of year is a real crunch," says Ordenirent OÜ manager Kristi Sepp. "There are lots of parties and diplomatic functions and everyone wants to wear something shiny." Contrary to popular belief, says Sepp, most of the state decorations worn with white tie and tails are rented not owned. And politicians often disagree over who gets to wear what. "Last year Ainars Slesers and Edgar Savisaar both wanted blue medals, but we'd already rented those to the staff of the German embassy. The politicians demanded I cancel the German's order, and I had to tell them we just don't work that way."
Swords are also growing in popularity according to Sepp. "All the top ministers are wearing them." Sepp says new for this year's state reception season are eye patches and stick-on dueling scars. "The Estonians, in particular, go for stick-on scars," Sepp said. "The Latvians' black eyes and swollen, cut-up faces are usually real, though."
Advertisement: Medals available from Ramirent, too. Call 6501050. Knighthoods available while supplies last.

Star1 Airlines adds flights without aircraft

Vilnius: Despite having no planes, Lithuanian Star1 Airlines will soon operate five flights to London a week. "London is one of the most important destinations for the Lithuanian business community," says Star1 Airlines Communications Manager Ausra Tursiene. Asked how flights could be added without aircraft, Tursiene explained “When it's dark, we sneak out and cover the exterior of another company's plane with Velcro. Then we distribute insulated Velcro suits to all our fee paying passengers, and they just ‘climb aboard.’ “ According to Tursiene, this is both ethical and environmentally friendly. “We have zero emissions on our Velcro flights, although we’ve had to discontinue in flight drinks service,” she admits. The company’s slogan has been changed to “Stick With Us.”

Opera's Debt Prompts Amateur Hour, Strip Club

The Cabinet of Ministers has alloted an additional LVL 500,000 to cover the tax debt of the Latvian National Opera but the LNO is still in trouble. "We have reduced the number of employees from 600 to 500 already," said Director Andrejs Zagars, "and that included my uncle Rauls on the curtain and cousin Edgars in the prompter's box. It's close to chaos."
To cope with increased costs and lower ticket sales, the LNO will use amateur talent for all winter performances. "If you've ever thought you wanted to sing opera," said Zagars, "please come to the south stage door." According to Zagars there is a Paul Potts or Susan Boyle on every corner in Latvia, "though they've all got an extra 'S' tacked on their names here of course." Recently, the Cabinet of Ministers began negotiations to turn the opera house into a strip club operated by Pamela Anderson's Lapland Group.

Applebaum Car Saga Continues: Buy or rent?

Applebaum's '91 Opel before the fire. She called it the "A-baum."
Anne Applebaum has set the record straight on her blog that her car did not explode. Postimees, among others, reported earlier this week that Applebaum's car had blown up.
In an exclusive interview with the Livonian Chronicle, however, she lamented the loss of her 1991 Opel--"it was like family and twice as articulate as many journalists I've known"--and debated whether to rent or buy. "European leasing contracts are appealing," she admitted, "but I think the market will go south for a while longer." She added that even for a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, credit is not easy to get in Eastern Europe.
Applebaum refused to comment as to whether she'd forgotten to put oil in the car on a regular basis. "It's an Opel," was all she would say. "You put gas in them, they run."

Tiger Woods Scandal Erupts in Estonia

As women around the world step forward claiming to have had affairs with Tiger Woods, Estonia is no different. "I slept with him dozens times when he played golf in Estonia," said local tabloid star and self-acclaimed sex bomb and dictionary author Anu Saagpakk. "We did it twice in the back of his Cadillac Escalade."
As of ten a.m. local time, dozens of women were lined up outside the headquarters of the sleaze tabloid Kroonika. "I want to be a star, too," cried a young woman who claimed to have slept with Tiger over "three-hundred-and-fifty times over two weeks in Florida." Maarja Maitsetu, deputy editor, finally chose to ask those who had not slept with Tiger under two dozen times to remove themselves from the line. "We've contacted the US Embassy for help with this problem," said Maitsetu, "since about half of these women claim to be pregnant with his baby." Representatives from Estonia's Channel 2 were on hand to interview the women, hoping to put together a new reality show to run opposite The Bold and the Beautiful. "We're thinking of calling it 'Tigergasm,'" said a Channel 2 spokesman, though we're still open to new ideas.
Woods himself issued an apology on his website: "I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions [in Estonia] with all of my heart."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Savisaar Orders Christmas Tax

City inspectors in trucks will be making the rounds December 24th to enforce the mayor's edict that every second gift under the tree must go to the state. "I know it's tough," said Deputy Mayor Viktor Varas, "but it's the only way we can ensure city employees have a good Christmas."
Inspectors have been undergoing training for the past weeks where they learned how to spot gifts hidden elsewhere in the home. "Sometimes you'll see something nice in a home that's unwrapped," said Senior Inspector Mihkel Mats. "That object is very likely a gift and so we confiscate that, too." A favorite among inspectors are iPhones and iPods. "The best place to get those is from kids on the bus," said Mats. "They'll claim it wasn't a gift, and I just tell them, 'Hey, I'm only taking every second one I see.' Sometimes that works to calm them down. Estonians are very respectful of law and order." City officials said any surplus of gifts or any objects not wanted by members of the government would be sold at Kadaka market with the proceeds donated to fund Tallinn 2011.

Invest in Latvia?

Coca-Cola, the global soft drinks producer, will not build a factory in Latvia, according to Atis Ezis, director of the Latvian Investment Agency, who met with the company's representatives today. “This is good news for Latvia,” said Ezis. “We have worked hard to get here, and with this announcement, Coca Cola joins a stellar roster of companies like IBM, BMW, Boeing, Hyundai and France Telekom, who are also not building factories in Latvia,” he said. “And the list goes on. It shows that these global giants all have Latvia in common. And that they are concerned for protecting Latvia’s environment.”
According to Ezis, there are similar efforts underway in other industries as well. “Nuclear power, for example,” he said “is another industry where we have closely coordinated our efforts with the Latvian government to ensure that we do not get any investment into safe independent energy for the future. No, it’s better to place ourselves in the good and trusting hands of our friends in Russia, who will send us gas, and cross their heart and promise to never ever ever switch the supply off.”

Was that you?

Itera Lavija spokesman Peteris Stolnaya said in an interview with Delovoi Telegraf that the shutdown of the Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithuania will not have a radical effect on the Latvian energy. “Unless of course, it does,” he said. “Cause you can’t trust the Lithuanians. I mean, they’re not rock solid like the Russians. Lord knows I have a backup generator at my house. Plus, I have gas,” he said, excusing himself.

Janis, Juhu & Mordechai

The most recent in a wave of Baltic law firm consolidations, the commercial law firms "Janis Janis un Janis" of Latvia, “Smailinkavacuousnus, Dagnabbitus ir Panaveziskuskus” of Lithuania, and "Juhu, Joodik ja Patt" of Estonia have merged their businesses as of December 7, 2009, and will continue their operation under the unified name of “Klein, Finkelstein & Goldberg.” A spokesman for the group, Janis Janissons previously of Janis Janis un Janis, said “we think it sounds better.” Asked if the lawyers were trying to change identity, Janis said “identity schmi-dentity, absolutely not. Call me Levi.”

Tallinn 2011 Reduced to Facebook Page

Eesti Päevaleht has reported that Tallinn Culture Capital 2011's one-time 100-million-kroon budget has been reduced by the city and state to 30 million kroons (approximately 27 USD). "But we can start a Facebook group for that much," said Mayor Edgar Savisaar as he announced the cuts.
2011 officials have been scrambling to obtain financing from other sources, including between the sofa cushions in their Pärnu mnt office. Other possible sources include shaking down the 80-year-old beggar in the nearby McDonald's, as well as possible one-time gifts from strippers and prostitutes who better understand the need to take advantage of Tallinn's European Cultural Capital designation in 2011.

Selver's Latvian Konserv

Estonian supermarket operator "A-Selver" has closed its stores in Latvia and conserved them so that they can be re-opened when economic situation improves, "A-Selver" council member Toivo Juhul told "Aripaev". He said “We did this by boiling them in a sugar syrup, adding bay leaf, cloves, then placing them in sterilized jars with air tight lids.” Juhul allowed that the conserved stores have been transferred to his grandmother’s potato cellar near Kilingi-Nomme. “These stores have a long shelf life, so we will keep them until the market turns around, or until my grandmother’s 80th birthday,” he said, adding that “she really loves Latvia and is excited about her jubilee. So if the market hasn’t come back, we'll just serve them to her friends with lamprey and vodka.”

New Ambassador Friend of Barbecue

Seasoned diplomat and new American Ambassador to Estonia Michael C. Polt arrived yesterday at Estonia's Lennart Meri airport but will not present his credentials to Estonia's president until Thursday. "This means I've got only two days to try out every barbecue joint you've got in this town," said the Tennessee native in lightly-accented Estonian. "Once they're official, I'm told diplomats in Estonia only eat stuff on toothpicks from Frens Catering." Switching to English, the ambassador exhaled heavily and noted he was "one whoop-diggity-dog friend of barbecue."
A graduate of the Buford T. Pusser School of Diplomacy at the University of Tennessee, the American State Department has denied rumors circulated in the Estonian press that Polt is the illegitimate brother of Albert Gore, Jr., though the men are close friends and still play together in the Tennessee All Banjo Orchestra. In his spare time, Ambassador Polt enjoys building flintlock rifles from kits and trapping beaver and mink in small streams.

Freedom Monument Powered by 60W Bulb

Estonia's controversial 10-million euro Freedom Monument, whose lights have failed it since its constructions, will now finally burn bright. "We have found the funds to replace the 60-watt bulb," said Peeter Parandus, the City of Tallinn's full-time handy man. "When Mayor Savisaar arrived for work this morning in his black Mercedes saloon, he handed the bulb to me himself." Parandus immediately rented a crane and ascended the structure (see photo). "This bulb," he shouted from above, "was in Edgar's bathroom just this morning. It's his personal bulb!" A Centre Party press release later echoed Parandus' sentiments about the personal sacrifices of city leaders in this time of financial difficulties. A press conference followed at Gloria Restaurant.

Estonian Air Goes Platinum

The International Air Transport Association has awarded Estonian Air with Platinum-Airline status. "The Estonians have replaced the magnetic-card boarding pass reader with a bar-coded reader," said an IATA spokesman. Whether this means the airline is now connected to European passenger booking systems the spokesman could not say but noted that "a bar code reader is still better than a sharp stick in the eye."
To celebrate the new bar code reader's arrival, Estonian Air will sell its famous lukewarm inflight tea for only 3 EUR per cup during the month of December.

Lithuanians Take Strong Stance, and the Soap

“The clock has ticked down to zero,” said the UN's climate chief, Yvo de Boer. “After two years of negotiation, the time has come to deliver.”
The Lithuanians, led by Gintaras Polutaloticius, looked around for a clock. "Whatever de Boer is talking about, nuclear energy is green, and the Lithuanians can be fully trusted with the construction and management of a nuclear facility where if something went wrong half the world would be destroyed," Polutaloticius said through an interpreter. Other members of the delegation could be seen filling large plastic bags with swag from the fair, including refrigerator magnets, computer memory sticks, and logoed Post-it notes. "We've already got the hotel soap," said a delegation member. "So there's nothing left for the Latvians there."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Estonia Welcomes Handicapped

"'Welcome to Estonia' is our slogan," says the City of Tallinn spokeswoman Sirje Sõber, "and that goes for the crippled, too." The City of Tallinn under the leadership of Mayor Edgar Savisaar recently vowed to make the entire city handicapped accessible and have placed wheelchair ramps (see photo) on many staircases in the city. "This is a bold step," said Sõber, "and it just shows Estonians do not discriminate. To us, gimps' money is as good as any other kind."

Car Bombs and Expats

The Estonian daily Postimees reported yesterday that American author and journalist Anne Applebaum, driving in a Warsaw suburb, heard a strange noise in her car, pulled over, got out, and then her car exploded. Whether it was real Hollywood-caliber explosion which threw the journalist to the ground in dramatic fashion, or whether it was a more garden-variety explosion which starts with smoking and burning, the daily did not report. The LC has been unable to corroborate the story with any western news source.
Ironically, Applebaum recently published a story in the American magazine Slate where she compared London and Lebanese car bombs. Postimees readers immediately drew comparisons to Anna Politkovkaya in the comments section, though most remarked simply about the similarity of the two writers' first names.
Reached for comment, Polish auto mechanic Lech Kaczyński, was skeptical. "Who knows if it was really a bomb," Kaczyński said, reaching for a pouch of chewing tobacco. "Maybe she just forgot to put oil in and the thing overheated." For fast-breaking coverage of the incident, stay tuned to the automotive section of LC.

Update: Postimees, and others, victims of selves. Nope, her car did not blow up. Get the story from Applebaum herself here.

Belarusian-Baltic Pact Signed

Lithuanian Agriculture Minister Kazimieras Starkevicius announced a new platform for cooperation between farmers of the Baltic states and Belarus. "We will all win through cooperation," Starkevicius declared to the press and handed out lapel buttons and logoed balloons and tshirts with the text. "This is our slogan and we are proud of it. We spent three days together behind closed doors developing it."
Cooperation agreements signed by representatives of the three Baltic states and Belarus call for one full year of tshirt distribution followed by a second meeting next year in Jurmala where dairy products would be shown by the Belarusian delegation who have traveled with them in their warm suitcases by bus for the ten-hour journey plus the twelve hours spent on the Belarusian side of the border in passport- and customs lines.

Live Rigans Queue for Membership

Live Riga, Riga's new branding effort sponsored by the Riga Tourism and Development Office, has invited hotels, restaurants, and any organization who wants to lure tourists to join their partnership. Establishments where visitors have been repeatedly cheated are not eligible for membership, noted officials. Currently, AirBaltic is the only organization whose membership application has been approved. The membership applications of Queen Victoria's House of Modesty, the Booby Trap, JustExpenseIt, and the Moulin Spouge are all still awaiting a vote.

Handicapped Riga

Riga Vice-Mayor Ainars Slesers has expressed interest in building a cruise terminal on Kipsala island near Riga's city centre and has addressed his critics who were skeptical that an overweight American cruiser would be able to walk from Kipsala to the city center and return to his ship during the three to four hours the cruisers are usually given in port. "According to the city's plan, the entire island will become handicapped accessible," said Slesers, who speculated it might be the first truly handicapped-friendly development in all of Eastern Europe.
Plans include wheelchair ramps, heated sidewalks, lower countertops, and an amusement park where all rides can accommodate wheelchairs. Also, a smaller version of Old Town will be built from papier machet and cardboard (but complete with stripclubs) so that handicapped visitors can experience the wonders of Riga without leaving Kipsala.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pork Barrel Populism: LC's Weekend Magazine

What's the best job in Tallinn, Estonia? The reisisaatja, or bus attendant. And the best thing about it is you get a seat even when the bus is full. That's him in the bright yellow vest, seated while the two young ladies behind him stand. This reisisaatja wasn't chewing gum or listening to an iPod, though those are two clues to help you easily spot one.
The reisisaatja is a product of Mayor Edgar Savisaar and his Centre Party's new "social work" program: jobs for those who need them. Requirements for the reisisaatja? Stand around. Not stand around and look busy. Just stand around. They don't do conductors' work. They don't deal with indigents who've soiled their pants. They don't take beer away from the partiers in the rear of the bus. They do, however, sometimes lift a stroller into the bus.
In fairness to this reisisaatja, he eventually did stand up and give his seat to some passengers, though perhaps that was because your conspicuous correspondent had already taken a half dozen photos.
If you're hot on the trail of a new career, consider an opportunity as a Tallinn reisisaatja. It's just one email away. Write His email lines are now open. He's waiting to hear from you.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bank Robbery

"Latvian and Lithuanian lenders have the highest need for new capital in eastern and central Europe because they rely on collateral that has fallen in value amid house price declines," said Fitch Ratings in a recent e-mailed report. Peteris Stulbins, spokesman for Swedbank agrees. “Most banks re-capitalize by issuing new shares or debt. Because Baltic banks can’t do this, the next best alternatives are usurious interest rates and punitive fees for the banks’ good customers,” he said brightly.
“Times are tough. Good customers must be forced to share the pain felt by their banks,” said Stulbins. “You know, our ludicrous lending policies, talent-free staff, and effective insolvency are beside the point. Because banks are part of the social fabric of this great society,” Stulbins continued. “So it’s our customers’ job to support the bank. These are tough times, and we have to pull together, for the common good of our bank. This is the EU, after all.”

Jews to Lithuania?

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry will lead a group of local businessmen to Israel to seek business opportunities. According to Israel's Ambassador to Lithuania, Lithuania has done little to exploit the fact that many Jews would visit Lithuania to discover their roots.
The ambassador's ploy was dismissed immediately as a Zionist plot to lure goyim to the Holy Land to exact revenge for thousands of years of mistreatment at the hands of Lithuanians. "Does he think we're total schmucks?" asked Gintaras Attitudicius. "Does he think we don't know our own history?" Attitudicius suggested the ambassador himself go there and bring the tourists to Lithuania. "But I'm not going," he said. "Too damned hot there. So much schvitzing."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Security breach at Latvian State Television

There have been significant breaches of security at the Latvian State Radio and Television Center (LVRTC). “Someone is adding content without permission," said Voldemars Gravins, director of Latvian State Television. Last Tuesday pirate broadcasts of educational programming, non violent drama, and an independent investigative news show have replaced re-runs of the ‘A-Team’, a kafejnica based reality show called ‘Eat Me,’ and hour-long interviews with Vidzeme housewives about floral patterned housecoats.
“We won’t stand for it,” said Gravins angrily. “These pirates have no right to replace our programming. I myself selected the 3rd season of the A-Team for broadcast especially because Mr. T really hits stride with his character ‘dump truck.’" He continued, “And increased viewership and ratings means nothing. We're defending our culture!" he said. "God forbid that ‘Baywatch’ disappears.”

Estonia troop levels to remain stable in Afghanistan

Chairman of the Riigikogu Committee on National Defense Sten Aastelepp said that President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan will not result in Estonia adding extra troops there, although some capabilities could be enhanced, writes EPL Online. Said Aastelepp, “Our light infantry camouflaged waiter brigade and mechanized sommeliers are recognized as the best in the theater. But we can get even better.”
"For example," he said, “We can boost morale of the NATO troops with the addition of anti-Taliban flair for our wait staff. And we will sling cheeseburgers even faster than we already do by using roller skates,” he added. Asked why he does not expect an increase in troop levels, Aastelepp replied “there’s only one canteen in Helmand Province, and our brigade of 7 camouflaged waiters has that covered. It’s not like we’re going to suddenly start serving the enemy, he added, proudly displaying a handwritten sign saying 'Taliban no served here.’ "

All EU member states are equal. Some more than others.

The President-elect of the European Council Herman Van Rompelstiltskin said during a brief working visit to Latvia on Wednesday that his attitude toward all 27 member states would be equal, the member states would not be divided into "small, large, bankrupt, Communist, or 'in desperate need of a bath.'"
During the visit to Riga, Van Rompelstiltskin had lunch with Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis at Vincents, during which he delivered a large satchel of cash, and a stern lecture on the proper use of the salad fork when spreading tapenade on a baguette.

Vilnius Ranked in Ten Cheapest

A British PriceRunner survey has crowned Oslo the most expensive city in the world and listed Vilnius among the world's ten least expensive cities. The survey compared prices of cigarettes, tabloids, Big Macs, eau de cologne sold from kiosks, hair dye, stiletto heels, illicit handguns, crack cocaine, blowjobs from hookers working in premium hotels, and kefir.
"We are proud to be cheap," said Vilnius city spokesman Gintaras Chivaloticius. "We've known all along we were cheap, and now we're pleased that the world has recognized it." Asked whether cheap was a sustainable argument for building tourism in the region, Chuvaloticius replied: "Cheap isn't just about price you know. I believe the tourists who visit Lithuania understand the subtleties of the word."

Funding Angrier Babushkas

Rigas Satiksme, the Riga municipal public transport company, is seeking permission from the city to increase public transport fares 20 cents to LVL 0.60. Transport officials say the funds will go to seek out even bigger, angrier conductors with sour dispositions to ride busses, trolleys and trams collecting fares from passengers who would not otherwise pay. The city also briefly considered thinner conductors paired with attack German Shepherds, but pilot tests found this tactic merely served to sexually arouse riders who were regular viewers of James Bond films.

Ugly Stewardesses Lose Union Backing

Reacting to Finnair's decision to subcontract a greater portion of jobs, employees struck on December 1st. Finnair reportedly canceled 17 flights on Tuesday due to the strike.
The Finnish brand of cradle-to-grave socialism has suffered setbacks, including the replacement of Silja Line workers with Estonians. Later, the Estonians were quietly replaced with chimpanzees. "We're not just striking for Finns," said union spokesman Pekka Pokkalainen concerning Tuesday's strike, "we're striking for all of mankind, and for chimps, too." Pokkalainen says chimpanzees are only a first step. "Soon somebody's teenage kid will pilot the plane from his iPhone while having sex with someone else's teenage daughter on dirty bedsheets somewhere in Helsinki." Pokkalainen said all Finnair workers' jobs must be secure, "except for ugly stewardesses, of course," he clarified.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chinese Buy BBN

After a fierce bidding battle, a Chinese media consortium has wrested control of BBN away from Bonnier. "I know this sounds weird since Bonnier already owns it and you'd think they wouldn't have to sell if they didn't want to," said consortium spokesman Chow Yun Fat (no relation to the actor). "But Estonians can be really independently minded people, and the Chinese offer was very appealing."
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Bonnier source said the Swedish media concern will receive 1,000 yuan--100 yuans per BBN reader. "Our accounting department is still looking into this," said the source, "but we believe it may be a fairly large sum."
"Pay no attention to this stupidity," said Bonnier rep Sven Svensson when reached in Sweden. "This is merely a juvenile trick on the part of some crappy internet publication trying to hitch its wagon to our star." The Livonian Chronicle publisher could not be reached for comment, her email generating the following autoreply: In negotiations with the Chinese. I will reply to your message as soon as possible.

Naughty Knickers Suffer Blow

The city of Tallinn, struggling to make up a gap in its seven billion kroon budget for 2010, will institute a host of new taxes next year. In addition to its existing 20% VAT, it will add sales tax, a boat tax, a pet tax, plus a 800% tax on Latvian chocolate. "We will no longer tolerate the fact that Laima makes a chocolate bar called Tallinn which sells in our stores for far less than our own Kalev chocolate," said city spokesman Jarko Järepea. "We will no longer tolerate that Latvian chocolate is sold on our very own Tallink boats while Estonian chocolate is not." In another slap against the Latvians, Järepea said the naughty knickers products of Lauma would be taxed at a similar rate. "Let Estonian women buy their underwear at Kadaka Market," he said, "or let them wear nothing at all."

Latvia's Budget Bingo

Latvia's parliament has passed its 2010 budget with expectations of an LVL 20 million deficit next year. This year's deficit has reached LVL 57 million, though it was originally forecast at LVL 47 million. Several thousand people gathered at the Saeima building yesterday morning to protest, including 5,000 students.
"Fifty-seven million is no big deal," said Saeima spokesman Igors Shostakovich addressing the crowd through a bullhorn. "Just look at the mess the United States is in." Shostakovich suggested that if things really worsened, Latvia could be sold in its entirety to the Chinese. "They're sniffing around here, anyway," he said to calm the crowd. "Think of all we'd get! Cheap cars, cheap clothing, and nobody would ever criticize us again for polluting the crap out of our country." Shostakovich attempted to lead the students in a "the EU is overrated" chant, but the majority of them were distracted by their personal communication devices.

Whiz with Wizz

The Hungarian carrier Wizz Air, which markets itself as the biggest no-frills airline in Central Europe, plans to add routes to Riga. "We are aware that Wizz is slang for urination," said a Wizz spokesman, "so we feel it is especially apropos for us to carry tourists to and from Riga, which is known throughout the industry as the urination destination."
A journalist in the back of the room asked for the meaning of "apropos," and the spokesman conceded she had just learned the word through's Word of the Day program and had been dying to use it in public.

Live Riga?

Yesterday, nineteen Latvian representatives met with 60 Moscow tourism officials, journalists, and freeloaders after free cocktails and finger foods to launch the Live Riga campaign. The campaign urges Russians to spend their Christmas and New Year's Eve holidays in Riga.
"So is it 'Live Riga' like in 'Don't let it die'?" asked Sergei Matveyev, chief of the Russian tourism delegation. "Or does it mean 'a happening place'? And if that's the case, why isn't it 'Riga Live' or something to do with 'Alive'?" Others wondered whether the campaign should not have been in Russian. "I guess the only thing we can all agree on is that the campaign should have been done earlier," noted Matveyev, stabbing with his toothpick at a plate of tiny hotdogs.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An Estonian in Every Port

The Global Estonian Central Council, whatever that is, estimates that over 35,000 Estonians have moved to Finland over the last several years. Recent census data confirms the decline and estimates Tallinn's population to be approximately 125,000 people, 90 percent of them employed as reisisaatjad with the city government (youth in yellow vests who are paid to stand idly by on public transport--usually chewing gum or listening to iPod tunes). The remaining 10 percent work in other EU-funded capacities, or as staff members at the Global Estonian Central Council. Whatever that is.

US-Lithuanian Agreement on WMDs, Kvass

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas and US Ambassador to Lithuania Anne E. Derse signed a protocol to strengthen cooperation between the two countries. According to the agreement, Vilnius kiosks will no longer be allowed to sell nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons of mass destruction. "The agreement also carefully regulates kvass," noted Ambassador Derse, "and discourages its sale in large tanks on trailers where one dirty glass is shared by everyone in line."

New Taxes?

Tallinn city council chairman Renar Virtsu said that the city government has decided to implement several new local taxes next year to increase the income of the city, Postimees Online reports. “When we compiled the budget, we carefully looked through the income side and since it has contracted, we have to be creative to find new taxes,” Virtsu said. Asked what the new taxes will include, he said, “First, we’re going to tax Latvians. For too long they’ve roamed around Tallinn at no cost.” Virtsu continued, “an Exit Tax is an idea we’ve borrowed from Russia. Tired of Tallinn’s kitsch; ready to go home? Fine, pay up, and you’re free to go.” Next,” said Virtsu, “is the question mark tax. In Tallinn from now on our motto is, ‘ask a question, pay the city.’ This interview has just cost you 380 kroons. Any more questions?” he asked, smiling.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Chinese Stalk Estonian Businesses

Estonia's daily Äripäev reports Chinese businessmen are stalking Estonian companies for good buys in the logistics and transport sectors. According to the newspaper, the Chinese have offered Estonian businessman Anatoli Kanajev 100 million euros for his holdings in Transiidikeskus which operates the port of Muuga. Kanajev, spotted exiting his weekly Kung Fu lesson and getting into his Chery QQ3, did not offer comment.
Recently, the Economist reported that Chinese businessmen were considering acquiring Estonian Air from SAS. Sources close to the Livonian Chronicle say that once the Chinese actually flew with Estonian Air they quickly lost interest. "You know how Hitler said that he didn't have to attack Russia, that if he waited long enough the vodka would do the work for him?" said LC's source. "Well, that's about how the Chinese feel about Estonian Air. The longer they wait, the cheaper it's going to get."

Güllüoglu: Free Food If You Can Pronounce It

Güllüoglu, a Turkish baklava and cafe chain, has opened a store in Tallinn, and customers are already having fun trying to pronounce it. "I called Ekspress Hotline to ask for the shop's number," said a British resident of Tallinn, "and when I said güllüoglu, the operator hung up on me." In Estonian, the name means "sweaty gonads."
"This is a classic example of misnaming a product," says advertising expert Linnart Linnunina, "much like the Americans calling a car Nova, which meant 'doesn't go' in Spanish." Other Estonians were also skeptical of the restaurant's chances for success. Sirje Potisepp, head of the Estonian Association of Food Producers, welcomed the restaurant but expressed skepticism. "The taste of Turkish sweets is very strange for Estonians," she said in the business daily, Äripäev. Estonians are known to favor less exotic foods such as dried fish, plain white bread, and milk soup.

Latvia Brings Back Debtors Prisons

The Latvian Saeima will review its 2010 state budget bill today. According to the bill, Latvians' personal income tax rate will increase from 23 percent to 280 percent. the government's social partners have criticized the budget, but the PM's office defends it citing the overwhelming success of debtors prisons in Dickensian England. "Also given the fact the CIA took all its Al Qaeda prisoners away in the middle of the night, we now have plenty of unused cell space for those unable to pay taxes," said Edgars Lazo, the Saeima's spokesman for budget issues. "We didn't hike taxes willy nilly. This is thought through with Latvian-like precision."

Meet a Murderer: Belarus Takes Tourism Lead

According to the departments of statistics, Baltic regional tourism is down 20 to 26 % with the exception of Belarus, whose tourism is up 23%. Experts attribute the rise mainly to cheap hookers but also credit the dig-your-own-amber campaign developed by President Lukashenko himself.
Lukashenko has modeled his scheme on kibbutz-style labor programs and advertised it in upscale western magazines as a "tough-love program for overconfident youth." Thousands of upper-middle class youth are sent to Belarus by their parents each week, where they toil alongside the Belarusian criminal class in the mines. "I met a murderer this morning!" said David Jones, child of an American gynecologist from Cincinnati, Ohio. "And I found that aside from him having killed his entire family, the two of us really weren't that different."
Belarus, who campaigns in international corridors as the "fourth Baltic state," is more and more taking the lead in progressive tourism development. Watch the LC for frequent updates.

Balts Compete for Christmas Tourists

Tallinn's Christmas market officially opened yesterday, and its plan is to aggressively vie for regional tourism business. Mayor Edgar Savisaar personally launched the "The Cheers for the Foreign Guy" campaign at yesterday's opening ceremony by scouring the crowd himself. "Are you foreign personage?" asked the mayor in a heavy accent, and then led the crowd in a hip-hip-hurrah cheer once he'd found a Pekka, a visiting Finn from Tampere.
"The idea," says city spokesman Veiko Võtmed, "is not to be dicks. See?" Võtmed flashed a colorful button on his lapel which read Don't Be a Dick. "It's kind of our mantra, our internal slogan, and it was developed by some American consultants."
Similar tourism courses are taking place in Riga where locals are taught that if they must beat or bludgeon foreigners, they should do so while holding a New York City telephone book against the victim. "This way the damage doesn't show externally," said a smiling city spokesman. "No bruises. No nothing!"