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Mon Nov 25, 2013 at 06:48 AM PST

a complex and savage tale

by Giustino

IMAGE YOU WERE RELATED to one of the most notorious Indian killers in American history. Now, imagine you were also related to some of those Indians. You can now begin to understand the traumatic baggage that comes with being an American.

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Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:47 AM PST

the white vote?

by Giustino

There has been a lot of talk about various ethnic breakdown of voter groups since Tuesday, and it is starting to get on my nerves. It is not that I dislike the empowerment of the Latino, or African American, or Asian American communities. It is that the juxtaposition of these communities against a more conservative "white" America -- which is being done as much by the right as the left -- strikes me as a false construct.

Okay, so the majority of "white males" in the US voted for Romney, we are told. But what does that really tell us? Vermont, for example, is the second "whitest" state in the US. And yet it was handily won by Obama. The reason I put "white" in quotes is because there are many different groups that fall under that umbrella. Do Greeks in New York vote the same as Anglos in Idaho, merely because they fall under this category?

The Vermont "whites" and the Idaho "whites" are probably not voting because of some racial affinity with the candidate, or shared Anglo political ideals. They are voting differently because Vermont and Idaho have different histories, different ideals, and the fact that most of the population is "white" doesn't tell us much because in most states the majority of the population is "white."

So before we start carving up voter preference according to ancestry, maybe we should look a bit more into the details. That's what I think.


"I have some sad news." "What?" "Mart Laar had a stroke last night." "He did? Is he alive?" She nodded. "He's in the hospital."

And has been ever since. My wife is the bearer of bad news. I've gotten used to it. "Michael Jackson died." "Oh, really?" "The Polish president's plane crashed." "Jesus." "Bon Jovi died of a heart attack." "That's weird. Last time I saw him, he was in pretty good shape." I spent half of that morning adjusting myself to a world without Bon Jovi, only to learn later that it was a hoax when a dated photo of the rocker surfaced holding a sign, "Heaven looks a lot like New Jersey."

(More after the jump)

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Thu Mar 01, 2012 at 12:19 AM PST

Generation Pain in the Ass

by Giustino

Recently one of my so-called online "friends," whom I have never met in the flesh but "know" through blogging, pasted another snarky comment on something I wrote. There was something so familiar about the way she ridiculed me though. It reminded me of countless friends both male and female with whom I went to high school. And when I saw her birthdate on her profile page, I noticed that she was just two months older than me. This is a common phenomenon. I can tell a person's age just about the way they interact with others. My so-called online friend is apt to make sarcastic remarks about anything. And so are most of my real friends. She's a pain the ass, they are all a pain the ass, and I am a pain in the ass. Since we are all about the same age, I wonder, are we Generation Pain in the Ass?

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People born during the Carter Administration are

40%25 votes
21%13 votes
3%2 votes
0%0 votes
1%1 votes
3%2 votes
1%1 votes
6%4 votes
1%1 votes
3%2 votes
16%10 votes

| 61 votes | Vote | Results

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Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 05:19 AM PST

Nõukogude Naine - Soviet Woman

by Giustino

The other day, an acquaintance dropped off a batch of newspapers and magazines, including a treasure trove of old copies of the Estonian woman's magazine Nõukogude Naine [Soviet Woman].

Several years ago I stood in the office of Eesti Naine in downtown Tallinn and asked the editor if she was the first editor of the publication, which I assumed was only a decade old, like the magazines Anne or Stiil.

"Oh, no," she replied. "I might be editor number 13 or 14." The publication Eesti Naine was actually launched in 1924. After the Soviets took over in 1940, it became Nõukogude Naine, a publication of the Estonian Communist Party.

Nõukogude Naine may have published some copies in 1940 and '41, but, according to the party, it was launched in 1945. It reverted to being Eesti Naine in 1989. The first issue of that year says that it is a party publication, the fourth issue makes no mention of it, and later issues no longer use 1945 as the start date of the publication, but 1924.

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Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 04:59 AM PST

phew! obama and estonia

by Giustino

am unsure of how most Estonians view the results of the American presidential race. In some Estonian polls, the charismatic Democratic candidate Barack Obama was seen as a favorite, yet support for Republican John McCain was strong, especially compared with the rest of Europe.

John McCain certainly appeared to be the safe, trans-Atlantic candidate -- the one Estonians could pin their hopes on to bring the "straight talk express" to Moscow, should the need present itself.

At the same time, Obama's popularity made him a strong candidate too. It would be much harder for Western Europeans to reject the initiatives of a President Obama, who is so popular among their own residents, than it was for them to reject George W. Bush's doctrine of preemptive war and "cowboy capitalism." They probably will wind up rejecting Obama anyway, but the honeymoon has yet to even begin, so let's not predict its end just yet.

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I remember one evening sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco. I was reading a news article in the Chronicle about African-American collectors of racist momentos from the 19th and 20th centuries.

There were piggy banks and clocks and cartoons adorned by dehumanizing depictions of people of African descent. And then there was that word, "pickaninny."

"What the hell is a 'pickaninny'"? I thought to myself. Supposedly, as an American with a skin color who therefore is part of the larger national discourse on racial inheritance, I was perceived to know what this word meant. The author at least assumed I did. But I didn't. I had never heard the term before in my life; nor, I might add, seen the clocks and piggy banks and poster art that was now being collected for posterity.

So what did I do? I asked my friend who attended Wesleyan what the term meant. {For your sake, it's an old derogatory term for African-American children} My friend informed me of its meaning, but confessed that he too had only learned about it in a class on race relations in America.    

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Sun Jun 15, 2008 at 12:00 PM PDT

luck of the irish

by Giustino

What is it about Europeans that makes them blind to the fact that they live on one continent, or at least one sub-continent with common cultural furniture?

To an American, if you fly east across the Atlantic, you inevitably reach one of two landmasses, Europe, with its medieval architecture and fondness for electronic music, or Africa, with its post-colonial blood feuds and civil wars.

But in the eyes of some Europeans, Europe is anywhere else but here.

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Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 03:16 AM PDT

schumer's 'eastern european' folly

by Giustino

I had the misfortune to read the recent editorial of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who also happens to be my senator, in the Wall Street Journal.

The piece, "Russia Can Be Part of the Answer on Iran," has already been criticized, including in a response by Garry Kasparov. In general, it looks at carrots that can be used to elicit the desired responses from Iran vis-a-vis their nuclear program.

What I have found most frustrating is that Schumer actually undermines policies set in place by Democrats and therefore raises questions about the foreign policy credentials of Democrats in his piece. I am not an expert in arms proliferation, but I do reside in Estonia, part of the "new Europe" and so Schumer's offer of taking the deployment of anti-missile systems in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Romania off the table to appease, yes, appease Russian interests in eastern Europe strikes me as particularly odious.

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Tue Apr 01, 2008 at 08:33 AM PDT

Bush in Kiev: What You Should Know

by Giustino

This is an off-the-cuff, on-the-fly, simultaneous kind of diary. So don't expect any mind blowing links to storehouses of online information. The basic information is this: President Bush is in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, today to publicly support NATO Membership Action Plans for both Ukraine and Georgia.

This is controversial because Russia is opposed to granting MAPs (as they are called) to Ukraine and Georgia during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Bucharest summit later this week.

Bush is being seen as 'stirring controversy' over backing the aspirations of Ukraine -- where public opinion is against NATO membership, and Georgia, which still has to deal with Russia-backed separatists in two provinces.

more on the flip

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Mon Mar 31, 2008 at 05:55 AM PDT

whither social democracy?

by Giustino

Moral cowardice. Greed. Stupidity. Those are the reasons that the current German leadership lacks the political will to send favorable signals to Ukraine and Georgia about future NATO and EU membership, according to one foreign policy thinker.

This hesitance does influence other wobbly policies in adjacent Western European countries like France and Spain, and yet the trail of breadcrumbs seems to lead us back to Berlin's grand coalition of Angela Merkel and Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Aye, the stench of the German Social Democratic Party is in the air on the eve of the NATO Bucharest Summit.

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Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 07:19 AM PDT

soul limbo in Tallinn

by Giustino

cross posted from Itching for Eestimaa, a blog about the world's only post-communist nordic country

So I am here in Tallinn, Estonia, city of Danish expansionism. Tallinn does not feel like the Estonia I know, the Estonia I try to write about. This city is not crisscrossed by the bumpy, unpaved roads of rural Estonian counties like Viljandimaa. Instead, its well-heeled pedestrians enjoy the cosmopolitan life.

That means eating a lunch like the one I just ate -- of delicious, peeled pears covered in sweet whipped cream, satisfying pasta salads, medallions of mouthwatering beef. Where are the potatoes, pork, sauerkraut, and cakes? They don't sell food like this at the local supermarket in the countryside.

This is the fare served up at the Second Annual Lennart Meri Memorial Conference, held this week. The conference, organized more in line with the late President Meri's interests than his cult of personality -- as it should be -- draws together the Estonian policy community, representatives from think-tanks across Europe, foreign ministers, prime ministers, ambassadors, high representatives -- people whose opinion should count. And also the media.

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