Friday, June 09, 2006

Having a Latvian name may be a problem

...if running for public office in Los Angeles. Judge's Loss Stuns Experts: Election system and the jurist's Latvian name are cited is the headline in today's LA Times.

Dzintra Janavs, who has been a judge for 20 years, lost reelection to Lynn Diane Olson, a bagel store owner who almost has not practiced law in last 10 years. Janavs was rated "exceptionally well qualified" by Los Angeles County Bar Association (one of only 2 candidates with that ranking, out of 28 candidates for 18 judgeships), Olson was rated "not qualified". The legal community is in shock. Observers speculate that some voters may have preferred a candidate with a standard English name over the one with a non-English name of unknown origin.

Ouch. I thought Los Angeles was an enlightened multicultural city in which having or not having a common English name does not matter.

H/t: Volokh Conspiracy

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Powerful speech

Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga gave a speech to US Congress today. It was truly impressive. From the speech:
Pirms piecpadsmit gadiem Latvija kopā ar kaimiņvalstim Igauniju un Lietuvu atguva savu neatkarību pēc piecdesmit Padomju okupācijas gadiem. Tas tika panākts nevardarbīgā ceļā caur Baltijas dziesmoto revolūciju, pateicoties vienīgi šo tautu drosmei un apņēmībai. Tās bija gatavas stāties pretī padomju šautenēm un tankiem tikai ar saviem neapbruņotajiem cilvēkiem un dziļu pārliecību par savām tiesībām, labi apzinoties, ka šīs šautenes un tanki viņus jebkurā brīdī var satriekt, kā tie bija satriekuši tik daudzus pirms tam.

Fifteen years ago Latvia, along with neighboring Estonia and Lithuania, regained its independence after fifty years of Soviet occupation. The Baltic Singing Revolution achieved this by non-violent means, by the sheer courage and determination of the peoples of these countries. They were ready to face Soviet guns and tanks with nothing but their unarmed bodies and the deep conviction of their rights, knowing full well that, at any moment, these guns and tanks might crush them as they had crushed so many before.
Full text: Latvian, English. There is more on Latvia and our history there. No one says it better than Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

I first read the reports in the Latvian media and wasn't impressed. Then, I found the text of the speech and it was much more impressive than the reports.

Vike-Freiberga also met with Condoleeza Rice and discussed, among other things, the possibility that Latvia may be added to countries whose citizens do not need visa to visit US. There is a pending amendment to US immigration law that would add Poland to that list. If Latvia would be there together with Poland, it would save a lot of time for Latvians travelling to US. US visa procedures can be quite time-consuming, as I have experienced myself.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

In the news

"Latvijai un Venstpilij", the local party of Ventspils city (which has been consistently getting 70%+ of vote in the city council elections) has decided to participiate in the October parliamentary election together with the nationwide Union of Farmers and Greens (Zalo un Zemnieku Savieniba). This was quite widely expected for a while. The rumors are that Aivars Lembergs, the leader of "Latvijai un Ventspilij", 16-year mayor of Ventspils (and, probably, one of 10 wealthiest people in Latvia) is thinking about becoming the Prime Minister. Officially, Lembergs is not yet confirmed as a candidate. But his name appears in the news more often then the confirmed candidates, his opponents are investigating his career at full speed and two journalists have just published a book accusing him in criminally abusing his power.

In other news, Linda Murniece of the oppositionary Jaunais Laiks (New Era) party has become the chairwoman of Anti-corruption Committee of the Latvian parliament. This may mean even more investigations for the Union of Farmers and Greens, Lembergs and everyone else around the current coalition government. "Everyone investigating everyone on corruption charges" seems to be the theme for this election campaign.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

May opinion poll

"Latvijas fakti" opinion poll for the month of May:
Jaunais Laiks 10.7%
Zalo un Zemnieku Savieniba (ZZS) 10.5%
Tautas Partija (TP) 10.3%
PCTVL 9.7%
Tevzemei un Brivibai/LNNK 7.9%
Saskanas Centrs 5.1%
Latvijas Cels/Pirma Partija 3.8%
Social Democrats 3.4%

This would translate to following numbers of seats in Parliament:
Jaunais Laiks 17
ZZS 17
TP 17
Tevzemei un Brivibai/LNNK 13
Saskanas Centrs 8
Social Democrats 6

Disclaimer: Polls are provided for entertainment purposes only. The popularity of political parties may change significantly between now and the upcoming election in October 2006.