I flew into a dark and damp Tallinn this morning- the snow has not arrived, although the Christmas market has arrived in the Old Town Square.
I quite like the Baltic winters; although dark, they are cosy and candles and hoogvein help to lighten up the season.
Tallinn is busy- the roads are clogged, where once it would have taken 10 minutes to run in from the Airport, now it takes nearly a half hour. The Airport itself is cramped- the result of yet another expansion programme (it does not seem so long ago that the gleaming new terminal opened, now it is already too small). All of these changes are, perhaps, a function of the fact that Estonia is set to overtake Portugal in PPP GDP per capita by the end of next year. Convergence is happening so fast that it is fair to say that it looks more like overtaking.
Another reason for all the congestion is the visit of President Bush. He will arrive in Tallinn on Monday. Already the security is tight, although the fact that the President's children can be robbed despite secret service protection suggests to me that the whole process is merely a demonstration that the mere citizen must give way to the power of the "leader of the free world". I see that President George H.W. Bush has defended his son, saying that he is honest. Yes, I think he probably is (mostly) honest, but that really isn't the point- he is incompetent.
Although it may not be the most charitable thought for Thanksgiving, it does seem almost unbelievable that one man - an allegedly democratic politician- can cause so much disruption. I was in Vienna in the summer when the President paid a visit- total chaos for over a million people. In London, he would not leave the security bubble even to come to the City of London and try and rally support for American finance, as any British leader of whatever stripe would do in New York for British firms. So, in addition to being an incompetent warmonger, he seems happy to tread on as many toes as he can, wherever he goes.
With the ever more onerous restrictions on visitors to the US, the intrusive nonsense of the so-called "Patriot Act" and the Sarbanes Oxley act and this insensitive oaf in the White House, I think those of us who generally like the United States and Americans, will be looking forward to the end of this particular era and the emergence of a less defensive, less arrogant and more engaged America. There are still 26 months to go though, and with Bush in charge until then, anything could happen.