Category Archives: Russia

Stalin: The Kremlin Mountaineer – a most excellent little book

So – I stumbled across Stalin: The Kremlin Mountaineer on Amazon (it’s a Kindle single) and it’s the best book I’ve read on anything Russian, ever, and the first book in a number of years I’ve wished was longer. The single strangest thing I learned was that Collective Farming was inspired by a giant American farm somewhere in the upper Midwest.

Thursday link roundup

  • Church Sign Wars – very good
  • What Russia Wants – written by my old Boss at Cato
  • The path to citizenship – it makes illegal immigration much more understandable
  • Making money twice – a very good read
  • Julian Sanchez put it very well with

    we’re perpetually told the fundamental cause of the ongoing meltdown is Wall Street “greed,” as though that somehow counted as an explanation. How, pray, would we describe it if mortgage lenders had rejected many more applications from lower-income folks, on the grounds that they were poor risks? Well, greed, of course. Pretty much whatever they did, they’d be doing because they expected it to maximize their profit; the issue is their judgement, not their motives. Or put another way: The problem isn’t that people were greedy, it’s that they weren’t very good at being greedy.

  • Ron Paul fades into further irrelevance
  • More Bailout – Yglesias posits what is hopefully a liberal dilemma

    Simply put, if congressional Democrats manage to acquiesce in a plan that spends $700 billion on a bailout while doing nothing for average working people and giving the taxpayer virtually no upside in a way that guarantees that even electoral victory would give an Obama administration no resources with which to implement a progressive domestic agenda in 2009 then everyone’s going to have to give serious consideration to becoming a pretty hard-core libertarian.

  • A nice article on Obama’s community organizing days – notices the lack of anything measurable.

Thursday link roundup

  • This Agitator post illustrates in perfect detail why it’s not even worth trying anymore. Short version, a noble citizen does soemthing that would save the fovernment 2.2 million dollars and deliver a higher quality. The feds refuse, and take years in doing so. Your tax dollars at sloth.
  • Putin’s Rise to Power
  • MaoPost.com – really cool
  • Oil Econ 101 – and oldie but a goodie
  • This little nugget from Marginal Revolution

    In Brazil, they segregate their prisons according to gang membership. No exceptions. Not even for individuals who in fact are not members of any gang.

    How does that work? Easy. Upon being admitted to the prison system, unaffiliated prisoners are required to join a gang.

Saturday rapid fire

  • Dean Kamen’s Robot Arm – simply incredible. Why Kamen isn’t America’s most highly regarded public citizen is a mystery.
  • The liberal media follows me around an takes notes – I had this conversation with some friends last week, it’s an odd coincidence. I don’t cry at movies but my the movies that come closes are The Virgin Spring and On The Beach.
  • More HDR Photography
  • Groupware is bad
  • Russia’s Hypermortality

    Moreover, a large proportion of the Russian workforce may be too drunk to function. Almost one male death in three is alcohol-related. “The increase of alcohol consumption from 10 to 15 liters and an almost simultaneous increase in mortality suggests the central role played by alcohol to mortality, in average up to 426,000 per year in 1980-2001. Alcohol-related deaths total 29.6 percent of total mortality for men and 17.0 percent for women,” the report says.

  • My next project is going to be something like this

Russian Weirdness

From the AJC (again)

Woman’s 12th Baby Weighs Over 17-Pounds
A small Russian city just got a really big addition: a 17-pound, 1 ounce baby whose mother had already delivered 11 other children.

Tatiana Khalina, 42, delivered the girl by Caesarean section at a maternity clinic in Aleisk, a town of 30,000 people in the Altai region in southern Siberia, a nurse at the clinic said Thursday.

The Guinness Book of World Records says the heaviest baby ever was born in the United States in 1879. It weighed 23 pounds, 12 ounces and died 11 hours after birth. Guinness says they heaviest surviving baby was born in 1955 in Italy, weighing in at 22 pounds, 8 ounces.

That crazy Putin

From a slighly hysterical article on MSNBC.com

Equality, to Putin, means no more patronizing lectures from the West on Russia’s history—or its dismal human-rights record. Russia, he believes, has nothing to be ashamed of. As he told a group of visiting teachers last month, foreigners “must not be allowed to impose a feeling of guilt on us—after all, we did not use nuclear weapons against a civilian population [like the United States in Nagasaki].”

The two data points he seems to be using for this comparison are America 1776 to 1945, and Russia from February to late April. Curiously unmentioned is the 50% of Chechens that were killed in the 1990s. Oh well. Russia is always going to be Russia I guess.

Wars in the Middle East are officially a vested interest

I read this article on CNN.com

White House taps general for ‘war czar’ post
President Bush has chosen Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the Pentagon’s director of operations, to oversee the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as a “war czar” after a long search for new leadership, administration officials said Tuesday.

In the newly created position, Lute would serve as an assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser, and would also maintain his military status and rank as a three-star general, according to a Pentagon official.

and was reminded of this Albert Jay Nock quote:

Experience has made it clear beyond doubt or peradventure that prohibition in the United States is not a moral issue; it is not essentially, even, a political issue; it is a vested interest.

and this H.L. Mencken quote:

The New Deal began, like the Salvation Army, by promising to save humanity. It ended, again like the Salvation Army, by running flop-houses and disturbing the peace.

We have this horrible tendency in our culture to see the means (a big new bureaucracy) as an end in itself, nay, an achievement. What endeavor has failed because there are too few managers? The right managers, sure, lots of failures due to a lack of them. But too few?

Plus an additional bureaucracy just creates it’s own principal-agent and knowledge problems.

Functionally Lute will probably serve as a dedicated adviser, but why the title Czar? All of the Russian Czars were an odd combination of stagnant, incompetent and murderous. Why is that some role model.

Sigh.

Notably absent

I haven’t heard of any acts of terrorism in Russia lately. Lots of state repression, yes, but no terrorism. In 2004 there were several plane hijacking and the Beslan mass murder. And then nothing.

Granted, Russia has moved a long way to dictatorship (making terrorism less effective) in that period, and secret policing is something they do well. It’s still odd though. It’s not as if the Chechens would become more peaceful in last three years.