In Which I Opine On Various Matters Of Great Importance

A collection of news stories and my take on them from the past month or so.

1. Bribes are growing quickly in Russia. Their average sizes, that is. It was reported by the MVD that they increased by 5x from a year earlier to $10,000. The usual Russophobe suspects wasted no time declaring this to be further evidence of the uncontrolled, unstoppable Blob-like growth of corruption in Russia. But let’s use common sense for a minute. If average bribe amounts are increasing by such huge percentages, surely it means one or both of two things: (1) Investigations are moving higher up the chain of command, where quantities are bigger; (2) Paying bribes is becoming riskier, so – as with illegal drugs – the margins providers demand also increase. Either are good developments, no?

2. Russian readers, e.g. at Inosmi, were shocked to discover Russia renting out agricultural land to Asian farmers to grow food. Talk of “colonial takeovers”, “resource appendages”, etc. What many studiously ignore is that colonialism in the true sense consists of settlers with guns taking over the lands of aborigines with spears. This is patently not the case with Russia. To the contrary, it is a relatively easy and excellent way to earn foreign currency and create development in rural places – and a practice that will become increasingly prevalent in the decades ahead as agricultural yields in the south plummet due to the advance of climate change.

3. Did Russia experience a uniquely disastrous collapse in the 2008 crash, thus proving its unfitness for BRIC’s and the G8? Not really. According to this recent chart in the Economist, by the most objective measure taking the whole period of the global recession into account, Russia doesn’t actually do too badly. In fact it outperforms every single developed country, with the exception of Taiwan, Korea, and Poland. The -7.9% GDP drop in 2009 looks big, except when you consider that most of Russia’s recession was packed into that single year. It’s growth for the past decade as a whole is also entirely respectable, coming 27th out of 179 countries.

5. The Russian government respects and listens to opinion polls. The horror! Real democracies only listen to lobbyists.

Seriously, they might be derided as fickle, etc. – I remember some newspapers bizarrely lauding Tony Blair for his ” bold leadership” in taking the UK to war in Iraq against the will of the British people – but the fact is that opinion polls are the best proxy of the people’s voice that we have and as such a political leadership that orients itself towards opinion polls is the most purely democratic one absent rule by referenda.

This logic is highly disturbing to Westerners. Its implication is that Russia, or even China – which is experimenting in several regions with “deliberative dictatorship”, in which policies and spending are determined on the results of opinion polls – may be more democratic than, say, the United States, where priorities are distorted by moneyed special interests. For instance, multiple polls show that vast majorities of Americans favor tax increases on the wealthy as part of any attempt to balance the budget, but one of the two parties of power is adamantly opposed to this. So any such an initiative is dead in the water.

6. Further food for discussing Russia’s prospects in the next global crisis.

One of the main themes seems to be that its economy isn’t as leveraged as it was before, so a block-up in credit wouldn’t be so critical now.

7. REPORTING THE BRITISH RIOTS. Highly recommended post by Alex Mercouris.

8. Huge Chavez is moving Venezuela’s gold reserves back home. This is a wise move. The West has a proclivity towards seizing the assets of countries they dislike, using human rights abuses real and alleged as fig leaves – sometimes, human rights abuses in response to disturbance their intelligence agencies foment themselves. In his years of power, Chavez has proved that an alternate route of more equitable development is both possible and preferable to neoliberalism. So the West hates him.

He is also moving Venezuela’s cash reserves out of Western nations to China, Russia, and Brazil. This is just common sense under current conditions. Despite massive fiscal stimulus and monetary loosening, much of the Western world appears to be slipping into recession again. Even Germany. This will keep revenues depressed, torpedoing any hope of solving the massive budget deficits throughout the US and Europe. The time will approach sooner or later when mainstream investors come to view their debts as worthless.

9. The spread of Four Hour Workweek ideas into Russia? As reported, many Muscovites are beginning to rent out their apartments in the high-priced capital while living and traveling across South-East Asia or Central America. If they work, they do so through the Internet, for Russian (or Western) salaries.

That said, I’ve no doubt the Russophobes will seize on this as yet another apocalyptic wave of emigration and further proof of Russia’s rottenness.

10. Russia’s demography results are out for the first half of 2011. I’ll have a more detailed post out in a while, seeing as Russia’s demography is one of S/O’s interests, but in summary: birth rates and death rates both fell by about 3%. The rate of natural decrease improved slightly from 142,000 to 138,000. Net immigration increased from 90,000 for the first half of last year to 144,000 for the first half of this year. So the population is basically at a standstill this year so far (after small growth in 2009, and small decrease in 2010). If the trends remain similar, and in the light of a non-repetition of the 2010 heatwave that artificially increased mortality, this year will probably eke out a small population increase.

Comments

  1. Lots of great thoughts here, but I have to take partial issue with your the roseate take on the bribes story. Increasing bribe figures may indeed indicate that the investigators are trapping bigger fish (although the more granular data doesn’t suggest that many of these fishes end up convicted) or that it is becoming riskier, sure. But it can also suggest that bribe-takers feel confident enough to demand bigger sums, that the economy has recovered enough that the level of bribes has also recovered (there certainly was a dip in 2008-9) and that people are maximizing their corrupt incomes ahead of the 2012 presidential elections just in case they lose their positions or latitude.

    On the other hand, I would also add another positive potential development to your two: I’m sure that in part the apparent jump in bribes actually reflects better reporting – I know of a number of cases where people lowballed the scale of the bribe they admitted to giving because they didn’t want to alert other predators that they were worth that much. Now they seem more inclined to admit to actual figures.

    Overall, I would agree that there is evidence of slow but welcome improvement in the struggle against corruption, and some bigger fish are being caught. But people I know who actually do… well, obviously no one I know would give a bribe, but they may know someone who does… also note that the prices being demanded are increasing in part because the recentralization of power is creating new gatekeepers confident enough of their positions to be able to do so. Thus, I live down to every expectation of the woolly academic and suggest that the evidence suggests both good and bad developments – although admittedly a little more of the former than the latter.

    – Mark Galeotti

    • The discussion about corruption is always based on the false premise that it some sort of aberration. The rest of the BRICs are rife with corruption and Russia is not worse (per capita) than India, China or Brazil. With development, corruption just gets repackaged with some of the more petty forms disappearing. Living in Toronto I do not see any evidence that there is zero corruption in a developed western state. Municipal level shenanigans tell me that there is plenty of it. The big plus is that I don’t have to pay some corrupt cop a bribe at street level. But that is not to say that cops are not being bribed or coerced in the west like the recent case exposing the Murdoch owned British newspaper the News of the World.

    • Thanks for your perspective, Mark.

  2. “For instance, multiple polls show that vast majorities of Americans favor tax increases on the wealthy as part of any attempt to balance the budget, but one of the two parties of power is adamantly opposed to this.”

    You’ve chosen an example where you agree with the polls. But polls also say lots of stuff that you’d most likely disagree with. Without looking it up, I suspect that polls in America would indicate majority support for deporting illegals. Polls in lots of European countries would indicate majority support for the reintroduction of the death penalty, plus deporting illegals and perhaps legal immigrants too. As far as I know, gay marriage lost in every referendum that’s ever been tried here. On average in the West governments and elites are more culturally liberal than populations. Government by polls would surely be a more culturally conservative government.

    “As reported, many Muscovites are beginning to rent out their apartments in the high-priced capital…”

    I recently looked up real estate prices in the corner of Moscow where I grew up. I was blown away. Apartments of the same size on my old street are selling for $350k. Rents are around $1,500 per month. How can that be? My parents sold our old apartment for $22k in 1992, and that seemed like too much for it. You could see the MKAD from its windows. The closest subway station is 15 minutes away, and it is literally the end of the line. Where are Moscovites getting the money to pay $1,500 a month to rent a 2-bedroom apartment in the absolutely least desirable corner of the city? What am I not getting?

    • Average wage in Moscow is what, $1,400-$1,500? If you filter out the pathetic salaries local immigrants are getting, it’ll probably be a lot higher. (Not to mention it’s fairly easy to find an affortable apartment in the oblast, it’s reasonably well connected to the city and they are extending subway lines there too).

      I can understand how you feel, considering that I couldn’t eat for a week when I discovered that my modest centrally-located apartment given to us for free by Soviet government is actually worth some $900,000 and there are no shortage of buyers. My Canadian buddy tells me that kind of cash can afford one something absolutely royal over there — although I feel exchanging it for a modern apartment in St. Petersburg four times the size would be a better investment.

    • There are a lot of ideas which have majority support in the US, but which *both* parties are opposed to, or will simply do nothing about. Most Americans, for example, are in favor of cracking down on illegal immigration; against affirmative action and other group preferences; support taking a more even-handed stance in the Israel-Palestine conflict; and are opposed to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya (and increasingly isolationist in general). A presidential candidate who took all those positions would probably win in a landslide – yet it ain’t happening.

      • I remember reading somewhere that affirmative action is opposed by 40%-50% of BLACK respondents in polls. The only group of people that strongly supports it is the small media and governing elite that has instituted it. Even many of its intended beneficiaries can see its inherent unfairness and are embarrassed by it.

        I’m sure that polls would show healthy support for cutting food stamps, public assistance, money spent on housing projects, in short, for giving more people an incentive to look for honest work. Of course, you’re right on all those wars and on the Middle East in general. Oh and one more thing – even without looking it up, I have no doubt that polls would show a hostile attitude to free trade. A populist economic policy would stimulate local manufacturing through heavy tariffs on Chinese and other foreign goods.

        Why aren’t smart politicians picking up any populist stances? The Occam’s-razor answer is that the system isn’t very democratic. It just pretends to be democratic. Public opinion and public policy seem to have a closer relationship in China than in the US or anywhere in Europe.

        • I forgot the TARP. Was public opinion for bailing out the banks with taxpayer money or was it for letting them go bankrupt as a consequence of their unsound decisions? That’s not even a smart question. Public opinion could have never, ever been for bailing out AIG, etc. The public opinion of no country in the history of the world could have ever come close to being for anything like that. I bet it was even less popular than gay marriage. And yet it happened. Up top, there was even a consensus, with McCain and Obama competing with each other on who was more for it.

          • The complicating factor, Glossy, is that these populist positions are a double-edged sword. People want a crackdown on illegal immigration, but are they willing to pay the much greater prices for food and other amenities that result? The same with cheapo Chinese products – people may want to buy American in theory, but I doubt they’ll want to shell out the extra $$ to do so.

    • You’ve got a point there, Glossy, but you may be surprised by some things. For instance, more Americans now support gay marriage than don’t. But you’ve right for the most part. Of course, nobody ever said true democracy will lead to a liberal panacea.

      About Moscow – those prices are about right. Of people I know well with properties there, one is worth about $350,000 (a three-room old apartment near the MKAD and metro station); one is worth $100,000 (a one-room modern apartment 70km away from Moscow); and a dacha about 120km away with quite a bit of land is also worth about $100,000.

  3. “8. Huge Chavez is moving Venezuela’s gold reserves back home. This is a wise move. The West has a proclivity towards seizing the assets of countries they dislike”

    The guy has a reason to be paranoid…just look at some of the Michigan generated propaganda aimed at the right wing electronic church demographic:

    • Thanks for that. I love Jack Van Impe and his wife Rexella! He’s been saying the same exact things for at least 30 years now, and never lets facts and events get in his way. Even the fall of the USSR didn’t stop him from identifying Russia as the evildoer of the future, as this video shows. That’s consistency!

      • sinotibetan says:

        Scowpsi and donnyess,

        Not ALL churchgoers and Christians believe in some of the nonsense this preacher says. I don’t, for example. But perhaps you are right, many do.

        sinotibetan

    • Thanks for prophetic video! I am packing my stuff and getting ready for Rapture. In meantime, I have helpfully cited some of the Old Testament verses referenced by Preacher in video:
      Daniel 9:26
      “…The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. “
      Am I missing something? I don’t see nothing about no European Union…?

      Eziekel 39
      “Son of man, prophesy against Gog and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of[a] Meshek and Tubal. 2 I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north and send you against the mountains of Israel. 3 Then I will strike your bow from your left hand and make your arrows drop from your right hand. 4 On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals. 5 You will fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD. 6 I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coastlands, and they will know that I am the LORD. “
      My scholarly Biblical commentary: Okay, so if I am understanding the prophesy correctly, Preacher is saying that “Meshek” is Russia? So, this “Gog” fellow is the leader of Russia (and also a land called Tubal – maybe Belorussia?). Well, Gog isn’t really a Russian name, but let us assume there is some future leader who happens to be a Volga German with a name like “Van Gogh”, or something like that. So, anyhow, this President Gogh is somehow induced to go to war against Israel. Unfortunately, by that time, after the corruption and treachery of two successive Medvedev administrations, “Meshek’s” army has degenerated to the point where nothing is left in its arsenal except, literally, bows and arrows. So, it goes without saying it loses the war to a much better-armed Israeli force.
      Joel 2
      Like dawn spreading across the mountains
      a large and mighty army comes,
      such as never was in ancient times
      nor ever will be in ages to come.
      3 Before them fire devours,
      behind them a flame blazes.
      (…)

      4 They have the appearance of horses;
      they gallop along like cavalry.
      5 With a noise like that of chariots
      they leap over the mountaintops,
      like a crackling fire consuming stubble,
      like a mighty army drawn up for battle.
      Yeah, sounds scary, but what makes Preacher think these are Russians…. That bit about the horses, though… maybe Cossacks? Preacher says they will be pushed back to Siberia in Verse 20:
      “I will drive the northern horde far from you,
      pushing it into a parched and barren land;
      its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea
      and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea.

      Hm… I realize that geography is not strong suit of Americans, but surely even they know Dead Sea and Mediterranean Sea not in Siberia? :)

      • If you want to understand how these guys interpret Bible prophecy, I recommend Paul Boyer’s book “When Time Shall Be No More.” It also gives the whole history of this movement, up until about first war with Iraq. Millions of people belief in this stuff, yet few outside the USA understand the political significance of it.

      • This clown is a paid propaganda shill working over the “faithful”. He’ll keep on bleating the same inanities over and over just like the paid global warming deniers. It takes coin to get a TV show even if it doesn’t get prime time. How many average Joes get their own pulpit?

        • I disagree. Van Impe is not a propaganda shill, he’s a true believer. The subculture he represents is full of people who take this stuff very seriously.

      • sinotibetan says:

        Yalensis,

        Haha….you’d probably know I’ll comment something on this.

        1.)First of all, I don’t agree with Jack van Impe’s ‘interpretation’. I’ve read even in one Bible commentary that seems to point ‘Gog and Magog’ as Russia. The ‘logic’(or rather, lack of it) of their interpretation is too thin to be accepted. Another commentary(which is what I believe) is – no one knows where/what nation ‘land of Magog’ is- at least not now. Supposing Magog is any modern nation at the moment, is pure speculation. However, I’ve read that Meshech and Tubal were names of Indo-European tribes living in Anatolia(region in modern Turkey). This seems probable because the Jews were talking mostly about nations near them. The far-fetched ‘interpretation’ that Meschech sounds like ‘Moscow’ or Tubal is ‘Tobolsk’ is too ridiculous to be accepted. You are right, the interpretation is based on the ‘cold war mentality’ of not a few Western preachers.
        Anyway, there is an article about Gog and Magog in the ‘poor man’s encyclopedia’, wikipedia:-
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gog_and_Magog
        BTW, the Muslims also believe in this evil Gog and Magog – I was a thick 300-page book on it! Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with their interpretations because I never bought nor read that book.

        2.)About Daniel 9:26. Wow, I’m impressed with your Biblical knowledge!
        “I don’t see nothing about no European Union…?”
        Well…..it is believed that the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ will be revived somehow. My personal belief is that the EU is just a precursor of things to come. The ‘man of sin’ is supposed to be a political leader who initially not only ‘revives’ the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ but is also hero-worshiped by the whole world, treated as God himself(or a man who has self-actualized to Godhood/divinity?). I’m sure , as an atheist who occasionally(?frequently) debate with Christians, you know some common beliefs regarding eschatology:-
        a.) The Jews are back in the ‘new’ nation of Israel.
        b.) Jerusalem will be a ‘cup of trembling’(the Israel-Arab issue).
        c.) Lawlessness and sinfulness shall increase(like the days of Sodom and Gomorrah).
        d.) Christianity shall decrease in influence – rise of heresies, apostacy. A ‘false Christianity’ will arise which shall be the syncretism of all sects/religions?(under ‘Babylon, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations’).
        e.) The new ‘Empire’ shall be multicultural – and it has to be ‘prepared’ to be so.
        f.) One universal currency, one world religion, one world political system, one world economic system is the aim.

        Of course, for you all these can be explained away somehow. Just stating my beliefs.

        sinotibetan

  4. In the New York Times piece on the Global Recession they are still harping about balanced budgets. Russia can afford to run a deficit and the monetarist tripe about inflationary doom is finally being ignored by Russia’s leaders. China has been running deficits too, yet somehow that is not an issue. Are there any objective pieces on Russia in the western media?

  5. I am curious about Poland, apparently they came out of recession smelling like a rose? What are they doing right, and should Russia emulate??

    • I’m sure grafomanka will be able to say more, but the main things seem to be:

      * High prior momentum: Poland was growing at nearly 7% in 2007 (much like Russia), nonetheless it did slow down to 1.2% in 2009 albeit without outright recession.
      * Prior conservative lending practices.
      * Lots of stimulus spending (deficit is at -8% of GDP). Being allocated €67 billion from the EU budget from 2007-2013, which is about equal to one year’s worth of revenue, of which €21 billion were delivered by February 2010. Plus EU agricultural subsidies of €5.3 billion. All together, this allowed for an investment boom that in part canceled out a big contraction in private investment. In contrast, in Russia both private and state-led investment fell.
      * Far less reliance on cheap foreign credit, so was much less vulnerable when it became inaccessible in 2008.

      As I understand things: To have avoided recession – or fallen less than it did – in 2009, Russia should have done a lot more stimulus especially with infrastructure investment (but this would have taken its budget deficit to well above 10% of GDP, because of the contraction in oil revenues due to oil’s price collapse) and/or loosened monetary policy (but it tightened it instead, because of inflation fears due to the weakening of the ruble’s value which made imports more expensive). In general, more prior economic diversification would have helped greatly, but one can’t exactly “diversify” an economy at the drop of a hat.

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Russia has less freedom to run up budget and trade deficits than does Poland. Its credit rating is much lower than Poland’s, which by the way is ridiculous, and it was horribly scorched by the experience of IMF dictation in the 1990s. The Russian authorities will be determined to avoid having to repeat that experience and I suspect that for them that is a central economic priority. Lastly they have to deal with a legacy of high inflation, which also obliges them to keep tight limits on spending to avoid giving inflation a spur. The overall result is that they have to run tighter fiscal and monetary policies than Poland. Also unlike Poland and the three Baltic States Russia is not a member of the EU and so was not protected by the sort of very substantial capital transfers provided by EU structural funds of which Poland and the Baltic States are major beneficiaries. One consequence is that that unlike Poland and the Baltic States Russia has to avoid running up trade deficits. Incidentally I suspect that the days of EU (ie German generosity) and of large capital transfers and structural funds may be drawing to a close. Anyway in time Russia’s very conservative policies will pay increasing dividends. However in the meantime they limit the scope for the sort of stimulus policies that other countries such as Poland were able to follow when the crisis struck. Also there were particular reasons why Russia was hit so hard by the downturn in 2008 (discussed at length in Anatoly’s previous posts) which do not apply to Poland. Despite these constraints Russia’s growth rates between 1998 and 2008 were at least as high as in Poland’s (I suspect actually much higher and I speak from direct knowledge of both countries) and I suspect that before very long they will be higher again.

    • sinotibetan says:

      What about the rest of former Soviet-bloc economies within EU like Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary,Romania and Bulgaria? They don’t seem to be as badly hit as the PIIGS(Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain)- that’s what I think. They were not as badly affected in 2008 as well. Any thoughts?

      sinotibetan

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear Sinotibetan,

        Thank you for this. I am sorry for my delay in replying but I have been away.

        On your point I should tell you that I am not an expert on the east European economies. The only one about which I have any direct knowledge apart from Poland is Bulgaria because my sister in law comes from there. Those Bulgarians I know all say that situation in Bulgaria is bad and getting worse. Those are anecdotal rather than statistical observations but they are pretty unanimous.

        Having said this there is one point I would make. With the exception of Estonia, which has just joined, the east European economies are not members of the Eurozone. The point about the PIGS is that they are members of the Eurozone. The crisis in the PIGS is part of the general crisis of the Eurozone, which is why it has been attracting so much attention. Whilst I am as I said unfamiliar with the east European economies I suspect that the financial crisis and recession has hit them hard (weren’t Hungary and Latvia all reported to be in serious trouble a short time ago?) but because they are outside the Eurozone their problems have less impact and therefore attract less attention.

        • sinotibetan says:

          Dear Alexander,

          Thanks for your comments. It does make a lot of sense. Especially the fact that they are not in Eurozone.

          sinotibetan

          • Alexander Mercouris says:

            I have now done a check and I must offer a correction. Firstly it seems that Slovakia and Slovenia are in the Eurozone.

            By coincidence there is a good article about the east European economies in today’s Economist. It basically bears out my points. At the start of the crisis the east European economies had a very bad time and bailouts had to be arranged for several including Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, none of which are of course in the Eurozone. As I remember there was also a severe crisis in Latvia. They have done rather better recently largely on the back of capital transfers from western Europe (ie Germany) and rising exports to Germany. In 2010 the German economy briefly boomed and as Germany is the major market for east Europe’s exports in 2010 their position appeared to improve. The German boom has ended and with capital transfers drying up east Europe may be in for a harder time next year.

            Incidentally the Economist made the further point that twenty years after the end of the Cold War with the exception of Slovenia (a special case since it always had a market based economy as part of the former Yugoslavia) none of the east European states has achieved a level of wealth comparable to that of even the poorest west European state. I wonder whether that was true before. I doubt that in 1980 countries like East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary were poorer than countries like Portugal, Malta or Greece. Greek travellers I know who used to travel to these countries at that time thought otherwise.

            • sinotibetan says:

              Dear Alexander,

              Thanks for your comments. I’ve been to parts of Eastern Europe before and currently they look like middle class nations to me. I think Bulgaria and Romania may be ‘poorer’ than Greece or Portugal during the 80s and prior to the present economic gloom in the PIIGS. With the “European dynamo”, Germany, losing steam, I think these Eastern European states will be in quite a bad shape as you mentioned.

              sinotibetan

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Romania was undoubtedly poorer than Greece in the 1980s. I never went there but I used to hear horror stories from people who did. My impression of Bulgaria in the 1980s was that it was quite affluent and that the general standard of living was higher than that of Greece. Indeed in those days poor Greeks used to travel to Bulgaria and the USSR to get medical treatment. I know Bulgaria well and I know lots of Bulgarians and until the crisis that overwhelmed Greece it had certainly become poorer than Greece. However the standard of living in Greece was as we now know kept artificially high through heavy borrowing made possible by corrupt accounting practices so perhaps the comparison is invalid.

  6. Opine 1: I like to add a #3 reason on bribes: Russians are worth 5x more. 500% increase in value year over year. Good investment.

  7. Public-opinion polls may well reflect what the people really think, but politicians and their corporate cronies have never been satisfied to simply say, “That’s it, boys; we’ve hit the wall. No further manipulation is possible”. Recognizing that it cannot change the valiidity of public opinion, agencies set about manipulating the perceptions that shape it. There was no doubt that the numbers of people assessed last winter who believed Barack Obama was a secret Muslim were genuine and reflected what people actually thought: but it was nonsense, and being able to prove percentage X believe nonsense to be true was of little value.

    Public opinion polls are a valuable tool where the society surveyed is in possession of the facts, is informed enough to make a sensible analysis of the facts and is not subjected to spin designed to confuse the facts. Then, public opinion is a reliable barometer of what the voters think and a bellwethewr indicator of where leaders need to concentrate.

  8. Revelation Chapter One Verse One:

    “This things will SOON come to pass.” The Book describes in symbolic form events of the age in which it was composed.

  9. Fedia Kriukov says:

    Sorry to nitpick, but I have to disagree with your interpretation of Liberalism = 自由主义 as “ideology of being for yourself.” It should be decomposed as 自由 + 主义, i.e. ideology of freedom. Now, why freedom is 自 + 由 is a separate question.

  10. The jump in immigration is interesting! You’ll recall that we’ve discussed this for a while. Let’s give it another six months and see what happens.

    Chavez is a flake who’s done a lot less than he could have. Dude inherited a middle-income country with massive corruption and serious wealth distribution problems but also with a respectable industrial base, a middle class, and a steady flow of oil income. Over the course of a decade, with a vast amount of fuss and rhetoric, he’s managed to… very slightly decrease the level of inequity. Hasn’t managed to touch corruption, hasn’t made any deep structural changes to the economy. Parturient mons, etc. If I were a right-winger, I’d find him obnoxious but not much of a real threat. If a left-winger, I’d be seriously disappointed.

    The gold reserve business is pure showmanship. Whatever other missteps Obama may have made, he’s been handling Chavez really well — viz., he’s been ignoring him and letting him shoot himself in the foot.

    Doug M.

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