Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: credit crunch, economic crisis, financial crisis, recession
The credit crisis was caused by credit being substituted for wages, fuelled by the supply of highly-marketed consumer goods and the weakness of little humans. Yes, the banks contributed. But ultimately the credit crunch was monkeysized.
Sometimes I don’t write – I just sit back and admire.
If you follow this link you’ll find a young boy smoking next to a rooster. A skeleton riding a bike. A little girl being chased by penguins. A panda failing to be a goalkeeper. Midgets. Go-go dancers in gas masks. A german soldier in a dress with a cat on his helmut.
Nikolai Yezhov was apparently quite the man at parties, and a hit with the ladies, despite being something of a dwarf. He was also a homicidal maniac, and rose quickly through the ranks in the early Soviet Union until he became head of the NKVD.
The story of Yezhov tells us a lot about the mentality behind Stalin’s Great Terror, and that’s why I listened to the author of a book about him being interviewed on the New Books Network.
What I hadn’t expected was an insight into the processes that underpinned Stalinism – in particular the admiration for and rewarding of competence and hard work. There were, it seems, more good jobs than good people (although putting somebody hard working and competent in charge of the NKVD surely only exacerbated this…).
Yezhov was also favoured because he wasn’t one of the self important Old Bolsheviks, sporting a large retinue of fawning admirers, and therefore also a potential threat. He was loyal – until drink and a loose tongue led to his downfall (and consequently that of every member of his family other than an adopted daughter who now lives in Magadan).
Why does this matter? Well I’m coming to the end of Vassily Grossman’s mammoth Tolstoyan novel, Life and Fate, which deals with the period shortly after the Great Terror. The vast range of characters work their way through life (and well over 800 pages) before the German 6th Army surrenders in Stalingrad. The ghosts of the Stalinist system haunt the book – the memories of 1937, the constant threat of denunciation, and the ever present fear of the knock at the door. In memory of Bernard Black from Black Books, the book has everything short of a lens grinder from Omsk.
(Beware of spoiler…) Towards the end of the book, a fanatical Old Bolshevik finds himself in the Lubyanka, with all of his fancy theorising about Marxism, and his impecable record in The Party and At The Front, torn up and tortured away. A nuclear physicist who is a bit of a shit as well as something short of a pukka communist gets away with his misdemeanors thanks to an intervention from the Big Man himself. NB I still have a few dozen pages to go and this might all be baloney…
Again, why does this matter? For me it’s a reminder that behind every piece of history, common sense and practical measures count for a lot. Namby Pamby theorising and the deification of the self important gits at the top of most systems actually counts for far less.
Again, Why Does This Matter?
Mainly because it allows me to mention Stalin’s Great Terror and Black Books in one blog post. That’s enough reason for me, and I hope it is for you too.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ecfr, economics, europe, maps, the economist
I have a day job, working for a particular think tank that covers European foreign policy. That’s why I have this as an outlet – so that I can express views that are my own, rather more freely. But sometimes I do something there that I want to share here. For instance this blog post.
The idea started with this ace map from the Economist:
Which led me to this:
And the slightly more complex this:
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: nintendo 3DS, robots, technology, the economist
If there’s one thing I enjoy predicting it’s the coming war against the robots, when humankind is finally consumed by the technology that it created but can no longer either control or understand.
And now, I feel, that war is one step closer. Thanks to a games console.
I was walking along a stretch of scrub land in the surprisingly pleasant city of Johannesburg, listening to the Babbage podcast from The Economist, which covers technological matters. The two journalists were talking about a remarkable device – a games console that works in 3D without any need for those funny glasses that they started handing out in the 1970s.
Remarkable. And how does it work? A sensible enough question, but a chilling answer.
It knows where your head is.
IT KNOWS WHERE YOUR HEAD IS.
In the future, as the survivors of the war against the robots tramp soullessly across the wastes, in search of shelter and whatever slimy half-rotten potatoes they can find, they’ll think back to this grim games console, and shudder.
Of course there’ll be a new version of this Nintendo 3DS in a year’s time that knows where your face is. And another after that that knows what you fear. Then another that wants you to help it. Then one that can’t let you do that.
It’s time to start stockpiling those tins of beans.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: africa, beira, decline of civilisations, mozambique
Enough about the Majesty of Flight for now, and so it’s time to move back to another pet topic – the Decline of Civilisations. I’ve written about visiting Ihla de Mocambique, and how it made me think of Britain after the Romans had left – people living in the ruins and half memories of a departed civilisation that had lasted for centuries.
Just down the coast from Ihla is Beira, a resort town that was a convenient holiday spot for Rhodesians. I’ve long been a fan of fading and crumbling beach resorts, but Beira takes this to a whole new level. And a film about the fate of the symbol of Beira’s heyday, the Grande Hotel, has just been made:
Spectacular. Nothing lasts.