Friday, February 28, 2003

Memories

The German's are opening a "East Germany" theme park for those nostalgic for the bliss of the proletariat. Thanks Samizdata. But they were not the first. Earlier there was Stalin World in Lithuania. Stalin World was not so well received by some Lithuanians
“Imagine that in your country, one day armed KGB men come to your door. They beat your neighbor, rape your sister, your mother, kill your brothers...and exile your family,” Kerosierius was quoted by The National Post newspaper. “And now someone is building monuments to these killers, these rapists? No country has ever built monuments for tyrants. Are there any monuments for Hitler or Goebbles?”
Hey, its all in good fun. Lighten up folks, 100 million dead is a drop in the bucket. Haven't you heard about the population problem.Take a lesson from Whoopi : "I don't really view communism as a bad thing." Boy its a good thing all the immensely assinine foul ignorant head-up-my ass stupid things I've ever said are not going to be preserved for posterity. Although, that would save space on the ole-tombstone.

My Name Is Forrest

Ok, I am not a "professional" writer, I am not even a good writer. But way back when I did not do too poorly on the SAT reading comprehension test. But I cannot for the life of me understand what is the point of Dan Rather's commentary in the Wall Street Journal. Is it that he wants to pass on that Sadaam has lost 30 pounds since the last time Dan has met with him? Is it that Sadaam has lovely dark eyes? Or was it 1200 words just to pass on this gem
...when he was asked, repeatedly, about his standing relative to that of Osama bin Laden as a "champion of the Arab streets." The question seemed to rankle and one was left with the impression that this self-styled, latter-day Saladin feels the pressure of competing on the one hand with President Bush in the court of world opinion and, on the other, with Osama bin Laden for the hearts and minds of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

These are the two walls that hem the Iraqi ruler in, as he finds himself cornered now as never before. when he was asked, repeatedly, about his standing relative to that of Osama bin Laden as a "champion of the Arab streets." The question seemed to rankle and one was left with the impression that this self-styled, latter-day Saladin feels the pressure of competing on the one hand with President Bush in the court of world opinion and, on the other, with Osama bin Laden for the hearts and minds of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

These are the two walls that hem the Iraqi ruler in, as he finds himself cornered now as never before. I believe that Saddam appreciates the seriousness of his situation, in a way that I did not feel on our first meeting, in 1990, when he openly doubted that the United States and the first President Bush would be willing to risk spilling American blood to repel his invasion of Kuwait. He knows that vast forces are arrayed against him. As he put it, "I understand. I hear and I see."
Uh... Ok. I hope Sadaam gets over this psychic rough patch. You really gotta wonder why Dan is so concerned about the murderer's mental health. Poor guy, he is under so much stress.

BTW, Tim Graham in the Nat Review had a review of Dan's little play date with Sadaam.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Black Gold

Before the infamous 1917 revolution Russia was becoming one of the worlds largest producers of oil rivaling the US (which at the time had the largest proven reserves). After the revolution, came the collectivisation, mass starvation, gulags, war with Germany, and several proxy wars with the US. Since the soviet collapse the oil industry has been busy modernizing its operations and its efforts have born their intended fruit. In January 2003 Russia has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the leading oil extractor, globally. The problem for Russia is not enough pipeline capacity to get the oil exported. This is a mixed blessing. Domestic prices for oil are low but there is not enough domestic demand to consume the product. The inadequate distribution infrastructure is preventing Russian oil companies from taking full advatage of the current run-up in oil prices. By the second half of the year oil prices are expected to fall, some are predicting prices below $20.

There are plans to build Russia-China and Russia-Japan pipelines, but these projects take years to implement. So while in short term this is a mixed blessing, the productive Russian oil industry is a welcome change for them and the rest of the industrialized world.

The Future

The future is looking bright dimmer for Mr Hussein (Iraqi Dictator). Following the speech of US President Bush the April, May and June 03 Tradesports.com futures have moved sharply against the Iraqi tyrant. The April, May and June futures are at 63%, 69% and 75%, respectively. Meanwhile the March 03 "Saddam Future" has fallen to indicate a 25% chance of Sadaam being "out of office" by the end of March, the peak for the March future was ~63% back in October 02. But despite the 200,000 US troops surrounding Iraq and aggressive rhetoric the June 03 futures have not reached their earlier highs of 85%.

Care to make it interesting?

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Aha!!

Aha!! Several months back we talked about this very thing, and now it seems to be happening. Russia is building a free-trade zone. In the Soviet era and probably still, Russia was little more than a Third world country with nuclear weapons. But since Putin has assumed power they have taken significant steps to improve the fundamental performance of their economy. Measures like the flat-tax, land reforms that have made it possible for citizens to own land, modest deregulation, have put Russia on a stronger footing. Don't get me wrong, they are still a long way from achieving western living standards but the course is encouraging. German Gref, Russia's Economics Minister, is often credited with these policies but you have to give credit to Putin for his conviction in Gref's vision and Putin's ability to withstand the thousands of constituents for soviet era practices. Putin rules the country like a czar, and some Russians feel that Russia must be ruled by a czar.

Having instituted these policies, the natural next step for building empire, in the post-Cold War world, is expanding the economy. Russia's economy being the strongest of the soviet republics and eastern-bloc countries, makes it the natural anchor and senior partner in a free-trade zone. The free-trade zone expands Russia's influence over the former-soviet republics. The current partners are a dubious bunch Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. All weak economies, probably why they are willing to cozy up to their former master. Belarus is ruled by a fascist. You won't see Lithuania, Latvia, or Estonia signing up just yet, much less Poland or Hungary. But Serbia is definitely a possible member. Who knows what will happen in the future, but today this is a welcome direction. Expanding "empire" through trade is definitely preferable to Russian soldiers marching across these countries.

Building its ecomony is of great strategic importance for Russia. And not because of some competitive impulse towards the US or Europe; I honestly feel that Russians could not care less about Europe or the US. Russia faces a very real threat from China, Europe is not a threat with its burdensome regulated economy and toothless military. But China is another story. Russia's greatest military challenge and territorial threat comes from the east. China borders Russia and has a population that outnumbers Russia's 5 to 1. There are currently hundreds of thousands Chinese investing in Russia's far-east, a sparcely populated expance. Russia needs to make sure that it does not loose its western lands like Mexico lost it's territory north of the Rio Grande.