It's that word "swap" I find interesting. It implies that what we're giving is broadly equivalent to what we're getting. In other words, those ever so paranoid Russian authorities and their kangaroo courts were right all along: those people they banged up were indeed spies and that the West is indeed spying on them.
So, Time magazine have made Vladimir Putin their Man of the Year. Well, as Johan Norberg points out this is by no means the first time they have courted controversy in this way. Take 1938, for instance, and a certain German dictator…
I was reading a more-than-usually-depressing article on Russia when I came across this:
THE TVER REGION, which lies two hundred kilometers to the north of Moscow…
(My emphasis). And then…
The Volga runs through the city of Tver…
“Hang about,” I said. “The Volga runs through Volgograd. And that used to be called Stalingrad. And Stalingrad was in the south. Surely some mistake?”
No mistake. The Volga is one hell of a river.
- ‘Vietnam troop commander William Westmoreland gruffly announced during one commission hearing that he was not interested in leading an army of “mercenaries.” Friedman coolly replied, “Would you rather command an army of slaves?”’ From a Reason bio of Milton Friedman (hat-tip: A&L)
- “In the first government defeat, the Lords voted to rule out using sexuality, criminality and cultural or religious beliefs as grounds for diagnosing a mental disorder.” Yes, you read that right.
- Squander Two fisks Tony Blair. At some length. He also defends Blogger from the techno-snobs. I am inclined to agree with him. The days of the permalink crisis are long gone.
- Jackie reviews an Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatry professor who also suffers from manic depression. Jackie also manages to get to the root causes of gang culture in a sentence:
One of the girls made a good point about the fact that lots of the boys who have these guns are more afraid of those around them than they are of the law…
- The other week I linked to some colour photos of Russia from the 1900s. Here are some (coloured rather than colour, I suspect) from the 1890s.
- Harry Hutton considers the issue of smoking inspectors:
If we can raise a fighting fund of £500,000 we can probably drive many of them into exile, arranging for gangs of hoodlums to break their windows, drag them from their homes and tar and feather them.
Ha! Unlikely, for sure, but looking to the future, is it really beyond the bounds of possibility?
- Just when you thought it was safe to surf free of pop-ups, WordPress (of all people) bring them back. Jackie isn’t too impressed either.
- Free market think tank sets up school. Or does it?
- The standard version of the Madrid train bombing is that the government tried to pin it on ETA when, in fact, it had been carried out by Islamists. John Chappell begs to differ.
- A photo of Roman Abramovich from the 1980s. Seems there’s nothing new in the blank expression, even when, as it would appear here, he has plenty to smile about.
- Helen Szamuely feels the need for a German national identity. Which begs the question, if they don’t already have one, what is it that is keeping them together? Also check out Helen’s article on Willi Munzenberg - Josef Goebbels’s propaganda nemesis.
- France’s Socialist Party has selected a good-looking woman to be its candidate in the up-coming Presidential election. This has implications. But only an economist can tell us what they are.
- Don’t fancy yours much… Mark… Anthony.
- I know this item is called: “If you haven’t already...” but I have never made it clear what you may not already have done - read it, or seen it. For instance, while I have read this article on bullying in the Russian Army I haven’t seen it and I am not sure I want to. The British Army, of course, is so much better. While we’re on the subject of English Russia don’t forget to check out, well… everything.
If only the truth weren’t so mundane.
Ésprit d’escalier Hmm, that should really read: “If only the truth weren’t so inconvenient. Oh well, too late now.
... here are some of the items I’ve enjoyed reading/listening to over the past week:
- Ann Althouse describes her podcasting technique as putting nails into a rice pudding although you may find her distinctive style puts you in mind of a quite different dessert. (Hat-tip: Instapundit)
- Hydrogen. It’s a hoax. I particularly liked Zubin’s description of how difficult it would be to transport. (Hat-tip: Pajamas Media)
- When I first saw Apple’s latest Mitchell and Webb advertising campaign (the one in which the guy with the job is the PC and the layabout the Apple) my immediate thought was: “Well done, you’ve just lost a potential customer.” I was not alone. (Hat-tip: Tim Hall). Charles Pooter agrees.
- Mark Steyn takes a break from his own prophecies of doom to diss the climate change competition. Nothing particularly new, just good knockabout stuff.
- David Farrer blogs about Bavaria’s parallel currency, one of many to have emerged in Germany since the introduction of the Euro. Yeah… but… isn’t it just a teensy bit illegal?
- “In my darker moments I think guns should be not just legal but compulsory for sane, law-abiding members of the public.” David Copperfield outlines a multi-agency approach to crime prevention.
- And finally… this week’s link to English Russia: the rebuilding of Moscow. When I see photos like this I can almost believe that the Putin clampdown is only temporary.
Or maybe not.
What do you think of the new title for the spot formerly known as “Weekly Round-Up”? Cool or what? Anyway in case you haven’t already read them, here are a few of the items that caught my attention this week. Let’s start with a few quotes:
- “But what does freedom mean if I can´t slaughter my own pig in my back yard?”, a Romanian farmer learns about the downside of EU membership.
- “‘Global warming’ does indeed present a grave threat; as a tool of political power it is a threat to freedom, prosperity, trade, progress and all the health, wealth and happiness that those things make possible.” Thaddeus Tremayne vents the finest spleen in the blogosphere.
- “...if I may generalize about all computer geeks - is that they really like to overexplain the fucking shit out of everything.” Jackie adds that this also applies to hist and pol geeks. Warning noted.
And now for the serious stuff:
- Squander Two wanders into the abortion debate, makes some not entirely unreasonable remarks and ends up being called a misogynist, a wingnut and a Jew-hater. I knew he was the guy to do the Transport Blog redesign.
- McDonald’s, bad for agenda-driven documentary makers but, thankfully, not for normal people. And their coffee, apparently, tastes better than Starbucks’.
- Boris Johnson’s article on why women aren’t marrying these days - he thinks they’re all too well-educated (what, in state universities?) - is creating a bit of a buzz. For what it’s worth I think the answer is a lot more prosaic: housing is just too expensive, meaning that very few men can support a family on their own income. No prospect of a family = no point in being married. Abolish planning - that’s what I say.
- Harry Phibbs wonders if Doughty Street is the future of TV. Well, if it is, I’m a dinosaur. But he does at least give us this:
One irony was that among the coverage 18 Doughty Street launch was given was a hostile item on Channel 4. Krishnan Guru-Murphy declared: “They won’t have any obligation to be impartial or accurate.” This is astonishing audacity. Does anyone really imagine Jon Snow votes Tory?
- Chilling news on global warming. Scientists must say what politicians tell them to. In a similar vein (or should that be vain?), Al Gore agrees to an interview with his fiercest critic and gets a mysterious bout of cold feet.
- Oh dear, what a mess we free marketeers get into when trying to explain away highly-taxed Sweden’s economic success. Here’s Johann Norberg predicting disaster tomorrow. It’s always tomorrow, isn’t it? My best guess is that Sweden is just a bit odd. Whatever the case may be it’s an experiment that no one else has ever been able to repeat.
- Just to prove the virility of their continuing intellectual self-confidence, the former democracy of Belgium and that great model of Europeanism has banned the number 18.
- And finally… do check out these colour photos from Russia in the 1900s. For example:
There was no round up last week due to that sodding talk which took up rather a lot of my time.
- Laban reprints Paul Dacre’s Hugh Cudlipp Memorial Lecture. I am far from a fan of Dacre’s Daily Mail but anyone who points out that:
...when The Times’s Ms Sieghart, the very embodiment of modern free-thinking women, holds forth on feminism, she does so courtesy of the topless girls in the still vastly profitable Sun.
...can’t be all bad.
- At risk of turning this into a Crozier-Micklethwait Appreciation Society I would recommend that you take a look, if you haven’t already, at Brian’s first piece (there will be more) on the French anthropologist philosopher Emmanuel Todd. Anyone who, in 1975, predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade or so later deserves attention.
- “Anti-Americanism has acquired the status of Western Europe’s lingua franca."According to The Chronicle. To paraphrase Fred Boynton: I think it’s well-known that anti-Americanism has its roots in impotence, at least in Europe. (Hat-tip: A&L Daily)
- It would be far better to lower - rather than raise - the school leaving age, argues Theodore Dalrymple. ‘Nuff said.
- Don’t learn Japanese. No really. I can say this from personal experience. It’s as mad as a box of frogs. (Hat-tip: Rob Fisher)
- Can we really compare Iraq’s insurgents with the Werewolves, the Nazis’ attempt to start an underground campaign against the Allies? Michael Ledeen thinks we can.
“Alex Deane - formerly Chief of Staff to David Cameron...” is a not a good introduction to any article but his rant at dinner party tittle-tattle on the Litvinenko affair rewards persistence:
Then there’s the fatuous - “we can’t be sure the Russians did it”. You think someone else, with no motive but framing the Russians, got some dedicated agents, got hold of this stuff and then, rather than taking up the career in world class chemistry that beckoned to them, smuggled it into the UK to kill someone who was… erm… one of the best attackers of the regime they must clearly hate if they wanted to do down Russia..?
Indeed. Not that that’s the end of the affair:
Worst of all the responses so far, there’s the pseudo-diplomat doing real politique at the dinner table - “Ah, but the Russians have all the oil - we can’t mess with them”.
To which I suppose the response should be: “We have all the money - they can’t mess with us.”
Read the whole thing, as they say.
…says, sort of, Niall Ferguson
Russia is going backwards, says Helen Szamuely (pronounced Sam-you-elly, I understand)