(Roughly) Daily

Bearish on the Bear…

Three observations about Russia:

1) By 2015, Moscow will have the 10 tallest office buildings in Europe. The rent for Moscow office space is currently higher than in midtown Manhattan. As oil (and some other commodity) revenues swell the coffers, big, state-controlled commerce flourishes. [Newsweek, via Kottke.org]

2) Russia is dying out. The fertility rate is low and falling. (In the 16-plus years since the end of the U.S.S.R., Russia has recorded over 12 million more deaths than births.) Life expectancy for Russian men is astonishingly low, well below current levels in either Pakistan or Bangladesh; and trends have been moving in the wrong direction for decades. Men can expect to live less than 59 years. The annual numbers are bad — car accidents (33,000), murder (30,000) and suicide (57,000). Drinking, smoking, poor diet and a dysfunctional health care system contribute further. [Wall Street Journal

3) Political, press, economic, and religious freedoms are at a point approximating their state under Soviet leadership, though with a more personal cast this time around:

On a recent visit to Italy, President Vladimir Putin was asked about a Russian newspaper report that he was divorcing his wife of many years to marry a 24-year-old rhythmic gymnast famous in Russia for her lithe beauty.

Putin denied the report in his usual charming way, scolding the media “with their snotty noses and their erotic fantasies.” Then the newspaper that published the rumor was shut down.

Or, to be more precise, the newspaper that published the rumor, in a paroxysm of self-loathing and czar-love, shut itself down. And a few days later, just to make sure, the lower house of parliament, or Duma (of which the young gymnast is now a member, representing Putin’s party), approved a law, by a vote of 339 to 1, allowing authorities to shutter any other newspaper that dared to print such reports again.

[April 27, 08 Fred Hiatt, Washington Post]

Bearish on the Bear…

As we reconsider our vodkas, we might pause to recall another master of political illusion (fictional division), L. Frank Baum, born on this date in 1856. After trying his hand at acting and marketing (he was a pioneer in the then-fledgling field of “store displays,” founded the trade magazine “The Show Window,” and helped start the longest continuously-running trade association in marketing, what’s now known as The Society of Visual Merchandising), he found his true calling, creating Dorothy, Toto, the Wizard, and the “Wonderful World” he ruled.

L. Frank Baum

L. Frank Baum

Written by LW

May 15, 2008 at 1:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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