Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rediscovering Capitalism: Lessons from the Mistakes of Marxist-Leninism

Disclaimer: I copyedited this book, and the author is a friend and colleague.

More than a year ago, a colleague asked me to help copyedit a book she was writing: Rediscovering Fire: Basic Economic Lessons from the Soviet Experiment to Eliminate the Market. When she explained the idea behind the book--using the Soviets' experiences as a series of experiments to demonstrate fundamental laws of economics (i.e., capitalism)--I was intrigued, in part because of my background in Soviet and Russian studies. In a fit of generosity, I agreed, which I came to partially regret later when my schedule became ridiculously busy due factors outside of work. (I was already quite busy at work.)

When I actually began working on it, the regret disappeared. Her idea was as good as it had sounded. Repeatedly, the Soviets had destroyed the market and its mechanisms only to realize that they needed to recreate them to make the Soviet economy function at all. Naturally, their attempts to mimic market forces through central planning were at best half measures, which promptly failed, leaving the leaders to rediscover and reinstitute market forces under various thin disguises. The whole episode of Soviet economic experimentation would make a wonderful comedy if it had not condemned millions to misery and even death.

The book is well worth a read.

I take some pleasure in the cover by John Cox. I referred Guinevere to John Cox, a favorite cartoonist and caricaturist of mine, who has an eye for absurd.

Note: If you see any typos in this book, I don't want to hear about them. They are obviously the publisher's fault. :-)

Related Links
On Guinevere Liberty Nell, Rediscovering Fire: Basic Economic Lessons from the Soviet Experiment to Eliminate the Market (2010).
John Cox Art, website

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Board at your own risk"

Photo courtesy of WMATA
Something unique happened on my commute home, which is usually a bad thing, but not so much today.

When I boarded a Metro train at Union Station, the driver started warning passengers that the air conditioning was out in all six cars of the train and that it was a "hot train." She continued by warning that anyone with a medical condition should get off and wait for the next train.

Hot Metro cars are nothing new to me, but an entire train is and so were the warnings. Either this driver was seriously concerned about the welfare of her passengers or Metro may actually be getting serious about improving customer service. Hopefully, both.

But this was not the end of the warnings. She topped everything with "Board at your own risk," which I found  quite funny and refreshingly direct. The irony of a train driver urging passengers not to board her train was delicious. I don't even remember if she followed silly Metro practice of referring to the passengers as "customers," which has always annoyed me as a needlessly imprecise term.

If I'd been going a longer distance, I would have waited for the next train. Hot cars can be quite exhausting. Instead, I enjoyed watching the other travelers react to the driver's warnings as they boarded at each station.

If the driver came up with this routine on her own, she should be immediately promoted to management, which appears to need some clear thinkers.

Related Reading
Dr. Gridlock, "Miserable weather for Metro," Washington Post
Unsuck DC Metro blog

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

To twit or not to twit?

First, my apologies condolences to Shakespeare for mangling his words in yet another way.

For years I have avoided online social networking like the plague it is. I have responded to invitations to join Facebook with barely disguised disdain, and the idea of using Twitter repulsed me. How can anything substantive be shared in 140 characters or less? Truly, the users appeared to be twits (silly peevish persons or fools per Webster's). The whole thing seemed like a joke on the users, thinly concealed by defining "to tweet" as the verb form of using Twitter.

What can I say--I surrendered to peer pressure. Shortly after returning from my tour of Israel, I joined Facebook to keep in at least minimal contact with my new friends from the tour. A few days ago, I gave into the "final" ignominy by setting up a Twitter account for this blog to allow me to easily share links to items that catch my interest. (It actually is quite simple.)

Yet I still have my limits. I absolutely refuse to "tweet," which seems too cute by half.

I will "twit" (to subject to ridicule or reproach) instead, particularly the politicians in Washington who frequently act like twits.

Who knows how I will capitulate next? Maybe I'll buy a smartphone and start downloading apps.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Update: Lawlessness in the U.S. Department of Justice

This has been bubbling for a few days, and DOJ has "responded" to J. Christian Adams' charges. Apparently, DOJ officials feel they can't afford to ignore, even though the "mainstream" media has ignored it so far.

Adams responded to the smears:
The problem with smearing me is that there are many others who know the truth inside the Department. Documents which they refuse to turn over pursuant to subpoenas from the Civil Rights Commission prove it. Testimony from other DOJ employees, which they refuse to allow, would also prove it.
Where is the mainstream media? This should be fairly easy to corroborate.

"DOJ Slimes Whistleblower Adams in Panthergate Case," PajamasMedia

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