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Cecily Cecily

Writing Worth Reading

If You Want To Be A Millionaire …

… Go to Belarus, where the methods and institutions of the Soviet Union survive under President Aleksandr Lukashenka. A kilo of sausages costs 100,000 Roubles (about $10) and you will need a million roubles to buy a winter coat. Vodka is cheap and plentiful, making Belarusians the world’s heaviest drinkers. The KGB punishes dissenters. Farm workers earn $100-$200 a month. The young dream of moving to Poland (2,528 words)

The Collapse Of The USSR And The Illusion Of Progress

The Soviet collapse 25 years ago freed the Baltic states and the communist satellites of eastern Europe to prosper. Elsewhere the legacy is mixed. “In at least half of the countries of the former USSR a new dictatorship replaced the old, often with the same cast of oppressors. The vast majority of the ex-Soviet population finds itself under authoritarian rule at a standard of living well below the level of 1990″ (1,255 words)

Life In The Chechen Closet

Probably NSFW. From the same “Queer Russia” series as Brokeback In Belarus. And every bit as remarkable. A gay waiter in Gudermes tells all. “In the Chechen coterie there are few versatile men; lots of active guys, but they never let anyone fk them in the ass. These are dzhigit (macho) matters. If you fk someone in the ass, but don’t let anyone do it to you, then you’re still a dzhigit; and not a faggot” (3,660 words)

Brokeback In Belarus

Two male tractor drivers live together in a remote village in Belarus. Both had wives and children before discovering they were in love with each other. Their wives left, taking the children. Transcript of a frank and touching conversation. About love, marriage, sex. “The village has accepted it. But then, this is a dead village, there’s nobody here but pensioners. The old dears found it a bit weird, of course, but they soon go used to it” (3,600 words)

Is China More Democratic Than Russia?

Russia has assumed the outward appearance of a democracy, but none of the substance. Opposition is allowed but ignored. Policy is dictated. China is more classically authoritarian in structure, but much more inclusive in the process of policy formation. The leadership is constantly experimenting with political and economic models

Chavez To Eternity

Sympathetic, well-informed assessment of Venezuelan leader’s record and legacy. “The changes Chávez established were not of systems but of personnel; those who were poor, mestizo or excluded have entered power, but in the process have not managed to change the way power works, nor the circuits of patronage and dependence it relies upon” (2,181 words)

Chavez To Eternity

Sympathetic, well-informed assessment of Venezuelan leader’s record and legacy. “The changes Chávez established were not of systems but of personnel; those who were poor, mestizo or excluded have entered power, but in the process have not managed to change the way power works, nor the circuits of patronage and dependence it relies upon”

Would Democratic Change In Russia Transform Foreign Policy?

Changes in global energy and strategic fundamentals, deterioration of Russia’s political climate, greatly diminish Russia’s allure for foreign partners. Looks more and more like a 19C autocracy stranded in a 21C world. Some deduce that democratic shift is inevitable. But even a more democratic government would have much the same foreign policy

Chongqing And Bo Xilai: How China Works

“This is a system predicated on unaccountable power, where at the heart of governance a few individuals engage in coalition-building and mutual support to advance each other’s interests without input from public opinion”

Central Banks Should Admit Their Mistakes

Central banks need to be more open, more “conversational”, even about their mistakes. They are obviously not omniscient, as they used to pretend. Their authority has to be based on public trust, not professional mystique

Turning The Tables On Russia’s Power Elite – The Story Behind The Magnitsky Act

Get past the opening few paragraphs and this is a fascinating, shocking account about the price of doing business in Russia and tangling with oligarchs and the Kremlin. Written by investment fund boss who’s exposed huge corruption

The Politics Of Suicide

On the rhetoric of Greek political parties, as we approach new elections: “Suicide is the negation of a certain type of politics. Even as a rhetorical device, suicide remains an act rather than a word; and democracy needs words”

Law & Order, Take Two

One for fans of the long-running TV series, as broadcasting exec who acquired Law & Order for the UK compares the British and American versions. In particular the US episode “Mayhem” and its UK remake “Dawn to Dusk”

Siege Of Leningrad 70 Years On

Hitler decided to starve the city out. Almost succeeded. 750,000 civilians died of hunger and disease. Greatest loss of life in any modern city. Tragedy minimised, sanitised by Soviets, embarrassed that Germans had got so far

Privatisation, But No Private Property

Who owns Russia’s wealth? In the end, nobody. Law doesn’t protect property rights. State seizes, extorts whatever it can. Yet the state is itself a mass of competing mafias. Economy is a permanent struggle for control

Britain’s Children

UK has a duty to act in best interests of its children. But it locks up more young offenders than any European country. Even nine year olds pass nights in police cells. It’s “clearly in breach” of UN convention. Urgent change needed

Into Europe

Excellent read on what Europe means to Ireland. First it was the money. Then came equal pay for women, decriminalisation of homosexuality, a sense of connectness. Now it’s back to the money. But this time it’s flowing the other way

Why Happiness? Interview With Geoff Mulgan

“We want a cultural shift to a society in which it is as natural to discuss what’s going on with happiness—with who is thriving and who is not—as it is to discuss what’s going on with the economy—who is prospering and who is not”

Uses And Abuses Of Happiness

Ideas of national well-being and happiness have become a central feature of British public policy. But the debate confuses four schools of thought: Aristotelian philosophy, social statistics, behavioural psychology, and self-help

Warning To LSE Against Qaddafi Foundation

In 2009 Fred Halliday, director-designate of the LSE’s Middle Eastern Centre, warned the school that its reputation would be at risk if it took money from Libya. He was a lone voice, he failed, and died in 2010. His memo lives on

The Arab 1989?

Insightful essay comparing Middle East revolts with Eastern Europe in 1989. Economic stagnation, failure of authoritarian regimes, spreading awareness of alternate political systems point to similarities. One key difference remains

Greed And The American Business Model

Prosperous economies are market economies. That doesn’t mean they are driven by greed, deregulation. Even America isn’t like that. Success comes from “disciplined pluralism”, scope to experiment, innovate

Lightness Of History In Caucasus

Roots of current Caucasus conflicts don’t go back centuries into ancient or ethnic hatreds. They derive from 20th-Century Soviet policies to manipulate loyalties, suppress identities, smother grievances

Them And Us

Informative, thought-provoking review of new Will Hutton book, which argues for new model of “fairness” in society, owes much to Schumpeter when trying to strike balance between individual and collective good

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