May 24

Friday Crap Roundup XV

Friday night and I feel like total ass. But hey, I got some much-needed housework done. Now it’s time to enjoy a cold one and write the Friday Crap Roundup.

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No Trotsky Treats today. I’m watching my girlish proletariat figure.

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May 01

History Wednesday: Taxed, Tanked and Ticked Off

It’s May Day. That means this week’s History Wednesday is effectively obligated to focus on the old Soviet Union, which always made May Day a big deal. You know, parades, speeches, public appearances of Politburo members, and plenty of red flags to go around. It was a good old time.

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Wasn’t it, Товарищ Эасто́я?

Ah, but plenty has been written about May Day already. As for Leonid Brezhnev, he’s about as exciting as a bowl of plastic fruit in a windowless, concrete room. That’s not what I’m going for here.

But what about Russians and vodka? Now there’s a target-rich environment. Let’s do it! Right, so here we go:

When Brezhnev died in 1982 the Soviet economy was basically dead in the water, committed to an arms race it increasingly couldn’t afford and a massive bureaucracy run by dour old men. Brezhnev’s successor as Communist Party general secretary (and therefore as the country’s de facto leader), was one of these old, dour men, Yuri Andropov. The highlight of Andropov’s rule was that he disappeared from public view for months until the Soviets announced his death in 1984.

Andropov’s successor, Konstantin Chernenko, was even less interesting than that.

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*insert static-filled elevator music here*

Chernenko kicked the bucket after only 13 months at the helm. He was followed by someone I bet you’ve heard of: Mikhail Gorbachev. Unlike Andropov and Chernenko, Gorbachev was willing to do something about the ever-growing clusterfuck that was the Soviet economy. He did so by attempting to address the shortcomings of his notoriously boozy culture and increase revenue at the same time. To wit, shortly after taking power he raised the price of vodka and other alcoholic drinks.

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“Дерьмо!”
Image credit: ProhibitOnions

Now in statecraft there are several things you simply don’t do. You don’t barf on the Japanese prime minister. You don’t piss off the King of Spain. And you definitely don’t screw with a Russian’s vodka. The policy had a minimal effect on alcoholism statistics and at the same time cost the government billions of rubles in lost revenue.

It may be tempting to dismiss this as a rookie mistake on Gorbachev’s part, but he really should have known better. Lenin attempted to ban vodka altogether, but that proved to be a miserable failure. It took Uncle Joe Stalin, a guy not exactly known for his commitment to civil liberties, to reverse this policy. As for Gorbachev, he quietly lightened up on his policy a couple years later.

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“Naturally, we will opt for vodka.”

In the grand scheme of things an abortive effort to regulate alcohol nearly 30 years ago may not seem like much, but it was. It’s been theorized that this policy started a chain reaction of unintended consequences which ultimately led to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. In that context, it’s a big freakin’ deal.

It’s important to remember that toppling communism is not what Gorbachev had in mind. What’s more, despite continued international acclaim Gorbachev remains deeply unpopular in Russia. Despite that, attempts to raise vodka prices continue in Russia today.

If you’re so inclined, have a shot of Stoli this May Day. But keep in mind this silly little drink may very well have changed the world.

Mar 08

Friday Crap Roundup IV

I’m feeling a bit stale this week. The fact a couple of my Cracked submissions went down the drain isn’t helping. So with that in mind here we are with another silly, rant-filled FCR. Hope you enjoy, or something ….

Droning on About Drones

If you follow politics at all, you know about Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster against the potential use of unmanned drones against American citizens on American soil. An impressive physical feat to be sure. Even more impressive considering Paul didn’t use the facilities during his marathon speech. Of course, Strom Thurmond spoke for over 24 hours for the much less noble cause of opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1957, preparing for that by taking steam baths every day to dehydrate himself.

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“Amateurs.”

Now while I have strong libertarian leanings, I’ve never been a supporter of former Rep. Ron Paul or his son Rand. This week’s news doesn’t change much. However, I do think Sen. Paul has a point here. Both Pauls occasionally put forth good ideas, but I wouldn’t want either as president. As a Democrat I’ve always been lukewarm at best about Obama. Hopefully in 2016 we’ll nominate a stronger libertarian in the mold of a Bill Richardson or Brian Schweitzer.

Chavez Under Glass

Another politician I have mixed feelings about, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, died a few days ago. Apparently he’ll be embalmed and put on permanent exhibit, joining such fun people as Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and both Kims of North Korea.

One wonders how long this will last. Unlike China, Vietnam, North Korea or even Russia, Venezuela has a viable political opposition. An attempt to recall Chavez in 2004 received over 40 percent of the vote. With the iconoclastic Chavez out of the picture, it’s conceivable the opposition will return to government there in the relatively near future. In the meantime, even in death Chavez continues to confound opposition both at home and abroad.

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“Amateurs.”

Fun With Dating Sites

Although I’ve been inactive on the dating site front for several weeks now, earlier today I received this unsolicited little gem:

Hi hun. Just browsing the site and came across your profile. I would love to chat and see how far we can take this. I could really use a good time out. Honestly, I’m ready to get together for some drinks soon! I don’t come on here often and I hate talking on these sites, so many restrictions. Let’s make this easier and just get a hold of me directly (e-mail redacted) I check that from my phone so I can get back to you right away. Just for fun, tell me what would you do to me if we got together? Would love to hear what you have in mind . I hope youre (sic) as serious as I am, Ill be waiting eagerly for your response.

Ostensibly she’s local, although for all I know she could be in Turkmenistan or something. While I suspect this is about as sincere as Strom Thurmond’s moderation of his segregationist views late in his career, which is to say not very, it should at the very least provide some new material for SB. Provided it’s sufficiently substantial and/or hilarious, more on this later.

Mailbag

While all readers are free to make comments, I don’t respond to them in the Comments section. This isn’t YouTube. However, I will respond to them here in FCR on occasion. Earlier this week “Rhodent” opined on the Basque language problem mentioned in “Expired Food

The “x” = /ʃ/ isn’t really all that bad, though, when you consider the fact that all i’s in Basque are pronounced with the /i/ phoneme. Thus, “Bitxi” is pronounced “Beachy”. In fact, you could just anglicize the spelling to that if you wanted.

This isn’t a comment from some random person. I’ve known Rhodent for years. We used to be in a fantasy hockey league together. More importantly, I respect his opinion. I’m also going to take his suggestion. For my daughter’s sobriquet, “Beachy” it is. Thanks to him for saving me the trouble of trying to be clever again.

Track of the Week

I came across this classic at the Idaho Youth Ranch thrift store of all places. Damn, has it really been 20 years?