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Mark Atwood
Brezhnev tasked the KGB with answering "Who runs capitalism".
Unsourced, and admitted in the article to be unsourced, but still, it's one of those things that "even it's it not true, it ought to be".

During the Brezhnev era, poor old Mr Brezhnev apparently consumed an annoyingly large amount of Soviet and in particular KGB man hours trying to get various of his minions to answer for him the question: "Who runs capitalism?" Presumably so that they could take him/her/it out, in some way or another, and score a cheap and quick victory in the Cold War … Or, maybe the idea was for Brezhnev then to able to sit down with this controlling mastermind, and to ask him/her/it: "How can we do it?" … it could well have been both. First find out how they do it, then kill or enslave them all, starting where it makes most sense, with whoever is in charge.
As it was a basic tenet of the faith that there was an amoral Wall street cabal operating behind the scenes controlling everything, I suppose the story is possibly true, at least to some extent.

Too many idiots in the West still believe that kind of stupidity, still.

There is a story of Kruzchev's visit to New York, during which he staged the infamous shoe pounding display at the UN. Reportedly, he was stunned by the volume of traffic he could see on the streets of Manhatten, and convinced that President Kennedy had ordered all the cars in the US to come to New York for that week, just to impress him. It was impossible to convince him otherwise, apparently, and he recalled several intelligience people from their posts in NY for failing to uncover this plot and warn him about it.
In a discussion about language with my Russian wife to be, the topic of the French Academy and its Russian equivalent was raised. When she asked me about the equivalent English organisation, she flatly refused to believe me when I said there was no body charged with the legal authority to control and regulate the language. She couldn't comprehend that a language could maintain itself without such controllers. And this from someone who spoke seven languages, including perfect English and who had already been living in London for six years. The idea of the need for control can run very deep.
In uni I heard a great a great story about some high-up Soviet economic functionary who was taken on a tour of one of the public markets in London. He spent an hour walking around the place and looking at the stalls, and then asked his hosts "How are prices set at this market?" The hosts then went into a little lecture: there are no set prices, the free market, competition, supply and demand, etc. After listening to their speech, the Soviet guy smiled indulgently, waved his hand dismissively and said "Gentlemen, I know this is the official line, but tell me: How are the prices set at this market?" Even late into the perestroika era, many Soviet economic planners with economics degrees had never seriously studied the free market and had no theoretical or practical grasp of these principles. It was more convenient for them to assume that all this "free market" talk was just a cover for a planned economic system much like the one they were familiar with.

In re the last one, one just has to listen to the ignorant statments about how "the Bushies lowered the price of gasoline just before the election" to know that such ignorance wasn't confined to the Russian Soviets.

Current Location: AlohaHaus, Capitol Hill, Seattle WA

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zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: January 15th, 2007 04:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Of course it is ignorance, the Gnomes of Zürich really run the economy, not the Bushies.
moechus From: moechus Date: January 15th, 2007 04:42 am (UTC) (Link)
You mean it's not the Trilateral Commission?
elfs From: elfs Date: January 15th, 2007 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)
edchika, who for a while made a living as a Russian translator, tells a tale of when Boris Yeltsin, while his star was ascendent but before he was president of Russia, came to the United States. According to an acquaintance of his, Yeltsin "hijacked" the tour bus by ordering it to go off the "official" tour path while in Texas. Yeltsin waited a while and then pointed at a Safeway supermarket. He ordered the bus to stop, got out and, followed by his own security detail, secret service, and a horde of others, toured the store.

He then asked to see the manager, who came made himself available. "How many stores are there like this one?" he asked.

The manager said, "Safeway has about 11,000 stores nationwide."

"Ah, but this one is special, one of the special ones, for rich people, right?" Yeltsin said.

The manager was confused. "No, I don't think so. Not really. All of the stores have the same layout and ours is pretty average."

Yeltsin stared at the manager, then stormed back into the bus, ordered everyone off, and for the next half hour sat in the bus, alone, crying. He had realized that there was no "Potemkin village" in America, no special cases, that everything his KGB handlers had been telling him his entire life was a lie, that yes everything just worked and America really was as wealthy as its propoganda pretended it was.

Ed tells the story way better, by the way.
akicif From: akicif Date: January 15th, 2007 07:53 am (UTC) (Link)
The same story's told of when Bulganin visited Britain in the fifties, and that wasn't long after the end of rationing.
mauser From: mauser Date: January 15th, 2007 08:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Ages ago I read a story about a Russian minister touring the factory where they made Purina Cat Chow. He was shown the production lines, and he was shown the testing labs where they had hundreds of cats they used to taste-test the various flavors and formulations for the cat food.

At the end of the tour, the Russian was asked if he had any questions, and he had one. "What do you do with the pelts?""
mauser From: mauser Date: January 15th, 2007 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I guess Washington is just being punished, which explains why Bush raised gas prices here while they were going down in the rest of the nation, and it has nothing to do with the fact that Northwest refineries get their oil from a different source.

/snark. m
alacrity From: alacrity Date: January 17th, 2007 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Where do Northwest refiners get their oil? There's a whole lot of things here which make very little sense to me, ranging from "why is natural gas okay for heating and hot water but not okay for cooking?" to "why the hell did the so-called clean energy proposition pass, and how were they able to get away with the lie that it would lower energy prices?"
mauser From: mauser Date: January 17th, 2007 06:38 am (UTC) (Link)
IIRC, most of the NorthWest's oil comes from Alaska, and Canada, and some from Russia. (Oddly though, a LOT of Alaska's oil goes to the pacific rim, because it's something other than the "Light Sweet" crude that US refineries like).

Oh, and that Clean Energy thing, which DIDN'T include Hydroelectric as Clean.... man, we're going to be regretting that one in a few years.... On this, we agree totally.
alacrity From: alacrity Date: January 17th, 2007 05:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you'd be surprised about how many real issues we likely agree on. Philosophically and linguistically, I'm both a stickler and Devil's Advocate, in mixed quantities. :-P
alacrity From: alacrity Date: January 17th, 2007 05:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Umm, just for the record, you are aware that gasoline isn't a good example of market price effects, right? The demand is almost perfectly inelastic when you look at anything less than at least a 6-12 month timeframe. Which means that, in the short run, suppliers have all the pricing power.

This alone wouldn't be enough, of course, but add to that the fact that there is a relatively small number of major players on the supply side and it is utterly possible for one of those major players to enact a short term price increase or decrease. It happens all the time.

Did this occur before the election, and if so who was responsible? I have no idea. But the proposition of such a thing occuring is not necessarily "ignorance." At least, not from an economic perspective.
mauser From: mauser Date: January 17th, 2007 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Most of the fluctuation in the oil market is not based on gasoline consumption, but home heating oil, which fluctuates with the weather.
alacrity From: alacrity Date: January 17th, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
As well as having more localized effects, though, I believe. In some areas petrol based home heating is more common and in other places it is almost unheard of. Chicago was far more impacted by the supply shocks in Natural Gas recently, because that is the dominant fuel for heating (and cooking) there.
mauser From: mauser Date: January 18th, 2007 03:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, and when the power was out, I drove through the Redmond/Bellevue area, and EVERYONE was using their wood stoves in earnest. The pollution was obvious. (A friend of mine once had a Catalytic wood stove. That thing made practically NO smoke, and was hotter than hell.)

This also got me thinking about a story of a guy who switched from oil to gas in an old house. The tank was gone from his basement, but the filler pipes were still there. Along comes a oil delivery tanker with the wrong address... you can guess the rest.
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