Tag Archive: Red Square


“For the American generation which has grown up since the downfall of the USSR, socialism is no longer the boo word it once was.” The Economist, Feb. 16, 2019

The youngest of all Millennials were gestating in 1980.

Reagan called upon Gorbachev to “Tear Down This Wall” in 1987.

The Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989.

The Soviet Union collapsed under its sheer weight in 1991.

The last of the Millennials arrived in the millennial year, 2000.

The largely overlooked question: How many Millennials personally remember the USSR?

Alas, the answer is very, very few.

Only the oldest Millennials may have any memory of the Wall coming down when they were nine or the Soviet Union imploding without a shot being fired when they were 11.

For the vast majority of Millennials including all of the younger members of the Y-Generation, none of them remember the USSR and most of all, its authoritarian brand (being charitable) of socialism/communism.

To top it off, they are thus easily impressionable for exploitation by politicians, entertainers and academics who absolutely adore all things Karl Marx including some wearing red star hats and sporting Che Guevara t-shirts and posters.

Instead of “We the people” and liberty, it’s “Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”

When someone says government can provide a whole cavalcade of goodies – government-paid health insurance, college, jobs — for free, including Universal Basic Income (UBI) for those “unwilling” to work … don’t you just know there will be Big Brother Orwellian strings attached?

Back From The USSR

“I’m back in the U.S.S.R.
You don’t know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S.S.R. (Yeah)”
– Lennon (Not Lenin) & McCartney

For Almost DailyBrett, a 1981 two-week trip to Leonid Brezhnev’s “Evil Empire” was an eye-opening, life-changing journey.

Kevin in Moscow – 1981

The flood-lit Wunder of Red Square (Красная площадь) in Moscow, the Swan Lake performance of the Bolshoi, the splendor of the Czar’s winter and summer palaces in St. Petersburg (Leningrad at the time) are all must see for any student of history and politics, let alone art.

Your author has placed a return-venture to modern-day Russia on his Bucket List, particularly what has changed and unfortunately what has remained the same (tyranny).

It’s safe to say that Russia has transformed itself after attempted Glasnost and Perestroika into an authoritarian oligarchical capitalist state with widespread corruption.

You can take the Vladimir Putin out of the KGB, but you can’t the KGB out of Vladimir Putin.

Looking back to your author’s trip to the Soviet Union, there were the wonders of Russia. There was also the socialist/communist police state reality of the USSR.

There were the jammed horrible motor coaches,

There were the lines for food and the basics of life.

There were well-stocked Beriozka or “little birch” stores, which accepted all currencies except for Russian rubles. It must suck to be you, Ivan and Tanya.

There were the tiny little cars with lawn-mower engines for the fortunate few (10 years wait), while Zil limousines carried Communist big shots to their exclusive dachas.

The Most Equal Of The Equals

“In an ideal socialist society, “the people” own the means of production. Everyone’s basic needs are met. Leaders are elected democratically. When implemented, however, human nature intervenes. Powerful elites take charge.” – Alex Berezow. USA Today Board of Contributors

Bummer.

There is so much discussion about the haves and the have-nots of American society.

There are cries for social justice: Translated some all-powerful state entity must level the playing field.

The question, which remains: Did socialist/communist USSR really even the score for everyone?

Whattya think AOC? How’s Venezuela working out? Is history repeating itself?

Even more to the point: Do Millennials in their lack of deep direct knowledge/remembrance of the USSR appreciate the stark dark truth of government provided socialism?

Karl Marx may be turning over in his grave but sorry to say, his idea did not work, and will not work regardless of the nation. Too many people want to achieve, and to do better for themselves and their families.

And yet there is hope for Millennials, and proof that many have not consumed the red cool aid.

It’s called Buy Low Sell High, and that beautifully simple concept applies to Millennials too.

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/02/14/millennial-socialism

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2019/02/14/millennial-socialists-want-to-shake-up-the-economy-and-save-the-climate

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/02/21/cnn-thinks-socialism-cool-my-grandparents-ussr-would-disagree/349830002/

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/millennials-communism-sounds-pretty-chill-2017-11-01

Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” – Winston Churchill

My maternal grandfather never wanted to go to two places: Hell and Russia.

He lived to the century mark and slightly beyond. I doubt he went anyplace, but heaven. I’m certain he never stepped foot inside Russia.

kevinrussia

The author of Almost DailyBrett visited the USSR in 1981, when Leonid Brezhnev and the Politburo were calling the shots. That was 33 years ago.

Today, the Soviet Union is an unpleasant Cold War memory. Nonetheless, Russia remains a difficult and perplexing nine-time-zone nation on the geopolitical map, stretching from Belarus in the West to Vladivostok on the Pacific … and is just as fascinating as ever.

Putin or no Vladimir Putin, I want to go back and check out the changes before I meet Anastasia (“screamed in vain”) in the after-life.

Honeymoon in Stalingrad?

Even though I married Rachel Weisz’ twin, or at least Jeanne could easily be mistaken as Rachel’s sibling, we are not heading to the banks of the Volga for our belated honeymoon. The castles of Bavaria and the phallic symbols of Tuscany in summer are a smidge more romantic.

This is not to suggest that Enemy at the Gates was not a love story. Heck, you have all the elements of a great Casablanca love triangle: Jude Law (sniper Vassili Zaitzev), Joseph Fiennes (Commissar Danilov) and Weisz (Tania), the rubble of Stalingrad and the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in a battle to the death.lawweisz

Nonetheless Russia is calling, and it is a bucket list kind of summons. Some may want to jump out of airplanes. Others may swim with dolphins or sharks (hard to keep them straight) or march with the penguins in Antarctica.

Yours truly wants to walk across Krásnaya Plóshchaď (Red Square) one more time. The same applies to St. Petersburg (it was Leningrad back in 1981) with the Hermitage Museum (Czar’s Winter Palace) and the Summer Palace.

And of course, this time there must be a visit to the aforementioned Stalingrad, now named Volgagrad. It will never be Volgagrad in my mind; it will always be Stalingrad, the most decisive battle of World War II. Germany was finished after Field Marshal Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus surrendered his surrounded Sixth Army in January 1943.

Looking down at the Russian steppes 33 years ago from an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Vilnius, Lithuania, I could imagine the majestic Cossacks, Napoleon’s Grand Armee and Hitler’s Panzers all charging deeper and deeper into Russia.

Reflecting back on the trip, I was repeatedly asked when I was going “in and out” of Russia, not “to and from.”

A Trip Like No Other

“Take me to your daddy’s farm; Let me hear your balalaika’s ringing out; Come and keep your comrade warm; I’m back in the U.S.S.R.; Hey you don’t know how lucky you are boys; Back in the U.S.S.R.” – The Beatles

Living in Eugene, Oregon for four years, I was always amused by the city’s “community” gardens. These are patches of land where like-minded folks under the tender, loving guidance of the City of Eugene plant their sustainable and organic crops (if you don’t believe me, just ask them) and maybe even dream of a communal environment where everyone is truly equal.

Regularly driving past this garden on Amazon Parkway, I would reflect back more than three decades to my trip to the Soviet Union. Certainly, Russia was a “social” society at the time (e.g., prefab apartment blocks, jammed fossil-fuel emitting buses, foreign currency-only outlets, and empty store shelves), but I am not certain about the “justice” part.

There was this problem with the “most equal of the equals.” They were the ones in the fancy limousines being whisked to-and-from the Kremlin in their special lanes. These were the same “simple” folks in the fancy boxes at the Kremlin Hall of the Congresses for the opening night of the Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake. Something tells me that the working Ivan never made it to the intermission buffet of caviar and Moskovskaya vodka.

collective

Coming back closer to home: Do the overly educated of Eugene and other cerebral towns really want to emulate the USSR and its collective farms and communal poverty? What is the attraction? Maybe the author of Almost DailyBrett is not smart enough to comprehend.

When asked if I have ever seen real poverty, I think back to my trip to at best, second-world Russia. As my friend and colleague who made the trip with me said” “They treat their people like (insert your favorite fecal material word here).”

Spending any amount of time in the USSR and contrasting it with 1980s Morning in America completed my own political metamorphosis.

Would I recommend Russia as a vacation destination? It all depends what you want to accomplish for your precious time away from the demands of the workplace? If you are looking for romance and your Corona con limon playa, go elsewhere.

If you are a buff on history, politics, suspense (e.g., LeCarre, Forsyth, DeMille novels) and intrigue, Russia may be just your brand of vodka.

Next time, I will remember to keep my eyes open for my photo in front of the onion domes of St. Basil’s in Moscow.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enemy_at_the_Gates

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Square

http://www.excursions-volgograd.ru/en/excursion/museum_battle_stalingrad_tour

http://listverse.com/2012/09/17/top-10-facts-about-the-battle-of-stalingrad/

http://www.eugene-or.gov/communitygardens

 

Or is it Outsourcing to Insourcing?

Did I just buy a computer that was made in (gasp) Communist China?

Is this unpatriotic? Or is it patriotic?

Did Chairman Mao just turn over in his grave?

mao

These questions seem to suggest not only how much yours truly has changed, but how the world has shifted its attitudes and business practices in the past four decades.

One suspects that Henry Kissinger knew that his secret trip to China in 1971 had the potential to change the geopolitical balance of affairs, but the question is how much? And it is clear that Deng Xiaoping altered China for the better by coming to the obvious conclusion that Capitalism even with its well-documented flaws is still light years better than Cultural Revolutions and collective farms.

Having said that, it is Big Leap Forward from Kissinger’s sub-rosa journey and Deng’s landmark reforms to the significance of my purchase of a Lenovo Ideapad laptop for $600 (Best Buy) powered by an Intel Core i5 microprocessor (Santa Clara, CA) and controlled by Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system (Redmond, WA).

And now good ole boys and girls in Whitsett, North Carolina are hard at work producing more PCs, hybrid PCs/tablets (e.g, Lenovo Yoga) and servers for a company that was started in 1984 by a $25,000 state (Chinese Academy of Sciences) investment…the state that brought a chilling new meaning to the words, Tiananmen Square.

Yep, I bought a laptop from a company that was created by an investment made by Communist China and held its first meetings in a guard shack.

Back in days of the Evil Empire, I made my first trip overseas…and not to a place in which most post-college bachelors go for vacation: Russia. It was the 1981 Soviet Union of that fun-loving guy, Leonid Brezhnev.

Upon returning my maternal grandfather told me there were two places he never wanted to go to: One was hell; the other…you guessed it.

Just as if it was yesterday, I remember after a performance of the Bolshoi Ballet standing on the edge of Red Square with the onion-dome masterpiece, flood-lit St. Basil’s, on the opposite end…Ground Zero of the Cold War. Deep down inside I was hoping that this would be neither the time nor the place for a thermonuclear confrontation, particularly at that exact time.

Reflecting back on my visit to the country of 11 time zones, which is a must for any student of modern history and politics, I can see the average people packed like sardines into trolley cars, while the most equal-of-the-equals zipped on by in special lanes for their Zil limos. The USSR even took Diner’s Club, Carte Blanche along with Visa and American Express. When were the Reds coming back?

I didn’t like Communism before I made this trip. I liked it even less after my visit.

If you asked me at the time, if I would ever buy any product made by a communist country that treats its people as if they were sheep, the answer would be an emphatic, “nyet” or “het” in Cyrillic.

lenovoideapad

Serving as a director of corporate public relations for a Silicon Valley hardware innovator and later as a vice president for an international public relations agency, I wore out at least three IBM Think Pad laptops.

“What’s this blue screen?” I would ask one of our all-knowing IT managers. “Ah, did you back up your files?” I was asked. “What if I didn’t? I replied. Welcome to the “Blue Screen of Death.”

Little did I appreciate was that IBM (e.g., Itty Bitty Machines) was outsourcing a portion of its ThinkPad business to China’s Lenovo, and then Big Blue outright sold the its corporate PC business to Lenovo in 2005. I have been using a Chinese laptop for the better part of a decade, and last year I doubled downed on this bet.

Reading about Lenovo, I discovered that English is the $30 billion company’s official business language. It maintains two headquarters, one predictably in Beijing, and the other at IBM’s former PC hub in Morristown, NC. And just this year, Lenovo started manufacturing in the aforementioned Whitsett in the Tar heel State.

Let’s see…IBM outsourced a portion of its PC business to China, taking advantage of lower Chinese manufacturing costs and giving the company greater access to the world’s largest market. Eventually IBM (which invented the PC in 1981) sold the business to Lenovo. And now global market share leader Lenovo is outsourcing a portion of its PC business to the United States or insourcing the business in North Carolina, if you prefer that point of view.

Topping it off, China is becoming a more expensive place to manufacture with each passing day and the US is getting cheaper as demand for skilled Chinese labor is going up. The Pacific Ocean is just as big as ever and shipping costs are a major factor. Cost parity is expected in two years.  Lenovo is outsourcing PC production to the United States, bringing it closer to US customers and key suppliers including Intel and Microsoft.

Does this mean that buying a Chinese computer is patriotic? That seems like a stretch, particularly for a guy who saw the Evil Empire up close and personal.

If you agree that buying a Chinese computer is actually patriotic, then financing the nation’s $17.4 billion debt through China occasions playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

So why are we upset about outsourcing?

And what is the true meaning of outsourcing anyway?

Or is it actually insourcing?

Who the heck knows?

http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21569572-after-decades-sending-work-across-world-companies-are-rethinking-their-offshoring

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21569398-how-did-lenovo-become-worlds-biggest-computer-company-guard-shack-global-giant

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/05/focus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenovo

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100651692

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deng_Xiaoping

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonid_Brezhnev

http://news.lenovo.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=1635

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