Assorted links


On #3, I'm not sure that the end of Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign can be cleanly enough separated from the "rise of democracy and capitalism" in Russia to fully distinguish the two. They were certainly connected.

@2: paper towels vs air dryers - I don't buy it. No quantitative discussion is given as to whether not washing hands is the same as using air dryers. For example, if not washing hands is baseline at 100, and paper towels are 50 (lower is better), then if air dryers are 51, does that mean air dryers are bad? Another example of nitpicking by economists? I once read where an economist concluded ice boxes were about the same in quality of living as using a refrigerator...utter nonsense.

While no mention was given in the summary as to the magnitude of the effects (another study linked in the main text of the article actually claims that the amount of bacteria on the fingers and palm increased when air dryers were used, even if jet dryers were nearly as efficient as paper towels at getting ones hands dry), they were clear to discuss the trade-offs involved, particularly with regard to environmental impacts and cost.

Personally, I look forward to signs in restaurants that read, "Employees must dry hands with paper towels." :-)

4. Related: I went to the urgent care and asked "what's the wait look like?" Receptionurse says "well, all the people here are wating." I like putting to people the followup question in my mind "Is this your first day or is it really the first time someone asked what the wait was?" So I asked "How many doctors do you have?" Then I looked and half the people have the flu masks on. So of course I made like a banana.

'The switch to capitalism was not the main cause of Russia’s mortality crisis'

No - it was the end of communism. Think about it a minute to get the full flavor of that reality, and what it means.

3. Russia was more capitalistic under socialism than it is today - today's organizing principle in Russia is pillage and plunder.

What is Russia building and creating?

Russia was a great competitor to the US in science and technology in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. In the 60s, the accomplishments in Russia were so great that many in the US and the world believed the Soviet Union would dominate the world with its industry and production, thus JFK laid out the terms of a competition, and Nixon believed showing off a kitchen was critical to gaining the upper hand in the cold war.

What Russians lacked was the competition that is at the core of the US society, competition in politics, competition in R&D, competition in production, competition for attracting attention with ideas and novelty and art.

In Russia, the arts were the source of great justifiable pride and accomplishment: great orchestras and ballet companies
In the USA, the arts were the source of shame, the destruction of society in sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and the twist, the grind, the horrors of Michael Jackson's crotch

Which is the greater accomplishment of a society: Michael Jackson or George Balanchine and Rudolf Nureyev

Today, Russia produces oil, gas, minerals from plundering Russia, and space flight using socialist capital which competes only because the US consumed its space flight capital up first. (Under the socialist Obama, the US seems to be creating space flight capital to return to human space flight).

The driving principle in Russia is gaining control of the capital created by socialism, or the natural resources of Russia to extract money from the existing capital assets.

What of lasting value is Russia creating? How can you be capitalist is you create nothing of lasting, sustaining, value?

Michael Jackson x1000

What Russians lacked was the competition that is at the core of the US society, competition in politics, competition in R&D, competition in production, competition for attracting attention with ideas and novelty and art.

As naive statements go, that is pretty naive. Well, ignorant really. They did lack competition in politics. And I find it vile you think that is a good thing. But of course they had competition in R&D and competition in production. The Soviets would regularly call for various design bureaus to put forward designs for tanks or airplanes or what have you. The bureaus would frantically try to make something because rewards would shower down on them if they did. If they didn't, they would be hungry. At the same time, the Soviet authorities sifted technical experts to find those that stood out. And then they would be rewarded with their own design bureaus. So you had to watch your underlings.

Needless to say something similar happened with the production of art.

Which is better, the society that produced Michael Jackson or the one that produced Nureyev? Well Nureyev voted with his feet on that one didn't he? But you cannot look at Michael Jackson and Nureyev on their own. You have to look at the enormous mountain of dead bodies Nureyev stood on - through no fault of his own. And again it is amazing you ignore this. No one would say that the Architecture of Nazi Germany was better than the Architecture of the West, although obviously it was, and that proves the superiority of Nazi society. Nor should anyone ignore the crimes of Stalinism.

"Nothing to Envy: Ordinary lives of North Koreans" points out that many NoKo defectors regret defecting and more than a few repatriate to NoKo. It's odd to point out, but it seems generally true that many norks *like* it there

Let's tell Kim III that he shouldn't fear opening his borders.

Why is this a surprise? Institionalization is a fact of life. Many former slaves expressed their regret at the end of slavery as well. Not all by any means, but a lot more than you would think - look at the oral history collections of the Roosevelt era.

5. Wouldn't it be nice if there were lots of libertarian societies or ACLU offices in China, and if every North Korean refugee knew that those were the places where you could get help? Hahaha!

On the one hand, you have a "motley mix" of two groups that are trying to help these suffering people: one group motivated primarily by profit and the other group motivated by their religious beliefs, which happens to be Christian, a strange alliance to be sure. On the other hand, the cause of these people's suffering is a group that believes in an all-powerful state, one that controls all wealth and redistributes it to serve its own political purposes. But enough about American politics....

3. Look at the graph on page 34. Burying the lede.

Yes, Gorbachev and the onset of capitalism / end of Gorbachev were temporary deviations from the trend line. But why was the 50 year trend increasing mortality? increasing alcohol consumption?

I was in Hungary during virtually this whole period, and the shock of transition did indeed take away many. The transition was both necessary and unavoidable, but obviously, not without its own costs.

It has already been shown in studies that the friction or scrubbing action associated with hand washing works better than the marginal value of soap, especially the anti-bacterial type. The main purpose of soap is to bind with oils that typical trap dirt and hence bacteria. But unless your hands are particularly dirty or oily, soap is almost unnecessary.

In that same vein, the friction of paper drying would seem to work better than air drying at removing bacteria.

On air dryers there are typically a set of instructions. I am always amused when someone scratches, "Wipe hands on pants" as the last step. :)

I also wonder how much bacteria attaches to the hands simply from opening the lavatory door to leave. Hospitals usually have foot controls and doors that you can go through without touching them (or no doors at all) between wash and treatment.

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