8 October 2006

Did everyone else know about this 1 gigabyte iPod shuffle for £55 [$79]? What a great pricepoint. Incidentally, I remember a good friend of mine (and evil ethicist) was upset by the tagline on the ads for the first shuffle: "Because life is random". He insists it's not.

It's not been a good year for Russia's image as a consolidating democracy. It began with some cage rattling about cutting off Ukraine's gas supply at the turn of the year (and images of Yushchenko's face calling to mind allegations that Russian influence had poisoned Ukraine's westward drift) and echoed through the failure of legal proceedings to protect Yukos from the arbitrary execution of fatal power, Georgia's complaints about spying being countered by disproportionate and vindictive sanctions; and journalist Anna Politkovskaya's murder last night - shortly before the publication of another critical article on Russian conduct in Chechnya. It gives the impression of despotism and caprice. I've somewhat impudently asked Russian friends whether it isn't that at some level they admire the exercise of this kind of power. Because we've heard often enough that Russia is a big country and what she needs is a strong man. Today a Russia-watcher told me to think of the country as a proud, wounded bear. Well.

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