Saturday, January 19, 2008

Russia: Mafia state?

I was watching a show on the History Channel about the Red Mafiya, Russia's organized crime faction, and it revealed some disturbing news. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, most Russian businesses pay at least 30% of their proceeds to the mob for protection, while one-third of Russians make less than a dollar a day. The Red Mafiya, aside from striking fear in the hearts of even other gangsters (on The Sopranos, Tony tells an associate, "Don't fuck with the Russians"), is more intellectually sophisticated than the average criminal enterprise. One scam involved buying cheap grain alcohol in the US, dying it blue and shipping it in industrial tubs, claiming it was window cleaner to bypass the charges attached to shipping alcohol. When the "window cleaner" got to Russia, the coloring was removed and the cheap booze was sold as vodka. With a reduction in charges, and the large amounts of vodka consumed by Russian citizens, the Red Mafiya made millions of dollars in the process. First the tyrannical Czars, then the failed experiment and paranoid leadership of Stalinism, now an economy run by gangsters and a government run by an ex-KGB officer who is possibly offing his enemies with poison, as well as several active serial killers; Russia changes, but very little has improved for the people.
On US soil, a black man charged with raping several men is currently imprisoned in Texas. Though it wasn't addressed during the trial, his outlook isn't good. Rapists are low on the chain of command in prison, often raped themselves once behind bars, and a homosexual rapist would likely be even lower, especially in Texas. And while Texas has come a long way from the time when a black man was dragged to his death behind a truck, this rapist's race could pose another problem. I'm unfamiliar with the cultural reasons behind this, but I've heard that homosexuality is a particularly strong taboo among black men.
Personal news: For the last few nights, I haven't been able to sleep. When I go to bed, I can't stop thinking and just drift off. I think about what's happened, things I saw and heard that day, which lead to similar past events, and on and on until an hour has passed with no sign of my mind stopping. I've never done drugs, aside from antidepressants and sometimes drinking way too much, but on those nights, I think it might be nice to have something that will turn off my overactive brain. But there are a lot of reasons why I've never used drugs. Primarily, I'm already paranoid and hypersensitve. If I used any kind of mood-altering substance, I think my head would explode.

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