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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Two Movies
Text Fred Flintstone

During the past year Fred has been watching two movies play out in Bedrock, the first out his kitchen window where he has watched a small grove of trees transformed into a highway construction site supported by a small Tadjik worker village. This film runs continuously since these workers are up before Fred in the morning and many are still at work as he goes to bed.

The second is a wide-screen disaster film, which Fred has dubbed Katrina-2 – with a Bedrock cast that has been living in growing comfort for nine years but the within shaky dikes of an inefficient economy shored up by windfall oil profits. The stars have been the executives and middle-men who were skilled at siphoning.

To compensate for economic inefficiency, prices had skyrocketed and Fred had watched as butter and sausage became so expensive that it was practically cheaper to fly Paris to shop. Space rentals became so expensive for retailers that it became difficult to profit even in the booming economy.

Clients would ask Fred about Bedrock business costs, “Shouldn’t we have lower employment costs since salaries are low?” His answer: “What about security? Every shop and restaurant has guards, some armed. Fully 20% of the staff of a financial services client consists of security and drivers. And bookkeepers – expect to double your usual contingent.”

The smallest tasks in Bedrock are challenging even without considering traffic problems. Last week Fred girded himself for an early morning trip to the bank to send a small wire transfer to his bank back home. Despite the fact that his bank is western owned, he knew it would likely be lunchtime before he was free.

Kto posledny (who’s last in line)?” Fred inquired as he entered. He waited. Finally called, after a few minutes it appeared that the teller had never made an international transfer before, though this was the main office of an international bank. He was handed off to the supervisor, who after several phone calls and numerous consultations with the handwritten notes in her notebook, completed the transfer. Time elapsed – close to an hour and a half.

Fred then learned that his bank no longer exchanges currency so his next stop was a branch of a giant American bank. He handed his passport to the cashier. Minutes later she summoned s second cashier. Both worked the keyboard and then the second cashier left the room. She returns with a third, a supervisor. This simple $600 transaction took 20 minutes and three persons to complete. The entire system reminds of the old ethnic anecdote, “How many {fill in favorite ethnic group} does it take to change the ceiling light bulb? Twelve – one to hold the bulb and eleven to turn the ladder.”

Fred doesn’t know if they are actually Tadjiks who reside in the shipping containers outside his window with a few port-a-toilets and a little shower room. They are surely Central Asian guest workers, the ones who don’t look very east Asian – otherwise they might get a better job in a sushi restaurant. As Fred’s old man would say, “these fellows work for a living.” Fred can only imagine what they are paid. Occasionally a big boss shows up, waves his arms and stamps his feet for a few minutes and then cruises off in his inomark (foreign car)…

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