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OK! So I finally have a PC again thanks to a scavenging friend.

  • CPU = i5-4670k
  • MoBo = Asus Z87-A
  • GPU = GTX 770
  • 620W PSU and R4 Fractal case

Full upgrade is too costly (around $500 as both the DDR-3 based MoBo and CPU would need to be replaced), and frankly unneeded for another 2-3 years, but I do want to upgrade the GPU and double RAM to 16GB.

Goals: Play any modern game at smooth 60 fps on 1080p screen on Ultra would almost certainly be the main/only constraining factor.

RAM: Corsair Vengeance DDR3 DIMM 1600MHz PC3-12800 [16GB] for ~$100. Some of my apps could benefit from this and might come in handy if I need to work on large databases.

Which GPU?

I like MSI GPUs as they tend to be quiet, reliable, have good cooling, and are OC friendly. I assume these are no different and the reviews appear to be ok.

Getting the RTX 2060 seems like a no brainer. Might be worth considering the 1660-Ti if the price differential was $80 (as it seems to be in the US), but in Russia it’s only ~$40.

Does this sound about right? Am I making any mistakes?

Meta-note: I should have never abandoned the PC master race. Thorfinnsson’s “technical” explanations regardless, I strongly believe that the problems with my Lenovo notebook were the result of God punishing me for my treason. I have gotten the message. Laptops are for bringing to work, or for travel – not for the home.

With 20 days worth of warranty remaining, I will soon send it the laptop off to get repaired, hopefully it could at least continue serving in that modest and more appropriate function.

***

@ak

More notable posts since the last Open Thread in case you missed any of them.

  • Kazakh President Nazarbayev Resigns
    • Succeeding Prez Tokayev to rename capital Astana to Nursultan. I thought the Kazakhs might be freer of the Central Asian inclination towards personality cults, but I guess not.
    • Nazarbayev will retain real power. He was made Leader for Life (“elbasy”) in 2010, and he will chair the Security Council, which was made more powerful than the Presidency. I have seen speculations that he will be succeeded by his wife, or one of his two daughters.
  • What If Russia Stood on the Sidelines While Crimea Burned?
    • More Crimea poasts upcoming soon.
  • Some good responses to my Yang post at /r/YangForPresidentHQ

Not many notable posts, as I’m only posting this a few days after the last Open Thread.

*

***

Featured

***

Russia

  • *powerful comment*: E dissects internal Ukrainian discussions on what to do about Crimea on Feb 28, 2014
  • Completion of the first railroad bridge across the Amur linking China and Russia; should be in operation by the end of the year
  • Hyundai/Yandex strike deal on developing self-driving cars
  • *powerful comment*: German_reader on how Merkel took the climate school strikes as Russian “hybrid warfare” until the Greens came out in support.
  • Moscow prepares ‘White Book’ on human rights violations by Western states
  • Mary Ilyushina: “RT apparently makes its employees sign an agreement banning them from criticizing or discussing the inner workings of the channel even 20 YEARS after they quit. Otherwise — 5 mln rub fine (about 77k).

***

World

  • More Zach Goldberg on the rise of millennial Pink Guards
  • Trump ReTweets:
    • William Craddick: “Russiagate was designed in part to help the UK counter Russian influence by baiting the United States into taking a hard line against them. Leaves us all with a more dangerous world as a consequence. Just another episode of the Great Game.
    • He’s not wrong!
  • Andrew Yang not an IQ realist (publicly)
    • Airily dismissing utility of IQ tests is highly characteristic of high IQ people. But there are also purely pragmatic reasons for politicians to steer clear.
  • Barak Ravid: “This is one of the most bizzare election ad you have ever seen: Israel’s Minister of Justice (!!) Ayelet Shaked plays a model, sprays herself with “Fascism” perfume and says: “Smells like democracy to me”. Viktor Orban on steroids
  • Mencius Moldbugman travel thread:
    • I’m a well-travelled guy and I recently got some comments about my travels, especially in light of the Christchurch shooter’s trips to Pakistan and N Korea. I’d like to share some thoughts on why I don’t think these places radicalised him, plus some talk about Bhutan….. Media cries of radicalisation when they see someone visiting NK or Pakistan are groundless and ignorant of reality. I’m very lucky to be extremely well travelled in unusual locales… the only place I ever felt radicalised was Bhutan.

***

Science & Culture

***

Humor & Powerful Takes

***

 
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So Russiagate 2017 ends in Muellergate 2019.

As was pretty clear at the start – as people such as Glenn Greenwald, Aaron Mate, Robert Parry, and Alexander Mercouris have been writing all these years. Manafort, its most prominent casualty, had worked to draw the Ukraine in the West’s orbit (hilariously, he kind of belatedly succeeded). All indictments have been based on criminal issues such as tax evasion, not collusion with Russia.

Still, this conspiracy theory’s instigators reached their goals.

There has been no reset in US-Russia relations; instead, they have reached unprecedented levels of mutual antipathy. Americans, especially Democrats, hate Russia more than ever. It appears that a Cold War II is locked in for at least the next decade.

The US will face the Chinese challenge to its hegemony from 2025 with Russia as a party that is decidedly friendly to China. This, perhaps, won’t quite be ideal for Russia either; US economic sabotage will hurt its growth prospects, and will make it more dependent on China than it would have been otherwise. Still, I suspect that Kissinger would agree that it is ultimately the US that got the short end of the stick.

 
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The latest polls, jointly conducted by KIIS (Ukraine) and Levada (Russia), show that the collapse in Ukrainian sentiment towards Russia may be turning a corner.

Legend: Ukrainian attitudes towards Russia [blue]; Russian attitudes towards Ukraine [orange]

For the first time since April 2014, more Ukrainians have a positive impressive of Russia than the converse. Attitudes are basically 50/50 even in West Ukraine.

However, there is no particular cause for premature celebration amongst Russophiles. This is still greatly down from the 80%-90% support before 2014. Support for open borders/no visas with Russia slightly exceeds those who want closed borders by 48% to 39%, and while another 4% want outright political union with Russia – up from minimums of 2% in the past three years – this is still cardinally down from 15%-20% prior to Euromaidan.

Moreover, this has to be set against 51% vs. 23% support for EU accession, and 40% vs. 31% support for joining NATO. In contrast, 43% of Ukrainians oppose joining the Customs Union with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan versus 24% who support; this might be up from ~15% support/55% opposition in the past four years, but before 2014, this option was as popular as the EU one. Meanwhile, in a direct choice between the two, 46% of Ukrainians favor the EU to 14% for the Customs Union. Before 2014, they were level pegging.

The only good thing from Russia’s perspective is that neither the EU nor NATO accession for the Ukraine is on the table for now.

However, these latest polls do allow us to attempt to sketch out the likely future course of the Russian-Ukrainian relationship.

Barring any further flare-ups on the Donbass Front, or in the Sea of Azov, I assume these improvements will continue, but they will never reach the pre-2014 state of affairs for the foreseeable future. In the post-Soviet space, we have two examples of the template according to which relations might continue to develop: Georgia and Moldova.

Georgia has restored full-fledged economic ties with Russia, and Russians can visit it at will, requiring no visa. Tbilisi enjoys a great reputation amongst Moscow hipsters. After some hiccups following the 2008 war and Saakashvili’s departure, it has resumed fairly vigorous growth and is now quite a successful state, at least by Caucasian standards (e.g. corruption may be almost as low as in the Baltics). However, it has not geopolitically reorientated towards Russia. It votes with the West at the UN, and there is near universal support for Western integration; a state of affairs that Leonid Bershidsky has called a “NATO of the Mind“, which as good as locks out Russian political/cultural influence.

On the other end is Moldova, where pro-Russian forces fought a war in the early 1990s to carve out the statelet of Transnistria. It is an extremely corrupt and economically failed state, the absolute poorest in Europe (Ukraine is second). It so much of a joke state that an Israeli Jew managed to steal 13% of its GDP from its banks – the equivalent of $350, or four months worth of wages for every working Moldovan – and who then, instead of getting arrested and jailed after his conviction, somehow became the mayor of a Moldovan town and entered parliament. In Moldova, pro/anti-Russian political forces typically poll 50/50, and more people view NATO as a threat than as protection.

In terms of socio-economic success and state capacity, the Ukraine is certainly closer to Moldova. Its GDP per capita (PPP) is about a third of Russia’s, and half of Belarus’. Even the most strongly pro-Ukrainian outlets, such as The Atlantic Council, have been forced to admit that Poroshenko, far from snuffing out corruption, has merely reinforced the oligarchic system. The Ukraine is also culturally much closer to Russia. It was part of the same ancient medieval state, and major parts of it have been (re)integrated with Russia to some extent or another since the 17th century (Georgia and Bessarabia were acquired early in the 19th century). Ukrainian is much more similar to Russian than is Moldovan, which is basically Romanian but with a bit more Slavic vocabulary, and infinitely closer than Georgian, which is an entirely different language and script. Ukrainians are genetically almost indistinguishable from South Russians, while Moldovans are a Romanian/Slavic metis and Georgians are, once again, very distant. Finally, the Ukraine is surrounded by Russia from the East and the South. This suggests the Ukraine may follow a Moldovan vector.

However, there are also several factors militating against this possibility. The more primitive Russophile propaganda to the contrary, the Ukraine isn’t an eternally collapsing economic basket-case. The economy has recovered, and western Ukraine is now even better off than it was in 2014. Economic growth is nothing to write home about, but it is well above zero and should trundle along at around 2%-4% (if well short of the 6%-7% that it really needs for convergence with Russia or Visegrad). Foreign exchange reserves are now safely back to pre-Euromaidan levels, with the risk of default receding into the background. Meanwhile, while pretty much all Moldovans would agree theirs is a joke country, this is not the case for the Ukraine, which has strong homegrown traditions of svidomism and nationalism. In principle, their country of ~35 million people with an average IQ of perhaps 95 could still be a reasonably successful and prosperous European state… if they ever get their act together. Of course there are major challenges in the future. The completion of Nord Stream II and Power of Siberia this year will blow a $3 billion hole in their meager budget, where every billion counts. And there might be another global recession looming, which may again collapse natural resource and steel prices (though Russia will be affected too of course).

I do not know which of these factors will be stronger. However, I think it is reasonable to posit that – all else equal, and with no drastic developments (e.g. a Democratic President in the US that has it out for Russia and starts to energetically lobby for Ukraine’s NATO membership, like George W. Bush in his second term) – that Ukraine’s course and social attitudes will converge to some point between those of Moldova and Georgia. This means the resumption of normal economic relations between Russia and the Ukraine, and direct flights between Moscow and Kiev. However, the victory of pro-Russian forces in the Ukraine has been ruled out for the foreseeable future, it will be consistently voting with the Western Powers at the UN, and deepening its security integration with NATO and EU structures as the opportunity presents itself.

 
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One persistent criticism of Russia’s decision to annex the Crimea/support its people’s right to national self-determination [cross out as per your ideological preferences] is that it has had dubious benefits not just for Russia, but for Putin himself. This is a common take. For instance, as the 5th anniversary of Crimea’s incorporation into Russia approached, both Leonid Bershidsky and Nina Khrushcheva had articles to the effect that Putin is paying for Crimea. But this isn’t limited to the Western press. The liberal business newspaper Vedomosti recently ran an article in which supposedly high-placed sources expressed regret about the Crimean adventure.

Now I am sure that there are “systemic liberals” in the Russian government that were never happy about the Crimean adventure. For instance, the sorts who whine about no longer being allowed to go skiing in Colorado. Though it’s still probably ludicrous to portray it as a dominant or even significant sentiment within the elites. In a wide-ranging survey of Russia’s political and business elites in 2016 carried out by a Western polling organization, 88% of them disagreed with the idea that it was a violation of international law (10% agreed). This could be considered a proxy for elite sentiments on Crimea. It also happens to be entirely in line with public sentiment, with the latest VCIOM poll a few days ago showing an analogous 88% of Russians supporting the incorporation of Crimea. Both popular and elite sentiment would actually seem to be remarkably united on the “Crimean Consensus.”

However, it is also true that Crimea – and Russia’s consequent involvement in the Donbass – has also created problems for Russia, spurring on Western sanctions, “isolation” from the “international community” (with the caveat that this is largely equivalent to the West), putting a crimp on foreign investment and technological modernization of the Russian oil & gas industry, contributing to a deep and seemingly permanent collapse in pro-Russian sentiment in the Ukraine, and providing a new source of legitimacy for NATO. This “Cold War II” shows no signs of thawing, with the US Congress repeatedly mulling the possibility of declaring Russia a state sponsor of terror (and who knows? That might be well happen under a President Biden or a President Harris). Moreover, at least according to the journalist Mikhail Zygar in All The Kremlin’s Men, there was no unanimity amongst the kremlins on Crimea in early 2014; the “Crimean Consensus” was a post facto development. While hawks such as the Ukrainian-born Glazyev pressed Putin to snap it up – and more – there were reports that Defense Minister Shoigu was privately opposed*. There was nothing forcing Putin to make one decision or another. Whatever else it was, it was avoidable.

***

So did Putin make the mistake of a lifetime by incorporating Crimea? To answer this question, let’s briefly recap the history of the past five years.

Source: Levada.
Putin’s approval rating from 1999-2019.

Putin’s approval ratings had hovered at around 60%-65% ever since the fraud-marred 2011 Duma elections in December 2011, which spurred the biggest wave of protests in Russia for over a decade. Moreover, this happened in the midst of a modest economic boom driven by unsustainably high oil prices. They spiked to 69% during February, following the successful Winter Olympics in Sochi; this, however, could only have been a temporary boost. However, by the end of those Olympics, the Ukraine was in full meltdown; within less than a month, Crimea acceded to the Russian Federation. Putin’s approval soared upwards to around 80%, where it has stayed throughout the entirety of the past five years of economic stagnation until the recent pensions reform (which, by analogy with the similar dip in 2004-05 over the monetization of benefits, may well be temporary).

As Daniel Treisman pointed out in his 2011 book The Return, Putin’s approval rating had always tracked economic sentiment. But after Crimea, that link broke. Putin became a “charismatic” figure, a father of the nation, a regatherer of the Russian lands – above and beyond mundane trifles such as PMI’s and real incomes. This massive political capital carried him through half a decade of low oil prices, recession and economic stagnation, Western sanctions, fiscal belt-tightening, and a tight monetary policy that seems to have finally tamed the post-Soviet scourge of persistently high inflation.

***

Now let’s imagine what would have happened if Russia had sat on the sidelines in 2014.

First off, Russia would have been thoroughly humiliated in the Ukraine. Right Sector goons in their “friendship trains” would have gone down to the Crimea to beat the separatists, provoking increasingly lethal street battles. The Ukrainian Army would have suppressed the uprising as soon as it had recovered its wits by mid-2014. The scenes of carnage that afflicted Donetsk would have instead visited Sevastopol, with hundreds of Russian dead as the Black Sea Fleet looked on from their barracks.

Amidst the ensuing mass arrests and reprisals, Maidanist Ukraine would have also quickly moved to evict the Russian military from Crimea (probably using the uprising itself as pretext). The West would back the Ukraine, perhaps rewarding Putin for staying put by throwing a few sanctions at him anyway for “fomenting” the uprising. By then, it would be too late to reverse course. Note that the bloodless takeover of Crimea was only possibly due to the temporary incapacitation of the Ukrainian government in the critical early months of 2014. At this point, Russia could have easily overrun most of Novorossiya, if it wanted to – that region probably had no more troops than the 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers who readily surrendered in Crimea. But the Ukraine had started to recover by the summer. Attempting a Crimean Anschluss just months later would have been a far bloodier affair and would have invited far more Western sanctions than it actually got to date.

Sure, Ukrainian anti-Russian sentiment would not be quite as high as it was – though perhaps not by much, as a bloody showdown in the Crimea had in any case become inevitable. In the meantime, the Ukraine would still be firmly orientated towards the West and Euro-Atlantic integration; there would be no territorial disputes complicating NATO accession; and the NATO countries themselves might well feel more comfortable in courting the Ukraine, due to the lack of any credible Russian response. Note that all of this is independent of Ukrainian sentiments towards Russia. When NATO expanded east, in contravention of verbal promises made by the Americans to Gorbachev, not all the target countries were enthusiastic about it; but since it was approximately the 20th item on voters’ priority lists in places like Bulgaria, local elites had no incentives to listen to public opinion on the matter. Ergo for the Ukraine; while Ukrainian opinion was hostile to NATO prior to 2014 (and is ambiguous even today), the Maidanist elites would have had zero problems pushing it along regardless, just as their Orange predecessors had done in 2005-2010.

Consequently, the oft repeated assertion that Russia “gained Crimea, but lost Ukraine” is a false dichotomy. It lost the Ukraine when the Maidan seized power in Kiev. Russia merely salvaged Crimea.

Nor would there be any realistic prospects of this situation getting electorally reversed. Even the 2010 victory of Yanukovych was the result of an unlikely confluence of a massive economic crisis coupled with the near complete discreditation of the Orange factions. But the Blue regions of the Ukraine are in relative demographic decline, whereas West Ukraine is the demographically healthiest region of the Ukraine; moreover, Ukrainian youth tend to be more Ukrainian, less Russian, and more pro-Western than the country at large. Even with Donbass and Crimea still within the Ukraine, pro-Russian parties would no longer be electorally viable.

Second, the Russian economy would have gone into recession any which way. Fundamentally, it was caused by collapsing oil prices, not the sanctions, whose direct effects in 2014-15 was estimated at just 10% of the drop in Russian GDP according to a 2015 report from Citi Research. The main difference would have been political: In our alternative history, it is a weak and feckless Putin – not perfidious foreigners – who would have been blamed for the recession. Putin would be without his post-Crimea Teflon coating – he would still be a fully “materialist” President, judged on “materialist” considerations.

***

While either one of these two setbacks would hardly be fatal by itself, together they might have well proved fatal for the Putin regime.

First off, the Sochi bump would vanish overnight, returning his approval ratings to 60%. For context, when they were last at this level, there were 100,000 strong protests over electoral falsifications in Moscow, which resulted in some systemic liberals such as Kudrin openly courting the opposition, and some of the Kremlin’s own pocket parties such as Fair Russia briefly experimenting with political autonomy. Now imagine what an approval rating of 40% would look like.

Because second, you’d probably have a 20% collapse in approval ratings as the economy skittered downhill. There would also be major discontent in connection with events in the Ukraine. It would not be as electorally damaging as a prolonged recession, perhaps only dropping Putin’s support by a further 10%. But there is one way in which it would, perhaps, be even more dangerous for the kremlins: It would have completely destroyed Putin’s status amongst Russian nationalists. Considering the sad experiences of Sadat (assassinated by an Islamist), or of Milosevic (overthrown by nationalists), that’s a risky strategy in its own right. Nationalists might not be electorally very important, but they sure have super high passionarity. Liberals aren’t going to charge into a hail of bullets for gay rights; nationalists will do that for the Fatherland. For that matter, the Ukraine itself showed us that with its own Euromaidan.

And this isn’t even the end of the cavalcade of problems that would have beset the kremlins.

The Russian military is, politically, patriotic-nationalist (~70% vote for United Russia, another ~20% for the LDPR). They would be quietly aghast at being ordered to retreat from the Crimea. While Russia has no tradition of military coups as in Latin America or the Arab world, murmurings in the ranks is something the leadership could do without.

With plummeting approval ratings and elite defections, more and more of the old oligarchs might be tempted to revise their contract with Putin to stay out of politics.

Finally, we know that Russia was planning to intervene in Syria regardless (its Ukraine involvement merely delayed its deployment there by about a year). With domestic and foreign policy in flames, it is plausible that the kremlins would be even more tempted to seek out a “small, victorious war” in the Far ABroad. But given the changed international context, things may not have played out as well as they actually did. First, even in the context of Crimea, today’s most common Russian nationalist counter-argument against involvement in Syria – “Let’s fight a nuclear war not over our own people but over some oil refinery in a Middle Eastern shithole”*** – would acquire much more potency if said “own people” were Russian Crimeans, as opposed to the Sovietized Russo-Ukrainians of the Donbass. Second, Russia’s evident domestic fragility and inability to credibly promise retaliation would have upped US incentives to straight out militarily force Russia out of Syria after one White Helmet performance or another. Said victorious war could have ended in another Tsushima.

***

At this point, in a world where Shoigu won over Glazyev, we are approaching the 2018 elections and there seems to be no way out for the regime.

The recession, the second in half a decade, is blamed entirely on Putin – and there’s a good chance it would have been a deeper recession than what actually happened (as it would have been accompanied by deep political unrest). Putin’s approval ratings are in the gutter at 30% at best. The old oligarchs and systemic liberals defect to a charismatic and telegenic opposition leader such as Navalny, whose ratings are now competitive with Putin’s (instead of having been destroyed by his opposition to Crimea). Putin would not have bought any good will from liberals who will hate him regardless, while nationalists and patriots of absolutely all stripes would despise him no less by this point, giving the protesters a hard core of fighters. The riot police and the military would be unenthusiastic at best; local United Russia officials in charge of the polling stations would suddenly develop a newfound respect for the sanctity of the electoral process, since the survival of the regime and their own legal immunity could no longer be assured. Moreover, coupled with heavy Western support for regime change in Russia, it is almost inevitable that this combination would lead – if not to a liberal/nationalist-driven color revolution in Russia – then to a heavy and violent clampdown. This would invite hardcore American and EU sanctions, perhaps more severe than anything we have actually seen to date.

Alternatively, the Moscow Maidan could succeed, to be almost inevitably followed up by disappointment as NATO drives up to Kharkov and Tbilisi to consolidate its gains, Chechnya kicks off its third war for independence, and any renewed hopes of genuine anti-corruption reform and Euro-integration dwindle as what is left of the Russian economy is again divvied up between oligarchs and former regime insiders.

Now to be fair, most of this would be music to the ears of the sort of people who write that Putin is “paying” for his mistake in Crimea. However, it would also be fair to say that their interests are hardly aligned with that of the Russian people, let alone Putin himself. They are not exactly impartial observers.

Now I don’t claim to know why Putin chose to go ahead with Crimea and act like a Russian nationalist for a few months in 2014. Perhaps it was based on cold cost/benefit calculations like these. Perhaps it was borne of a more general sense of historical mission. The philosopher whom Putin has quoted more than any other is Ivan Ilyin, a stalwart anti-Communist emigre, who subscribed to the standard White position of a “Great Russia, United and Indivisible” and whose views on the Ukraine followed from that.

Regardless of Putin’s ultimate reasons, Crimea was definitely not a mistake.

Not a mistake from Russia’s point of view – at least so long as one doesn’t have an incredibly optimistic outlook on the desirability and feasibility of Western integration. And most certainly not a mistake from the point of view of the kremlins themselves.

***

* Moreover, this excludes those people who do think it was a violation of international law – it pretty clearly was – but who supported it nonetheless, and more besides (e.g. I would have opted for a land bridge to Crimea).

** In fairness, this was just a rumor. And a journalist with very good connections to the Russian elites has expressed deep skepticism about Zygar’s claim to me in private.

*** This is in relation to the Wagner debacle.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Crimea, Politics, Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin 
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From “anti-extremism” researcher Anton Shekhovtsov who has no anti-Russian obsession whatsoever:

That 74 page manifesto had one mention of Russia*.

There were FOUR mentions of China, three of which were positive, and which he described as “the nation with the closest political and social values to my own.”

Now just to be clear China is not any kind of nationalist state either (regardless of the Alt Right pedestalizing it like it sometimes does with Russia).

However, Tarrant’s “endorsement” of China was clearly far stronger than of Russia.

So… yeah. How come China isn’t an “icon” of Far Right terror? Why no call to disavow Xi Jinping Thought?

This has everything.

Gray cardinal of the Kremlin Dugin. (In reality: An authoritarian SJW who is now far better known in the West than in Russia itself).

The fascist Ilyin. (In reality: Man with standard conservative views in the 1930s-50s, Snyder’s one man slander campaign regardless).

“Putin’s Eurasian group”. Whatever the fuck that is.

And of course Orange Man Very Bad. Lest we forget.

Thought he does have 10x as many followers as I do and much more media visibility, so what do I know.

***

* Incidentally, here’s the PDF, seeing as the TPTB are trying to censor it away into the ether, presumably so that shysters such as Shekhovtsov can interpret it any which way they want.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Alt Right, Powerful Take, Russia, Russophobes, Terrorism 
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Well this was unexpected. But Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev, who has effectively led the country since 1989, is stepping down and handing over power to the head of the ruling party until a replacement could be found.

I wrote about him here:

In short, [the secret of his success] is pragmatism over ideology. The narrow-minded nationalist would have demanded Russians learn Kazakh or go home. Nazabayev made Kazakh the official language, but at the same time denoted Russian as “the language of interethnic communication,” a status not unlike that of English in Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore. Incidentally, and unsurprisingly, Nazarbayev is a big fan of LKY, naming him as one two “eminent founding statesmen” (the other is Charles de Gaulle), and his policies reflect these beliefs: Low level economic liberalism, high level state industrial policy and financial management (the oil windfall has not been squandered, but stored up in an investment fund), and a commitment to intelligent authoritarian leadership that does not however overspill into the tyrannical brutality that you see in neighboring Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan.

Unlike LKY’s Singapore, corruption is pretty high; then again, pretty much no strongman apart from LKY ever managed to solve this. Even so, corruption in Kazakhstan is managed and contained – i.e., it is a “known quantity” – so it does not really scare away businessmen and foreign investors. Revolutions bring with them redivisions of the spoils, so elites are very hesitant to commit to long-term development projects in unstable countries like Ukraine or Kyrgyzstan; instead, their incentives are to maximize extraction in the here and now, before new people take their places at the trough. In stable authoritarian polities like Kazakhstan or Belarus, the people in power have more of an incentive to promote development because they have a reasonable degree of confidence that they will still have access to a what would be a much bigger pie a decade hence. It’s basically Mancur Olson’s theory about “roving bandits” vs. “stationary bandits” – the latter tend to be much better, because they are invested in the longterm success of their demesnes.

This pragmatism extends to foreign relations. Kazakhstan is on good terms with pretty much everyone who matters. It is in good standing with Russia; Nazarbayev was, in fact, the first post-Soviet leader to propose something along the lines of the Eurasian Union. But he is no Russian stooge either. Separatism and even talk of separatism are harshly suppressed, and all the more remarkably, this was done with Russia’s willing acquiesence: Eduard Limonov, a National Bolshevik and once Putin opponent, served two years in prison for allegedly trying to raise an army to “liberate” north Kazakhstan in the early 2000s. The capital was moved from Almaty to ethnic majority Russian Astana in the north, which gave Russians more of a reason to feel invested in Kazakh statehood while at the same time filling up a strategic city with ethnic Kazakhs to the extent that it now has a big Kazakh majority. This is a microcosm of changes taking place across the country as a whole, as highly fertile Kazakhs push up their share of the population back to where it was before Stolypin’s time. Over the longterm – i.e., another generation or so – this will likely solve Kazakhstan’s demographic/ethnic Russian northern majority problem in its entirety.

As the incarnadine cherry on the cream and custard pie, this careful equidistancing between Russia and the West, and his economic liberalism, has made Western elites very much appreciative of Nazarbayev. No American NGOs bother pushing for patently ridiculous concepts like free elections, or human rights, while holding them near sacrosanct in less wholesome countries, like Russia or Ukraine.

Central Asia only fell into the Russian Empire in the mid-19th century.

While relations have been far less acrimonious than with the Muslim Caucasus, which was acquired at around the same time, they were still – Eurasianist myths regardless – characterized by cultural distance and a lack of any deep integration.

But as the Soviet legacy fades away, so will the historical links between Russia and the countries of Central Asia.

This is, of course, hardly a singular affair. Kazakhstan is moving to the Latin alphabet by 2025. Tajikistan banned this year’s Immortal Regiments march on the grounds that it is non-Islamic (though it was not enforced). Uzbekistan has been particularly hostile, removing Europeans from important state positions, dismantling World War II monuments, and leaving both the CSTO and Eurasian Economic Community around 2010. Russia’s response? Mayor Sergey Sobyanin is going to use city funds to install a monument to the late Uzbek President for Life Islam Karimov in the center of Moscow.

And there are no signs that this is going to come to a stop anytime soon. As a rule, the Central Asians are ruled by Soviet relicts with strong cultural ties to (if not exactly sympathy for) Eurasia’s other post-Soviet elites. These are people whom the likes of Putin understand and are comfortable with. But as they age and die off, these countries are going to drift farther and farther away from Russia as the ethnic draw of Turkey, the religious draw of the Islamic ummah, the economic preponderance of China, and the cultural preponderance of America make themselves fully felt on the youngest generations and on the intelligentsia. This is already happening and there is no absolutely no reason to expect that Russia’s alternative, the Great Patriotic War victory cult – in which Central Asians played a marginal role anyway – is going to be a competitive one.

The future of Central Asia is nationalist and Islamic – probably, more of the former in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and more of the latter in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Russians as share of Kazakhstan population (2010).

There are now just 3.6 million Russians in Kazakhstan (20% of the population), down from 6.0 million in 1989 (40%). Other European minorities, such as Ukrainians and Germans – and Koreans, who in practice identify with Europeans in the Central Asian context – add up to less than another 5%.

Furthermore, 2/3 of them want to emigrate due to Kazakhstan’s language policies and worsening inter-ethnic relations.

I am not surprised this is the case. I have read and heard – including from a couple of first hand sources – that Kazakh hiring practices in state institutions (e.g. academia) are highly nepotistic, favoring well-connected ethnic Kazakhs. There are no real opportunities for the Russians remaining there, apart from serving Kazakhs as a kind of cognitive caste (e.g. engineers at oil wells).

Kazakhstan age structure as of 2013.
Kazakhs [blue]; Russians [red]; Uzbeks [ green].

This, together with vastly lower fertility – there is a ~1 child gap between Russian and Kazakh fertility within Kazakhstan – means that its share of the population will continue to plummet as Kazakhstan becomes more and more of a mononational state.

Anyhow, should this leadership transition go smoothly and result in the appointment of another reasonable dictator who will continue Nazarbayev’s careful policies of maintaining good relations with all and sundry while steadily promoting Kazakhization – as opposed to a fire-breathing nationalist who attempts to turbocharge the process – then Kazakhstan should have made it as an entity that could be assured of its current borders. In another decade or two, even the old Russian territories of “South Siberia” will have lost their Russian majority, making the idea of reacquiring them in the case of an anti-Russian Kazakh government coming to power less and less of an attractive prospect.

That, in turn, means that there are fewer and fewer reasons not to vigorously encourage the mass repatriation of the remaining Russians in Kazakhstan.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Demograhics, Kazakhstan, Politics 
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The drones from Wolf Warrior 2.

To date the world’s most successful (non-state) terrorists have only been getting about ~100 kills / death (or capture).

The 9/11 hijackers each killed 2,996/19 = 158 people. Anders Breivik methodically killed 77 people. Brenton Tarrant got 50 while livestreaming it like a video game. Aircraft bombings can take out 100-200 people.

But can these figures go any higher? Let’s do some brainstorming.

Back in 2016, I speculated about attaching gun barrels to drones, and then either operating them manually or coupling them to aimbots and AI recognition software:

A couple of years ago there was a lot of agitation around TrackingPoint, a weapons company that coupled a gun with a tracking system. All you had to do was tag your target, press the trigger, and align the reticle with the tag, which would automatically fire the shot while making adjustments for range, wind conditions, your own motion, etc. Accuracy far exceeds what even the best marksmen are capable of with a traditional rifle and scope outfit. You can also shoot around corners and barricades with special eyeglasses (this was once an exclusively military technology which has now made its way into the civilian market).

Now TrackingPoint’s products aren’t really the sort of weapons you can do a productive rampage with – crucially, it is single shot, and extremely expensive ($20,000) to boot. But it should soon be possible to create far more effective solutions. For instance, a standalone mod that contains a database of common gun models (and maybe the option to input custom data) that you can strap onto any old AK. An accomplice can tag targets remotely through a connected smartphone, or even automate the process entirely on the basis of face recognition. Think of the kind of head shot percentages you can achieve.

Incidentally, just a year later, the Chinese movie Wolf Warrior II featured that idea in their intro scene:

Even more creative solutions can be thought up. Just the sort of stuff you can do by coupling this with drones can provide material for countless cyberpunk stories.

Incidentally, this is the reason why I think that draconian gun control will become the norm throughout the world within the next 2-3 decades, even in the US. Cheap drones and machine learning basically guarantee that.

And, come November 2017, we got this dystopian presentation on “slaughterbots” – mosquito-like drones carrying shaped microcharges that can blow a hole in a human skull – from The Future of Life Institute:

This idea is even more “elegant”, though I am not so sure that it is technologically feasible yet. Any such slaughterbot needs to have enough intelligence for indoor navigation without the use of GPS, and for face recognition. Both tasks are computationally intensive, so we either need much more progress on miniaturization, or a reliable Internet connection to a server (would be funny to be murdered by your WiFi). Also battery longevity might be an issue though miniaturization is progressing fast.

Anyhow, I reckon that once terrorists manage to “master” the drone toolkit, the K/D ratio can go up an order of magnitude into the thousands. Just imagine what a few killbots at a very crowded location, such as a football match or a big protest, can cause.

But while this will be a very bad development, it can’t really change things like global geopolitics, at least insofar as they don’t provoke large-scale military reactions.

For that, we need nukes.

***

Fortunately, so far as terrorism is concerned, they are not what they’re hyped up to be in the movies. Real nuclear devices are far too closely surveilled for terrorists to make off with them, and far too failsafe to do anything “interesting” with if they do. So-called “dirty bombs”, can create a lot of panic, but they won’t really kill many more – if any at all – in addition to the casualties of the conventional blast that spreads the radioactive isotopes. Consequently, any Sum of All Fears scenarios decidedly lean towards the “fiction” part of science fiction.

However, I think there might be one possible exception in which nuclear terrorism on a truly massive scale becomes possible. Now obviously, I am not any kind of expert on the ins and outs of submarine procedures, nor do I have access to any classified information. So with that caveat out of the way, here goes perhaps the one realistic scheme that a group of especially dedicated and reasonably competent fanatics can carry out to unleash global Armageddon.

Unlike American and Russian SSBNs, the British Vanguard class does not have Permissive Action Links. PALs are devices that are attached to nuclear weapons systems to prevent them from being armed or launched without the insertion of a predetermined code. In the American case, this code is broadcast from the US Chiefs of Staff in the event of nuclear war. But the UK never implemented this. According to the BBC, the Royal Navy thought “it would be invidious to suggest… that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders.”

But suppose that an extremist cell manages to concentrate a few members on a British submarine. The key position may not be the commanding officer, but whichever officer is in charge of the armory (at least in the US, all submarines have Small Arms Lockers, to defend against pirates, polar bears in the Arctic, etc.; I imagine it’s the same on the Vanguard). On a crowded submarine, the rest of the crew will be at the complete mercy of a few armed cell members.

The key question, then, is one of how many people are needed to prep, aim, and launch the missiles. I don’t know the answer to this question, so I would appreciate any informed input. That said, if just 3-4 guys can do that, then the rest of the crew can just be exterminated*. Nobody can hear you scream tens of meters under the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Alternatively, should this require the cooperation of a couple dozen people, then assembling a cell that large is unfeasible and they will have to coerce operations personnel into going along. This is risky, as they might figure out a way to sabotage the operation, or manage to overpower the terrorists.

While the natural response would be to launch those SLBMs at the US, it might be more productive – from the point of view of the terrorists, assuming that they are radical Islamists – to instead blast them at Russia (perhaps save one for China if it’s within range). Crippled Russia will then likely turn most British cities into glass. If the Russian political leadership is successfully “decapitated” – not the most far fetched possibility, given that this attack will come out of the blue – then Russia’s response might even be an automatic strike on the US, dependent on the fine details of its highly classified Perimeter system. Perimeter is a “dead hand” system that is rumored to be capable of automatically launching an annihilating retaliatory strike should the Russian leadership be destroyed. Alternatively, even if Russia only attacks Britain, then the US may become so unnerved that it attempts to launch a decapitating and disarming strike against Russia, with approximately the same global-level results.

Total nuclear exchange between the world’s leading Crusader Powers – what’s not to like?

I am not so sure that the ummah will come out of this so well in the end; setting off an atomic democide will presumably make much of the rest of the world rather negatively inclined towards Islam and Muslims.

But OTOH just think of dat K/D ratio. Just think of the achievements you will unlock.

Anyhow, I really don’t know if this is realistic or not. Probably not. Too much planning, too much persistence, and too much luck (e.g. at least 3-4 people getting assigned to the same boat, inc. one with direct armory access).

Perhaps this one of the good things about more British Muslims electing to fight for Islamic State than to serve in the British Armed Forces.

***

* Commenter Sean confirms that “just 3-4 of the officers cooperating are required to can launch.”

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Futurism, Nuclear War, Terrorism 
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The Ukrainian elections are coming up in a couple of weeks, so there’ll be a number of related posts in the next few days.

***

@ak

More notable posts since the last Open Thread in case you missed any of them.

***

Featured

  • Daniel Friedman: Why Elites Dislike Standardized Testing
    • Under pressure from both the academic left and wealthy parents, hundreds of colleges have become ‘test optional,’ allowing students to submit applications without test scores.
    • Ann Coulter: “Millionaires & celebrities “want to destroy the SAT because it is the only mechanism by which your kid can get into an elite college ahead of their kid.
    • AK: “Soviet Union abolished test scores for university admissions during the 1920s. With “former people” (Russian bourgeois, aristocrats) de facto barred, vast majority of students became Jews and prole activists.

***

Russia

***

World

  • Guillaume Durocher: How to Win on Immigration: Italy’s Salvini Shows the Way
  • Nancy Pelosi: “If America crumbled to the ground, the last thing that would remain is our support for #Israel.
  • CIA implicated in North Korea Embassy break-in in Madrid, Spain.
  • RT: US announces more support for ‘heroic’ White Helmets in Syria
    • It was nice for the ~one month that the freeze lasted.
  • Why Brandon Adamson [altleft.com] supports Yang: “Since Amazon is banning books, and people are being banned from money making media platforms and payment processing services, I don’t really give a shit if these companies get forced to pay taxes and we get our money on the backend instead.

***

Science & Culture

  • Olalde, Iñigo, Swapan Mallick, Nick Patterson, Nadin Rohland, Vanessa Villalba-Mouco, Marina Silva, Katharina Dulias, et al. 2019. “The Genomic History of the Iberian Peninsula over the Past 8000 Years.Science 363 (6432): 1230–34.
    • Greg Cochran: “The chart above shows what happened when the Indo-Europeans show up. Autosomal steppe ancestry goes from zero to ~40%, but on the Y-chromosome, it goes from zero to 100% over a few hundred years. As quoted in the New York Times, archaeologists ruled out violence as a possible cause… They’re nuts. To those who like the notion that the Indo-Europeans triumphed because they carried in bubonic plague ( or some other pathogen) that blasted immunologically naive EEF farmers: find me a plague that only kills men – all of them.

***

Humor & Powerful Takes

  • *powerful comment* Beckow: “I have often thought that Hitler was a strange psycho character who was out of place in his time. He was a vegetarian, fanatically committed to recycling, with an ambiguous gender identity, no kids, and he really hated Russia. Today he would fit right in with the liberal progressives marching around and yelling about the coming end of the world and how Russia has to be destroyed. Timing in life is everything, today’s Hitler might chain himself to a power plant to stop global warming, storm a farm that ‘abuses’ animals, change his gender at will, and – of course – start a war with Russia.
  • Freek Vermeulen: Academics with lower research productivity (i.e. fewer publications and citations) are more likely to put “PhD”, “Dr.” or “Professor” in their e-mail signatures.
  • Josef Bosch: In 2015 @nytimes published his op-ed re: his stunning & brave decision to live as a woman. In 2019, now that he’s rightly determined that his transition was the result of untreated mental illness… surely they’ll publish a follow-up, right? Nope.
  • Steve Stewart-Williams: When natural selection trumps sexual selection
  • Scott Alexander: Gwern’s AI-Generated Poetry
  • Powerful Website has promoted me to “Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (G.R.U.) contractor.”

***

 
• Tags: Open Thread, Ukraine 
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1. Prophecy

Here is who I predicted would institute basic income back in 2017:

Mainstream Republicans and Democrats are corrupt retards who care naught beyond more tax cuts for the oligarchs and gibsmedats for the ghettoes, respectively. So its likely that it will be some political outsider President who ends up instituting basic income. In practice, given their wealth and high IQ, this in turn probably means some Silicon Valley plutocrat.

So, those first two are basically Trump!2019 and Commissar Kamala, respectively.

Yang is not quite a plutocrat, so I’m not 100% sure he’ll win. And his tech background he’s more East Coast than Silicon Valley. But otherwise, that’s his bio to a tee.

2. The Alt Right has defected to #YangGang en masse.

I am not surprised to see this (except, perhaps, for the alacrity of the change) for reasons I wrote about it back in 2015:

Today, in Europe as in the US, the basis of the welfare state is the use of targeted programs to help low-income members of the population. It is also widely known that certain ethnic minorities are overrepresented, sometimes grossly overrepresented, as a share of the recipients. In net terms, one can also look at it as a transfer of resources from indigenous Whites towards Non-Asian Minorities. As the demographic sluicegates to the Third World get opened up, these trends can only accelerate.

Many Whites are resentful about this, even if it is not politically correct to talk too openly about it. There are formidable psychological barriers just to thinking about things in such explicit terms.

Then comes along the idea of Universal Basic Income, which is not only cool and progressive but also feeds on the majority’s repressed sense of Ethnic Genetic Interests.

No wonder that everybody is jumping aboard!

You can also listen to a 2017 podcast I did with Robert Stark (The Stark Truth) where iirc I made many of the same points.

Yang’s UBI only applies after deducting the value of existing social programs that one already benefits from. There will still be gibsmedats, but now everyone would be entitled to them!

3. Drumpf

This has been helped along by Trump deciding to adopt a POWERFUL program revolving around opposing socialism, LEGAL immigrants for factories, rants about abortion, and condemning Dems as the real anti-Semites.

Things that basically nobody apart from a few slobbering boomers even care about.

And this all comes after failing at everything else – on the Wall (zero miles built), on stemming illegal immigration, on protecting his lieutenants, on protecting his supporters from getting banned on social media. The only half-decent successes he’s had have been on trade.

Trump has even managed to lose the Neo-Nazis at The Daily Stormer to a Chinaman, a half-Samoan Hindu, and a strong Somali Muslim woman. Winning!

The vast majority of the “Alt Right” are bright enough to recognize that since the only choice they have is between Invade the World/Invite the World or Invite the World/Get $1,000, they’d rather opt for the latter.

4. Memes

Meanwhile, though the Alt Right might be spent as an independent political force, /pol/ remains unrivalled in its memetic power. In particular, as befits his cyberpunk visions, Yang has completely wrestled the vaporwave market away from Trump:

 

As we learned from 2016, you can’t win if you don’t control the memes of production.

Meanwhile, /r/The_Donald has purged everyone halfway interesting and dissenting, it’s gone from the powerful memetic force it was in 2016 to an online, Trumpist version of Komsomol. They are no longer cool. They are squares.

5. His message appeals to everyone who wants $1,000.

It’s also a very easy message to understand. Like, what could be simpler than this?

Yes, some besuited beigeocrats from the Economics Department of Podunk University will come on and argue that it’s unsustainable and will bankrupt the country. But they can’t prove any of that.

6. Yang appeals to Fishtown

Meanwhile, as I already noted, there is basically no SJWism in his platform above the bare minimum required to run as a Democratic candidate.

No mention of Black issues on either website – which hosts a more comprehensive policy platform than all the other candidates combined – or Twitter, with the exception of one page that actually focused on pay inequality between men and women.

Interestingly, he has Tweeted about White problems:

He says there’ll be gun control, but says he’ll be “reasonable” about it. Which probably means he doesn’t take it any more seriously than Obama. Thought if not, it’s hardly the end of the world… while I like gun rights, I have argued that technological developments will soon make gun control near inevitable.

He says he is open to immigration. Ok, sure, but get real. You have to say that as a Democrat, when the Overton Window has moved to such an extent that many of Democrats are now openly demanding the abolition of ICE.

Like it or not, but that Wall isn’t getting built. Deportation squads going to send illegals back by the trainload. American Latinos are in the US to stay*. As Ron Unz has pointed out, in the long-term, Latino baiting is a losing strategy. They are not that violent or dysfunctional relative to Whites, so the disparity between the apocalyptic horror stories that anti-immigration activists claim and reality quickly becomes big enough that ordinary people just start to ignore them.

In this context, you can’t (realistically) ask for anything much more ambitious than this:

  • Secure the southern border and drastically decrease the number of illegal entries into the US
  • Provide a new tier of long-term permanent residency for anyone who has been here illegally for a substantial amount of time so that they can come out of the shadows and enter the formal economy and become full members of the community.
    • This new tier would permit individuals to work and stay in the country, provided they pay their taxes and don’t get convicted of a felony.
    • This tier would put them on a longer, eighteen-year path to citizenship (the same amount of time it takes those born in the US to get full citizenship rights), reflecting our desire to bring them into our country but also their decision to circumvent legal immigration channels.
  • Invest heavily in an information campaign to inform immigrant communities of this new tier of residency, and deport any undocumented immigrant who doesn’t proactively enroll in the program

Yang is no radical by Democratic standards, which should play well with blue-collar normies who just want their $1,000. And he’ll be free to move even further to the center should he actually be nominated (or run as a third-party candidate), leaving Trump with his remaining core constituency of plutocrats and Israel Firsters.

Moreover, come to think of it, Universal Basic Income is a Wall.

When you know that your $1,000 depends on the productivity of the economy, then you sure wouldn’t want immigrants (legal or illegal) “in the largest numbers ever” for the (soon-to-be-automated) factories.

Though you would admittedly want many smart fractions/cognitive elites, including imported ones, to design and build all those robots that will get everyone their $1,000. Yang’s platform is consistent with that. He says that no foreign student should finish their degree without a US permanent residency. In this sense, he is a classic cognitive elitist. There are problems with cognitive elitism. Even so, it is still probably better to import cognitive elites than surly permanent underclasses.

7. “But he’s just a meme candidate who’ll get 0.6% of the vote”

PredictIt current has him around 10% chance of taking the Dem nomination.

Here are the searches for the top likeliest Dem nominees this past week:

  • Commissar Kamala: meh
  • Crazy Bernie: Solid, though existing cult + name recognition helps
  • #YangGang: Evidently *not* just a /pol/ meme
  • Creepy Joe: Temporarily inflated by his announcement, otherwise like Yang
  • Beto Who?
  • Pocahontas also in the doldrums

So he isn’t negligible at any rate.

***

Yang is going to do very well in the debates. He was on the US National Debate Team in 1992 that went to the World Championships in London.

Ideologically, he is going to squat in Biden’s position, effectively displacing him out of the race. But apart from his folksy charm, and lack of creepy vibes, he will also be offering $1,000 and no intervention.

The real competition will then be a threeway race between Bernie, Yang, and Kamala.

Bernie is too old and too white. He is four years older than in the last elections, when he was already one of the oldest candidates. And the country he is running in is less white. And Yang will siphon off some of his people. He will be left with the hard leftists like the Chapo Trap House demographic… and that’s pretty much it.

Commissar Kamala unites the SJWs and party establishment. I was sure she’d take the nomination. I still think she will. But Yang is going to make it difficult. If this was a white dude pushing UBI, things may have been problematic. But Yang is a Chinaman, so he should be able to siphon off many of Kamala’s minority supporters too.

Trump’s path to victory in 2020:

(1) No recession. (Leading indicators in China and Japan not looking good).

(2) Runs against Commissar Kamila (as opposed to Biden, Bernie, Beto, Yang, or probably even Warren) OR Yang/Gabbard runs as third party.

The really big unknown is whether Yang is interested in running as a third party candidate. (If he does, Kamala will get something like 30%, he’ll get 25%, and Trump will get 40%, winning the election.)

But he will still absolutely trounce Trump, if he gets the nomination. And I think there’s at least a real chance of that.

***

I will admit that I am sympathetic to Yang. I can’t help but like a politician who RT’s Quillette, has phone calls with Nick Bostrom, and quotes Peter Turchin. This is basically like catnip to me.

I also genuinely think he’ll be good for the US.

I think he’ll be bad for Russia, though if only to the extent that he seems to have standard (moderate) Democrat positions on it and would also repair relations with Europe.

On China, I don’t know. Depends on whether Chinese ethnocentrism or Taiwanese svidomism* win out. Initially, I thought the former was likelier, though I’ve since had second thoughts.

He has said very little on foreign policy in general, though an isolationist trend can just about be discerned. (In any case, both he, Bernie, and even Kamala are running on a largely anti-interventionist platform).

What he can be sure to take seriously (based on his familiarity with Bostrom’s work) is AI safety, which may turn out to be a rather central existential issue in the 21st century.

There is also a small and distinct (vs. negligible wrt everyone else) chance he will go full glorious autistic transhumanism and massively increase funding for stuff like radical life extension. That would be pretty cool.

So you know how in the Civilization strategy games that once the first country adopts Democracy, all the other countries start getting an unhappiness penalty for avoiding it?

I think it will be the same for UBI.

If UBI is a success in the US, other countries will come under overwhelming domestic pressure to adopt it as well.

People around the world will start asking why they don’t deserve $1,000 like Americans do. $1,000 will come to be seen as a basic human right like freedom, food, security, and fast Internet.

Yang’s UBI program would translate to annual payments equivalent to 20% of US GDP per capita – a poverty level existence, to be sure, but still sufficient for a fulfilling, no frills life somewhere deep in the boondocks, or in a shared house in one of its major cities (outside SF and NY, at any rate). This would translate to around 500-700 Euros in most EU countries. Ironically, the mere existence of UBI in the US may well do more for the cause of European immigration nationalism – via Europeans adopting UBI themselves – than the entirety of the Identitarian Right.

I think it would also play well in Russia. America’s existing “democracy promotion” efforts revolving around issues like Chechen LGBT rights, various low single digit approval freaks from Echo of Moscow, and the suffering of the Crimean people under the Russian boot have been total failures. But once UBI starts becoming actualized, Russians will start asking why assorted oligarchs who didn’t at least earn their own wealth, like Bezos, but actively looted it in the 1990s, should have all the money while they subside on $500 wages and $200 pensions. China is fast becoming one of the most automated places on the planet, and gains a couple of billionaires every week. Tolerated for now, but perhaps American UBI will accentuate the contradictions between that and its official Communism to a critical degree.

These are of course fanciful scenarios, and unlikely ones. Still, it would be the height of irony if non-interventionist UBI’ism ends up creating more political troubles for America’s geopolitical adversaries than all of its previous democracy promotion combined.

***

* Petty nationalism.

 
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This is a very good summary and syncs with how I view things.

***

To be fair, I respect Mr. Martyanov’s views and also read his blog regularly. It’s true as well that China’s SSN fleet remains a relative weakness, so even in my opinion he’s certainly correct there to an extent. However, I do think he hugely exaggerates those issues for several reasons.

For one thing, as Anatoly and others have already mentioned, it really doesn’t matter that much around the First Island Chain. Many people also don’t seem to know that China’s has by far the largest MODERN diesel sub fleet in the world. Modern Chinese surface combatants have proper ASW capabilities as well. Modern frigates and corvettes are being introduced in huge numbers. The less known Y-8Q maritime patrol aircraft, China’s answer to P-3 Orion and P-8 Poseidon is finally in active service, too.

This weird notion that “China still won’t have modern nuclear submarines by the year 3000” is just part of the overall “China can’t into (military) tech” meme, which still somehow keeps living on. Martyanov thinks that China is not even close to solving its remaining technological bottlenecks. I, on the other hand, argue that the Chinese are close, and that those issues will have been solved by 2025, or even more likely, a few years earlier.

In this context, I feel it’s important to mention China’s progress in aircraft engines. The “anti-Chinese” narrative here is very similar to the submarine one, but it’s possibly even more clearly false, as China isn’t quite as secretive about that sector, and/or the progress is more difficult to hide, for obvious reason. Many seem to simply think that China has not made major advancements in the field. Some even keep suggesting that the relatively slow progress is somehow indicative of some inherent racial/ideological limitations. But how is that really different from the development of basically most/all other countries and their aerospace sectors? Also several countries have actually successfully developed modern fighters, but without domestic engines to power them.

The meme that all (or almost all) Chinese military aircraft are supposedly equipped with Russian engines isn’t true at all. AFAIK, most, if not all J-series Flankers have Chinese engines (the backbone of China’s fighter fleet, hundreds of modern aircraft) and that the Chinese have already tested domestic engines on the 5th-gen J-20, so in reality China hasn’t been one of those aforementioned countries for some time. Russia remains only modestly ahead of China, maybe only by 5 years. 2025!

I also want to point out once more that China has already introduced improved variants of the Type 093 SSN years ago and that Russia has a single (I think?) post-Soviet SSN (Yasen) in active service. Now, it’s of course true that Russia needs a blue water navy and SLOCs much less than China and that upgraded “Soviet-era” boats remain very capable, but considering the fact that even the US Navy is still mostly equipped with “Soviet-era” boomers, it’s very debatable overall how “shitty” the Type 093 actually even is. Certainly the gap between the upgraded variants vs. both the NEWEST Russian and the US subs shouldn’t be more than “a generation.” Type 093 was China’s equivalent Los Angeles class, and the (soon!) upcoming Type 095 will be China’s answer to Virginia and Seawolf, as well as the Type 052D of Chinese nuclear attack subs. That’s it. This isn’t that complicated.

***

Your assessment might be even more “ambitious” than mine lol, though I certainly agree with 95% of it and I was going to post something similar (“fake edit”: I guess I did it anyway…).

Some additional points:

Yes, Type 055s are certainly “cruisers” according to the current American definition.

The “last” 4 carriers (by around 2030) will almost certainly be EMALS-equipped supercarriers.

Then there’s the relatively little known Type 075 class “large helicopter carriers,” or LHDs. I haven’t been following its progress recently, and to my surprise (actually, not really at this point) China is apparently building 3 (!! Jesus…) such ships simultaneously, at least according to some sources and English Wikipedia (so might still easily be BS). If true, you can probably add six 40,000 ton Type 075s to the list. And a reminder: only the US Navy is equipped with similarly large LHDs currently.

The current rate of 5 destroyers per year sounds insane, and I think something like 3-4 -> 60-80% of the US Navy by 2030 might be more realistic, though probably still more than enough in most scenarios, considering US “overextension.” That said, I think 5 is actually doable for China, and it would make a lot of sense. And of course China has a very large number of modern frigates and corvettes, whereas the US Navy is very top-heavy, an issue it’s trying to solve with the LCS program.

I can still remember all those not-so-old predictions from informed China watchers, maybe from 5-10 years ago. Back then most expected maybe 30 destroyers by 2030…

Overall it must be concluded that China’s declarations about acquiring a “world class navy by 2050” are basically a joke at this point. But even then the uniformed Western media seemed to take them kind of seriously lol. That combined with some unhealthy dose of wishful thinking. “Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.” It still works.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Chinese navy, Guest, Military 
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A couple of weeks ago I was invited to the Civic Chamber of Russia in my capacity as a blogger person to give my Very Important Opinions on a draft law being considered by some United Russia deputies to create “cyber militia” tasked with identifying and reporting illegal/extremist content on the Internet.

I obviously consider that a very bad idea and I wrote about why here: https://akarlin.ru/2019/03/cybermilitia/

That text is also the formal written response that I sent off. I can’t be bothered recounting why here, but if you’re interested, just use Google Translate on the original article. Instead I am going to offer a couple of political observations.

Despite the imbecility of the law in question, and the thuggish attitudes of one of its sponsors (“Do you support terrorism and extremism?” he brusquely demanded to know of one of his critics), I nonetheless came away rather impressed with this institution, and rather hopeful about wider political trends.

1. They invite a wide array of relevant people – social media representatives, security people, journalists, bloggers, etc. – to offer their critiques on new laws. The proceedings are live-streamed on their website. Nor are the people they invite toadies. Regarding that cyber militia law in particular, I estimate around 80% of the participants were critical or very critical. While the Chamber’s function is purely consultative, I can barely imagine that law going ahead – at least in anything resembling its original form – after the all round public drubbing it received. In that sense, one might even consider it a sort of check and balance.

2. The critics included the Secretary of the Civic Chamber Valery Fadeev, who suggested it would be a slapstick repeat of the Soviets “chasing stilyagi” (a postwar youth movement that idolized Western popular culture, obviously to official disapproval) and explicitly compared it to the abuses under Article 282 (a “hate speech” law that was recently partially decriminalized). This is interesting, because Fadeev is also a senior official in the All-Russia People’s Front, a pro-Putin organization meant to coordinate relations between United Russia and Russia’s myriad NGOs and other associations.

This is all very encouraging as it suggests a rejection of sovokism at the (upper) levels of Russian society, both in and out of formal power – that is, at the levels that matter.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Cyber Threats, Internet, Law, Russia, The AK 
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Here is Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto. He comes off as a living repository of /pol/ memes.

Personally, I think we need to punish the enablers of Far Right terrorism. Well past time the hateful anti-Semite PewDiePie was kicked off YouTube and Putler got more sanctions.

EDIT 2019.03.18: Seems there is a concerned campaign to get the manifesto and video off the Internet. Moreover, according to New Zealand police, sharing the video could get you more jail time than Brenton Tarrant will get for killing any one of those Muslims.

 

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Islamophobia, New Zealand, Terrorism 
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Every so often some Berlusconi Bro praises Mussolini to some extent or another and invites a flurry of condemnation from the handshakeworthy set. This has just happened with Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament. And then, of course, there was Matteo Salvini’s approving quotation of the Italian dictator last year.

From what I can figure out, though, he really didn’t do anything wrong – at least not substantially more so than any other countries at the time.

  • A grand total of nine people were executed for political crimes during his entire rule from 1922-1943. These were handed out exclusively for murder and political terror.
    • For comparison, that’s around SIX orders of magnitude lower than for the USSR [~700,000 political executions firmly established; probably around a million overall]. Over those twenty years, evil Italian fascists executed someone about once every three years; heroic Soviets executed someone once every 15 minutes.
    • This is in the context of frequent assassination attempts against Mussolini (e.g. five in 1926 alone).
    • It’s also comparable to the rate of politicized executions in the Western democracies, e.g. Sacco and Vanzetti (1927) would doubtless qualify.
  • There were 4,500 people convicted of political crimes in Fascist Italy.
    • This compares to 4 million people convicted of political crimes in the Soviet Gulag from 1921-1953. Difference of three orders of magnitude.
    • Conditions in Italy were incomparably better. Gramsci wrote his books from a comfortable jail. The leader of the Italian Communists, Amadeo Bordiga, was sent into exile for three years, and was left in peace after his release. Reality is, Fascist Italy was a much nicer and safer place even for Communists than many actual Communist regimes.
    • The Western democracies did not imprison crimethinkers in any significant numbers, so Italy was worse in this respect. But the chasm between it and the Nazis/Soviets, vs. between the West, was much narrower.
  • But what about the Jews?
    • While they did just fine under the early Fascist regime, they started getting kicked out from areas like journalism and academia from the late 1930s, largely under Nazi pressure.
    • This is regrettable, but not even in the same universe as Nazi Germany itself; or for that matter the Soviet Union, where the old bourgeois and aristocracy – “former people” – were not just barred from areas like higher education (in favor of – yes – Jews*), but actively persecuted and eventually murdered. And even in the West, it is well known that were plenty of both formal and informal barriers to Jewish upwards mobility erected by America’s then WASP elites.
    • The Italian military under Mussolini specifically prevented Germans from deporting Jews in their zones of control in foreign countries such as France and Croatia, to say nothing of Italy itself. Deportations did not begin until the overthrow of Mussolini and Italy’s partial occupation by Nazi Germany.
  • Territorial aggression: Yes, Italy got greedy. But snapping up rival countries’ territories was fair game by the standards of 1930s Europe, including on the part of otherwise “fluffy” countries such as Poland that took full advantage of Czechoslovakia’s dismemberment in 1938.
  • Fascist Italy’s biggest actual crime – which, ironically, basically everyone ignores – may have been Yekatit 12, the extermination of about 20,000 of the Ethiopian intelligentsia after the attempted assassination of the head of the Italian occupation forces.
    • This is basically a week’s work for Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.
    • About a year’s work for Franco’s Spain, for that matter.
    • Comparable in magnitude to the Kenyan civilian casualties from the British suppression of the Mau Mau Uprising in the 1950s.

A German would have to be a psychopath to apologize for Hitler. A Russian would have to be not just a psychopath, but a cuckolded retard, to apologize for Lenin or Stalin.

A Spaniard can apologize for Franco, given the alternatives on offer, but it should come with many caveats. He did kill many, many more people than Mussolini, though most of this was in the context of a brutal civil war. Francoist Spain’s main saving grace and retrospective PR salvation with respect to Fascist Italy was that it did not end up allying with Hitler.

However, Italians have no particular need to be ashamed of Mussolini. Even if the claim that he made the trains run on time is an urban legend.

***

* Yury Slezkine in The Jewish Century (2004): “The art historian A. Anisimov wrote to a colleague in Prague (in November 1923), “Out of 100 applicants to Moscow University, 78 are Jews; thus, if the Russian university is now in Prague, the Jewish one is in Moscow.” The father of a student about to be “purged” for alien origins wrote to a friend or relative in Serbia: “Pavel and his friends are awaiting their fate. But it’s clear that only the Jerusalem academics and the Communists, Party members generally, are going to stay.” And according to the wife of a Leningrad University professor, “in all the institutions, only workers and Israelites are admitted; the life of the intelligentsia is very hard.”

 
• Category: History • Tags: Fascism, Italy, Mussolini 
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In my 2011 series comparing life in the US, Britain, and Russia, I wrote the following about university admissions:

Overall, university admissions are probably the most meritocratic in the UK. In Russia, though the system is supposed to be meritocratic, it is skewed by corruption, for it is not unknown for applicants to bribe admissions staff at the more prestigious universities, and certainly the children of oligarchs or powerful politicians – no matter their intellectual aptitude – experience few problems in getting into schools like Moscow State University or MGIMO. However, direct bribes have become more difficult in recent years, due to the national standardization of the exam system. The US is in between. Though direct corruption is as unheard of as in the UK, the system itself is rigged in favor of the rich and influential. The most egregious example of this is the open discrimination in favor of legacies, the children of former alumni of the university. The more your parents “donate” to the alma mater, the better their children’s chances of getting in. This reminds me of a Simpsons episode where the nuclear power tycoon Mr. Burns takes out his checkbook to negotiate a place in Harvard for his ne’er-do-well son Larry.

Man: Well, frankly, test scores like Larry’s would call for a very generous contribution. For example, a score of 400 would require a donation of new football uniforms, 300, a new dormitory, and in Larry’s case, we would need an international airport.
Woman: Yale could use an international airport, Mr. Burns.
Burns: Are you mad? I’m not made of airports!

This would be considered pretty repellent by Europeans (and most Americans too), but is only counted as corruption by the former. There are two other major examples of discrimination in university admissions to US colleges. First, good athletes – primarily American football players, rowers, and lacrosse players – are much more likely to get in with poor grades, as they bring their university money and recognition (this is also common in Oxbridge, UK, for rowers). Second, there is positive discrimination* based on race: due to their poorer academic performance in schools, African-Americans** and Hispanics have an easier time getting in on poor grades than whites or Asians. (Jews have a great time of it. Though they have the highest grades of any ethnicity, they are counted as whites for the purpose of university admissions.)

This is the sort of quid pro quo that got President Kushner into Harvard.

However, if the recent news are anything to go by, the US system has degraded closer to Russia’s level, in which the former sheen of legality has been replaced by outright bribery and outsider test-taking.

Riddell took SAT and ACT exams for students between 2012 and this past February, according to a criminal complaint.

He was paid $10,000 per test, prosecutors said.

It wasn’t immediately clear, in charging documents, exactly how many tests Riddell took, but prosecutors are seeking to recover almost $450,000 forfeiture from the former college tennis player.

NYT:

On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced the indictments of dozens of wealthy parents, including the Emmy-winning actress Felicity Huffman, for employing various forms of bribery and fraud to get their kids into highly selective schools. Some of them allegedly paid college coaches, including at Yale and Stanford, to lie and say that their children were special recruits for sports that the kids didn’t even play. Others allegedly paid exam administrators to let someone smarter take tests for their children. Millions of dollars changed hands.

Now I am not saying that Russia and the US are comparable, because they are not. Prevalence is certainly much greater in Russia. And American violations actually lead to criminal investigations (which you can’t exactly do in Russia, where the rot starts at the very top; e.g., Putin’s “PhD” is plagiarized).

Still, this does seem to indicate a sort of gradual convergence in institutional quality and social/moral mores, as whatever it was that made the West special – its rule of law, or historic selection for prosocial traits, or whatever else it is – continue breaking down.

I suppose one benefit is that more such cases will help reveal modern academia for the empty, useless, non-human capital increasing, pure signalling enterprise it is so far as 90% of the population is concerned.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Corruption, United States 
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The Boeing 737 Max’s current failure rate of ~1% of all airframes in the mere three years it has been flying commercially is, obviously, astoundingly bad. But it’s worth noting that this comes on the back of astounding improvements in air safety over the past century.

According to Steven Pinker’s data in Enlightenment Now, it is 100x safer (!) to fly today than it was in the 1970s.

This has happened even as flights have become far more affordable. Inflation-adjusted price of LA-NY flights in the 1970s was around $1,500. Today – $200 (even if there’s no blackjack, hookers, and leg room these days).

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Aircraft, Mortality 
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• Category: Ideology • Tags: Democracy, Humor, Russia, United States 
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Found this convenient summary table of the amount of books people had in their adolescence based on the PIAAC surveys.

Sikora, Joanna, M. D. R. Evans, and Jonathan Kelley. 2019. “Scholarly Culture: How Books in Adolescence Enhance Adult Literacy, Numeracy and Technology Skills in 31 Societies.” Social Science Research 77 (January): 1–15.

The Scandinavians are highest at around ~200 books; Anglos, Germanics, and Slavs tend to have ~150; strangely, Japanese and Koreans – only ~100 (Singapore especially is an outlier at just 52); the Meds around 80. Lowest is Turkey at just 27, joint second is Chile at 52; also the lowest IQ countries in this sample.

Heiner Rindermann in Cognitive Capitalism:

The number of books is the third best parental indicator of children’s intelligence (rBo = .25; Section 3.4.5) and at the international level the correlation is very high with cognitive ability (rBo = .70; Table 10.5) – much higher than any attribute of instruction or schools. The average number of books at home can be used as a proxy of national cognitive ability. Looking at the numbers taken from student assessment studies (see Appendix and Table A.3) the average for Latin America at home is 28 books, in Brazil 34 books, approximately a quarter to a third compared to Britain with 102 or Scandinavia with 111 books.

See also Steve Sailer’s commentary on (the paucity of) books in Mexico.

That said, I expect these correlations to start collapsing soon, if they haven’t already, as the most developed/higher IQ countries start shifting to e-books amongst the younger generations.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Books, International Comparisons, IQ 
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It is pretty evident that Chinese naval power is growing by leaps and bounds, with a lot of qualitative literature about it:

There have been fewer articles looking at the quantitative side of things, though NextBigFuture does point out that PLAN is slated to overtake USN in warship numbers by 2030.

However, a more accurate measure of relative naval power is warship tonnage.

Now ironically, while there are plenty of these figures for the buildup to both the World Wars – at least they are commonly cited in history books – I have been much less successful at finding analogous tallies for modern navies.

For the post-1990 era, this is the best I have been able to find:

Crisher, Brian Benjamin, and Mark Souva. 2014. “Power at Sea: A Naval Power Dataset, 1865–2011.International Interactions 40 (4): 602–29.

So as of 2010, China was at around 16% of the US level: 429,000 tons to 2,765,000 tons.

But it has been picking up pace since then. When your GDP doubles every eight years or so, it’s not long before you begin to see explosive growth even keeping the share of military spending constant.

According to these graphics from the IISS, in 2012-14, China constructed as many ships as the US, and twice as many in 2015-2017 (in terms of tonnage).

Note that since the US Navy is so much bigger, as well as much older on average, it will also be losing much more tonnage in terms of depreciation every year. In other words, while the US would have been standing still during this time in terms of gross tonnage, China would have added most of the ~625,000 tons it inducted during 2012-2017 to its aggregate total.

Considering a further 50,000 (?) tons of production 2011, plus whatever the figure is for 2018, we can safely conclude that Chinese warship tonnage should now be solidly above 1,000,000 tons and approaching 40% of the US level.

It would also mean that China has gone from rough naval parity with Russia around 2010 to exceeding it twice over, while also becoming much newer and more modern.

If it continues at this pace – increasing production by a mere 33% relative to 2015-17, and then leveling off at one million tons every six years – this will further double PLAN tonnage to 2 million tons by ~2024, and enable it to overtake the USN as early as the late 2020s. (Perhaps Trump’s recent boost to military spending will stave it off to 2030… big difference).

This happens to be even earlier than the original date of ~2040 that I estimated for US-Chinese naval convergence (though those estimates were not based on tonnage, but factors such as cumulative naval spending minus depreciation, and technology).

But whether the crossover point will be closer to 2030 or 2040 isn’t really all that germane. The USN is spread out all over the world; PLAN can concentrate off the Chinese seaboard, within range of its fighters, missiles, and air defense assets both on the coasts and on its artificial islands. I think that so far as any conflict over Taiwan or the Spratly Islands is concerned, we could be looking at emerging Chinese dominance as early as the mid-2020s.

No wonder that Bannon was talking about how there needs to be a war with China within the next 5 years, or 10 at the maximum. There’s not much time left for US naval dominance in the West Pacific.

 
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There are a number of transport network companies [TNC] operating in Russia – apart from Uber, there is also the more popular Yandex.Taxi, as well as the taxi hailing Gett and a few others. These companies are a vast improvement from the days of the old gypsy cabs, many of them illegally run by Caucasian mafias, who would – and unfortunately, still do – harass incoming tourists at Sheremetyevo Airport.

[Pro tip: Never deal with them. Getting a Yandex.Taxi to any destination will cost you 2-3x cheaper.]

That said, standards still fall a bit short of what I believe to be standard in the West (though I can’t really compare as I only used Uber perhaps half a dozen times in the US and London):

  • I had two drivers doze off at the wheel (both times driving home from an airport in Moscow);
  • One driver didn’t have a seatbelt in the back seat (Novgorod);
  • Another driver chatted with his girlfriend for half the journey from the airport, without using a hands free kit (also in Moscow).

This is why the new updates are a very good idea:

Instead of holding out your hand and flagging down a random driver, as the Soviet-era system used to work, market leader Yandex.Taxi is making big efforts to increase the trust of riders in its cars. Innovations being introduced now mean passengers will now be able to see a high-resolution picture of their drivers on the app prior to boarding the car. Besides the car model, the number of rides given, and their rating, passengers will now be able to see the compliments that the driver has received from previous customers.

While this is good news for customers, Yandex.Taxi drivers might feel even more pressured. Their ranking, determined by customer feedback, determines pay. In a survey I conducted among Yandex drivers, some were concerned about the pressure during work, where customer behaviour was one of the most impactful factors. The newly introduced compliment section adds to existing pressure, because drivers feel obliged to do even more ‘socialising’ to continue to gain ratings, and thus orders, from Yandex.Taxi. The system uses a points system that favours the drivers with higher scores, who are sent more customers.

Obviously, Klemens Witte – the SJW author of this tripe – begs to differ. In reality, most normal, reasonable people would be perfectly happy to give a driver their five stars so long as their vehicles and driving meet some decent, minimal level of safety and comfort.

Usually, I give my drivers 5 stars and a 10% tip. However, I gave the sleepers 1 star for endangering my life and those of others, 3 stars to no seatbelt guy, and 2 stars to phone guy).

Another issue is that of ethnic discrimination. Many of the drivers are immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucuses, for whom driving a taxi is more lucrative and easier work than construction and labour jobs that many of their compatriots are forced to take. One of Yandex.Taxi’s competitors has installed a function that makes it possible to only chose drivers of ‘Slavic appearance’, which leads to the question of whether high-resolution pictures will lead to increased racial discrimination in choosing drivers.

“Forced”? For a start, they can always stay in their own countries if they hate it in Russia so much.

Moreover, there’s another problem. Immigrant Yandex.Taxi drivers have perverse incentives to drive/earn as much as they can before going back to Dagestan, Tajikistan, etc., so in the apparent absence of tough punishments, they work for way too long. Both my drivers who dozed off were Caucasians (phone guy & no seatbelt guy were Russians). A better ratings system will punish such dangerous misbehavior and get them off the streets and into some other, less responsible profession.

Most of the interviewed drivers had been working as platform drivers for a short time. Many state that they do not know how long they will work with Yandex, indicating that Yandex has a high turnover of drivers. This phenomenon is well documented in relation to Uber , where many drivers leave during their first year and the retention rate has actually dropped to 4%. High-turnover rates may imply that drivers don’t see Yandex as a long-term opportunity, which could put the sustainability of this business model in question. …

However, driver complaints differ from Western contemporaries in that they don’t tend to mention the benefits of an employee-friendly framework like sick leave, further training, permanent employment, or parental leave. Given the realities of the Russian labour market, drivers didn’t even think of those benefits as an option.

Like, who the hell anywhere considers TNC companies as something they do for training of all things? Sick leave? Permanent employment? Parental leave? WTF?

The whole point of Uber, Yandex.Taxi, etc. so far as employees are concerned is that this is a good way for unskilled but disciplined workers to make reasonable amounts of money quickly, fairly, anytime they want, no boss looking over your shoulder, doing what many people like anyway (driving). And collectivists such as Klemens Witte want to undo all that and go back to the days of the unaccountable taxi mafia.

Fortunately, the taxi mafia is pretty weak in Russia, unlike in many of the countries that have banned or are planning to ban Uber and other TNCs*. They are objectively superior to taxis, and SWPL Russians do not want to go back to the days of being driven by shady gypsy cabs. Ratings systems will continue to get optimized, competition and quality will continue to go up, and the Wittes of the world will be left screeching autistically in the wilderness.

* I hear Romania is about to do it, which will make it into a dump so far as tourism are concerned.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Moscow, Public Transportation, Russia 
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Great to see Daniel Chieh check in, however briefly.

RIP Guillaume Faye. I haven’t read any of his books, but I really dig the aesthetics associated with his work. FWIW, I think Solar Imperialist has the best archeofuturism imagery on Twitter today. ***

@ak

More notable posts since the last Open Thread in case you missed any of them.

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Featured

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Russia

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World

  • Adrian Pecotic: Whoever Predicts the Future Will Win the AI Arms Race. Compares approaches of three leading Powers:
    • China going for all out strategic level AI.
    • Russia opting only for military AI, while decisions left to the generals; this is a function of its relative technological weakness.
    • USA is in the middle, with generals to be advised by AI, but strategic level decisions left to politicians.
  • Trump: “Wacky Nut Job @AnnCoulter, who still hasn’t figured out that, despite all odds and an entire Democrat Party of Far Left Radicals against me (not to mention certain Republicans who are sadly unwilling to fight), I am winning on the Border. Major sections of Wall are being built…
  • *powerful comment* Vishnugupta on what happened during the recent India vs. Pakistan skirmish
  • *powerful comment* Jon0815 on why the US seems to be more comfortable threatening China with war wrt Russia
  • Is Orban perhaps a bit too obsessed with Soros?
  • Audacious Epigone: Millennial Dems likeliest to unfriend over political arguments
  • Top Chinese officials plagiarised university theses.
  • It will be interesting to observe China turn from anti-natalism to pro-natalism at stunning speeds.
  • *powerful comment* Thorfinnsson on the US officer corps
  • Carl Zha on the “most beautiful bookstore” in Chongqing

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Science & Culture

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Powerful Takes

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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.