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hostages

Come to think of it, the Huawei Affair – an entirely transparent power play against China, as Jeffrey Sachs convincingly shows – is returning the world to the medieval era of hostage taking.

It’s been a long way building up to it.

Still, Meng Wenzhou is a much bigger fish than the victims of previous such incidents, such as Maria Butina, who has been coerced into confessing to acting as a Russian foreign agent after six months in solitary. It is also synced with America’s trend to regard the entire world as its jurisdictional demesne, as demonstrated by the repeated detentions of alleged Russian hackers in American colonial territories and by the persecution of Assange.

But unlike Russia, it seems that China isn’t afraid to respond to American provocations, having now detained a second Canadian.

Eventually businessmen will only travel abroad if other side sends potential hostages as guarantee, and/or meetings will be held in Switzerland.

 
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Russia harvested 133 million tons of grain in 2017, beating the all-time RSFSR record set in 1978. It has also been consistently harvesting more grain than in the Soviet years since the mid-2010s.

russia-grain-production

Here it is in a wider historical perspective.

Grain production in Russia from 1900-2012:

russia-grain-production-1900-2012

Graph via @burckina-faso, a pro-Soviet blogger, so can hardly be accused of bias.
Code: Red/blue lines = Total production (left scale; millions of tons); purple/green line = crop yields (right scale; centners per hectare)
Sources: Росстат, Симчера В.М. “Развитие экономики России за 100 лет: 1900-2000. Исторические ряды, вековые тренды, институциональные циклы”. – М.: Наука, 2006. и Растянников В.Г., Дерюгина И.В. “Урожайность хлебов в России. 1795-2007″. – М.: ИВ РАН, 2009

So we have approximately the following periods:

  • Pre-Emancipation Tsarism: No improvement (see below).
  • Late Tsarism: Slow improvement.
  • Early USSR: Zero gains in output or yields between the early 191os and the early 1950s. Massive collapse during the Civil War, contributing to the 1921-22 famine with 5-10 million deaths. Stagnation during collectivization, accompanied by the 1931-32 famine with 7 million deaths; testifying, in effect, to its engineered nature. Small uptick in the late 1930s, enabled by electrification and tractorification, ending in another collapse during WW2, during which there were 2-3 million deaths from dearth on the home front; another famine in 1947 with 1.5 million deaths, which was not accompanied by a food production collapse either.
  • Late USSR: Doubling in output and yield.
  • Russian Federation (1990s): Collapse in output, though not so much in yield, during the 1990s; considering the depth of the economic crisis, and the fact that people continued to leave agriculture, this was not as catastrophic as it seemed. Russian Federation (2000s+): Strong recovery in both output, which since the mid-2000s has exceeded peak RSFSR values (above graph only goes to 2012), and what must be massive further increases in yield, which should now be around 30

***

Here is another chart showing Grain Yields in 1795-2007 in Russian Empire/USSR:

grain-yields-russia-1795-2007

Source: В.Г. Растянников, И.В. Дерюгина (2009) – Урожайность хлебов в России.

This book was published under the aegis of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and is possibly the most comprehensive attempt to standardize the data on grain yields across the different accounting systems that have existed in Russia during this period.

This is an important detail, because as the economic history blogger @polit-ec notes:

It is known that the Tsarist statistics significantly understated the real volumes of production. This was caused by accounting, and the unwillingness of the peasants to disclose to the landowners the true state of their farms. To the contrary, the statistics of the Soviet era is known for large-scale exaggerations – and not only on account of individual directors who wanted to report on the successful implementation of the plan, but also at the state level to prove the advantages of socialism.

For example, in the Stalinist years, the crop was counted as the one that “could be gathered if there were absolutely no losses and theft of grain during the harvesting and threshing of bread. ” In the Khrushchev era, we went on to record the “barn harvest” – crops actually collected and deposited. But already in 1966, the category “collection” was introduced instead , which again led to “creeping falsification” of statistics. In the last pre-Gorbachev years, in the face of growing food difficulties, data on harvesting and grain yields disappeared altogether from the pages of statistical yearbooks of the Central Statistical Administration of the USSR. The ban on their publication was withdrawn only in 1985.

What leads to this disparity? Quite often we can see how one author cites data from pre-revolutionary publications; another cites the archival documents of the 1930s; the third relies on late Soviet statistical compendiums; and no one suspects how different the counting methods used in these sources are. It is clear that there can be no talk of any intelligible comparison. Therefore, the monograph under consideration, where information on yields, as they say, is “reduced to a common denominator,” is of great interest.

One can again make several observations from the yearly statistics given in the book’s statistical tables.

(1) Russia had an average crop yield of 7.2 centners/hectare in 1916, and 6.4 centners/hectare in 1917. This was bad relative to late Tsarist Russia’s largest ever harvest of 1913, when yields soared to 8.7 centners/hectare; its second largest ever harvest was during the war year of 1915, when it almost matched the previous record holder at 8.6 centners/hectare. But it was hardly any sort of catastrophic collapse. Russian soldiers were better fed in 1917 than their German counterparts. Even in 1918, when the country was already in full scale collapse, the harvest was still at 6.0 centners/hectare, which would make it higher than the average 5.9 centners/hectare during the crisis period of 1905-1907 – when there was no famine. So much for Soviet claims that Russia in 1917 was inevitably on its way to famine and collapse.

(2) On a macro level, crop yields were slowly rising ever since the Emancipation of 1861, all the way to World War I. Meanwhile all the early Soviet efforts at mechanizing agriculture through electrification and tractorification were completely nullified by collectivization, dekulakization, and Lysenkoism. The only year during the first three decades of the USSR’s existence when yields exceeded the Russian Empire’s 1913 figure was during the bumper harvest of 1937; the next year would be 1956. Only half a century later, from 1964, did the USSR start to consistently get higher crop yields than in 1913.

@polit_ec recounts a joke that the initials of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) could be decoded as “Second Serfdom (Bolsheviks). (Был такой старый анекдот: как расшифровать название партии ВКП(б)? Ответ: Второе крепостное право (большевиков).)

***

For comparison, here are historical American wheat yields:

us-wheat-yield-1866-2014

Michael Costolo: Feeding America: The Extraordinary Increase in US Farm Productivity. Figures are given in bushels per acre, so (if my calcs are correct) they should be increased by 50% to be comparable with the centners per hectare measure given for Russia.

In the US, there was no increase in crop yields from the 1860s until the 1930s. However, they started from a much higher base, suggesting that Russia had much more room to catch up – and which was indeed happening.

Meanwhile, from the early 1930s, American crop yields veritably exploded – quite an impressive feat, considering this was the age of the Dust Bowl – and wheat yields almost trebled to about 50 centners/hectare by 1990. In contrast, the RSFSR’s grain yields never came close to 20 centners/hectare.

Current figures would be around 75 centners/hectare for the US and 30 centners/hectare for Russia.

us-crop-yields-1866-2014

It is probably legitimate to compare US wheat yields to Soviet grain yields because wheat was the staple Soviet, and now Russian, crop.

However, it should be noted that the gains in overall US grain yields – which came from a higher base – would have been even sharper, since its staple crop is corn. Corn yields rose fivefold from the 1930s to 1990.

Now Russia is gaining rapidly in relative terms, but from what is still a significantly lower base (~40% of the US level in wheat).

TLDR: Russian crop yields were slowly going up in relative terms to the US from 1860-1915. They were then stagnant until 1955, while the US took off around 1935. The US massively increased its lead from 1935 to 2000. Russia has been catching up again since 2000.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Agriculture, Russia, Soviet Union 
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czarism

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: Linguistics, Official English, Tsarist Russia 
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russia-ussr-homicide-rate-1875-2018

The data is based on Goertzel, Ted & al. (2012), Homicide Booms and Busts A Small-N Comparative Historical Study.

russia-homicide-rates-historical The lead author kindly emailed me the data used to build their graphs (their version is on the right), which I used to construct the above graph of Russian historical homicide rates from 1875 to 2018.

***

Russian homicide rates were stable at around 5/100,000 in Tsarist Russia from 1875, according to a couple of studies that they cite. This was above the 1-2/100,000 rate in contemporary “Core Europe” (Britain, France, Germany, the Low Countries, and Scandinavia); Russia lagged Germany by about a century, and Britain, one of the world’s first states to undergo cultural and (perhaps) genetic pacification, last saw such figures in the 17th century. However, Russia’s homicide rates were nonetheless similar to countries such as Italy, Finland, and even Japan. Contrary to the scenes of barbarity that authors such as Orlando Figes have painted of the Russian village, in reality it does not appear to have been especially violent relative to much of the rest of the world outside Core Europe at that time.

ussr-convictions-rate-1922-1960 Records are sparse from the Russian Civil War to the end of Stalinism. It is clear that the aftermath of the Bolshevik coup and Russia’s collapse saw a huge spike in criminality. Russian criminologist Viktor Luneev in Crime in the 20th Century writes that Moscow saw 11 times as many murders in 1918 as it did in 1914, and “crime intensity” in the new capital increased by a further 50% by 1921. I have been unable to find any sources or estimates of homicides during the 1920s, but the general crime situation could be approximated by the rate of convictions per capita, which are available for the RSFSR since 1922 (statistics for the USSR are also available, but they are less reliable). The RSFSR convictions rate falls from 2,500-3,000/100,000 in 1922-1924 to 1,000/100,000 in 1927-28, before going up to nearly 1,500/100,000 during the early 1930s famine years. These numbers seem plausible, since the 1920s have a reputation as having been highly criminalized, as evidenced by the popular culture of that time, which saw the emergence of criminal music genres.

The RSFSR convictions rate fell back to 900/100,000 by 1935, at which point it ends and the all-USSR series resumes after a break in the early 1930s, standing at 700/100,000 during that same year. By the late 1930s, the Soviet rate falls to around 550/100,000, where – apart from a minor spike in 1946-47, which marks post-war demobilization – it stayed until Stalin’s death.

ussr-homicide-urban-1935-1954

The Central Statistics Directorate (РГАЭ 1562.33.2638) has numbers for urban homicides in the USSR from 1935-1954, which I found via the @burckina-faso blog. Using Census and approximated numbers for the Soviet urban population during these years*, I calculated that the Soviet urban homicide rate fluctuated between 5-7/100,000 during 1935-1952, except for a spike to 10-12/100,000 during the 1945-47 demobilization period**.

I expect that the urban Soviet homicide rate would have been representative of the Russian homicide rate overall. From the late USSR to today, rural areas had higher homicide rates than urban ones, and Russian areas had higher homicide rates than Soviet ones. However, the first factor was much weaker (if at all existent) when the country was still primarily rural, and much of the gap between Russian and non-Russian areas opened up after the 1960s alcoholization epidemic, which hit Russian areas relatively harder.

ussr-gulag-prisoners

At this point it’s worthwhile to make a few observations. There were 6,321 executions in the Russian Empire between 1825 and 1917; that was a typical couple of years in the early USSR (not counting 1937-38, which saw almost 700,000 death sentences). The Russian Empire imprisoned around 100/100,000 people, which compares favorably with many modern countries; Stalin created the world’s first major prison-industrial complex. All manner of firearms were openly sold in the Russian Empire; the Bolsheviks confiscated private weapons stocks in 1918, and Stalin went so far as to ban some types of knives.

Even so, homicide rates in the urban USSR from 1935-1955 were no better than those in the Russian Empire.

There is much better data for the RSFSR from 1955, which is shown on the graph (via Bogoyavlensky). Data from 1990 is drawn directly from Rosstat. What you have what should be a familiar picture to regular readers of my Russia demographics posts: Increase up to the early 1980s, then a drop correlating with Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign, then an explosion in the 1990s when the alcoholization epidemic reached peak levels and the Russian state fell apart at the same time. Since the reversal of both of these trends since the early to mid-2000s, partly but not exclusively thanks to the Putin government (these improvements are common to the entire post-Soviet world), the homicide rate in Russia has been plummeting ever since.

Russia’s homicide rate had fallen back to 6.0/100,000 in 2017, and it is currently at 5.4/100,000 for the first nine months of 2018. Since the homicide rate was 5.3/100,000 in the US last year, this means there’s a good chance that Russia will drop to America’s level this year and become absolutely safer in the next few years.

I am not going to going into further details here, since I have already written plenty about the post-1965 alcoholization crisis, its relation to homicide rates and other social and health problems, and its reversal under Putin. People interested in my previous posts on this can consult the Demography section of my archives: http://akarlin.com/category/demographics/

***

russia-homicide-rate-1875-2018-compared

It is also worth taking a minute to take a look at the international context during this period:

Japan and Italy are notable as two countries with homicide rates not too dissimilar from those of the Russian Empire a century ago, that have since converged to those of England & Wales, which was an extremely peace-abiding country back then – even though this is no longer the case now, probably mainly thanks to Black Caribbean immigrants.

Finland: Finland was killing (and drinking) at rates similar to that of the Russian Empire at large before the Revolution. However, they had decidedly diverged by the end of World War II. Due to its propensity for drink, Finland is still somewhat more violent than typical First World nation, but only modestly so. Absent the USSR and its alcoholization epidemic in particular, Finland is probably where Russia “should” be – and will probably eventually converge to.

USA: The Russian Empire was twice safer than the United States. They equalized under Stalin, and remained in sync for the rest of the Cold War – though for different reasons. In Russia, the alcoholization epidemic resulted in more and more cases of middle-aged men bludgeoning or stabbing each other to death in days-long zapoi in their apartments (though street crime remained modest until the 1990s). In the United States, crime rose from the 1960s due to adverse economic and social changes, as well as liberals hamstringing the criminal justice system. Harsher law and order policies started dragging the US rate down from the early 1990s, while Russia exploded into a flurry of what the eXile people called “death porn” and temporarily dallied with the likes of Colombia and South Africa on the violence scales before it started to sober up in the 2000s. Although Russia will soon become less violent than the United States, these figures are still nothing to write home about, because of America’s specific demographic composition.

This comparative exercise shows us that in homicide rates as in almost everything else, the Soviet period constituted an unmitigated disaster for Russia.

***

* Soviet urban population (source, and my estimates in italics).

Year Soviet urban population
1935 46,100,000
1936 48,600,000
1937 51,100,000
1938 53,600,000
1939 56,100,000
1940 63,100,000
1941 64,000,000
1942 36,181,453
1943 46,049,121
1944 54,045,201
1945 60,000,000
1946 62,000,000
1947 64,000,000
1948 66,000,000
1949 68,000,000
1950 69,600,000
1951 73,000,000
1952 77,000,000
1953 80,300,000
1954 84,400,000

** ussr-homicide-rates-1940-1946 Another graph I found via the @genby blog shows registered murders per year in 1940-46 (see right).

Unfortunately, they are unsourced, so it’s unclear what can be done with them.

.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Crime, Homicide, Paper Review, Russia 
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Technology Review: Chinese scientists are creating CRISPR babies

It was the invention of a powerful gene editing tool, CRISPR, which is cheap and easy to deploy, that made the birth of humans genetically modified in an in-vitro fertilization (IVF) center a theoretical possibility.

Now, it appears it may already be happening.

According to Chinese medical documents posted online this month (here and here), a team at the Southern University of Science and Technology, in Shenzhen, has been recruiting couples in an effort to create the first gene-edited babies. They planned to eliminate a gene called CCR5 in order to render the offspring resistant to HIV, smallpox, and cholera. …

It is unclear if any children have been born. The scientist behind the effort, Jiankui He, did not reply to a list of questions about whether the undertaking had produced a live birth. Reached by telephone he declined to comment.

However, data submitted as part of the trial listing shows genetic tests have been carried out on fetuses as late as 24 weeks, or six months. It’s not known if those pregnancies were terminated, carried to term, or are ongoing.

It’s a popular meme that a China unencumbered by Judeo-Christian morality/superstitions (cross out as appropriate) will be more open to transhumanist technology.

For instance, here is a typical statement of this argument from my friend Hank Pellissier: East Asia is More “Transhumanist” than the USA & Europe

See also Darryl Macer (2012): Ethical Consequences of the Positive Views of Enhancement in Asia

But not so fast.

Just one day later comes this news – The Chinese scientist who claims he made CRISPR babies is under investigation:

On Sunday, the Shenzhen City Medical Ethics Expert Board said it would begin an investigation of He’s research and released a statement saying that HorMoniCare “according to our findings … never conducted the appropriate reporting according to requirements.” The former medical director of the private hospital, Jiang Su-Qi, told Southern Capital News, he had no recollection of approving He’s research while he was on its ethics committee.

“These two children are the guinea pigs. They will go through their whole maturing process having not understood the risks ahead of time,” said Liu Yan of Peking University Molecular Medicine Research Center.

The president of He’s university called an emergency gathering of researchers connected to the project. “This has nothing to do with SUST, the research wasn’t conducted at SUST, and the researchers are currently suspended without pay,” said SUST president Chen Yi, according to Chinese media reports. According to the school’s biology department the research “seriously violates ethical and academic standards and regulations.”

A 2003 guidance to Chinese IVF clinics prohibits the transfer of genetically-modified embryos to start a pregnancy. He’s American media spokesman, Ryan Ferrell, did not respond to questions about the legality of the project.

It remains unclear where He carried out his research and who paid for it. “He has explained to me that he electively went on leave years ago to focus full-time on research and not teach,” Farrell said. …

Separately, a group of 122 Chinese academics and scientists put out a statement condemning He’s research and calling on authorities to establish legal governance over gene-editing. “This presents a major blow to the image and development of Chinese life sciences on the global stage,” they said. “It is extremely unfair for the many honest and sincere scholars, working to adhere to moral practices in the sciences.”

***

In reality, I’m not 100% sure this stereotype is merited.

1. The original Tech Review report contains to a link to a recent poll commissioned by the Global Times, which shows that Chinese support for genetic tinkering is remarkably similar to American numbers.

About 62% of Chinese support genetic edits to children likely to develop a fatal genetic disease, versus 60% of Americans who would change a baby’s genes to reduce of the risk of a serious disease that could occur over the child’s life.

However, only about 23% of Chinese would support gene editing for improving intelligence, versus 19% of Americans.

For all intents and purposes, these numbers are identical, so contrary to previous thinking, we can no longer expect Chinese public opinion to push us towards CRISPR-transhumanism.

Ultimately, it will be entirely up to the CPC.

2. China actually bans human germline modification, though only at the level of guidelines, not legislation, as in Europe and the Anglosphere minus USA.

map-world-law-human-germline-modification

The US situation is a regulatory morass, but formally speaking, it is freer than China.

Funnily enough, of the major countries, only Russia has an “ambiguous” position (though I suspect largely on account of nobody having thought about it yet, considering its extremely weak position in the bioscience sector).

3. You may be surprised by this, but despite the weekly SJW scandals, there is greater acceptance of evolutionary approaches to human behavior amongst North American social scientists and anthropologists than in any other region of the planet apart from Australasia.

In fairness, East Asians also do pretty well by global standards.

There is lower acceptance of it in Eastern Europe (Lysenkoism dies hard), and extremely low acceptance in the Middle East (figures).

This may perhaps also be taken as a sort of proxy on how open the scientific establishments in various countries will be to things like CRISPR babies.

Anyway, what I’m saying is, one shouldn’t necessarily expect the biosingularity to originate in East Asia. While before I thought China had much better prospects than the US, now I rate them about equally.

***

If some kind of global moratorium goes ahead, the chances of seeing a biosingularity happen will obviously fall.

This introduces some interesting considerations.

(1) Defections. I have often noted that any country that started genetic editing for IQ at a sufficiently mass level could gain a massive strategic advantage, even if it only managed to keep the program under wraps for a few years while the other countries debate bioethics. This strategic advantage will come by dint of the extremely unbalanced positive effects on economic dynamism and scientific productivity of “smart fractions.” Inject one or two orders of magnitude more of them into the labor pool a decade or two in advance of the rest of the world and you could develop a near insurmountable lead, like Britain did after the Industrial Revolution.

Incidentally, it also strikes me that China is the only country that might feasibly have some chance of pulling off a defection/deception operation. Those concentration camps in Xinjiang may yet come in handy.

(2) AI. If there are no defections, the only transformational scenario left open would be machine superintelligence. This is probably riskier than a biosingularity (and not just on account of the usual “Skynet” reasons).

(3) Dysgenic collapse. It’s entirely possible that machine superintelligence doesn’t pan out either, and with the prospect of a biosingularity likewise cut off, the dysgenic trend becomes dominant and we head towards the Age of Malthusian Industrialism.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: China, Crispr, Futurism, I.Q. genomics 
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Latest reports that Kiev is planning to impose martial law.

Anyhow.

Poroshenko’s only real hope of getting reelected is by having a short victorious war (as I suggested back in May).

Though the “victorious” part will be really hard.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Geopolitics, Piracy, Ukraine 
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There are global cultures, there are local cultures… It’s stupid to deny, that some peoples have contributed more, while others have contributed less, while a third group are – forgive me – Ukrainians.

This is what the journalist Oleg Kashin said a few days ago in a discussion at Echo of Moscow, one of Russia’s premier liberal media outlets.

Echo of Moscow journalist Evgenia Albats was not too happy with this:

Kashin is of course entirely, objectively right about all this, as conclusively demonstrated by Neo-Nazi white supremacists such as Charles Murray and Emil Kirkegaard.

murray-human-accomplishment

He is also correct about the Ukrainians, who not only haven’t produced much (Grushevsky, Franko, and Lesya Ukrainka are not exactly household names) but actively parasite on other people’s achievements, claiming for themselves Sacher-Masoch, Korolev, Makarenko, Bulgakov, even Sikorsky.

But truth is no defense against the Albats Archipelago.

albats-archipelags-kashin

Soon after that came out, Albats went to Facebook to demand that the editors of a number of Russian journals cease any cooperation with Kashin. Though as many people, including Kashin, have pointed out, what must have actually set her off was Kashin’s joke about how exactly her newspaper The News Times – which practically no-one reads (it has less than 20% the visitorship of the Unz Review) – had somehow managed to collect 25 million rubles ($400,000) within a day to pay off some legal fees it had incurred. Where were they getting the money from?

Here is some context for the sane people who don’t follow the dreary and backstabbing world of the Russian liberal tusovka.

Albats is widely viewed as one of the key “gatekeepers” in the Russian liberal journalistic clique. Back in 2006, she had tried to torpedo the career of Anna Arutyunyan, a moderately anti-Kremlin journalist, for supposedly not paying sufficient respect to the late Politkovskaya, a reporter who had been murdered. Arutyunyan said that she was more of a human rights activist than a journalist, which was objectively correct – she was closer to someone like Greenwald or John Pilger than someone like Paul Klebnikov. This is the context in which Albats acquired that moniker by way of a classic article at the muckraking magazine The Exile.

Oleg Kashin is not really a Nazi. He is a liberal journalist who dislikes Putin and now lives in London. He once got international attention for getting seriously beaten up in connection with his professional work.

Back in 2013, when I ran the short-lived Russian Spectrum project to translate articles from the Russian media into English, I translated a couple of his articles.

In the first article, he wrote about the murder of a homosexual, and how he hoped it would shock the nation into cultural change towards LGBT acceptance. That didn’t exactly pan out, but it does illustrate his values.

In the second article I translated, he argues that Russian anti-Semitism is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Now I know that Julia Ioffe earnestly disagrees, because Putin has the gall to talk about Russian suffering in World War II (no, really). Still, considering that Trumpgate-consumed Washington Post has recently published articles with headlines such as “In a strange twist of fate, now it’s Russian Jews praying for American Jews,” I think we can definitively say that Kashin was more or less right.

Incidentally, that anti-Semitism article was Kashin’s response to a 2013 article by Alexey Pankin, a pro-Kremlin pundit who works (or used to work) at Komsomolskaya Pravda, in which he had also called him an anti-Semite:

In that piece, Kashin referred to one of the senior editors as “some special Jew whose name I don’t recall.” …

So after reading the anti-Semitic statements by Kashin, who is also a member of the opposition’s Coordinating Council, I awaited a similarly strong reaction from his fellow opposition members. But it never came.

Okay, whatever, LOL.

Anyhow, congrats I suppose to Kashin, who has managed to get called an anti-Semitic Nazi by both Putinist writers and now “Archipelago Albats” at Echo of Moscow.

I wouldn’t worry too much about his career prospects. He’s got massive name recognition and will thrive even on the off chance that anybody actually heeds Albats’ diktats. Fortunately, unlike the actual SPLC, she almost never succeeds at deplatforming people.

That said, this still begs the question of why so many people have a bee up their bonnet about Kashin.

As mentioned above, he is not a Putinist, and does not much like Putinists. They largely return the favor, and in all fairness, he does have a talent for feeding normie outrage by his “powerful takes,” such as making fun of the Saint-Petersburg metro bombing in 2015.

But neither is Kashin a standard “liberal”, at least in the sense of the pejorative connotations that the word carries amongst many Russians (namely, authoritarian vindictiveness married to pathological Russophobia). He thinks it’s ridiculous to call Georgia’s incorporation into the USSR an occupation (even if he’s not “based” enough to extend the same logic to Latvia). Kashin supported the annexation of Crimea (he does consider it an illegal occupation), though he did not extend that support to the Donbass. All this makes him “unhandshakeworthy” so far as the most hardcore “demshiza” liberals are concerned, such as the sorts who make pilgrimages to Washington D.C. with lists of proposed sanctions against Russia.

Rounding out the picture, Kashin also on friendly terms with some Russian nationalists, such as Sputnik & Pogrom’s Egor Prosvirnin, for whom he even did some reporting in Crimea in 2014. Needless to say, this association severely triggers the more handshakeworthy liberals. He also makes semi-regular appearances on Prosvirnin’s livestreams. Speaking of which, here is one from a few days ago (in Russian ofc), in which Kashin turns up during the first 15 minutes to discuss Albats’ hysterics*:

One interesting and very telling thing that gets mentioned is that Navalny – who both Western leftist Russophobes and normie Putinists tend to portray as a nationalist – only ever goes to Albats’ shows on Echo of Moscow.

So there you have it. Navalny – heroic oppositionist to Putin, who will topple him any day now, but who may also be a scary Russian nationalist chauvinist – Western Russia watchers can never quite agree on the details – and his favorite conversation partner on air is… wait for it: A one-woman SPLC with a most… stereotypical family history for her tribe (grandfather was a candidate member of the Communist Party who was arrested and shot in 1937).

The more one learns about the inner realities of Russia’s ideological currents the more hilarious Western perceptions of Russia become.

***

* I was also on that podcast, and discussed other topics with Prosvirnin and Kirill Nesterov after Kashin left, such as Chinese-Russian relations and CRISPR-transhumanism.

 
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HBD blogger JayMan has recently made a blog post critiquing me for my “Hajnal denialism.”

Anatoly Karlin recently wrote a post criticizing my and HBD Chick’s attribution of socio-cultural-economic differences across Europe to our old friend the Hajnal line…

Anatoly’s arguments on this matter often rests on his inability to fit some social pattern or another perfectly to the geographic extent of the Hajnal line, as he’s wont to do. This is very much his M.O. on these things, he seems to expect perfect geographic correspondence with every social variable to the Hajnal line.

I really don’t know where the criticism comes from. A quick perusal of my website and Twitter reveals that I do think ancestral family systems, as explored in the works of Hajnal and Emmanuel Todd, has significant explanatory power. Heck, just ask Niccolo Salo.

What I do object to is JayMan’s unremitting attempts to hammer in, Procrustes-like, every social phenomenon under the Sun to fit the Hajnal Line.

1. JayMan claims that East Europeans have a biological propensity towards Communism.

This is true only insofar as Eastern Europe tended to have more exagamous community family systems, which in turn do have a strong relationship with indigenous support for Communism 50-100 years ago.

todd-family-systems

[Note that this is according to work by Emmanuel Todd, which has nothing to do with the Hajnal Line, except insofar as exogamous communitarian family systems are almost all located outside it. Incidentally, I find JayMan's constant conflation of the Hajnal Line with Todd's family systems in general to be questionable.]

map-russia-constituent-assembly-election-1917-bolsheviks

Russian Constituent Assembly election, 1917: Bolshevik share of the vote.

However, when one gets down the historical details, it emerges that there were plenty of exceptions and even reversals to the general trend. The most enthusiastic supporters of the Bolsheviks in 1917 were the Latvians, who are half in and half out of the Hajnal Line (though Todd does say they had an exogamous community family system). More of them voted for the Bolsheviks than any other province of the former Russian Empire, and the Red Latvian Riflemen played a critical and indispensable role in consolidating Bolshevik power over the Russian heartlands in spring-summer 1918. Meanwhile, the core of White resistance to the Bolsheviks was in decidedly non-Hajnal southern Russia and Siberia. In the Finnish Civil War, in the exact inverse of the geography of family types, the Reds started off by seizing power in the south, while the resistance was concentrated in the north.

Within the Hajnal Line, there was a series of Communist uprisings and pseudo-states in the aftermath of WW1, such as the Bavarian Soviet Republic (Hajnal, stem family), the Spartacist uprising (mostly Hajnal, stem family), and the Hungarian Soviet Republic (half Hajnal, exogamous community family) – none of which could have appeared without some significant underlying level of support. The Czechs (mostly Hajnal, stem family) voted the Communists into power in mostly free elections in 1946. Throughout the 1950s-70s, greater percentages of French (fully Hajnal) and Italians (half Hajnal) voted for Communists than Russians did in 1917. Indeed, Italy would have probably gone Communist in the late 1940s if not for the CIA interfering in their elections.

Note that JayMan goes so far as to seriously cite HBD differences in Korea to explain the “propensity for Communism” in the northern part. Leaving aside minor and irrelevant details such as Chinese and Soviet military involvement, it’s worth noting that the North had traditionally been more Christian and more collaborationist with the Japanese, while the South had been more nationalistic and xenophobic (according to B.R. Myers in The Cleanest Race). It’s therefore the South that should have sooner gone Communist by this muddled logic.

***

2. JayMan claims the Iron Curtain can no longer explain anything since it hasn’t existed for 30 years. East Europeans who do that are like Blacks still whining about slavery.

Communism: is there anything it can’t do? It’s like the legacy of slavery for American Blacks. Its effects are felt long after its gone. And in both cases, the legacy is felt before it even existed.

Obviously, the range of things for which Communism can be credibly blamed for is limited, and declining over time. But this presupposes that Eastern Europe was always as backwards in relative terms as in the 1980s.

This is incorrect. In the early 20th century, Eastern Europe was not as developed as the leading North-West European nations, but it was about as developed as the Mediterranean. According to data gathered by Angus Maddison, economic product per capita in the Russian Empire c.1913 – which included backwards areas such as Central Asia and the Caucasus – was higher than that of Portugal and Japan, and similar to that of Greece, though below Spain and Italy; up to the 1930s, Czechia and Hungary were about as advanced as Northern Italy. There was no major category in which they were huge negative outliers. Homicide rates in the Russian Empire, for instance, were similar to those in Italy or Japan, though 5x higher than in the most developed nations such as the UK and Germany (I have a post on this ready to publish).

By the end of the transition from Communism, even Russia – the richest component of the USSR along with the Baltics – could only dream of “catching up” to Portugal’s level (as Putin promised in 2000 at the start of his first term). This was more or less achieved by the early 2010s. Poland is now at least on the level of Portugal, Romania is not that far behind, and Czechia is catching up with Spain and Italy. Institutions, corruption, living standards are much better than in the 1990s almost everywhere in Eastern Europe in not just absolute but relative terms.

So clearly Communism had a negative effect, though one that is being gradually exorcised. (Of course, some things are very difficult to do away with entirely, and will continue draining resources for decades if not centuries. For instance, the USSR built a large number of non-viable towns in the Russian Far North, which would have never appeared under market conditions and which require heavy subsidies to this day, as discussed in The Siberian Curse). If Communism had nothing to do with poor East European economic performance, they would not have started to gain on the developed world in relative terms after abandoning it. This is not say that they will converge all the way up to Switzerland’s level. The most reasonable long-term expectation is that they will regain their relative positions of a century ago, and with few exceptions, that is exactly what is happening. But they might well do even better, thanks to Western Europe’s decision to import masses of unproductive migrants from the Third World (here the East Europeans can thank the Soviet Freezer).

It is good that JayMan mentioned Blacks and slavery in the US because that sooner reinforces my point. Because the true equivalence would have been if Liberians or Haitians blamed their failures on slavery. Blacks in the US got to benefit from living under world-class institutions, which they would have otherwise had to learn, adapt, and master themselves (something that post-Communist East Europeans are doing successfully, if slowly and imperfectly; something that Blacks have at best been able to only maintain, as in South Africa or Jamaica). US Blacks also get to benefit from far higher living standards and education than would have been the case if they had been left to create their own societies. Now if a century hence East Europeans were to still live like they did under late Communism, JayMan would have a point. But he’s already been invalidated on that score.

This doesn’t invalidate JayMan’s point that many East Europeans expressly dismiss the Hajnal Line for emotional reasons. That is true, but I don’t fall into that category – having even made the comparison myself on a number of occasions. However, if military force ratios on the Eastern Front in 1944 are also supposed to ultimately boil down to the Hajnal Line, then I suppose I’m a Hajnal Denier.

***

3. JayMan claims I expect “perfect geographic correspondence with every social variable” to the Hajnal Line.

This is almost completely incorrect. Now just to be clear, I do think that the Hajnal Line has substantial explanatory power on some indicators, most notably corruption.

[However, while living in non-corrupt countries is generally nicer, it doesn't seem to make much of a difference to either wealth or scientific productivity (adjusting for IQ + Communism/resource windfalls!!). Indeed, to the extent that there are possibly biologically-determined negative outliers there, it's with respect to Mongoloids, whose countries are poorer and less creative than might be deduced from their (high) average IQs alone.]

map-europe-gay-marriage

But the problem is that there are so many exceptions that they overwhelm the otherwise relative faint outline traced by the Hajnal Line.

One example that JayMan and Co. keep citing is support for LGBT and gay marriage, which is – Czechia and Greece aside – essentially a map of the East/West division during the Cold War. Meanwhile, despite being half in half out of the Hajnal Line, Spain is as gay friendly as “Sweden Yes”; while the general liberalism of Iberia even by West European standards is somewhat of a puzzle, virtually all the Spaniards and Portuguese I have talked to converge on the opinion that it is a prolonged reaction to their mid-20th century reactionary dictators (i.e. local factors). Now I am not arguing that there are zero “Hajnal influences” – Portugal is less homophile than Spain; Finland less so than Sweden; Greece less so than the rest of Western Europe; Estonia less so than Russia. But the overall picture is obviously dominated by the East/West divide from the Cold War: Estonia is much more homophobic than Finland; the Balkans are more homophobic than Greece.

poll-gay-marriage-usa-russia-poland

This should not be so surprising, because social attitudes are very much malleable things. In perhaps the most striking example, even modern East European nationalists can only dream of being as racist and bigoted as mid-century (Hajnal) Americans. The Americans who stormed the beaches of Normandy to “punch Nazis” were themselves hardcore fascists (by modern standards).

Closer to our own time, in Estonia, elderly Estonians and Russians have similarly skeptical views on gay marriage; young Russians and Estonians diverge, spending their time in largely separate information spaces. As late as the mid-2000s, Utahns (fully Hajnal), Poles (half-Hajnal), and Russians (not Hajnal) had similarly skeptical opinions on gay marriage; since then, the West began to strongly normalize and even sacralize homosexuality, while Russia went into the opposite direction, with the result that today they have diverged into almost completely non-intersecting worldviews on this issue. This has gone so far that “Putin’s Russia” is now regularly demonized in the Western media for having 1980′s American-style views on homosexuality.

Support for nationalism and nationalist parties is another factor cited by JayMan in his Hajnal obsession. He often cites the Nazi share of the vote in support of that, and compares it to AfD performance today. But look at it in greater detail and the whole structure comes apart. In 1933, Naziphilia was a fuzzy gradient as you went east, and one significantly confounded by Bavarian Catholics voting for non-Nazi conservative nationalists; it was also notably undermined by Saxony, a proletarian region where support for Social Democrats and Communists was high instead. But today, you have extremely marked demarcation lines, even at the district level. With the exception of Berlin – where the AfD still gets almost as much as in Bavaria! – all the former GDR states give at least 50% as many votes to the AfD as the most pro-AfD West German state, conservative Bavaria. Moreover, the AfD does best precisely in Saxony!

In summary, the more credible explanation for most of these issues is that whatever role the Hajnal Line might play, its effects are very much secondary to that of the Soviet Freezer. Though obviously, now that the Freezer is broken, we may expect its effects to fade away in the next few decades. In that case, patterns may begin to hew closer to that of the Hajnal Line come mid-century. But that is speculative.

***

If the above comes across as too critical, I will append that I am friendly with JayMan and appreciate the great bulk of his work. So I would ask commenters to refrain from any personal attacks. Nonetheless, I can’t escape the impression that JayMan has taken away one admittedly big and reasonably important idea and ran amok with it, extending it to ever more incredible and even deranged (North Korea!?) directions. This is not adaptive – “fox” thinkers tend to outperform “hedgehogs” at predictive success. I would urge JayMan to take a temporary break from the HBD literature and read up on topics such as economic history and the Russian Revolution.

 
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A couple of months ago, I made an acquaintance with a provincial carpenter. This was rather convenient, since I would soon need to furnish my new apartment. I could either get a good quality but MDF-based factory made bed for around $300, or I could pay him $500 and get a very high quality bed (with drawers) made out of solid wood for $500, with a tabletop for my planned electric table thrown in for free. Why not, let’s support the artisanal economy. He said it would be ready within a couple of weeks.

It’s been more than a month now and it’s doubtful that I am ever going to see the furniture I ordered. As it turned out, he had been diagnosed with Stage I lung cancer half a year ago, though he seemed hale enough when I met him (during our one hour meeting, he managed to smoke a couple of cigarettes, which I suppose explains many things in retrospect). But since then, the illness appears to have taken a turn for the worse, transitioning into the metastatic phase. He has been hospitalized for the past week. Lung cancer is one of the worst cancers out there, and survivability at Stave IV is less than 1%. Assuming those diagnoses were accurate, he’ll likely be gone in another few months.

Obviously, I am not going to press him for the furniture, or to return the money, which I have more or less written off at this stage.

***

However, this episode did provoke me into taking a look at Russian cancer survival statistics (which are a good proxy for healthcare quality).

I have heard a surprisingly frequent amount of praise for the Russian healthcare system from resident expats. It is certainly much cheaper, and there’s less far less hassle with relatively trivial procedures such as treating a broken arm. It’s very cheap and often entirely free.

However, it was always to be expected that performance was much lower on the more complex operations, such as treating cancer, on account of (1) much lower levels of funding than in the developed world – about 10x lower per capita than in the US, and 5x lower than in the UK; (2) low salaries making medical careers unattractive for the best human capital – for instance, the typical Russian anesthesiologist gets 35,000 [$500] rubles per month (70,000 [$1,000] in Moscow), whereas salaries of $10,000+ per month are not uncommon in the US; (3) correspondingly low level of English language knowledge (which is relevant since almost all scientific production of any value has long occurred in English).

In previous years, I hadn’t been able to find anything particularly interesting, since it’s usually the rich/OECD countries that participate in such comparative studies – though in fairness, I didn’t look particularly hard for them. But this time round I was luckier and managed to locate some relevant papers.

* Goss, Paul et al. – 2014 – Challenges to effective cancer control in China, India, and Russia

cancer-mortality-russia

Summary:

  • 33% cancer mortality in the US – well funded, mostly private medicine.
  • 40% cancer mortality in the UK – well funded, mostly socialized medicine.

cancer-mortality-countries

Note that the NHS, the so-called “best healthcare system in the world”, has some of the worst cancer survival rates in the developed world. So we can view the 30%-40% cancer mortality interval as the global medical technological frontier.

  • 60% cancer mortality rate in Russia – poorly funded, mostly socialized medicine.

Furthermore, as the Lancet article points out, there are issues with statistical quality in certain regions, which makes the 60% figure a lower bound. So true cancer mortality would be somewhere in the 60%-70% range.

Or to put it in simple figures: One third of American cancer sufferers die; two thirds of Russian cancer sufferers die.

Same picture according to another study I tracked down.

* Allemani, Claudia et al. – 2015 – Global surveillance of cancer survival 1995–2009 analysis of individual data for 25 676 887 patients from 279 population-based registries in 67 countries (CONCORD-2)

cancer-mortality-breast-countries

Figures for Russia pertain to Arkhangelsk oblast only. I assume it will be around average for Russia.

Also worth noting that data for non-developed countries is pretty poor in general, e.g. I also encountered this criticism of the Brazilian data (which shows remarkably good performance for a country with its development level).

Still, it’s pretty clear that Russia is a severe laggard relative to the developed world, coming last out of the surveyed European countries (though almost catching up to Latvia by 2005-2009).

TLDR:

Breaking an arm – probably better to do that in Russia. Getting lung cancer – it had better be in the US.

So one can see how American expats who broke an arms or whatever don’t have to go through the agonizing insurance reimbursement process would prefer Russia. For the really serious diseases, they can go back to the US or pay for elite level service in Moscow (which is also far cheaper than in the US but financially inaccessible for 90% of Russians).

***

This has nothing to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Back then, complex procedures were inaccessible in principle for 98% of the population. The mass healthcare sector was severely underfunded and many “hospitals”, especially in the rural areas, didn’t even have basic amenities such as hot running water. The USSR did boast of having some of the highest numbers of hospital beds per capita. Staying in a hospital for days on the cheap was (is) easy and often actually required, which is the direct opposite of more rational Western practice.

My impression is that the Soviet system basically trundled on largely unchanged after the USSR’s collapse, as in many other spheres of life. All countries ration healthcare one way or another. In the US, things go smoothly, but at the cost of huge insurance premiums; in the UK, there are endless scandals about waiting lines; in Russia, people without the means to get elite private treatment but with Soviet era connections are obsessed with pushing their ailing relatives into the more elite state-run hospitals, which are typically reserved for the military and high officials but treat ordinary civilians “on the side.” In the next few years, this system is going to get pumped with much more money – as military spending is cut, healthcare spending is projected to double in the next 5 years of Putin’s (presumably) last term.

So I assume these numbers are going to improve in the next few years regardless. Though perhaps there would be even more improvements if more of the system was to be privatized (there’s not even any need for a specifically American system; the Germans perhaps do it better, with free competition between providers while subsidizing and regulating insurance plans – though either are far better than the NHS). But that’s a political no go in Russia.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Cancer, Health Care 
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moscow-higher-school-economics

I’ll go back to posting proper material soon enough, but in the interim, here’s another open thread.

***

Featured

* Glenn Greenwald: Trump DoJ prosecution of Assange is unprecedented threat to press freedoms but many vindictive Democrats support it

* Atlantic: Declining marginal returns to science? In past few decades importance of new discoveries fell even as research budgets soared. One more of many datapoints. I explained why we can expect to see this here.

* Campus Reform: American university to mandate all freshmen and sophomores take “diversity and include” classes. It is funny to note that three were similar requirements to graduate from Soviet universities (“Scientific Marxism” and “History of the CPSU”). You needed to do well in those two classes to get a prestigious “Red” certificate, as opposed to a “Blue” one. However, amongst serious people – e.g., other scientists – possession of a Red certificate conferred no benefits.

* Chipotle submits to online pressure and fires manager who refused to serve African-Americans with a Twitter record of dine and dashing. Chipotle’s is probably the most SWPL fast food chain in the US – i.e. “muh BML” millennial cucks are their core clientele, so I don’t see them hiring back the Hitlerite Hispanic manager who denied dine and dashing Somali thugs their rightful food. But in compensation, she has a good case for unfair dismissal.

***

Russia

* ZeroHedge: Nice survey of cooperation between Russia and China

* Bloomberg: E-commerce in Russia set to nearly treble in next five years and consolidate a fragmented market. One of the biggest inconveniences of online shopping in Russia – hard to find reviews of all but the most popular products, because its sales are evenly spread over a couple dozen shops. There is plenty of room for expansion – the current size of the Russian e-commerce market is around $30 billion, which is 10x less than the US and 20x less than China (!!). That should promote consolidation.

map-ecommerce-market

* Rootless Cosmopolitans. TASS: Russian millionaires keep 70% of savings in foreign banks

* vecs: Good Twitter thread on economic progress in the late Russian Empire [in Russian]

* WSJ: In Russia, McDonald’s Serves Local Fries and a Side of Realpolitik

* Kyiv Post: Ukrainians say bribe problem worse now than in 2015

* BBC: Ukraine activist Kateryna Handzyuk dies after acid attack. Obviously, this journalist murder got far less attention than a Russian one would have. And the fact that nationalist ATO veterans were responsible was hushed over in the Western press. Indeed, some hinted that Putler was to blame.

* Video: Russian nationalist Egor Prosvirnin debates multinational bureaucrat in charge of federation of labor migrants on Echo of Moscow [in Russian]

***

World

* NSFW: Alleged photos of Khashoggi’s murder leaked by Turkey. Saudi Arabia to seek death penalty against 5 members of 15 man Khashoggi assassination squad. If the latter is for real – MbS is really stupid.

* Barron’s: Italy is no Greece – its faceoff with EU over budget deficit could precipitate the death of the Euro (h/t reiner Tor)

* Leonid Bershidsky: Europe’s Losing Credibility on Iran Sanctions. Obviously it is rather difficult to sidestep Iran sanctions if you are a set of spineless vassal states whose central bankers are afraid of getting jailed the next time they travel to the US.

* Greg Hood: The Tragedy of Trump

* Audacious Epigone: 44% of 18-29 y/o Americans support secession (versus just 14% of over 60′s). As does 47% of the active military. (!!)

poll-usa-secession-military

* Radio Poland: Poland to begin paying paying “maternal pensions” for retired women and single fathers with 4+ children next year

* BNE: Poland growth at 5.7% in Q3 (!)

* Irish Examiner: Poland’s booming economy means workers stay at home

* BNE: Turkey inflation expected to approach 25% by year end. Inflation in Iran to approach 40% after activation of US sanctions with economy expected to contract 3.6% in 2019.

* Brazil’s based new Foreign Minister is saying very based things

* AmCon: Italy offers persecuted Pakistan Christian Asia Bibi asylum while Macron condemns Salvini-style “nationalism”

* WSJ: Thousands of “disappeared” in Mexico every year due to drug cartels violence

* NBF: Venezuela is months from the end game of total chaos or a coup. 840,000% annual inflation rate as of this October!

***

Science & Culture

* Gwern: Embryo selection for intelligence. Major update to a 2016 text.

* Nick Bostrom: Longread: Danger of civilization-ending techs may make a case for strong surveillance and global governance [PDF]

* Robin Hanson: World government puts all the eggs in one basket

* Gwern: What Is The Morning Writing Effect?

* SpaceX to accelerate super heavy BFR rocket development with test flights starting in late 2019

* Motherboard: Our closest planet in a single star system is a super-Earth with a surface temperature of -170C

***

Culture War

* Eric Weinstein: Hiding follower counts & likes on Twitter would be a “war on feedback” to establishment narratives

* The future that neoliberals want: All relationships in Walking Dead are now interracial or LGBT

* VoE: Far-left Greek PM to attempt to remove Christianity as State religion. Will take 10,000 Orthodox Church employees off public payroll. One supposes that appeasing refugees is more important.

***

 
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moscow-commie-block

The Commieblock: Hopefully AquariusAnon appreciates this.

I am very happy to see that Guillaume Durocher has joined The Unz Review. Only the best people! Here is a short intro to what he’ll be writing about:

The key themes are readily apparent: detailed articles on the situation in France (immigration/nationalism), the EU, French Jews, etc, before then going into fascism/ancient philosophy, of no doubt less interest to Unz.
I often simply translate and relay interesting discussions and texts found in the French language: Tocqueville, Frederick the Great, Éric Zemmour, the Le Pens, French identitarians, Dominique Venner, Michel Houellebecq, Alain Soral, etc. Often my own coverage is the only stuff available in English on the activities and thinking of various French nationalists.
I also do analysis of the EU – with its intricacies and complexities – whenever there is an interesting development, e.g. Orbán, Visegrád, Italy, the EU elections.

You can browse his archives at Occidental Observer, Counter-Currents, and Radix.

I am currently in the very final stages of moving to my new apartment, so between that and a couple of gigs, I have had much less time to do serious blogging than I expected to. That said, I am happy to see that this semi-hiatus does not appear to have had a very negative effect on visitorship numbers. I expect to pick up pace within a week. There’s a lot to be done. Apart from blog posts I have been meaning to write (or publish) for a long time, such as a new series developing on some of the ideas on The Age of Malthusian Industrialism, a post on on global elite science production, and a post clarifying my various comments over the years on aliens and simulations, there’s also more practical issues to sort out, such as the long awaited mailing list and progress on meetup plans.

***

Featured

* Ron Unz: Hardline GOP anti-immigrant rhetoric exchanges fleeting electoral gains for long-term political oblivion

* QZ: China’s assertive English language tabloid The Global Times often reflects what party leaders think but cannot say. I didn’t know that it’s editor chief editor Hu Xijin is a Russian literature major.

* Lance Welton: Brazil’s Bolsonaro shows that majority non-white USA will not become the Democrat hegemony that libs hope for. Brilliant essay.

* Glenn Greenwald: Bolsonaro walks back on promise to move Brazilian Embassy to Jerusalem days after getting elected. What did I say? First the thaw with China, now Bolsonaro having second thoughts about moving Embassy to Jerusalem – days after getting elected, as geopolitical constraints take precedence over electoral rhetoric.

* Insomniac: SPLC: American Neo-Nazis met with Ukrainian nationalist Azov Battalion spokeswoman in Europe. So, US trained Azov… which in turn is training US white supremacists. LOL.

* Neo-Nazi Militia Trained by US Military in Ukraine Now Training US White Supremacists

* Audacious Epigone: Almost half the American military is supportive of their state “peacefully withdrawing” from the US

* Linh Dinh: While Trump shocks Western elites, nationalism in Vietnam is quotidian and mundane. Incidentally, I was interested to learn that the author recently repatriated to his native Vietnam. Good for him!

* BBC: International group of researchers planning “Journal of Controversial Ideas” where academics can publish anonymously

* Quillette: Want to appear more intelligent? Don’t you use long, complex words and hard to read fonts

* NBF: Musk’s tunnel boring company may eventually surpass Tesla and SpaceX. Incidentally, what does everyone make of the Boring Company? I was skeptical when it launched – what with claims of technology enabling 10x faster boring than existing solutions, despite this being a mature sector with established giants like Herrenknecht AG – but it seems to be going from strength to strength.

***

Russia

* BNE: Sanctioned Russia registers 3.6% budget surplus as share of GDP in 2018

* Moscow Times: 80% of Russians Will Have State-Gathered ‘Digital Profiles’ by 2025, Official Says

* Yekaterinburg Times: Fast-growing chain of discount liquor stores creates Russia’s newest billionaire. Incidentally, I have seen Krasnoe & Beloe shops springing up of late – they are particularly prevalent in the provinces.

* Insomniac: Ukrainian civic activist unironically demands 20 years of martial law for future “liberated” Donbass

* BNE: EU sanctions on may stay for the next decade since there’s not much political capital to be made from lifting them

* Brian Cloughley: It’s time to reclaim the forgotten memory of Russia’s participation in WW1

* Sean McMeekin (LA Times): Not Quiet on the Eastern Front: Traumatic post-WW1 history explains modern East European nationalism. I actually disagree with this thesis but it’s not a bad take.

* Nikolas Gvosdev: How Russia has learned from failures of pre-WW1 Tsarist foreign policy

* BNE: Russia-China trade to exceed $100 billion this year

* Reuters: Coal output at record highs, Russia plans to increase production by further 40% by 2030. More historical context here.

* Moscow Times: Ukraine to jail Russians who cross Ukrainian borders (inc. Crimea) illegally. I really need to visit Crimea and LDNR sooner rather than later.

* Independent (Singapore): Putin is in Singapore for the first time on 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations

* Ukrotriumph. Ben Aris: Ukrainian emigration to EU will likely to peak this year

* Insomniac: Ukraine’s outflow of workers to the EU is set to get worse before it gets better. A contrary take.

* Royal Economic Society: Soviet economic collapse was turbocharged by anticipation that constituent republics would soon leave

***

World

* Mark Leonard: US may be threatening European central bankers to force participation in Iran sanctions. This is in literally Soros-headed Project Syndicate, not some conspiracy site.

* Reuters: EU says SWIFT’s decision to cave to US Iran sanctions prompto is “regrettable”. That’s it, apparently – which sort of confirms the above article.

* Hu Xijin: Chief editor of Chinese state newspaper says Chinese officials not gloating over GOP loss in House – may make US even more aggressive

* Guillaume Durocher: Macron’s ratings collapse as former Interior Minister predicts civil war

* Guillaume Durocher: How some of the most generous pro-natalism policies in the world helped turn around Hungary’s disastrous demographics

* Rapoza: Many Democrats are on board with US trade war on China

* Leonid Bershidsky: Global wealth growth since last financial crisis has disproportionately benefited the US

* BNE: Turkish auto sales slump 76% y/y this October as country slips towards recession

* BNE: Poland marks 100th independence anniversary with 250,000 strong nationalist march

* Generation Zyklon. The Gazette: Iowa high school students vote Republican and love Steve King

Also, congrats in order to Thorfinnsson:

* Dallas News: Texas could go Democrat in 2020 if upsurge in Latino enthusiasm continues

* Reuters: Bloomberg says he may run for President in 2020

* YouGov: Poll: 41% of British millennials will try to dodge the draft if WW3 breaks out

* The Drive: Norwegian frigate out of commission after collision with oil tanker as it steamed back from NATO exercises. How did they get to Iceland without GPS?

***

Science & Culture

* NBF: SpaceX’s reusable BFR rockets may make orbital bombardment cost-competitive with nuclear weaponry

* NBF: China to succeed with self-driving cars thanks to low competition from bad drivers

* NBF: Mission to catch the strange Oumuamua object from outer space will cost $4 billion. Obviously worth doing it… but it ain’t gonna happen. Too much money/political capital to be gained.

* hate graphs on my famous IQ vs. GDP per capita graph: “A dumb country can’t get rich without Oil. A smart country can’t get poor without Marx.”

* New eBook: The economics of the Great War: A centennial perspective. One of the editors is Mark Harrison.

* Steve Hsu: 25% of biostaticians said they were asked to commit statistical fraud

* Kotaku: Poland’s surprising emergence as a video games superpower

* China’s Xinhua introduces world’s first AI anchor like Eliza Cassan in Deus Ex universe

***

Humor

* Steve Sailer: Man responsible for anti-Semitic graffiti at liberal Brooklyn synagogue appears to be a black, gay, Democratic activist

* Politico: Claire Lehmann, the woman behind the Quillette magazine that explores controversial topics like gender and racial differences

* Forward: Jewish groups and George Soros helped pass amendment to give voting rights to felons in swing state Florida

* Michael Tracey: In The Current Year thousands of progressives rally in defense of… Jeff Sessions.

* Inverse reality: Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III blames WW1 on “alliances weakened by nationalism”

* Quillette: Radical students vandalize office door of American prof who wrote NYT article on lack of ideological diversity in academia

* Bitchute: Free speech Youtube competitor Bitchute has been kicked off Paypal

* VoE: Illegal immigrants receive prepaid debit cards from UN, EU, and Soros. Sounds like a title from a conspiracy site but there’s photographic evidence.

* Rod Dreher: UK won’t give asylum to Christian woman threatened by Pakistani Islamists in Pakistan because it fears reaction of Pakistani Islamists in the UK

* VoE: Huffington Post columnist who supported #RefugeesWelcome accused of sexual assault in Germany

* VoE: Achievement unlocked: African migrant arrested 107 TIMES by German police still getting off scot-free

* Science Daily: Who’s the real villain? Average superhero “protagonist” is more violent than the baddie

* Boing Boing: Swedish ISP blocks access to academic publisher Elsevier after it forced it to block access to Sci-Hub piracy website

***

 
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One pretty good proxy for a country’s technological sophistication is its stock of supercomputers, which enable detailed simulations of phenomena as disparate as global climate, protein folding, and nuclear weapons reliability.

It is also easily quantifiable, since the website Top500 releases lists of the world’s top 500 supercomputers biannually.

Countries Count System Share (%) Rmax (GFlops) Rpeak (GFlops) Cores
China 229 45.8 439,977,239 809,977,843 26,722,912
United States 108 21.6 532,180,190 754,332,141 16,088,768
Japan 31 6.2 109,436,242 170,880,045 5,710,372
United Kingdom 20 4 41,729,303 52,509,525 1,625,892
France 18 3.6 43,580,345 66,598,837 1,792,656
Germany 17 3.4 60,502,637 86,333,952 1,575,350
Ireland 12 2.4 19,789,320 25,436,160 691,200
Canada 8 1.6 12,394,820 19,389,748 405,408
Italy 6 1.2 31,110,650 49,243,746 814,864
Korea, South 6 1.2 21,938,000 35,760,556 804,740
Netherlands 6 1.2 9,334,060 11,925,504 326,880
Australia 5 1 6,669,188 10,232,963 257,336
Sweden 4 0.8 4,653,054 6,565,116 139,408
India 4 0.8 8,358,996 9,472,166 272,328
Poland 4 0.8 4,604,365 6,216,160 153,128
Russia 3 0.6 4,580,250 7,940,005 178,180
Saudi Arabia 3 0.6 10,109,130 13,858,214 325,940
Singapore 3 0.6 4,308,220 5,525,299 146,112
Spain 2 0.4 7,488,800 11,781,642 172,656
Taiwan 2 0.4 10,325,150 17,297,190 197,552
Switzerland 2 0.4 23,126,750 29,347,305 453,140
South Africa 2 0.4 2,152,470 2,779,930 71,256
New Zealand 1 0.2 908,892 1,425,408 18,560
Norway 1 0.2 953,571 1,081,651 32,192
Brazil 1 0.2 1,123,150 1,413,120 38,400
Finland 1 0.2 1,250,000 1,689,293 40,608
Czech Republic 1 0.2 1,457,730 2,011,641 76,896

In the latest list, which was released a few days ago, China (229/500) has 2x as many top supercomputers as USA (108/500) in latest Top 500 survey, though US maintains parity in total Rmax.

(In general, the two countries have been level pegging since 2016).

Russia is a scientific desert as usual, with 3/500 top global supercomputers (Poland & Sweden – 4; Saudi & Singapore – 3).

supercomputer-performance-historical-2018

On another note, Moore’s Law for supercomputers… remains more or less stalled, as I first pointed out in January 2016.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Moore's Law, Supercomputers, Technology 
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stark-russian-rendezvous

Robert Stark recorded this podcast a couple of weeks ago, in which the German nationalist Constantin von Hoffmeister also participated.

You can listen to it here: https://www.starktruthradio.com/?p=8049

Topics discussed:

The State of The Altsphere
Moscow’s Demographics
Hate speech in Russia
The great chain of privilege in Russia
Putin’s stance on immigration from Central Asia
Putin’s economic policies
Inequality in human capital between Moscow and the rest of Russia
Russia welcomes South African refugees
German migration into Eastern Europe in response to the immigration crisis
The brain drain from countries that are rivals but culturally similar
Limits to Cognitive Elitism
The global baby bust and the future of fertility

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Immigration, Podcast, Russia, The AK 
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macron

Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By putting our own interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values. – Emmanuel Macron (2018).

charles-de-gaulle

He who does not love his mother more than other mothers and his country more than other countries, loves neither his mother nor his country. -Charles de Gaulle (1913).

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Emmanuel Macron, France, Nationalism, Patriotism 
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Best Books

While I have read quite a few books on WW1, only a couple really “stand out”:

Niall Ferguson (1998) – The Pity of War: Explaining World War I [download] does justice to its subtitle, boldly reinterpreting most of the standard narrative through vivid statistical argumentation.

For instance, the claims that there was widespread enthusiasm for the conflict at the outset seems to be pretty much false. This was also the book that introduced me to the work of Dupuy et al., who have calculated that the Germans were consistently much more combat effective than the Anglo-French forces; conversely, he also very effectively shows why the war was lost for Germany after the end of the Spring Offensive.

One need not always buy into his arguments – ironically, I am rather skeptical of his “Anglophobic” thesis that it was England most at fault for making WW1 into the carnage it was – but his counterintuitive takes strike home sufficiently frequently to justify this as a must-read in addition to the more conventional histories.

Barbara Tuchman (1962) – The Guns of August [download] may not be the most groundbreaking WW1 book, but it may well be the best from a literary perspective. Seriously, just read her opening paragraph:

So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens – four dowager and three regnant – and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.

Whether one agrees with her thesis that it was Germany that was overwhelmingly culpable or not – though I suppose it helps that I do – her skill at bringing the increasingly agitated diplomatic activity in the buildup to the war and the military maneuvers in its first few months is unrivalled. This is history that reads like fiction, and I mean that in a good sense.

Articles

I haven’t written too much about WW1, but here a couple of the more notable posts:

***

Biggest Winner

The US. And Romania.

Biggest Loser

Russia:

“Surely to no nation has Fate been more malignant than to Russia. Her ship went down in sight of port. She had actually weathered the storm when all was cast away. Every sacrifice had been made; the toil was achieved. Despair and Treachery usurped command at the very moment when the task was done.” – Winston Churchill

Today’s Relevance

Mostly irrelevant, actually. There’s no comparable webs of alliances. The relative importance of gross industrial production (vs. technology) is far, far lower. Nationalism is now mostly exclusionist, not expansionist.

However, one thing that is still relevant is that globalization is no guarantee that there will be no war (an argument frequently made re-the US and China). World trade was comparable as a percentage of GDP in 1914 to today’s levels.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Books, Military, Review, World War I 
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Latest via Alexander Gabuev, who is one of the best Russian China watchers.

Highlights include: Sanctions busting trade & investment innovations; manufacturing, inc. civil aircraft (CR929) and heavy lift helicopters; Glonass/Beidou integration; experience exchange in AI, surveillance, social credit; replacing US as China’s soybeans supplier, with investment in agriculture in the Russian Far East.

Russia becomes more immune to US sanctions, China gets to test out financial aspects of future Sinosphere on a large scale.

gabuev-china-russia-update

 
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whitaker-lift

The guy who temporarily replaces him is a powerlifting PC gamer.

POWERFUL nomination!

https://twitter.com/MattWhitaker46/status/601371359998906368

Instead of this gay drug war we can now get down to the really important issues, such as criminalizing in-game microtransactions.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, United States 
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putler-hears-all

From a recent report by the arch-neocon Henry Jackson Society:

As well as assassinations, Russia’s agencies are engaged in all manner of activities associated with active measures – the subversive, political warfare originally employed by the KgB during the cold War. This includes espionage. According to well-placed intelligence sources, Russia has as many as 200 case officers in the uK, handling upwards of 500 agents. in addition, the agencies can call upon informants; these are found within the Russian expatriate community, which is estimated to number up to 150,000 people in London alone, as well as within British society as a whole.

Those Russian informants would presumably be the 52% of Russians in Britain who voted for Puter in 2018. Congratulations to the Dark Lord of the Kremlin, Who Sees and Hears All, on raising this percentage from 28% in 2012.

This was sarcasm, BTW.

You would struggle to find a more oppositionist community of ethnic Russians anywhere in the world relative to British Russians. Though as Paul Robinson points out in his dissection of the report, this may indeed be how the people interviewed for the report think. Bill Browder, for instance, considers anyone who questions or doubts his version of events to be an FSB agent.

That said, the days when I concerned myself with “Russophobia” are long past.

In reality, Russophobia is a very good thing, and I hope it stays high and even increases further in the West. It’s good for Russia, disincentivizing offshorization, potentially reversing brain drain, etc. This goes double for the UK, which is particularly favored as a destination for Russia’s rich, including many who earned it dubiously. In this sense, I agree with commenter Dmitry, who also argues that some moderate level of background anti-Semitism in Europe is good for Israeli demographics.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Espionage, Russia, Russophobes, United Kingdom 
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What do the current legal travails of a Russian “oligarch” (he has zero power) in Monaco actually have to do with him having gotten involved in a real estate transaction (“money laundering”) with Bad Orange Man a decade ago?

A Russian billionaire who purchased a mansion from President Trump in 2008 in a business deal that is now being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller was detained Tuesday in Monaco and questioned related to an ongoing corruption probe.

Dmitri Rybolovlev, president of AS Monaco, was detained voluntarily by authorities in Monaco on Tuesday and is under investigation for charges of corruption and influence peddling according to French news service Le Monde. …

Rybolovlev was the purchaser of a Florida mansion from Trump in 2008 for $95 million, a sharp increase from the $41 million Trump had paid for the property just four years earlier. Never living in the mansion, Rybolovlev instead divided the property into three parcels, two of which he has sold so far for a combined $71 million, according to The New York Times.

Let’s have a look at housing prices in Florida: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FLSTHPI

As one can see, they did indeed come close to doubling between 2002 and the peak at 2006, before starting to plummet in late 2007. I assume the uptick in elite property prices was even larger.

True, the actual transactions happened two years later in both cases, but (1) deals of such value take time to go through, and (2) as a Russian, it’s rather doubtful that Rybolovlev was reading Calculated Risk and had a good handle on the US property market.

It’s worth noting that Rybolovlev has quite an impressive history of making very bad luxury goods investments, having been fleeced of a significant portion of his $2 billion in art purchases in the Bouvier Affair.

Furthermore, the Florida sale closely preceded acrimonious divorce proceedings, so profit margins may not have been a priority at that time next to the need to quickly spread out his assets. Though in the event, it seems that he didn’t get burned so badly in the end ($71 million out of $95 million, with one parcel left to go).

In the past few years, Rybolovlev has divested himself of his Russian assets and has tried to recraft his image as that of a respectacle Western businessman and philanthropist. This included continuing his art collection hobby. I know that he was actively recruiting high-paid assistants to help out with that as little as a few months ago.

In Monaco, Rybolovlev has been under investigation ever since text messages surfaced revealing that his lawyer was regularly in contact with top law enforcement officials in Monaco, enticing them with event tickets and other perks, according to the Times. No charges have yet been filed.

Philippe Narmino, Monaco’s justice minister, resigned last year over the scandal after it was revealed that he had thanked Rybolovlev through the Russian’s attorney for a helicopter trip to Rybolovlev’s ski resort.

But while you can take the boorish oligarch out of the ex-USSR, you can’t take the ex-USSR out of the boorish oligarch.

So there’s two theories:

1. This is yet another jigsaw piece in the interuniversal Russiagate conspiracy.

Rybolovlev, having psychic knowledge of his Presidency in ten years’ time, bought influence with Drumpf to bring him even further under the influence of his lord and master Putler.

2. Foreign oligarch with poor understanding of American housing market in a failing marriage buying American property close to its peak from an American oligarch with decades of experience in said market.

 
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Now that the midterms have panned out as the predictions market expected, here’s what we can now expect:

***

Good Things:

1. It was mostly GOPe cucks getting slaughtered, not Trumpist nationalists (e.g. Steve King stayed, though on a razor thin margin). At least this means that nationalism has real staying power.

2. Cabinet picks and SCOTUS nominations will now glide through.

3. May finally put these Based Black Guy/#Blexit fantasies to rest. (Just kidding).

***

Bad Things:

1. Legislative gridlock means no immigration reform (GOP having spent their political capital on tax cuts and Obamacare).

2. I assume the Wall is dead. (Sure, it’s not that relevant, but its symbolically powerful).

3. More censorship (obv. no regulating Twitter like a utility now).

4. Endless Trump investigations as House gains subpoena powers.

5. Neocons may end up going off the reservation, bolstered by the CIA Democrats and an increasingly cornered Trump.

***

One more good thing is that the administration’s cold war on Iran and China will continue.

Indeed, it’s worth noting that many of the newly elected Democrats are well on board with the trade war on China.

This means that Russia is not going to be too isolated (stand together or fall separately) when US sanctions on Russia will be ramped up closer to the extreme levels provided for in already existing legislation.

I have always been skeptical about Europe and now there are even more reasons for that.

SWIFT kicked out Iranian banks on Nov 5, when the US sanctions went into effect. All that the EU managed in response was to mutter that it was “regrettable”, dousing any faint hopes that its willingness to resist US demands is more than just rhetorical. But what can you really expect when the US is the heart of a globe-spanning empire that can directly threaten European central bankers with prison for helping Iran avoid sanctions (as suggested in Soros-financed Project Syndicate, not on some marginal “conspiracy” site).

***

While I’m aware that you can’t judge Presidential elections on midterms results – after all, the GOP lost big in 1982, but Reagan won in a landslide two years later – it’s hard to be optimistic.

There are incipient signs of recession, which I think will begin at least months before the 2020 elections. (JPMorgan agrees).

That will cancel Trump’s advantage of incumbency.

Meanwhile, this will be after two years of House-initiated investigations, Trump’s senility will be even more obvious, there’s be more minorities, the Florida felons will be voting, and Trump’s nationalist base will be even more demoralized with no wall and no immigration reform in sight. And this is also not taking into account the risk of a neocon war or two.

I suspect almost anyone will beat Trump in 2020, short of the Dems wheeling out Hillary’s husk or an outright white genocide proponent.

 
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.